NLC2016 Hotseat notes: Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning

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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

Absent presence in online interaction

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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.

Footnote

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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Boundaries and Limits of Networked and Connected Learning

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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/