In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:3

5547472957_b9eec4ecec_qMore participatory, collaborative and networked modes of engaging students and learners in teaching and learning have emerged in education. In this blog post I’ll look into participatory culture as the third approach to digital literacies, and I’ll discuss the concept of transmedia literacy and the connected updating of the skills, cultural competences and practices of new media literacies and participatory culture. Seen through the lens of Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development, I introduced in The End No 3:1, new media literacies and participatory culture as well as the mapping of transmedia literacy align especially with the levels of digital competence and digital usage.

Participatory culture and new media literacies as digital literacies

The participatory potential of new technologies has given new possibilities in education. Traditionally education has constructed students and learners as readers and synthesizers rather than producers, creators or designers of ideas and knowledge, as both Anna Sfard, Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel and John Hartley note in The End No 3:2. As this is changing, participatory culture has become an emblem of this development, which Lankshear and Knobel have shown in their presentation of new literacies in The End No 3:2, and participatory culture may serve as a concept and ‘framework’ to embrace and understand the more participatory practices that have evolved within digital literacies. So let me introduce the concept, eventually influenced by situated learning theory (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:4-7) and a sociocultural approach, as it has originally been coined by Henry Jenkins:

Henry Jenkins on Participatory Culture (2013)

Jenkins emphasizes in the video that the main issue is to find out how to bring new media literacies and forms of participatory culture practiced in informal settings into the educational process. That is a concern very similar to Lankshear and Knoebel’s idea of new literacies. In the report “Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (2006/2009) Henry Jenkins, Ravi Purushotma, Margaret Weigel, Katie Clinton and Alice J. Robison gave a definition of participatory culture addressed at educators and emphasizing its pedagogical possibilities. This definition was adopted by Lankshear and Knobel and has already been quoted in The End No 3:2:

“A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby experienced participants pass along knowledge to novices. In a participatory culture, members also believe their contributions matter and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least, members care about others’ opinions of what they have created.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:xi)

So the forms of participatory culture include affiliations and memberships in informal and formal online communities focusing on various forms of media, expressions focused on producing new creative forms, collaborative problem solving focused on working together in teams on completing tasks and developing new knowledge, and circulations focused on shaping a flow of media (Jenkins et al. 2009:xi-xii;9):

“We are using participation as a term that cuts across educational processes, community life, and democratic citizenship. Our goals should be to encourage youths to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture. “(Jenkins et al. 2009:9)

As participatory culture is about being a part of shared practices and culture, participatory culture shifts the focus of literacies from individual expression to community involvement, “…to opportunities for participation and the development of cultural competencies and social skills needed for full involvement.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:xiii). From a new media literacies perspective the report points out that “[t]he new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy and research, technical, and critical-analysis skills learned in the classroom.” (Jenkin et al. 2009:xiii). So in the report Jenkins and his team stress that “[n]ew media literacies include the traditional literacy that evolved with print culture as well as the newer forms of literacy within mass media and digital media.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:29). And they point especially to two issues while rethinking media literacies for the 21st century:

1 “As media literacy advocates have claimed during the past several decades, students also must acquire a basic understanding of the ways media representations structure our perceptions of the world, the economic and cultural contexts within which mass media is produced and circulated, the motives and goals that shape the media they consume, and alternative practices that operate outside the commercial mainstream. Such groups have long called for schools to foster a critical understanding of media as one of the most powerful social, economic, political, and cultural institutions of our era.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:31)(my emphasis).

2 “The new media literacies should be seen as social skills…We must push further by talking about how meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively in the new media environment and how creativity operates differently in open-source culture based on sampling, appropriation, transformation, and repurposing.

The social production of meaning is more than individual interpretation multiplied; it represents a qualitative difference in the ways we make sense of cultural experience, and in that sense it represents a profound change in how we understand literacy. In such a world, youths need skills for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:32)(my emphasis).

So engaging in participatory culture involves a move towards social learning and includes what Lankshear and Knobel have termed ‘the new technical stuff’/’the new technical dimension’ and ‘the new ethos stuff’/‘the new kind of ethos’. Jenkins and his team have downsized the social skills and cultural competencies, they consider relevant to be fostered in education, into this list of new skills. But each skill and competence on the list has a thorough article attached in the report providing knowledge and examples of how to bring them into teaching and learning:

  • Play The capacity to experiment with the surroundings as a form of problem solving.
  • Performance The ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery.
  • Simulation The ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes.
  • Appropriation The ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.
  • Multitasking The ability to scan the environment and shift focus onto salient details.
  • Distributed cognition The ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities.
  • Collective intelligence The ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.
  • Judgment The ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.
  • Transmedia navigation The ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities.
  • Networking The ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.
  • Negotiation The ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.(Jenkins et al. 2009:xiv)

Jenkins and his team introduce participatory culture and new media literacies in the context of Cultural Studies and Media Studies which is focused on “…studying ‘real expressive and communicative proces’… not just ‘isolable objects’ such as texts” and thus it is a way of studying “the relations between different practices”, while introducing popular culture and everyday life and making way for the social, economic, political and cultural dimensions of culture. (Hartley 2012a:32). It is exactly the changes in the expressive and communicative processes and everyday literacy practices that have resulted in the “profound change in how we understand literacy”, which Jenkins and his colleagues see as the cause for rethinking media literacy into new media literacies and shifting the focus of literacies from individual expression to community involvement.

