When Inclusion Excludes ….

….. A counter narrative of open online education

This is the title of a new paper, co-authored with Mariana Funes and published today in Learning Media and Technology, by Taylor & Francis Online.


Open education aspires to democratize education, promote inclusion and effect change through social justice. These aspirations are difficult to realise in open, online environments, which enable multiple, and often conflicting, perspectives. This paper proposes a counter-narrative that surfaces certain operational norms of the internet and foregrounds their exclusionary nature. We offer an illustrative inventory of some social media interactional patterns to examine communication used in open online education communities. This examination leads us to conclude that language online is subject to a dialectical tension that both includes and excludes. We conclude that a different language is needed in open online educational environments; one that embraces exclusionary structures and strategic ambiguity, as well as the aspirations to further democratise education via digital means.

This paper is the culmination of 17 months’ work with Mariana and many long and wide ranging discussions. I have found the paper really interesting and thought-provoking to work on, and have particularly enjoyed collaborating with Mariana.

The final version of the paper is on the Learning, Media and Technology website – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17439884.2018.1444638

But in line with  Taylor and Francis’ Green Open Access policy (https://authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com/sharing-your-work/) we are able to post here the ‘preprint’, i.e. the final, accepted version of the paper, before being formatted by Learning, Media and Technology.  This is virtually identical (bar the formatting and some tightening of reference citations) to the published article.

When Inclusion Excludes MF:JM 280218

We are very grateful to Stephen Downes, Lisa Lane and Carmen Tschofen for reviewing the paper for us before submission and making suggestions for improvement. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for further detailed feedback, which helped us arrive at the final version.

We would welcome any comments or dialogue about the paper.

Why and how I use Twitter

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This post is for Maxine Griffiths (@now_teach_this) but I hope others will chime in, in the comments or on Twitter, to support Maxine in her MA in Education. She writes in a comment on the Jenny Mackness page of this blog:

Twitter is the focus of my critical reflection, how it has affected my practice, my students and the community and my colleagues. Could I ask you how it effected you as an educationalists? What influence if any has it had on your Practice?

This is an interesting question to reflect on. I joined Twitter in July 2008, but you can see from my stats that I am not an avid Twitter user.

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I remember a friend who I worked with (but who has since emigrated to New Zealand) – Nigel Robertson (@easegill) – joined in 2007 and was enthusiastic. I asked him about it and he told me I needed a minimum of 50 followers to get going. But I kept looking at it and seeing 140 character messages on people’s meals, cats, children etc. etc. I just couldn’t see the point.

It took me quite a while to get going on Twitter (to the extent that I want to get going). Two things influenced me to use it a bit more. The first was learning about Tweetdeck. Once I had installed that (I can’t remember exactly when), using Twitter became easier. I realised that it was much easier to follow the hashtag of courses and conferences with Tweetdeck. Suddenly Twitter became a bit more useful and less random. It hasn’t encouraged me to tweet at conferences though. I would find that a distraction. I don’t know how people manage to concentrate on the speaker and tweet, but Twitter is very useful for following a conference from a distance.

The second was a personal connection – Frances Bell (@francesbell). I started doing research with Frances in 2014 and it was a revelation to me that she uses Twitter and the Direct Messaging on Twitter for most of her communication (or at least that is my perception). I realised that if I didn’t log into Twitter everyday, and see messages from Frances, I was not going to keep on top of this research. So from 2014 my Twitter use has increased.

I am never likely to be a big user of Twitter. It is too public for me. I prefer to hold most of my communication in private. For this the private direct messaging is useful – not least because it doesn’t confine you to 140 characters. But apart from following hashtags for conferences, twitter chat and courses, the only thing I find it useful for is links to useful resources and ideas. I don’t interact a lot on the public stream of Twitter, and I don’t share anything personal, but I will post or retweet, and sometimes comment on, a post or article that I think worthwhile sharing – and I will copy in colleagues and friends who I think might be interested or find the link useful. I also tweet my own blog posts, as I have realised that this is where many blog posts are found, rather than via Feedly or equivalent. And I tweet my research papers when they are published (via WordPress having first blogged about them). I know that social media has an impact on research paper visibility.

Interestingly none of my family uses Twitter. I have just asked my son why not (he’s in his late 30s). He thinks it’s an environment which incites negativity, anger, bullying and abuse. He thinks the same of Facebook, which he tried but came out of. He reeled off the names of celebrities who get nothing but a stream of abuse on Twitter. I know this can be true. I definitely use the ‘block’ and ‘mute’ facility that Twitter offers. The ‘block’ for offensive spam or people, and the ‘mute’ for people whose voices are too loud. In this way I can just about cope with Twitter, but it is not my favourite tool.

But Maxine’s questions were :

How has it effected you as an educationalists? What influence if any has it had on your Practice?

I think I have explained above what influence it has had on my practice, but I don’t think it has had any significant impact on me as an educationalist beyond what I have mentioned above. But then, I am past retirement age and don’t work with any students. I think Twitter might have had more of an effect if I had still been teaching a lot, although some of my closest educationalist friends and colleagues rarely use Twitter and not with students.

Of course Twitter is now in trouble  and it’s difficult to know what they can do about it. They introduced the ‘Like’ heart – which I have yet to use, and there has been talk of increasing the 140 characters currently allowed. Who knows what effects this would have, but surely the attraction of Twitter is the 140 characters, the fast pace and the ease of communicating quickly.

But these are just my perspectives. Some of my colleagues, like Frances Bell (@francesbell), Mariana Funes (@mdvfunes) and others are very active on Twitter and it would be good to hear from them. And others have published research on the use of Twitter. See for example Bonnie Stewart’s work (@bonstewart). This is one paper (2015).

Open to influence: what counts as academic influence in scholarly networked Twitter participation http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17439884.2015.1015547

I hope this has answered your questions at least in part Maxine. Feel free to ask more questions, or DM me on Twitter 🙂  And I hope you get plenty of alternative perspectives. Good luck with your MA in Education.