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I was fortunate to be able to attend this public lecture by Iain McGilchrist at Edinburgh University yesterday evening. The lecture can’t have been easy for McGilchrist, since he had a diverse audience ranging from novice to expert across various disciplines. He couldn’t assume that everyone knew the key ideas presented in his book, ‘The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World’,  and therefore needed to cover this for novices, whilst at the same time presenting more challenging ideas for those very familiar with his book and work. From my perspective, the lecture was well worth the journey from southern Cumbria.

McGilchrist’s research interest focuses on the relationship and differences between the left and right brain hemispheres. Much past work has focused on the polarisation between the two hemispheres, often resulting in two lists of LH and RH characteristics as seen in the image below:

 Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 17.21.35Source of image 

These types of views which pit left brain against right brain, have now largely been discredited and McGilchrist is at pains to point out that both hemispheres are involved in everything. For example both the right and left hemispheres have a role to play in creativity. Nevertheless, he is also clear that his interest lies in the differences between the two hemispheres. After all, it is a physical fact that the brain as an organ is divided down the middle and is asymmetrical in just about every way you can think of; there definitely are differences. McGilchrist knows from his work in psychiatry that problems of symmetry are central to human dysfunction and there is a tension between the work of the left and right brain.

This tension is one of attention, which is so well depicted in this RSA Animate video.

‘Our attention is responsive to the world, but the world is responsive to our attention. The situation presents a paradox for linear analysis, like M.C. Escher’s hands that draws the hand that draws the hand.” (The Master and His Emissary, p.134)

 DrawingHandsSource of image 

Attention is a type of awareness and has to be conscious. There are two kinds of attention. We have to be able to focus with a lot of attention, but also be able to maintain wide open uncommitted attention. The former type of attention is the attention of the left hemisphere (LH) which gets things and manipulates them and controls with a grasping hand (‘I’ve grasped it’); the latter is the attention of the right hemisphere (RH) which sees the bigger picture and how complex life is. These differences are consistent across many domains, such as music, morality, language and all the domains of experience, and have been evidenced in scientific research of various types, e.g. work with stroke victims. Details of some of this research can be found in McGilchrist’s book.

McGilchrist acknowledged that it is very difficult to write a book about the work of the RH, because a book is, in most instances, necessarily presented in a linear format. Deleuze and Guattari, in their book ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ tried to overcome this by presenting their ideas as chapters and concepts that could be read independently of each other (independent plateaus) and in any order, but language is dominated by the left hemisphere, even if the RH has a role to play. The LH has the power of speech and manipulation and it is much easier to articulate ideas using the LH. So in the lecture McGilchrist resorted to a list to emphasise the tensions that exist between the right and left hemispheres, which he discussed under the following headings, with the right hemisphere presented on the left of each pair of tensions:

  • The new vs. the known
  • Possibility vs. certainty
  • Flow vs. fixity
  • The whole vs. parts
  • Integration vs. division
  • Implicit vs. explicit
  • Context vs. abstraction
  • Qualification vs. quantification
  • Animate vs. inanimate
  • Optimistic vs. realistic
  • Presence vs. representation

McGilchrist’s interest is in how the two hemispheres interact, in the nature of interhemispheric relations and the asymmetry of interhemispheric inhibition. Why? Because he believes that in this modern age there are increasing pressures to adopt a LH mode of thinking possibly to the detriment and neglect of the RH and for him this is history repeating itself. He pointed out that the Greek, Roman and Renaissance periods all had the left and right hemispheres working beautifully together at the outset, but over time, as these cultures developed empires and became more bureaucratic, dealing with things remotely and in abstraction, moved towards LH dominance. And what happened to these cultures? They ultimately collapsed.

