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The second Networked Learning Conference 2016 Hotseat was a much quieter affair than the first, but none the worse for that. The topic, facilitated by Sonia Livingstone was – Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning 

Sonia posted 4 topics for us to discuss:

  1. Experience of networked and connected learning, their boundaries and limits
  2. Limits to connectivity – how much of it do we (students, teachers) really want, and what are the demonstrable benefits?
  3. Risks of connectivity and what kinds of privacy or control or independence could be lost if everything is connected
  4. Educators’ roles: should we as educators respect students’ concerns to limit or bound learning networks, or should we strive to overcome them?

Experience of networked and connected learning, their boundaries and limits

Discussion in this thread was wide ranging. Sonia’s research is into 13-14 year old young people’s networks and how they manage connections between home, school, their community and elsewhere. She has found that there is some resistance from teachers, parents and students, who want to maintain boundaries and that connections across home and school can become ‘classed’ leading to inequality in learning experiences.

There was discussion about the need to balance connected learning (dialogue and collaboration) with individual or independent learning (silence and contemplation). Too much connectedness is not conducive to learning. Participation can be experienced as suffocation. Private, off-grid, solitude and contemplation are key factors in learning and disconnection is a part of learning that needs to be rediscovered. Identity is an issue.

By the end of the thread we were no nearer determining how students can take control of their learning in and out of school in formal and informal learning.

Limits to connectivity – how much of it do we (students, teachers) really want, and what are the demonstrable benefits?

The point was made that technically there are no limits to connectivity, although physically connectivity can be variable according to bandwidth and geography. The manipulation of Facebook, Twitter and Google in controlling what we see can limit connectivity and digital literacy should include critical questioning of platforms and assumptions. Sonia’s research has revealed that younger people are more willing to change platforms than older people and younger people are more willing to use adblocker software. It was suggested that building digital connections across the age range would be beneficial.

Risks of connectivity and what kinds of privacy or control or independence could be lost if everything is connected

The question was raised of whether (with increasing visibility and traceability online), privacy is any longer possible. This led to consideration of the role of surveillance and monitoring and some discussion of Jose van Dijck’s book The Culture of Connectivity. I spent some time reading around this and writing my contribution to the discussion, but made the mistake of writing it in Word and then copying and pasting it into the forum. To my dismay it copied as an image which meant that none of the links worked – so I am attaching it here. Post about Jose Van Dijck’s work . The point made by van Dijck and Sonia, which was significant for this discussion, is that there is a difference between connectedness and connectivity. Connectedness is social participation. Connectivity is mediated by systems platforms.

Sonia pointed out that in their connections and connectivity young people are at risk of a double whammy of surveillance. In connectedness they are at risk of surveillance from teachers and parents; in connectivity they are at risk of surveillance from the state. I suspect we are all at risk in these ways, not just the young.

Further risks of connectivity were thought to be risks from unknown default settings and terms of use and the risk of context collapse when people try to maintain connectedness in different online spaces.

Mariana Funes pointed us to Dave Egger’s novel ‘The Circle’ and Michael Harris’ book – ‘The end of absence. Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection.’ These books address the question of what would be lost if everything is connected – the loss of lack, the loss of absence and the loss of a non-performative life.

Educators’ roles: should we as educators respect students’ concerns to limit or bound learning networks, or should we strive to overcome them?

This question was not really taken up and discussed other than to say that the answer would be dependent on resolving the tension between learning agency and autonomy, and the teacher’s need to intervene. It will be a matter of progression, topic and context, but learners need uncertainty to become radical sceptics.


The next Hotseat dates are: December 6-12, 2015 

Facilitator Steve Wright: What have the ANTs ever done for us? Packing your cases to follow the actors….


