This semester I’m teaching EDU8117, Networked and Global Learning, one of the Masters level courses here at USQ. It’s been an interesting experience because I’m essentially supporting the design – a very detailed “constructive alignment” design – prepared by someone else. The following is a belated start of my plan to engage in the course at some level like a student. The requirement was to use one of a few provided quotes attempting to define either networked learning or global learning and link it to personal experience. A first step in developing a research article in the topic.
As a nascent/closet connectivist, networked learning is the term in this pair that is of most interest – though both are increasingly relevant to my current practice. All of the three quotes around networked learning spoke to various aspects of my experience, however, the Bonzo and Parchoma (2010, p. 912) quote really resonated, especially this part (my emphasis added)
that social media is a collection of ideas about community, openness, flexibility, collaboration, transformation and it is all user-centred. If education and educational institutions can understand and adopt these principles, perhaps there is a chance for significant change in how we teach and learn in formal and informal settings. The challenge is to discover how to facilitate this change.
At the moment I have yet to read the rest of the article – it is somewhat ironic that I am focusing on networked learning, whilst struggling with limited network access due to the limitations of a local telecommunications company – so I will have to assume that Bonzo and Parchoma are using this collection of ideas from social media as important ideas for networked learning.
What stikes me about this quote is that I think the majority of what passes for institutional support for networked learning – in my context I am talking about Australian Universities (though I believe there is significant similarities in universities across the world) – is failing, or at least struggling mightly “to discover how to facilitate this change”.
This perspective comes from two main sources:
- my PhD thesis; and,
The thesis argued that how universities tend to implement e-learning is completely wrong for the nature of e-learning and formulated an alternate design theory. Interestingly, a primary difference between the “wrong” (how they are doing it now) and the “right” (my design theory) way is how well they match (or don’t) Bonzo and Parchoma’s (2010) collection of ideas from social media.
- my recent experience starting work as a teaching academic at a new university.
In my prior roles – through most of the noughties I was in an environment where I had significant technical knowledge and access. This meant that when I taught I was able to engage in an awful lot on bricolage 1. In the main because the “LMS” I was using was one that I had designed to be user-centered, flexible and open and I still had the access to to make changes.
On arriving at my new institution, I am now just a normal academic user of the institutional LMS, which means I’m stuck with what I’m given. What I’ve been given – the “LMS” and other systems – are missing great swathes of functionality and there is no way I can engage in bricolage to transform an aspect of the system into something more useful or interesting.
Which brings me to a way in which I’m interested in extending this “definition” of networked learning to a community. Typically networked learning – at least within an institutional setting – is focused on how the students and the teachers are engaging in networked learning. More specifically, how they are using the LMS and associated institutional systems (because you can get in trouble for using something different). Whilst this level of interest in networked learning is important and something I need to engage in as a teaching academic within an institution. I feel what I can do at this level is being significantly constrained because the meta-level of networked learning is broken.
I’m defining the meta-level of networked learning as how the network of people (teaching staff, support staff, management, students), communities, technologies, policies, and processes within an institution learn about how to implement networked learning. How the network of all these elements work (or not) together to enable the other level of networked learning.
Perhaps the major problem I see with the meta-level of networked learning is that it isn’t though of as a learning process. Instead it is widely seen as the roll-out of an institutional, enterprise software system under the auspices of some senior member of staff. A conception that does not allow much space for being about “community, openness, flexibility, collaboration, transformation and it is all user-centred” (Bonzo and Parchoma, 2010, p. 912). Subsequently, I wonder “If education and educational institutions can understand and adopt these principles” (Bonzo and Parchoma, 2010, p. 912) and apply them to the meta-level of networked learning, then “perhaps there is a chance for significant change in how we teach and learn in formal and informal settings” (Bonzo and Parchoma, 2010, p. 912). As always, “The challenge is to discover how to facilitate this change” (Bonzo and Parchoma, 2010, p. 912). Beyond that, I wonder what impact such a change might have on the experience of the institution’s learners, teachers, other staff. Indeed, what impact it might have on the institutions.
Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The Paradox of Social Media and Higher Education Institutions. Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918). Retrieved from http://lancaster.academia.edu/GaleParchoma/Papers/301035/The_Paradox_of_Social_Media_and_Higher_Education_Institutions
Hovorka, D., & Germonprez, M. (2009). Tinkering, tailoring and bricolage: Implications for theories of design. AMCIS’2009. Retrieved from http://aisel.aisnet.org/amcis2009/488
1 Hovorka and Germonprez (2009) cite Gabriel (2002) and Ciborra (2002) as describing bricolage as “as a way of describing modes of use characterized by tinkering, improvisation, and the resulting serendipitous, unexpected outcomes”.