The thrust of McGilchrist’s lecture was therefore a warning against valuing left hemisphere over right hemisphere thinking, which in his book he illustrates with reference to Einstein:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society which honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Albert Einstein

Allowing the left hemisphere to dominate our ways of thinking, learning and working will result in a world in which

  • We lose the broader picture
  • Knowledge is replaced by information
  • Wisdom is lost
  • There is a loss of the concepts of skills and judgment
  • There is increased abstraction and reification
  • Bureaucracy will flourish
  • There is a loss of a sense of uniqueness
  • There is a focus on quantity rather than quality
  • There is either/or thinking
  • Reasonableness is replaced by rationality
  • There is a failure of common sense
  • Systems are designed to maximize utility
  • There is a loss of social cohesion
  • The result is depersonalization
  • There is a lack of trust
  • We become passive victims
  • Art becomes conceptual, music is reduced to rhythm, and language becomes diffuse
  • There is deliberate undercutting of awe and wonder
  • Tacit forms of knowing are discarded
  • We become spectators rather than actors

And all this is accompanied by a dangerous optimism that we are doing the right thing. Clearly we are not learning from history.

So McGilchrist’s main message is that we are at risk of allowing the LH to dominate and we neglect the work of the RH at our cost. The Master (the RH) sent his Emissary (the LH) out to do his work, but his Emissary has taken control, believing that he no longer needs his Master and has betrayed him.

McGilchrist is now turning his attention to how this might impact on our education, schools and universities and is in the process of writing a book about how science and education are becoming increasingly left brained. The title of the book will be The Porcupine is a Monkey.

‘That is the major import of the title The Porcupine is a Monkey: that we live in a world where our theory about what life is like blinds us to what accumulated experience tells us it is like. We prioritise the consistency of our theory over what we know from experience. We take porcupines for monkeys because that is what our theory tells us they are.’

‘…..we need a whole new way of thinking about the nature of reality, one that understanding the way our brain works can help us achieve.’

This is the last week of George Veletsianos’ open course – Networked Scholars. I have not been as engaged as I had hoped, mainly because my offline or backchannel/closed, more personal networks, have been more important to me over the past few weeks than interacting openly online.

I have also been increasingly aware this year and particularly over the past few weeks of ‘the dark’ side of working openly online, to the extent that I am now reflecting on how much I want to work openly online. It did seem that the Networked Scholars course focused quite a bit on the negatives of working openly online. We started off positively with Michael Barbour sharing his practice on visibility, presence and branding in the first week, but in the second week the focus was on Challenges and Tensions, with some troubling case studies to consider, although the expert chat with Royce Kimmons was excellent. In week three the focus was on caring and vulnerability and Bonnie Stewart shared her perspectives in the Google Hangout session. A need to consider vulnerability indicates the challenges that some academics may have working openly online. This week we have been asked to reflect on our experience and draw a concept map, but me and concept maps don’t go together, so I am going to tackle it from a more personal viewpoint.

I can’t be objective because I haven’t read all the readings, or even followed all the discussion, but subjectively the course has compounded my feelings that there is a ‘dark side’ to all this online sharing and interaction, in the name of being a networked scholar, which currently I don’t feel comfortable with. Of course I know it is the accumulation of a whole range of life and work experiences and not down to the course itself.

But this week I noticed this wonderful image on a Twitter post and felt compelled to follow it up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 15.55.25

This was shown in lighting architect Rogier van der Heide’s Ted Talk  about ‘Why light needs darkness’. There are a number of beautiful images in this talk, all of which illustrate how we can get a new perspective on the world by appreciating the role of darkness in revealing the light.

So it occurred to me that perhaps the ‘dark side’ of the internet allows us to more clearly see the light and the light paths that we would like to follow. Both light and dark define the space.

In the introduction to the Networked Scholars course, George wrote:

By the end of the course I hope that you will be better informed about the role of social media in the lives of knowledge workers and academics, be able to have an informed conversation about this topic with your colleagues, and decide whether and to what extent you personally might use social media for academic purposes.

I think I could answer ‘Yes’ to all three points, but mostly I think I am clearer about what I am not prepared to do in the name of open networked scholarship; I am clearer about the light and dark spaces.

In this final week of the third iteration of the Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC – Al Filreis (the MOOC convener) has asked ModPo participants how the ModPo community works:

I am now here in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, and will be presenting about ModPo at a conference here. The conference is called “Building Massive Open Online Communities,” and the organizers of the conference believe that ModPo is an instance of a so-called “MOOC” that does indeed make a learning community possible—indeed perhaps even necessary to the success of the course.

I want your help in presenting to the people here about the ModPo community. How does it work? What would you like to say to the people here at this conference about the way we’ve conducted ourselves as an online community of learners? What are some advantages, in your experience, of the collaborative and interactive approach?

