Wenger and Engstrom Opening Session Videos at NLC2010

The videos of the opening session with Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom from the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning are now available on the conference website.

wenger and engstrom

The video is in 2 parts – Part 1 and Part 2. It will be nice to review what happened, or otherwise see it for the first time for those colleagues who were not able to attend.

What do you think about them and their work?


Networked Learning Conference Take-Aways

Almost a week has passed since the 7th International Networked Learning Conference, and I find that I am beginning to make sense and process my experience. There are 3 items I have so far been able to process:

  1. There is a lot of research still to be done in the area of (virtual / digital) identity development and how that relates to communties of practice, which is something I will continue to explore as I approach my doctoral research proposal. The paper I presented, Autoethnographer Communities of Practice, is here until they make it available on the website, and I am planning to take some of the comments I received, as well as what I learned, and continue to develop these ideas.
  2. The area of Networked Learning is still under development, which is clear from Grainne Conole’s work in the Hot Seat before the event (her white paper is here), as well as her ongoing work and comments through the conference.  She quoted Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson & McConnell (2004) for a working definition of Networked Learning — learning in which ICT is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners; between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources. As this is somewhat different than a traditional educational technology or learning technology program / usage (at least in the US), and as it is the focus of my eTEL program at Lancaster University, I see a tremendous amount of research opportunities here. These connections flow naturally with Wenger‘s work in Communities of Practice, and with my interests in making sense of our experiences, I see a lot of work and exploration ahead.
  3. Part of this networked learning involves working with the network of researchers and learners, and maintaining some of the wonderful connections I have made is the next tangible step I plan to do.

What a great conference. Interesting that I have not found anything like this in the US; glad I realized at this point in my studies and research that there is an entire world or scholarship on practice out there, and as networks have no borders, neither should I.


Pictures from Networked Learning 2010 NLC2010

I uploaded all the pictures I took while traveling through Munich, Copenhagen, and Aalborg for the Networked Learning Conference 2010 NLC2010. Each set of pictures is in its own Flickr set, and you can see them by clicking the city names above.

Jeffrey Keefer and Etienne Wenger

The tag nlc2010 can be searched on Flickr and Twitter as well by clicking on the names.


Networked Learning Conference 2010 Closing Plenary

The closing session at the Networked Learning Conference 2010 comprised of many of the facilitators of the Hot Seat sessions in the front of the room, summarizing the pre-conference discussions.

As per some of our panelists (Charalambos Vrasidas, Caroline Haythornthwaite, Etienne Wenger, Grainne Conole), some of the learning that has occurred and the issues raised include:

  • is technology required for networked learning?
  • what are some of the issues of access and equity regarding these technologies?
  • what are some of the differences between networks and social networks?
  • to what extent can networks serve as reflective practice?
  • how can social network analysis be used as a method of analysis to develop social network theories?
  • networks can be across organizations, serious leisure (e.g., home brewing, cooking), across disciplines, alumni networks?
  • synergies with other fields, such as Internet Research field
  • learning is an opportunity to be knocked out of balance, as that allows us to see things differently and shake one out of complacency
  • knowledge / practice fair — where each community can have a booth and then show what each is doing. This is an opportunity to have different communities rub together as different networks
  • brokering between and across boundaries has an insight into networks and going between communities
  • When one is networking, there is very light brokering. When it is heavy networking, then it is more toward multimembership that creates a bridge between networks
  • There are new ways of understanding virtual vs. F2F relationships
  • Language is one of the key challenges
  • Theoretical frameworks in networked learning seem to primarily include communities of practice, actor network theory, and activity theory
  • We may want to expand upon the theoretical frameworks, as there are many more we can use
  • We should tighten the theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and then clearly link them to practice
  • The relationship  between theory and practice should be made stronger
  • Policy debates are happening, though we need to be present to where this debate can be followed and interacted
  • Cloudworks can be used as a liveblogging platform, and the Twitter streams are being tracked and will be archived on the website

Some facilitated discussions (thank you, Maarten de Laat) then happened with questions from the participants, with the majority of it happening around issues of policy and how policy can fit with practice.

