Hype and Rose Gardens

I wasn’t sure what title to give this post but I realise that occasionally I feel irritated by the hype and attitude that ‘everything in the garden is rosy’ – just be ‘connected’ and the world’s problems will be solved – we will all be autonomous, connected and open learners in diverse environments and everything will change for the better.

It’s not that I am against these aspirations. I am not. It would be great if all learners were autonomous – but the fact is that many learners do not even want to be autonomous even if they have the capability to be autonomous and that is another discussion to be had. Is it OK to ask for didactic teaching (tell me what to do!)? Perhaps sometimes that is just what learners need.  I suspect that this is heresy in the current climate of networked learning 🙂

It would also be great if all learners were widely and diversely connected – but the fact is that many a knowing or unknowing willing learner cannot access the web/net as we the privileged are accustomed to do, whether or not they wish to learn. I only have to holiday in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales here in the UK to experience slow internet connections and difficulties of access and I have worked with students in Africa who have to travel miles to an internet café to get access to their course. It is easy to forget from our ivory towers of easy access in most areas of the Western world that there are still many who do not have this opportunity and privilege.

Aspirations and dreams are great, but I would like to see more recognition of those who currently have no chance of accessing these dreams and aspirations and for us not to forget them and not to become subject to the group think that ‘everything in the garden is rosy for all’. Let’s keep our feet on the ground.

4 thoughts on “Hype and Rose Gardens

  1. Scott Johnson June 4, 2011 / 5:12 pm

    Great post Jenny.

    The contribution the internet can make for opening educational opportunities across the planet is pretty exciting but I agree we need to stop talking as if the project is even remotely complete. I’m not even sure what we are witnessing is “education” or “learning.” Educated people amusing themselves in clever conversation and attaching a greater meaning to it is a closer description of what’s happening.

    It’s natural to attach importance to what we do as long as is doesn’t become a substitute for actually doing something important.

    Connectiveness can enable some wonderful things and you’re right that it’s time to get past the “gee whiz aren’t we wonderful” stage. Time to move on? To apply our cleverness. Any ideas?


  2. jennymackness June 5, 2011 / 8:53 pm

    Hi Scott – thanks for this great comment. You have raised the question ‘Any ideas?’ I have been thinking about this. I think there is probably no substitute for research – and probably empirical research. We need evidence – facts and figures – as well as the ‘learner voice’ type of research to get a clearer and more balanced picture of the changes that are taking place as a result of increased connectivity through online neworking and the effet of these changes.

    I think it’s happening, i.e. the research – but it’s slow 🙂

    What are your ideas?


  3. Scott Johnson June 6, 2011 / 3:39 am

    Hi Jenny,

    Agree on the need for research though I’m not sure where to start.

    We have a model of a classroom as a “learning space” that’s having its walls peeled away leaving us without the convenience of boundaries—inside the walls is clearly learning (because we call it a classroom and can expect no less) and outside is outside and untested, unsupervised, unstructured and ultimately unapproved by those who approve these things for us.

    The study of situated learning seems like a great place to start. As does a fair assessment of Connectivism that goes beyond dismissing it because it didn’t originate from within the educational establishment.

    I love this quote “Education in the Wild”:

    “The main barriers to developing these new modes of mobile learning are not technical but social. We have little understanding of context and learning outside the classroom, and even less about how this can be supported through new mobile technologies.”

    Click to access ARV_Education_in_the_wild.pdf

    We also need to talk about social position, which I think we often mistake for evidence of hard work, discipline and educational ability when luck of birth is more appropriately the answer. Are we any closer to fair distribution of knowledge because of the internet? Do we get credits for something being “made available” when really, it just sort of got loose? And is it our best out there or are we still hanging on to the really good stuff for ourselves? What does “sharing” mean anyway in an environment of informational abundance? Up until the internet came along did we think fair distribution was important enough to spend some of our wealth building schools all over the world? Are we now helping to build broadband out to those who need it most?

    Sorry to rant on here. Its a time of change and there are a lot of unknowns. To me the worst response would to be pretend to know what is happening. As a strategy for developing an incomplete understanding I guess we can study ourselves, what works and how we use what we’ve learned from being online.

    Take care,

  4. jennymackness June 7, 2011 / 7:03 am

    Hi Scott – many thanks for the ‘rant’ which makes for great reading – and also for the link. I have been aware of Mike Sharples work, but can see that I need to revisit it.

    That’s a great set of questions you have in there – which will keep me thinking. Thanks 🙂


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