This is an interesting question. The evidence suggests that ModPo has formed a community of practice very successfully.

Etienne Wenger in his book Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity has written about the formation and work of communities of practice in detail, and on his website writes: In a nutshell ……

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

This is true of ModPo – there is plenty of ‘passion for poetry’ in the forums and webinars, in the Facebook group and even on Twitter.

Here is a recent video of current ModPo students talking about their experience.

This video provides a flavour of the diversity of the community and the shared passion for poetry and for ModPo.

In Wenger’s terms ModPo is a community of practice as opposed to simply a community. ModPo participants (community members) gather together around the domain of poetry and share their practices. In the forums, there are shared interpretations of the poems introduced in the course, shared writing, shared poems, shared readings, shared close readings and shared cultural experiences. Sharing, social interaction and social learning are at the heart of the success of ModPo. Everyone’s contribution is welcome, from novice to expert, and there is a real sense that it is possible, for those who want to, to move from the periphery of the community along a trajectory of increasing competence to the centre of the community. It is also perfectly acceptable to remain as a legitimate peripheral participant. I myself feel very comfortable in this latter location.

Etienne Wenger, also in his book, explains that there are three dimensions of practice in a community:

  • Mutual engagement (engaged diversity, doing things together, relationships, social complexity, community maintenance)
  • A joint enterprise (negotiated enterprise, mutual accountability, interpretations, rhythms, local response)
  • Shared repertoire (stories, artifacts, styles, tools, actions, discourses, concepts, historical events)

Shared history is an important aspect of a community of practice and in ModPo this is evidenced by people returning each year to do the course and through the course materials remaining open during the year. The history of the Kelly Writer’s House, from where the course is run has also been shared with ModPo participants.

This sense of place in ModPo is one of its unique features. ModPo participants are invited to enter this space, either physically or virtually each week and join the ModPo team and teaching assistants for discussion. The place and space feel immediate and real and I think are instrumental in forging a sense of community and belonging.

Returning to Etienne Wenger’s social learning theory, he describes four components of learning in a community of practice, which are all evident in ModPo

  • Learning as doing (practice) – in ModPo doing is related to writing (assignments and peer reviews), close reading the poems, discussion and social interaction in the forums
  • Learning as experience (meaning) – in ModPo learning is a shared experience which is negotiated between community members
  • Learning as belonging (community) – in ModPo, for those who want it, it is possible to become a member of a world-wide community of poets and those who are passionate about poetry
  • Learning as becoming (identity) – in ModPo, the very nature of the domain (poetry) and the personalized close readings inevitably have implications for personal identity development.

Finally, a community is not static, but dynamic. It has been interesting to see how ModPo has evolved and continues to grow as a community. Each year new members are welcomed and this year there seems to have been increased recognition that 30,000+ people cannot effectively communicate with each, but need to congregate in smaller groups. Study groups are encouraged and this year one of the community teaching assistants (Laura Cushing) took it upon herself to create a list of the study groups that were springing up around the world, so that participants could easily locate those in their geographical areas and arrange to meet face-to-face to socialize, share close readings and their passion for poetry.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 14.51.09San Francisco Meet Up (Source of photo: ModPo course site)

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 14.51.39Prague Meet Up (Source of photo: ModPo course site)

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 14.51.24Washington DC Meet Up (Source of photo: ModPo course site)

So there is plenty of evidence that the ModPo MOOC has created a community of practice around the course. I haven’t specifically answered all Al Filreis’ questions, but hopefully this post provides a sense of some of the ways in which ModPo has done this. I could write more, but I think that’s enough for now.

On November 3rd Frances Bell and I will be at Southampton University’s ILIaD Inaugural Conference. Here is the programme and this is the information about the conference provided by the University.

The University of Southampton’s Vision 2020 states that over the next few years we will “revolutionise education”.  The new Institute for Learning Innovation and Development (ILIaD) has been created to lead on this ambition and help shape the University’s future educational approach. But what would this look like? What will we need to do to make this happen? Will students be happy with the changes? How will research shape our educational offer?

The ILIaD inaugural conference will give staff, students and external participants the opportunity to answer these questions and showcase and celebrate educational innovations. It will provide participants with the opportunity to discover the many ways to engage with ILIaD, and to network with others interested in educational innovation.