David McConnell then began discussing a holistic view of what networked learning is, and how we understand and use the concept of network learning. What are the educational values we can bring back to networked learning. Is there anything distinctive to networked learning that makes it difference from technology enhanced learning or from eLearning? Perhaps these fundamentals need to be reflected upon again–I agree completely with this, as in many ways there seem to be great differences between these, there also seems to be differences as well, namely to include how the learning happens in a way of networks.

Chris Jones spoke about the movement from practice to praxis, so there is an ethical dimensions we bring to bear to the practice we bring to our work. This comment then ended the discussions with a quick  applause.

Nice ending for this conference, and now we can look forward to the next conference in two years.  It was mentioned that there will be a book that comes out of this conference, tentatively titled Exploring the theory, pedagogy and practce of networked learning.


Who’s Taming Who?

Terrie Lynn Thompson discussed her paper, Who’s taming who? Tensions between people and technologies in cyberspace communities. She used Actor Network Theory (ANT) for her work, especially through the work of Latour and John Law. Networked include people, objects, ideas, and practices. From this perspective, she studied numerous participants, such as people, blogs, and even the delete button. She interviewed these objects in her study, both human as well as  non-human. I am not entirely clear how she did this (how do you interview a delete button?), though she mentioned this is basically another paper out there and from what I understand, actor network theory is quite complex and not easily explainable to the newbie.

This presentation is clear that I need to read more about actor network theory, as many of the specifics were lost on me (that very same newbie). Terrie seemed quite animated and confident in her work, and this leads me to believe that this research may not be available to a novice (me), without an extensive background in this area.

Small world; Terrie was in one of my presentations on critical human resource development (HRD) several years ago at another conference. Yes, very small world.


The Web of Identity

Marguerite Koole from Athabasca and Lancaster Universities is presenting her paper, The Web of Identity: Selfhood and Belonging in Online Learning. She did a distance-learning master’s degree, and she felt disconnected with her faculty there, without any face-to-face engagement. She experienced few ah-ha moments within the required discussion forums. She did not relate to other  students in the program, and as a result of not feeling connected and engaged, she began exploring identity and how the individual differentiates between the self and other.

Her work around identity was influenced by Ricoeur (1992), Mead (1934), Ferreday, Jones, and Hodgson (2006). She was also interested in impressions management from Goffman (1959) and also saw Foucault’s work on the technologies of the self. She then demonstrated how these issues from Goffman could be interpreted through a Foucauldian lens, and then presented her Web of Identity Model. She includes an element of Cognitive Resonance component, which is an individual’s identityt as reflected or refracted through the strategies with the final goals to achieve a comfortable level of resonance and harmony.

There were numerous implications for learning, and it will be intersting to see how this model develops over time. I think that the follow-up questions at the end, many of which were very theoretical, demonstrates how rich this area may be.


Reading screens: A critical visual analysis

Nice to see Zoe Williamson and Jen Ross speaking again, this time about WebQuest projects in schools as part of a joint national museum initiative. Great to hear about Webquests again, as I recall using these a number of years ago when I taught high school.

The WebQuests in this project included developing critical thinking and interpreting skills using resources from at least 3 of the partner museums. These are not value-neutral exercises (after all, what education is devoid of some values or another?), and they are based on deep assumptions around teaching and learning. Since some of the websites were not even accessible via some of the schools they worked with, the researchers referred to this as irelated to ssues of control, restraint, and surveillance.

They were able  to show us an example of a WebQuest from the Wallace Collection. The pages were colorful and framed clearly to direct what student learners should do and where they should go next. It is instructor-focused, with clear instructions for the students to follow. There were no examples of Web 2.0 or learner-focused screens or locations. They then demonstrated a possibility for how these WebQuests can be redesigned to be more consistent with their own experience as being more open-ended and student-focused. As a former instructional (learning designer, I always find this sort of work interesting).

They made a good point about how students continued to click ahead to get to the task they had to accomplish to therefore be complient, and not necessarily engaged in the pages and the learning. Alas, their work demonstrates that while more work and advancement for using technologies in education are increasing, a lot of work still remains to be done.