Sunday, June 26, 2011


Not since 2002, when I read Teaching as a Subversive Activity, have I sat down to read another book be Neil Postman. I can't explain such neglect on my part. But, as with Illich I want the people in my network to explain why we are not referring to Postman more? His 1992 book, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology for example. I know Shirky and Wesch both mention Postman by name at least, and maybe i just miss other references. Certainly i seem to be more impressionable, but it seems to me that the points made in this book are very important to our discourse, and missing.

I'm sitting in the sun at South Bank Brisbane, waiting to join the Wikipedia Brisbane meetup. I've just finished the introduction to Technopoly...

Function follows form. P7

New things change old words. P8

Undeserved authority. P9

Private matters made known to powerful institutions. P10

Technologies change the way we think and feel. Ideologically. P12

On assigning marks for student work as a strange conception and Techno implementation. P13

The unforeseen consequences. The clock for God, but serving Mammon. P15

On computers in classrooms. The balance between orality and text is tipping to text. P17

Technology as ecological. P18

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What is a definition of networked learning?

A UK academic has been assisting with the editing of the Wikipedia entry for Networked Learning, and it looks as though we might disagree on a suitable definition. I take issue with a definition suggesting that networked learning is tied to ICTs.

The most stable definition of networked learning was developed by CSALT, a research group at Lancaster University, UK. Their definition states that networked learning is "learning in which information and communication technology is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources." [1]The central term in this definition is connections. The interactions this term points towards include human interactions with materials and resources, but interactions with materials alone are not sufficient and networked learning requires aspects of human-human interaction mediated through digital technologies. This definition takes a relational stance in which learning takes place both in relation to others and in relation to learning resources.[2]

I challenged the CSALT based definition when it first appeared back in August 2006, and tried to pen a more inclusive definition that didn't exclude methods of networked learning that weren't based on computing or computer networks. But Chris stands by the claim to an authoritative definition.  

The definition is in current use and it is one of the most widely referenced over the past 9 years. Opinions on the definition may vary but it should be represented as it is in circulation and supported by severla books and the conference series. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Chris R. Jones (talk • contribs) 16:06, 16 March 2011 (UTC)

To be honest, this Wikipedia project is the first I've heard of CSALT, and I've not yet attempted to verify Chris' assertion to authority. My perspectives on a definition are shaped by reading Illich, Downes, Siemens and more recently Wenger (of course many others, but these names capture it), but I find it difficult to use such references to support a rewording of the definition, in the face of an academic institution. I'm wondering if anyone reading this might assist? Either in changing my mind, changing Chris', or helping us write an inclusive definition with all necessary citations.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review and feedback needed on: Networked learning a biomass heat transfer system

I've finished a first draft paper, of a research project that I hope to build into my networked and open PhD. From 9 - 17 June 2011 I am seeking comments and feedback on this draft, which I'll document in the discussion page, and incorporate into a second draft by mid July 2011. I'm following a similar process with the other publications I'm drafting on Wikiversity, many thanks to everyone who has offered review and feedback on those.

Networked learning a biomass heat transfer system

From 2008 to 2010 I casually studied Jean Pain composting, or the heating of water using compost. This paper reviews my attempts to use networked learning methods to study Jean Pain Composting, including research and practical study involving an actual replica build. The objective of this research is to present an example of networked learning being applied, to identify instances of tangible learning, to find a reusable method for analysing networked approaches to study and practice, and to begin a consideration of questions on what an educational institution's role might be, in a relationship with a networked learner like me.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Our epistemology, and entrepreneurial learning

Have you struggled to understand or explain the word epistemology?

Try this:
learning can be framed around the traditional Hellenistic knowledge dichotomy episteme and techné. Episteme stands for big picture learning, for learning about the world as a whole and one’s position in it. It represents education towards cultural citizenship, i.e. the responsibilities and contributions one makes to the society by participating in the community and generating culture. Techné instead focuses on learning about special traits, i.e. learning the techniques of a profession and producing economical value by performing the tasks associated with it through the division of labor – this knowledge allows for what Delanty (2001) dubbed technological citizenship.

If that's an accurate depiction, then I think I reject this framework for thinking about knowledge. To suggest that technical skills and knowledge is not concerned with big picture and culture, seems a ridiculous distinction to make. I must be missing the point (again). Is this really the (epistemological) framework for thinking about knowledge that our research and 'higher' education institutions follow?
This quote comes from an article recently suggested to me called, Entrepreneurial learning in the networked age: How new learning environments foster entrepreneurship and innovation. By Max Sengles, John Seely Brown and Howard Rheingold. It seems, as I begin reading through it, to be another article trying to explain the significance that computing and Internet technologies (and culture) has over notions of knowledge and learning. From, or I should say in their explanation, they are attempting to make the arguments for change. A change across the board, more inline with this so-called new understanding of knowledge and learning.

The sway that the subject of technology has over discussions about education and learning, is giving me increasing cause for concern. Absent from the explanations of new understandings of knowledge and learning, and their arguments for change, is some balance to the largely utopian ideals. The sub headings in the 'entrepreneurial learning' article for example, read like evangelical slogans, without a single word for caution or circumspect (that I could see by scanning). What would one include to strike a balance? Most obvious would be Postman, in particular his warnings in Technonopoly, but their could and should be many others. Surely we agree that technology gives potential to all traits of humanity, not just the bits we'd like to pick out.

For example, reading through the first few pages of 'entrepreneurial learning'..
Rather than developing in parallel with technology and modern businesses, education is still dominantly geared to condition its subjects to embody what Germans dub «Fachidioten» – people who are well suited to adapt into hierarchic organizations, and to perform repetitive tasks.

Are they suggesting that technology and modern business is going to somehow free us from fachidoten, because from where I sit, looking at corporations like Google for example, or worse Goldman and Sachs, it sure doesn't look like it. Perhaps their suggesting that corporations themselves are being challenged by "technology and modern business"? I wonder what the authors are going to make of Curtis' new doco, Machines of Loving Grace?

By focusing on the potential of innovative socio-technological learning environments, we address this discrepancy by proposing an enlightened humanistic educational paradigm

Enlightened humanistic educational paradigm! I feel like getting dressed up and putting on a wig. Is this article reading like it really is going to focus on the potential, in ALL its expected forms... oh but wait, it seems I can't get through a single sentence without a jolt of anxiety!

When all information is available, the educator’s challenge is to identify and select materials

Its a stark contradiction. Surely they'd rather not have an 'educator', most likely someone who has succeeded in a system of fachidoten, identify and select materials for people they'd class as 'learners'? And will there ever be a time when all information is available? Nothing new in that, plenty of potential for a not so pretty future really.

I think I have to stop reading... see if anyone challenges and motivates me to read more. So far I'm too uncomfortable to read on. I'd like to say however, that I respect the work and perspectives of the authors, despite my way of writing. I hope people can ignore my expressions here and see the point trying to be made. Show me how to discuss these points with civility and innocence - I'd like to remain in the conversations...