As part of this day Frances and I will give a short presentation in which we hope to stimulate thinking about some aspects of the Future of Higher Education. For this presentation we have drawn on recent reports on the topic and in particular on an article by Bryan Alexander (2014) in which he suggests discussing a variety of possible scenarios to support thinking about the future of Higher Education.

Frances and I will each present a short scenario and then open the floor for discussion.

For Frances’ scenario see her blog post – An Interactive Exploration of the Near Future i Educational Technologies.

The wonderful Fiona Harvey, who we met at an ALTMOOCSIG event at UCL earlier in the year, will support the discussion by graphically recording comments and feedback. For my scenario I will ask participants to imagine themselves as middle-aged academics in 2025. Here is a video that I have created to present the scenario.

Scenario Transcript - Jenny’s scenario 291014 (With many thanks to Mariana Funes for her helpful feedback on this video)

In creating this scenario, I drew on Bryan Alexander’s article (2014) and the reports listed in the references below, which I very briefly summarized for myself as follows. It goes without saying that there could be many alternative scenarios.

The Purpose of Education

Higher education is a great national asset. Its contribution to the economic and social well being of the nation is of vital importance. Its research pushes back the frontiers of human knowledge and is the foundation of human progress. Its teaching educates and skills the nation for a knowledge-dominated age. It gives graduates both personal and intellectual fulfillment. Working with business, it powers the economy, and its graduates are crucial to the public services. And wide access to higher education makes for a more enlightened and socially just society.

(“The Future of Higher Education,” January 2003, In: Alexander, B. (2010). The Future of Higher Education : Beyond the Campus. EDUCAUSE Review® Online - January).

This quote from a government white paper was written in 2003, more than 10 years ago, yet is still relevant – or is it?

Is Higher Education a great national asset? Is its contribution to the economic and social well-being of the nation of vital importance?

In his 2010 paper Bryan Alexander wrote that the purpose of education is to educate people for success in life; in their workplace, their communities and their personal lives. This purpose is increasingly challenged by high rates of youth unemployment, an ageing population and increasing social conflict around the world.

The Ivory Tower

Academics have long held a privileged position in society which has granted them academic freedom and academic identity, through the high esteem in which research has been held and the way in which research has been published and disseminated. Despite moves to make research and the research process more ‘open’, it remains slow to publish and disseminate, held up by ethics committees and peer review procedures which are in need of urgent change. In current times, with the fast pace of change, research findings can be obsolete before they are even published. Similarly slow Higher Education accreditation procedures stifle curriculum innovation.

Current Trends in Higher Education

Higher Education is assailed by change on all sides.

The Institution

Rising costs and decreasing resources have led to institutions seeking new business models in a search for improved efficiency and productivity. Economic social forces and sustainability are increasingly recognized as drivers of change. There is similarly a recognised need for greater diversity of educational provision and a move towards openness, transparency and collaboration. Innovation and entrepreneurship are seen to be essential to meet the demands of an expanding global market and growing student numbers.

Scholarship

The use of digital data is changing scholarly practices. Research is more conversational and out in the open, e.g. on blogs and is being crowd sourced. There is an ever increasing number of open journals, and open peer review has also been explored.

Teaching and Learning

The boundaries around HE institutions are becoming more permeable and modes of teaching and learning more flexible, with more online or blended learning provision. Students coming into HE have grown up in a connected, networked world with limitless access to open resources. In response, teaching is more and more focusing on the use of social media for interaction and problem solving. Classrooms are becoming multi-media learning spaces, which emphasise creativity and project-based work, digital storytelling, gaming and mobile learning. From the teachers’ perspective, increased work online results in more visible data and related accountability. The same can be said for the institution itself.

Technology

Technological advances continue apace and include: new hardware and software, ubiquitous computing, tablets, mobile learning devices, cloud computing and 3D printing. Gaming is increasingly being used for teaching and learning, as are augmented reality and sensor technologies. Collaboration tools and the use of OERs are becoming commonplace and big data analysis is receiving increasing interest and funding. Identity management and the development of personal learning networks (PLNs) is also a focus of attention.

