PJ Evans

Network Learning Conference day 3: Spaces of network learning

Posted on | April 10, 2014 | No Comments

Back at the Network Learning Conference for the final day and the final plenary. I’ve written up the main speakers but not the two Pecha Kuchas from Terrie-Lynn Thompson from Stirling and from Phil Sheail [for a more complete record of the session, have a look at the live blog from @suchprettyeyes here.

Starting with Richard Edwards on theoretical aspects of spaciality in network learning. Reflecting on the paper he has produced. A key question is whether the network is it network or conceptual? A network is relational and therefore spacial and so requires an explicit spacial theory in considering network learning. Space is often blackbox within which action takes place, the network is assumed rather than analysed. Space is often used as enclosure, in the classroom, textbook, curriculum. But how open are networks and in opening networks, what closures also occur and different network framing has different outcomes and effects:
Political economy of space on everyday life. Network learning is related to economic ordering of space;
Feminst framing of space in terms of power geographies and overcoming the public private binaries;
Post-structuralist framing of space eg, open and striated;
Materialist turn including the mobilities approach. Networks as assemblages of agencies and of associating and disassociating in networks.
Using spacial theory in relation to technology and in the conception of learning. Learning is technologically mediated and encoded in hidden networks.
What is network learning? especially in decentring the subject in analysing network learning.

Q. what about pedagogy in network learning
A. we need to turn theoretical insight in to pedagogical approaches and cites CoPs as an example of theoretical analysis leading to a pedagogical approach and spacial theory will need to do the same.

Q. How is decentring the subject progressing and where is it going?
A. Central to this is understanding of learning and drawing on spacial theory to redefine our concept of learning away from human cognition towards learning as association between human and non-human. What are the implications of this for existing educational practices

Q. Does decentring the subject then make education a resource management issue where the human is just part of the system?
A. This points to the need to make connections between things and being sensitive to the environment. To overcome the educational focus on the individual divorced from the environment.

Jeremy Knox on MOOCs and spacial theory. No need to explain what a MOOC is and want to look at some of the hyperbole of MOOCs looking at visual representations of spaces: (i) MOOC as global instiutions (ii) MOOC as homely – a dmoestication of the global (iii) the overwhelming – a problem that may be addressed spacially.
MOOC provders make explicit presentation of selves as global – of nodes and ties across the world. So present a global reach and appropriating the internet to do this. The globe is also presented in relation to mission and visions – bringing what they do to ‘the world’. This is aimed at the excluded and those countries in economic development. The World Bank is promoting MOOCs to LDCs as access to higher education. So this is a colonial move that people “sign in to” as, eg, “Courserians”. So reach is presented as number of sign-ups. Coursera present the MOOC world through data of sign-ups – as fewer or more students. The world comes in to being by signing up to Coursera. But the institutions providing the courses are mainly North American and Western European HEIs. This can be framed as education as transmission to the excluded or disadvantaged.
HEIs present themselves as traditional HEIs using the buildings as a way of legitimising the education being provided.The educational transmission is achieved through the video lecture.
In the homely space seen in a reaction to this globalised trajectory in a particular Coursera course. So a course introduces itself with a tour of the building the academic staff work in as a specific, localised building as “an invitation” to join. So presenting an ‘authentic’ learning opportunity. The video emphasises the academic community and the mundane – the kitchen and food, who visits the building. Rather than video lectures, the course is presented through videoed discussions in a domestic scene. This was well received by students but also stating that they wished they could be there themselves.
So these are two directions – as transmitting or welcoming in to the institution.
The overwhelming space: citing the EDC MOOC included asking students to contribute content as par tof the resources of the course. At MOOC scale this generated an overwhelming volume of resources. Some students started to respond to this volume of data through visual representations of the chaos and complexity. Presented the individual as lost in this unfamiliar and surreal MOOC space. This third space appears to combine the inside of the institution and the external reality for the students.

Q. Many MOOC provders are seeking a conversion rate from MOOCs to mainstream courses. So there is a marketing agenda to the presentation of HEIs.
A. Yes this is clearly a factor, but it is not clear how [HEIs] will monetise MOOCs.

Q. How was space preconceived in the EDC MOOC?
A. Well, I’m more interested in how the space emerged rather than the design intent.
[Christine added that they didn’t want to move away from the Massive).

Ben Williamson [Stirling Uni] discuses space and educational policy as new actors are mobilised in to education policy. Key themes for discussion include (i) policy mobilties as networked governance, (ii) mobile bodies and out transformation to digital traces and finally (iii) on mobile code spaces of education. Has used methods of policy network analysis and tracing key discourses through website, reports, blogs etc.
Policy mobilities and government enacted by many actors through governance. Policy flows between different public and private actors. In education can see increasing movement between policy networks including government, think tanks, transnational institutions, intermediaries, foundations and charities – ideas flow through these different actors. Currently ideas of decentralisation in UK include a focus on the third sector, social entrepreneurs, and the good society bodies (NESTA, Young Foundation, etc…) seeking to reconfigure public services through digital systems and big data. Generates a more distributed network.
Mobile bodies: network learning and database pedagogies mediating education and the individual learning. Looking at the RSA’s Oening Minds competence based 21stC learning, emphasis social networks, social learning. Innovation Unit’s innovative learning programme looking at a reimagined educational institutions llinking to lifelong learning in terms of innovation ecosystems of learning providers enabling a ‘learning commons’ and extended learning network. Looking at a radical reimagining of education spaces and places with a major focus on data-driven personalisation of learning, peer-to-peer learning, new metrics for lifelong learning and enhancing the power of the student.
The Education Foundation is a new foundation/ think tank. Its first main project has been on the use of Facebook in education – mobilising Facebook in the educational domain.
In these examples seeing a shift from expert knowledge of education to a vocabulary derived from social networking and social media; data-driven and data analysis on online behaviours. This vocabulary addresses ‘kinds of people’ not who we really are.
Database pedagogies as our world is increasingly ordered and sorted by database algorithms. NESTA’s digital education programme driven by data analytics to develop predictions/ inferrences to personalise education base don predictions of the learner’s direction. The learner is transformed to data to be enacted upon. See also Beluga, that makes data-driven predictions about learners.
So we’re seeing learners transformed to ‘data doppelgangers’ intervening on the individual based on what their data says about that learner. So data is generative rather than descriptive. This generates mobile bodies as flows of data distributed across (panoptic) network systems (Urry) .
Overall, these new actors in educational governance generates new data driven management of spaces of education including through the automated production of pedagogies.

Q. what methods are being used.
A. this is the focus of the seminar series on the decoding project. This may involve working with computer scientists and be inter-discplinarity.

Q. why is there this policy shift to alternative models of education and who benefits?
A. can’t answer that really but the interest in data and comparison can be traced back to the C19.

In the following discussion an interesting point was made that learning analytics are not theory free but have no explicit theory of learning. We are weakened in the arguments as we have weaker common understanding of learning and education.

So that’s me from the conference – I can’t attend the last Plenary session. Its been a really interesting conference with lost of new (to me) ideas to consider – well worth attending and I hope to present at the next one (2016?).


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