Selected references and further reading

Livingstone, S. & Sefton-Green, J. (2016, in press). The Class. Living and learning in the digital age. Nyu Press

Livingstone, S. (2015, June 11th) How the ordinary experiences of young people are being affected by networked technologies [Blog post] Retrieved from:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/how-the-ordinary-experiences-of-young-people-are-being-affected-by-networked-technologies/

Livingstone, Sonia (2014) What does good content look like?: developing great online content for kids. In: Whitaker , Lynn, (ed.) The Children’s Media Yearbook 2014. The Children’s Media Foundation , Milton Keynes, UK, pp. 66-71. ISBN 9780957551824

An Agenda for Research and Design, A research synthesis report of the Connected Learning Research Network. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/Connected_Learning_report.pdf

Connected Learning. An Agenda for Research and Design. http://dmlhub.net/publications/connected-learning-agenda-for-research-and-design/

Loveless, A. & Williamson, B. (2013). Learning Identities in a Digital Age: Rethinking creativity, education and technology. Routledge

Strathern, M. (1996) Cutting the Network. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 517-535. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3034901

Light, B. (2014). Disconnecting with social networking sites. Palgrave Macmillan

Mejias, U. A. (2013). Off the Network. https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/pdf/off-the-network

Michael Harris (2014) The End of Absence. Reclaiming what we lost in a world of constant connection

Dave Eggers (2013). The Circle. http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/blog/post/the-circle-totally-transparent

Jose van Djick – Social Media and the Culture of Connectivity – https://youtu.be/x-mdi63Zk58

Facebook told by Belgian court to stop tracking non-users http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34765937

Barry Wellman (2002).  “Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism.” Pp. 11-25 in Digital Cities II: Computational and Sociological Approaches, edited by Makoto Tanabe, Peter van den Besselaar, and Toru Ishida. Berlin: Springer-Verlag http://calchong.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/LittleBoxes.pdf

Implementing pbl online as a collaborative learning strategy for teachers: the cole https://www.researchgate.net/publication/256476854_IMPLEMENTING_PBL_ONLINE_AS_A_COLLABORATIVE_LEARNING_STRATEGY_FOR_TEACHERS_THE_COLE

Jaap Bosman (2015. Nov 7. Blog post) Connecting and StillWeb https://connectiv.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/connecting-and-stillweb/

Caulfield, M. (2015. Oct 17th. Blog post) The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral http://hapgood.us/2015/10/17/the-garden-and-the-stream-a-technopastoral/

Claxton, M. (1998). Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: Why Intelligence Increases When You Think Less. Fourth Estate; New Ed edition

Bohmian Dialogue – http://www.david-bohm.net/dialogue/dialogue_proposal.html

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Source of image and more about Callum Innes whose work Exposed Painting Green Lake is currently on show at the Manchester Art Gallery Absent Presence Exhibition

What does it mean to be ‘present’ online? Presence, according to Oxford Dictionaries Online is defined as ‘a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen’ and by Cambridge Dictionaries Online as ‘a ​quality that makes ​people ​notice or ​admire you, ​even when you are not ​speaking’.

Is it possible to be noticed online if you are not visible and don’t speak?

I am intrigued by the idea of ‘absent presence’, the idea that we may be able to enhance our presence by being absent. My father always used to say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ as he set off on his long trips away. I’m not sure I agree, but can absence have a positive impact on presence? I think we would readily accept the more obvious cases of the past having presence in our lives, departed loved ones being present and so on.

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Source of image

The suggestion that our presence may be stronger through being absent in lived time is more counter-intuitive for many of us, particularly in an age of hyper-connectivity and digital distraction where many people work hard at being continually present; where personal relevance is for some equated with the number, reach and always on, always present, always accessible, nature of our digital connections.

Like many others, particularly those who were young in the 60s, I have, in the past, explored meditation, yoga and other ways of avoiding distraction, stilling the mind and getting to know myself through solitude and contemplation. But that was not to be my path. My path was marriage, motherhood, work and increasing busyness and I loved it. Solitude, contemplation and coming face-to-face with myself in ‘stillness’ was harder than busyness in many ways and I was happy to leave that path whilst my family grew up.

A few years ago I came back to thinking about solitude and contemplation and its place in learning, through a set of unexpected circumstances. I attended a four-day face-to-face course which was ‘full-on’ from morning to night. Every minute of the day was timetabled and social events were arranged for the evenings. I found it overwhelming. The course leader asked me why I wasn’t saying anything or making much of a contribution, since he thought I had plenty that I could contribute, but the cacophony of voices and relentless activity silenced me. I simply could not find my voice. The next year I attended the course again, but this time I attended it from a distance as an online participant. What I discovered was that the distance allowed me to find my voice and establish a presence in the course. I was distant present. The course was designed so that online participants were projected into the face-to-face space via a synchronous video link, but the distance afforded a time difference, which meant that I didn’t have to join the room/course until midday. I had the whole morning to occupy a different quieter space, to walk, think and write in solitude. When I joined the course online at midday, I felt much more present than I had at any time during the previous year’s face-to-face experience. This started me thinking about the role of distance, solitude and contemplation in my learning and identity formation; the role of absence; the role of different spaces in online interaction and learning.

In those earlier days of online connectedness, I valued the distance and the asynchronicity it afforded. I didn’t have to respond immediately in an online discussion, I had time to think. I could choose how visible I wanted to be, whether to post a photo of myself. I could hide my reactions and feelings more easily and so on. But as time has gone on, this distance seems to be shrinking as everything becomes more synchronous; distance and privacy are losing out to public as the default. I find myself increasingly trying to maintain the distance I found so valuable in the early days of my online experience, but it is a dilemma.

I am aware of and value the advantages of online connection, of being able to find the information I need at the click of a button. Some of my closest connections are the result of online interaction, but my question is do I need to be always online for them to ‘see’ me or for me to ‘see’ them? I don’t think so, or I hope not. I value them not for being always available and always visible, but for ‘who’ they are, their depth of character, their integrity, their wisdom, their patience, tolerance and many other characteristics which have nothing to do with their online influence, their popularity, the number of Twitter followers they have, the number of friends they have on Facebook, the number of comments they get on their blog, or their instant availability. Some of my most valued online connections are the least visible. Effectively they are ‘absent’ to much of the online space. They are in a different space, a quieter space, and judging by what they say when we are in contact, a more reflective and contemplative space. Their presence is all the more evident for their absence.


These thoughts have been sparked by this week’s Networked Learning Conference Hotseat (Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning ) hosted by Sonia Livingstone and in particular by a post made by Mariana Funes who drew our attention to a book by Michael Harris

(2014) The End of Absence. Reclaiming what we lost in a world of constant connection

This led me to this video where Michael Harris talks about his book.

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Link to source of image

This morning I picked up this quote from a blog post Thirteen Ways of Looking at Ted Hughes by Anthony Wilson.

Teachers’ words should not be ‘How to write’ but ‘How to try to say what you really mean’ – which is part of the search for self-knowledge and perhaps, in one form or another, grace.

Ted Hughes (2008). Poetry in the Making, p.12

The quote caught my attention because recently I have come across a number of academic articles where the author/s undoubtedly know the conventions of writing but don’t seem to know how to say what they really mean. Although the peer review process is often criticised, in my experience it can help authors to become clearer in saying what they really mean. On a couple of occasions I, with my collaborators, have had to completely rewrite an article in response to reviewers comments, even to the point of changing the title, before the paper could be published. It is really nice to get a review which says ‘no changes required’, but this has only happened to me once!

Why can it be so difficult for intelligent academics to say what they really mean? Putting aside the possibility that the author has simply not spent enough time engaging with and reading around relevant and associated ideas, two possible reasons immediately come to mind.

  1. Research is by its nature messy and emergent, so ideas are emerging and dynamic. They don’t come fully formed, but grow and develop with the on-going process of the research. It is often difficult to know when to stop the research, stop the reading, stop the data collection, stop the analysis and discussion with colleagues and just get on with the writing. Perhaps there are times when we don’t make the correct judgement about this time to stop and begin the writing.
  2. We often end up wallowing in data and find we have far too much for the 6000 word paper (or less, but rarely much more) we want to submit. It may be that the data analysis suggests more than one line of argument and you’ve spent so long on the research process that it’s hard to let go of some ideas, the result being a paper that loses focus; the author then can’t or doesn’t say what s/he really means.

Etienne Wenger has said that meaning occurs through an on-going process of negotiation, which does not necessarily involve language and that reification gives our meanings an independent existence and shapes our experience. (See Meaning is the driver of learning)

For authors of academic articles there is a tension between negotiation of meaning and reification. As Wenger says ‘Reification as a constituent of meaning is always incomplete’ – so perhaps it is not surprising that we find it difficult to say/write what we really mean, because meaning is always up for negotiation.

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The second Networked Learning Conference Hotseat starts on Sunday 8th November and will run until the 14th. This time it is facilitated by Sonia Livingstone, a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, who has found in her research with 13-14 year old young people in which she follows their networks at home, school and elsewhere, online and offline, that they are concerned about increased connection between home, school and elsewhere, wishing to maintain boundaries. She introduces and says more about her work in her Welcome message in the Hotseat.

Sonia then goes on to ask 3 questions, giving each a separate thread.

  1. My questions for this hot seat are about the limits to connectivity – how much of it do we (students, teachers) really want, and what are the demonstrable benefits?
  2. What are the risks of connectivity and what kinds of privacy or control or independence could be lost if everything is connected?
  3. Should we as educators respect students’ concerns to limit or bound learning networks, or should we strive to overcome them?

Some reading to inform this discussion

Livingstone, S. & Sefton-Green, J. (2016, in press). The Class. Living and learning in the digital age. Nyu Press

An Agenda for Research and Design, A research synthesis report of the Connected Learning Research Network. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/Connected_Learning_report.pdf

Loveless, A. & Williamson, B. (2013). Learning Identities in a Digital Age: Rethinking creativity, education and technology. Routledge

Strathern, M. (1996) Cutting the Network. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 517-535. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3034901

Livingstone, S. (2015, June 11th) How the ordinary experiences of young people are being affected by networked technologies [Blog post] Retrieved from: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/how-the-ordinary-experiences-of-young-people-are-being-affected-by-networked-technologies/

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In the first Hotseat of the series for the Networked Learning Conference 2016, Mike Sharples asks a series of questions to promote discussion about massive open social learning. All the discussion questions were interesting and there was some overlap between threads, but for this post I would like to comment on some of the responses to Mike’s question:

What are the appropriate roles for educators (in MOOCs)?

12 people engaged in this discussion. I will be referring to their ideas but not citing them in this post. If you want to check who said what then the discussion forum is open.

Mike Sharples’ question referred to educators, but sometimes people were talking about educators, sometimes about teachers and the two words were often used interchangeably. The difference in meaning between these two words was not discussed, presumably because people didn’t think there was one or it wasn’t sufficiently important.

Going through the forum posts it is clear that we didn’t come to any conclusions. It was recognised that MOOCs, with their massive numbers of learners have raised questions about who is the teacher in a MOOC, can anyone be a teacher, whose role is it to facilitate discourse, whose role is it to scaffold learning and so on. It was also recognised that in MOOCs the teacher/educator’s role is likely to be distributed, either through a team of teachers or between learners, and that there are multiple roles that a MOOC teacher/educator could adopt (See references to Downes below). The argument was made that in a MOOC the learning environment has been reshaped by technology and needs multiple educators. Interestingly I could cite any number of MOOCs in which there is just one educator (i.e. it has been designed and set up by just one person), and this doesn’t only apply to xMOOCs. If we agree that one person alone cannot effectively teach/educate large numbers of learners at the same time, then are we assuming that, in the absence of teaching team, we are relying on learners to educate/teach each other?

This question of course led to a discussion about what is knowledge and who has it. What is the role of the teacher/educator in negotiated learning, social constructivism and situated learning? Are moderation and facilitation roles enough? A view was put forward that moderation is needed to monitor and manage abuse and facilitation is needed for orchestrating interactions, but what more does a MOOC educator need to do? What about knowledge and truth? What is the teacher’s role in the construction of knowledge in MOOC learning? Is it the MOOC teacher’s role to be a conveyor of authoritative facts and knowledge?

There was some discussion about authority and it was suggested that authority impacts negatively on learner autonomy, which in connectivism is a key characteristic of learning in MOOCs. The idea that a teacher is an authority was questioned (the reason given was that authority is imposed), but the teacher can (and should?) have expertise (expertise is not imposed, but recognised). The role of power and authority in the social construction of knowledge was acknowledged. Of course this discussion could apply to any teaching environment, not just MOOCs. I was left wondering whether separating authority from expertise is straightforward.

We didn’t really get to grips with the question of whether the teacher is ‘redundant’ in a MOOC. Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s CoI framework (see reference list below) and the importance of ‘teacher presence’ was referenced but not discussed, I suspect because the thread was about roles of educators/teachers, rather than about who is the teacher in a MOOC.

In reflecting on this forum discussion, I think that in focussing on roles, we never really got to grips with the question of who is the teacher in a MOOC and whether and why we still need teachers. It was suggested that teachers will never be erased from society but if that is true, what is it that teachers do (and here I mean trained teachers, or career teachers, as opposed to say parents as teachers), that others don’t or can’t do?

I enjoyed the week’s discussions even though I don’t feel much further forward in understanding the teacher’s role in MOOCs. However, looking back through my notes I see that I wrote: ‘A teacher is more than a collection of roles. A teacher has an identity – it’s something about who the teacher is and how the teacher is perceived by learners, as well as what the teacher does – it’s something about the relationship between teacher and learner’. If teaching as a profession is not going to ‘disappear’ (see Biesta’s paper in the reference list) and MOOCs are not going to disappear, then future teachers (those being trained now) will have to understand not only the MOOC environment and the roles they might need to adopt within the MOOC environment, but also have a clear idea of who they are and what they stand for. I was once asked in an interview for a teaching post to explain my teaching philosophy, what I believe in and what I stand for as a teacher, but that was long before MOOCs. Is this a question that MOOC teacher/educators need to be able to answer?

A number of references to literature were made in the forum which show how wide-ranging the discussion was (see below).

A date for your diary: The next Hotseat in this series:

November 8-18, 2015 Sonia Livingstone: Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning


Biesta, G. (2013). Giving teaching back to education: Responding to the disappearance of the teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, 6(2), 35–49. Retrieved from https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/pandpr/article/viewFile/19860/15386

Can Mill’s empirical account of arithmetic be defended against the criticisms of Frege? 

Common Core Math is Not the Enemy

Downes, S. (2010). The role of the educator. Retrieved from: http://www.downes.ca/post/54312

Downes, S. (2013). We don’t need no educator: The role of the teacher in today’s online education. Retrieved from: http://www.downes.ca/presentation/311

Edinburgh University. Manifesto for teaching online 2015. Retrieved from https://onlineteachingmanifesto.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/manifesto-for-teaching-online-2015/4

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,9(3) Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/523

Kop, R., Fournier, H., & Mak, S. F. J. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings ? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(7) pp. 74-93. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1041/2025

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, NY: Routledge

Niaz, M. (2000). The Oil Drop Experiment: A Rational Reconstruction of the Millikan–Ehrenhaft Controversy and Its Implications for Chemistry Textbooks. 37 (5). Pp. 480-508. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. Retrieved from: http://www.umich.edu/~chemstu/content_weeks/F_06_Week4/Mullikan_Erenhaft.pdf

Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend

Ross, J, Sinclair, C, Knox, J, Bayne, S & Macleod, H. (2014). Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, vol 10, no. 1, pp. 57-69. Retrieved from: http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/17513228/JOLT_published.pdf

Salmon, G. (2011). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Shake up your life


Today I have been to the funeral of a friend who I knew for more than 30 years. This is the second funeral I have been to recently.

The first was to celebrate the life of a man cut off in his prime by bowel cancer (he was still in his 50s). He was almost literally ‘here today and gone tomorrow’ – the cancer was aggressive but he did not suffer for long. His funeral, held at the crematorium was one of music, colour, loving words and celebration. The crematorium was packed. I knew of this man, rather than knew him, but it was wonderful to see such a joyous celebration of life.

Today’s funeral of my friend was an altogether more traditional and quieter affair in a local Methodist Chapel. I went to my friend’s 80th birthday party earlier this year. As we say, she had ‘a good innings’, and she died after a very short illness and did not suffer as far as we know.

Any funeral leaves me thinking about mortality, and how much longer I can expect to live. It also leaves me wondering what people might say about me, if they say anything at all, after I die. Would they capture the essence of me? The eulogy at today’s funeral captured my friend’s life wonderfully well, making her instantly recognisable, but I’m not sure that it captured the essence of her. The essence of her was captured in her own words, which were printed on the back the funeral service sheet.

‘If you don’t shake up your life, all the good stuff settles on the bottom’.

My friend really shook up her own life at least once to my knowledge, and may be more times than I know. Her death has left me wondering about her words.

In June of this year I published a blogpost about the changing role of the online teacher, following an invitation from Lisa Lane to write a post for her open Program for Online Teaching.

In that post I included reference to Edinburgh University’s Online Teaching Manifesto, which they published in 2011.


This is an image of the 2011 Manifesto

This week the Digital Education Team have published an updated version of the manifesto and compared it to their 2011 version on their manifesto website and asked for comment.

I have not attempted to evaluate their update by comparing the 2015 version with the 2011 version, but I have found the 2015 version very interesting to read. It relates strongly to the research papers I have been reading this year and therefore would seem to reflect current issues and concerns related to online teaching, but it also leaves me with some questions – possibly related to areas of related research which I haven’t seen.

Here is the text of the manifesto ( in purple font) with my thoughts/comments.

Manifesto for teaching online: Digital Education, University of Edinburgh, 2015

Online can be the privileged mode. Distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. Comment: I can see why these sentences have been included, but do we need to oppose online and offline education. They can both be privileged and positive principles.

Update 24-10-15 I am copying Jen Ross’ comment here as it provides a useful reference for further thinking about this point and the point below about instrumentalisation of education.

I do think the field is moving towards more recognition of hybridity (I like Greenhalgh-Spencer’s take on this – http://ojs.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/pes/article/viewFile/4022/1334 ), but there is still a need (in my view) to address assumptions about what online education is and can be.

Place is differently, not less, important online. Comment: Al Filreis’ ModPo MOOC realises this and creates a wonderful sense of place. He talks about it in his keynote for learning with MOOCs 2015 

Text has been troubled: many modes matter in representing academic knowledge. Comment: This applies both on and offline.

We should attend to the materialities of digital education. The social isn’t the whole story. Comment: A strong point and resonates with research papers that point to the tyranny of social participation online. Ferreday and Hodgson and Lesley Gourlay have written about this.

Ferreday, D., & Hodgson, V. (2010). Heterotopia in Networked Learning : Beyond the Shadow Side of Participation in Learning Communities. Retrieved from http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/49033/

Gourlay, L. (2015). “Student engagement” and the tyranny of participation. Teaching in Higher Education, (March), 1–10. doi:10.1080/13562517.2015.1020784

Openness is neither neutral nor natural: it creates and depends on closures. Comment: This echoes Edwards’ writing on how “all forms of openness entail forms of closed-ness” (p.3) and openness is under-theorised.

Edwards, R. (2015). Knowledge infrastructures and the inscrutability of openness in education. Learning, Media and Technology, (June), 1–14. doi:10.1080/17439884.2015.1006131

Update 24-10-15 Stephen Downes has challenged the ideas that ‘all forms of openness entail forms of closed-ness’ and that ‘openess is under-theorised’. See OLDaily. I should say here that I have probably done Edwards a disservice by quoting him out of context. His paper deserves reading in full.

Update 30-10-15 And here is a link to the Edinburgh Team’s response to this challenge.https://onlineteachingmanifesto.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/openness-and-the-new-manifesto/ 

Can we stop talking about digital natives? Comment: From Prensky’s work  – which has been much criticised – but has at least raised the issues.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.

Digital education reshapes its subjects. The possibility of the ‘online version’ is overstated. Comment: This is not super clear to me. Does subjects mean disciplines or people? And how is the possibility of the ‘online version’ overstated?

There are many ways to get it right online. ‘Best practice’ neglects context. Comment: Another point also made by Al Filreis in his video – and others have written about this. Just this week I saw a tweet about it.

Distance is temporal, affective, political: not simply spatial. Comment: And also cultural?

Aesthetics matter: interface design shapes learning. Comment: Interface design certainly shapes learning but is that the same as saying that aesthetics matter? ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ ?

Massiveness is more than learning at scale: it also brings complexity and diversity. Comment: This has always been Stephen Downes’ point, i.e. that a purpose of massiveness is to increase diversity.

Online teaching need not be complicit with the instrumentalisation of education. Comment: Does any teaching need to be complicit with the instrumentalisation of education?

A digital assignment can live on. It can be iterative, public, risky, and multi-voiced. Comment: Again, Al Filreis in his video discusses how this happens in ModPo.

Remixing digital content redefines authorship. Comment: The issues around this have been discussed in Ward Cunningham and Mike Caulfield’s Fedwiki. Frances Bell’s blog post might help to explain this. Basically in Fedwiki it is very difficult to track the original wiki page author once a series of edits have been made.

Contact works in multiple ways. Face-time is over-valued. Comment: Face-time can be both over-valued and under-valued. Many courses recognise the importance of face-time and try to replicate it online.

Online teaching should not be downgraded into ‘facilitation’. Comment: Good to see this, i.e. the importance of ‘teaching’. I know that the Edinburgh team have been considering the role of the teacher in online learning in their recent work. See

Biesta, G. (2013). Giving teaching back to education: Responding to the disappearance of the teacher. Phenomenology & Practice, 6(2), 35–49.


Ross, J., Sinclair, C., Knox, J., Bayne, S., & Macleod, H. (2014). Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 57–69.

Assessment is an act of interpretation, not just measurement. Comment: I’m not sure what assessment as an act of interpretation means. Assessment as more than just measurement, i.e. assessment for learning generates as much interest today as it did when Black and Wiliam wrote their paper Inside the Black Box

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139–148. doi:10.1002/hrm

Gibbs and Simpson’s article is also useful in this respect.

Gibbs, G., & Simpson, C. (2004). Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Students’ Learning. Learning in Teaching in Higher Education, 1(1), 3–31. doi:10.1080/07294360.2010.512631

Algorithms and analytics re-code education: pay attention! Comment: Is this a warning? What should we be doing about this?

Update 24-10-15 Thanks to Jen Ross and Sian Bayne for sending me the link to the e-book edited by Ben Williamson which provides the information relevant to this point in the manifesto. See Jen and Sian’s comments below

Williamson, B. (ed.) 2015. Coding/Learning: Software and digital data in education. Stirling: University of Stirling.

A routine of plagiarism detection structures-in distrust. Comment: Agreed – so what are the alternatives? Clearly plagiarism can’t go unchecked?

Online courses are prone to cultures of surveillance. Visibility is a pedagogical and ethical issue. Comment: Can we assume surveillance to be a bad thing? This statement implies it is, although I’m not sure that is the intention. I can think of at least one course I have attended where more surveillance would probably have been a good thing.

Automation need not impoverish education: we welcome our new robot colleagues. Comment: I suppose it depends on what the new robot colleagues do – what roles they play and how people understand and interpret those roles. Sherry Turkle’s writing about technology and human vulnerability seems relevant here.

Don’t succumb to campus envy: we are the campus. Comment: I’m not sure what this means – maybe because I’m not attached to an institution. I don’t think in terms of campuses.

Hopefully the Edinburgh Team will be expanding on this manifesto. It’s not all self-explanatory to me, but I do appreciate their focus on what it means to be a teacher in a digital age.

The role of the educator in networked learning will also be discussed in the first Hotseat for the Networked Learning Conference 2016,  which is now open and will be facilitated (is that the right word?) from October 25th by Mike Sharples.


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