Ways forward

There is increasing pressure on the Ivory Tower to innovate through:

  • interdisciplinary research and innovation
  • international collaboration and mobilizing collective intelligence
  • designing new business models which focus on students and innovative teaching and learning
  • cross institutional alliances and collaborative entrepreneurship.

Innovation and scenario planning are therefore essential.

Bibliography

Alexander, B. (2010). The Future of Higher Education : Beyond the Campus. EDUCAUSE Review® Online (ISSN 1945-709X), (January).

Alexander, B. (2014). Higher Education in 2024: Glimpsing the Future. EDUCAUSE Review® Online (ISSN 1945-709X). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/higher-education-2024-glimpsing-future

Blass, E., & Hayward, P. (2014). Innovation in higher education; will there be a role for “the academe/university” in 2025? European Journal of Futures Research, 2(1), 41

Brennan, J., Ryan, S., Ranga, M., Broek, S., Durazzi, N., & Kamphuis, B. (2014). Study on innovation in higher education : final report Study on Innovation in Higher Education Executive Summary.

Downes, S. (2014). Beyond Institutions – Personal Learning in a Networked World. Seminar presentation delivered to Network EDFE Seminar Series, London School of Economics. Retrieved from: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/343

Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., & Cummins, M. (2013). Horizon report: 2013 higher education edition. Retrieved from http://hdl.voced.edu.au/10707/284916

See also the work of the University of Northampton which I wrote about in my last post: Shaping the Future of Higher Education – standing still is not an option

Next week I will be attending a day conference about the future of Higher Education at Southampton University, so this month’s Teaching and Learning Conversation, hosted by Chrissi Nerantzi, caught my attention.

The webinar was run by Prof Ale Armellini, Professor of Learning and Teaching in HE, University of Northampton. The title of the session was Opportunities for Shaping the Future of HE in a Challenging Climate.

This was an enjoyable and thought provoking session, in which Ale Armellini shared the work that is being done at the University of Northampton to prepare for the future in Higher Education – or at least to try and anticipate the changes that might need to be made.

Universities are being hit by disruptive waves. They have to compete for students, compete to offer cheaper alternatives and compete in offering online delivery. Physical space is at a premium, there is global competition for increasing numbers of diverse and demanding students, and there is a critical need to change the way they do business.

Northampton University has recognized that students want a personalized learning environment and that to meet increasing student demands they will have to raise the bar. For them this means increasing excellence and innovation, inspirational teaching and transformational learning practices and open practice. It also means exceeding student expectation regardless of their mode of study, and providing CPD and recognition for staff in relation to innovation and change. Currently the balance of different students at Northampton looks like this.

Northampton 2014

A possible scenario for 2020 might be this

Northampton 2020

There will need to be a balance between campus-based provision and online provision, but Universities will need to think carefully about how to add value to the campus experience.

Northampton is currently thinking about it in two ways:

  1. The balance between face-to-face learning and online learning will change as undergraduates go through their 3 year degree courses as depicted in the following chart:

Changes from Year 1 to Year 3

But Northampton is also thinking about how to change the learning experience and their current thinking is that lectures will become a thing of the past, as depicted in this slide.

Prospective changes at Northampton

Unfortunately this was only a one-hour lunchtime webinar. We could have continued the discussion for much longer and it was clear that Prof Armellini had plenty more he could have shared with us.

Chrissi Nerantzi has already posted the recording of the webinar at  . It will be a valuable resource.

Thanks to Chrissi and Prof Ale Armellini for a most interesting session, which was particularly timely for my own work.

Academic blogging

George Veletsianos is running a four week open course about networked scholarship and the implications of academics’ presence and visibility online for their work and careers.

The first week is already over and there has been plenty of interesting discussion and two interesting events.

On Wednesday Michael Barbour  joined the course for a day to answer any questions that participants threw at him and he generously shared his strategies for working in the open.

On Thursday there was a webinar with Laura Czerniewicz  who shared her work on open scholarly practice in relation to presence, visibility and branding, including her guide to curating open scholarly content:

An 8-step guide to curating open scholarly content 

and with Sarah Goodier a Four Step Guide to online presence

Also shared in the course was this slideshare by Sydneyeve Matrix about academic branding –

There has been some discussion about whether academics should blog. Some have said that open scholarship means sharing all aspects of your life (I have blogged about this in the past ), but as Laura Czerniewicz said ‘Some people are not comfortable blogging – some people have a blogging voice, others don’t’.

For me it’s not either/or. Sometimes I feel that I can’t get the blog posts I want to make out fast enough. At other times I feel that I have nothing to say, nothing to add to the conversation that has not already been said, nothing that I think anyone would find interesting to read – but sometimes you just have to force yourself and start writing, because as others before me have pointed out, writing is a practice – use it or lose it.

Catherine Cronin has recently said  (I can’t remember where – sorry Catherine) that you can never tell whether something you write might be of use to someone, and you might never know.

Stephen Downes  (a most prolific blogger) has written somewhere (or maybe it was said – again I don’t remember – sorry Stephen) that if you can’t find anything to write about, you must be a boring person, ‘or words to that effect’. I think what he meant was that everyone has something to say – we just need the confidence, the belief that there is someone out there that might want to listen.

This echoes what the poet Bernadette Mayer said in a Modern and Contemporary American Poetry MOOC webinar this week –  ‘You can’t have writer’s block – as that would mean total lack of thought’. It’s not lack of thought, it’s lack of confidence. Various bloggers have written about this (see references at the end of this post).

Bernadette Mayer has provided loads of possible starting points for writers in a long document Bernadette Mayer’s List of Journal Ideas. In the webinar her advice was to find something completely impossible to write about and write about it, such that the problem becomes the material and we use the constraints. Write against the reality that is presented to you – she says.

Bernadette’s advice is for poets, but works equally well for academic bloggers. The advantage of blogging is that it can release you from the conventions of academic writing of the type done for journal articles. You can simply start and ‘let it all hang out’ and include images and multimedia. You can write a line or two or you can write at length. There are a whole host of genres you can experiment with.

I think it would be a shame to think about blogging only in terms of scholarship and academic branding. Blogging is much more than that, even for academics. It is about ‘finding your voice’ and building an identity. As Laura said: ‘So much scholarship is embodied in a person.’

Some references that might be of interest, that I have come across or been reminded of this week are:

This week in ModPo I have been introduced to, moved and disturbed by Langston Hughes’ poem, – Dinner Guest: Me. Langston Hughes was a Harlem Renaissance anti-modernist poet. Dinner Guest: Me is a compelling poem. At one level it looks so simple; at another it is clearly anything but.

hughes

 Source of image

Langston Hughes, “Dinner Guest: Me”

I know I am

The Negro Problem

Being wined and dined,

Answering the usual questions

That come to white mind

Which seeks demurely

To Probe in polite way

The why and wherewithal

Of darkness U.S.A.—

Wondering how things got this way

In current democratic night,

Murmuring gently

Over fraises du bois,

“I’m so ashamed of being white.”

 

The lobster is delicious,

The wine divine,

And center of attention

At the damask table, mine.

To be a Problem on

Park Avenue at eight

Is not so bad.

Solutions to the Problem,

Of course, wait.

This poem was written in the context of a long history of racism in the USA, a system of racial subordination commonly known as Jim Crow and the question posed by African American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois – ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’.

In the poem, Langston Hughes, a negro poet is at a ‘high society’ dinner party where all the other guests are white people. He knows that despite the ‘polite talk’ he is perceived as the Negro Problem – not necessarily hated, but a problem with a capital P.

I cannot pretend to understand what it feels like to be in this position, but the poem does raise the question of whether and how a minority voice can be heard. Langston Hughes was wined and dined at a ‘society’ dinner, but still his voice was not heard.

This situation was even more appalling because the dinner hosts seemed to have the best of intentions ‘in their terms’, but did not seem to recognise that they had all but ‘silenced’ the minority voice.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 18.00.29

Source of image

 The issue of the minority voice is not only a racial issue. It can be seen everywhere and in any situation where alternative perspectives are not welcomed or listened to. This is particularly disheartening when it happens in learning communities and even more disheartening when there appears to be a lack of awareness or concern for those who have been ‘silenced’.

This is a significant problem for open online learning. How do we know whether the voices being heard, i.e. those that are present, are representative of the wider community? How do we know how many people feel their voices have been silenced? Where does the Problem lie?

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