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eLearning and Digital Cultures: consolidating learning and blowing my mind with “objects that blog” #edcmooc

Where on earth do I begin with my reflection on the first topic of the eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC?  It’s been so rich in both content and connections that it’s hard to soak it all in and to articulate all that it’s provoked. Incidentally, the first topic, of two, uses the binary lens of utopias and dystopias to explore how thinking in either of these ways has contributed to how we think about online education today and how it shapes our visions of the future. The second topic asks  “what does it mean to be human within a digital culture, and what does that mean for education?”

The course is structured in the first instance with a “film festival”, which explores each week’s themes from the perspective of popular and digital culture. Right off, I have to say that all the short films and clips that have been selected have been great. However, what’s giving me cause for concern is the level of meaning and insight that others seem to be able to extract from them. Bells are ringing for me that I’m not great at picking up the embedded meanings in films. Mind you, on the other hand, I devoured all the selected core and advanced texts that fleshed out the key themes. Here, the concept of “technological determinism” was offered as a way of understanding the thinking behind either utopian or dystopian arguments, which seek to explain social, cultural or educational change in primarily technological terms, and then how metaphors are used to express and mould our understanding of the future trajectory of education and eLearning.

Determinism and the Internet
Determinism and the Internet

In reading about the influence of metaphors and two further perspectives of determinism common in discussions about the Web and eLearning, I was able to consolidate my learning and tie up one or two loose ends. Along with “technological determination”, Dahlberg’s article added “uses determination” and “social determination” to make up three orientations towards the internet. He then asked, “which of these perspectives do you lean towards in your understanding of the relationship between technology and pedagogy?” Instinctively, I lean towards a perspective of “social determination”, seeing technology as socially embedded and constituted, affected not just by social structures but by economic ones too (No surprise, I’ve previously studied socio-economic history and I’m now interested in digital literacy, largely from a socio-cultural stanpoint). However, when I first started looking at the discourse surrounding “digital literacy”, I was unable to reconcile my understanding with a lot of what I came across. I can see now that often the language being used might have given a “technologically deterministic” impression. However, I’ve also spoken to individual’s that exhibit a strong “uses determination” towards the adoption of technology. Adoption of a technology for them has to be strongly aligned to the purpose of their endeavour, and it’s their purpose that gives the technology meaning. Dahlberg argues that, on its own, none of these perspectives is enough to explain everything about the internet and technology adoption. Each is useful, and each is overstated. It depends on the question posed as to what combination of approaches might work best.

Another loose end that the readings tied up was in relation to the manner in which Marc Prensky’s “digital native/digital immigrant” dichotomy took hold in popular discourse, and indeed, despite being debunked to a large extent, still persists. It was not so much the power of his argument rather it was the power of his metaphor. The role that metaphors play in shaping our thinking was illustrated by Rebecca Johnston in her essay, Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet (2009).

So, those are the loose ends that have been tidied up through engagement with the course resources. But it’s not just been a matter of consolidating my learning; the course has also stretched my mind – to the extreme!!! I was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, somewhat surprised and in total awe as I read “A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things” by Julian Bleeker (2006). Bleeker introduces us to the idea of “objects that blog“. I kid you not, objects that blog! He uses the neologism of a “Blogjet” to describe objects within the Internet of Things that are “searchable, track their location, usage histories and discourse with the other things around them” (p.2). By blogging he means that these objects can collect and disseminate data, which in turn can provoke change. Change brought about by their agency, agency attained through the significance of the assertions that their data supports and through the impact that it has on meaningful conversations. One of the examples that Bleeker gives is the “pigeon that blogs” (I know, it’s trippy stuff). The premise is that pigeons, suitably tagged and chipped with GPS, internet connectivity and environmental sensors, can record the levels of toxins and pollutants when they fly through the air, and it’s these bits of data that they “blog”, and he continues, saying,  “let the pigeons help us speak on the environment”. Consequently, within this “Internet of Things”, the social and political significance is that “Things can now participate in the conversations that were previously off-limits to Things”.

Honestly, I’m not making this up. For those who’ve not read the article, I’ve embedded it below so you can see for yourself, if you wish. Joking apart though, the article did prompt me to wonder if this is what actor network theory explains (it’s something I keep meaning to get a handle on) and also, does this somehow pertain to discussions about big data, again, a term I often come across but have no real idea what it means.

To date, the course has not only consolidated my learning but has stretched me mentally and sown a few seeds for future enquiry. However, so far I haven’t come across any references or inferences to “multimodal literacies and digital media“, like the pre-course blurb said, but I live in hope. There’s still topic two to come, and if it’s anything like the first, I won’t be disappointed.

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Dahlberg, L (2004). Internet Research Tracings: Towards Non-Reductionist Methodology. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 9/3.

Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4). Available at:

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things. Available at:

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POT Cert Week 12: mid-term reflection

12 weeks and semester 1 completed already. Wow, how time flies when you’re having fun, and learning loads! Pot Cert has really started to give me great insight into what quality online education might look like and, more importantly for me, how to go about creating it.

This week is a chance to look back and take stock of my learning journey so far.

looking back
looking back

Here’s a series of links to my reflections about my posts and thoughts on what I’ve learnt.

Week 1: Introduction and Start Blogging

Week 2: Teaching and Learning

Week 3: Pedagogy and Course Design I

Week 4: Pedagogy and Course Design II

Week 5: The Online Syllabus

Week 6: Internet Skills and Tools

Week 7: The Online Classroom

Week 8: Creating Community

Week 9: Student Activities

Week 10: Open Platforms for Teaching and Learning

Week 11: Class Resources and Intellectual Property

Finally, I have to say that impressively the POT Cert course is both well structured and well supported, and that I’ve really found the addition of a personal mentor to be an invaluable aspect of the programme. A big thank you to everyone, it’s much appreciated. I look forward to continuing in the Spring semester. Until then…

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POT Cert Week 10: blogs – open platforms for teaching and learning

Week 10 (already!) continues reading Chapter 7: Student Activities in the Online Environment, and additionally considers open platforms for teaching and learning. In terms of student activities, good discussion is given to those that promote reflection; the facilitation of which may either be through discussion forums within the LMS or through the use of blogging platforms on the open web. Recent research though seems to suggest that students who blog tend to feel more engaged and personally connected to fellow students. Engaging in reflective discussion about coursework and posting responses to each others’ blogposts enables them to develop a strong sense of community. However, the degree of personal, or sensitive information, that learners might be likely to divulge must be carefully considered when determining where these reflective artefacts are to be created.

This apart, it appears that encouraging students to blog not only aids learning through reflection and the development of community but also, through the provision of authentic audience and purpose, stimulates the development of important writing skills too. In a wonderful blogpost recently, Susan Lucille Davis proclaims her 10 reasons why I want my students to blog. Moreover, for anyone considering setting up a class blog Lisa M. Lane provides an excellent slidecast on the ‘hows and whys’ of doing so, whilst providing a link to yet more great advice – Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes in Using Blogs with Students.

An interesting development to this discussion is the evolution of blogs as ePortfolios. An ePortfolio is an electronic collection of objects that can be used to showcase personal achievements, developments and reflections. It can form part of an assessment strategy and similarly, it can be sent to potential employers to supplement a CV.


Braur, J. (2012) Blogging vs Threaded Discussions in Online Courses. Available at:

Davis, S. L. (2012) 10 Reasons Why I Want My Students to Blog. Available at:

Reynard, R. (2008) Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes in Using Blogs with Students. Available at:

M. Mobbs (2009)  Creating an ePortfolio using Available at: