Ontology, epistemology and pedagogy of networked learning

This was the subject of one of the threads in the 4th Networked Learning Hot Seat  last week.

Teresa’s request in a comment on my last post –   that I write something about this has prompted this attempt – but I am writing this as notes to myself and therefore am only including here the aspects of discussion that were of interest to me and from my own interpretation. To get a full picture of the discussion you will need to go to the Hot seat link.

I had difficulties relating to some of the ways in which networked learning was being discussed.  In the first Hot seat it was defined by Peter Goodyear as:

learning and teaching carried out largely via the Internet/Web which emphasises dialogical learning, collaborative and cooperative learning, group work, interaction with on-line materials, and knowledge production.

And then in this Hot seat it was defined by David McConnell as:

the use of Internet-based information and communication technologies to promote collaborative and co-operative connections: between one learner and other learners; between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources, so that participants can extend and develop their understanding and capabilities in ways that are important to them, and over which they have significant control.

And as I mentioned in my last post about this, David McConnell wrote:

Networked Learning is based on:

  • Dialogue
  • Collaboration and cooperation in the learning process
  • Group work
  • Interaction with online materials
  • Knowledge production

It was the emphasis on collaboration and cooperation that made me feel a bit as if I was on a different planet, but because I arrived late in the Hot seat I had missed David McConnell’s explanation….

I think the definition is narrow in the sense that it reflects an interest in NL within formal educational settings which are defined by students taking courses, being assessed and gaining credit, where they are learning in groups and communities of a well defined nature where members know each other (intimately, intellectually, socially etc) and are working towards collective goals.

Once you move beyond these confines into “networks”, the meaning of networked learning changes I think. I am aware that in the discussions here there are differences in the way members are conceptualising networked learning, and I think some have in mind “networks” (of learners) rather than networked learning in the way we have conceptualised it.

….which exactly describes where I am coming from and why I initially felt at sea with what was being discussed. Having accepted that the definition that was being used as the foundation for discussion in the Hot Seat was narrower than one I would use in relation to my own work, I was able to turn my turn my attention to the aspects of ontology, epistemology and pedagogy that were being discussed, which were not confined to that discussion thread and which were not kept in discrete discussion areas either.

These are the ideas which I found most interesting:

Relational dialogue for me is an integral part of a social constructionist view of learning where what we know and who we are gets constructed in the interactional and relational dialogue, or some prefer to say, learning conversations that we engage in, in general as well as online.

We can look at this in the very conversations we are having in this hot seat – in terms of what we are coming to know through these exchanges/conversations and how we are each being ‘constructed’ in terms of our online and also offline identities. Something worth considering and reflecting on as we proceed I think.  (Vivien Hodgson)

It’s the process of dialogue that helps them (students) reflect on their learning, be open to asking and responding to questions about their learning. It’s that reflective process that can help learners go beyond just sharing views and beliefs, to digging into them and trying to work with them. (David McConnell)

Networked learners will be “critically reflective and seek to take an ethical and responsible perspective to what they learn and how they act in the world (Vivien Hodgson)

Important to us is the nature of meaning and understanding of knowledge and of the world that is constructed and how it contributes to the wellbeing of society and the world in which we live. (Vivien Hodgson)

There were also interesting discussions related to assessment and whether or not participation in online discussion/networks should be assessed. For example:

David provided further information in an excerpt from Chapter 4 of his book

McConnell, D. (2006) E-Learning Groups and Communities. P. 209) Maidenhead, SRHE/OU Press      Onlineassessment_DMcC-1

And Vivien provided a link to her interesting paper on the tyranny of participation.

Ferreday, D. & Hodgson, V. (2010) Heterotopia in Networked Learning: Beyond the Shadow Side of Participation in Learning Communities. Lancaster University Management School Working Paper.  http://www.lums.lancs.ac.uk/publications/view/115/

It was acknowledged that a course based on principles of participation and collaboration will fail if participants do not interact, ‘listen’ and ‘take care of the community, but the potential for marginalizing students who do not, for one reason or another, embrace this culture, was also recognized. This led to a brief discussion on power relations in networks.

The constraints of assessment on learner autonomy were also recognized, hence the emphasis on self-assessment, peer-assessment and negotiated assessment.

But the Hot Seat ended with a recognition that:

Each context is different, and each context has conditions framed by the teachers and the learners. So, as you say, we do have to be aware of who the learners are and what they are there for.

I think we can design courses and learning events that are built on socio-constructionist principles and which reflect many of the networked learning attributes that we outline in our introduction. But their implementation then requires negotiation with learners, and the final learning and teaching processes may then take on their own particular ‘shape’ depending on those negotiation processes. (David McConnell)

So plenty  here to think about in terms of pedagogy, ontology and epistemology (in that order?)

6 thoughts on “Ontology, epistemology and pedagogy of networked learning

  1. Teresa January 20, 2012 / 3:18 pm

    THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂
    i am happy!

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