Whether the theory behind is new media literacies with a focus on culture, ‘texts’ in use in contexts, ‘textual analysis’ and cultural analysis, or it is new literacies with a focus on Discourse/discourse, the ‘structural’ level of new literacies and social learning processes, there is an overlap in inspiration and references between participatory culture seen in a pedagogical context and new literacies with their explicit appropriation of participatory culture and their focus on ‘the new ethos stuff’/’a new kind of ethos’, affinity spaces and communities of practice. So eventually, they share key words when they are framing and understanding digital literacies and digital media in a Web 2.0 and a Web 3.0 context. But still, Jenkins and his colleagues focus more on skills and competences as part of digital practices and uses, than Lankshear and Knobel do.

A revised definition of participatory culture

In 2016 Henry Jenkins, Mizuko (Mimi) Ito and danah boyd published a dialogue, discussion and revision of their understandings of what participatory culture means in their book “Participatory culture in a networked era”, where Henry Jenkins states that “…while we may live in a more participatory culture, we do not yet live in a fully participatory culture.” (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:188). In the book, Jenkins, Ito and boyd introduce this revised definition of participatory culture:

“As a set of ideals, we can define participatory culture in opposition to various forms of culture that limit access to the means of cultural production and circulation, that fragment and isolate the public rather than providing opportunities to create and share culture, and that construct hierarchies that make it difficult for many to exert any meaningful influence over the core decisions that impact their lives. People participate through and within communities: participatory culture requires us to move beyond a focus on individualized personal expression; it is about an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself”. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:181)(my emphasis).

“Participatory culture can be and has been used both as a descriptive model and as an aspirational one: As a descriptive model, it indicates a set of practices that have centered on accessible and communal forms of cultural production and sharing. As an aspirational model it embodies a set of ideals for how these social practices can facilitate learning, empowerment, civic action and capacity-building.” (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:183)(my emphasis).

“All of this is to say that our understanding of participatory culture should not be static. Rather, we should see participatory culture as an evolving concept that always gets read in relation to existing practices and norms. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:186)(my emphasis).

The situatedness of the concept dominates this definition, and talking about a movement towards a more participatory culture allows Henry Jenkins to identify the participation gaps and their reasons and to acknowledge that many people either don’t have the means and opportunities to participate or are not able to participate meaningfully (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:22-23, 30). In agreement with Jenkins, danah boyd comments that “…”everyone” supposedly has the ability to have their voice heard. I think that this is seriously deceptive. I would argue that true participation requires many qualities: agency, the ability to understand a social situation well enough to engage constructively, the skills to contribute effectively, connections with others to help build an audience, emotional resilience to handle negative feedback, and enough social status to speak without consequence. The barrier to participation is not the technology but the kinds of privilege that are often ignored in meritocratic discourse.” (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:21-22).

In the report “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” (2006/2009), the participation gap is one of three issues that Jenkins and his team are concerned about:

The participation gap The unequal access to the opportunities, experiences, skills, and knowledge that will prepare youths for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

The transparency problem The challenges young people face in learning to recognize the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.

The ethics challenge The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:xii).

These three issues are thoroughly discussed in the book “Participatory culture in a networked era” by Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd, and I would say that the three issues are the reasons why Jenkins talks of a movement towards a more participatory culture: these issues are still very much a concern today. The discussions and pedagogical interventions needed are not so much about the digital divide, which focuses on lack of access to technology – that is, if educational institutions do provide access – but about the participation gap, which is intended to focus much more on questions of knowledge, access to skills, experiences and mentorship and on discussions about how to provide equal opportunities for participation (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:67-69; Jenkins et al. 2009:xiii). It is a much more complex issue than expected, and danah boyd comments on this from the perspective of social networks, as they matter and it matters who you know, as it influences your interests and your possibilities for learning:  “Addressing the participation gap isn’t just about access and skills. Some of the most egregious inequities have a lot to do with people’s structural position within a broader network. One of the challenges for me around participatory culture is that even awareness of the kinds of activities in which one can participate is very much shaped by who you know.“ (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:73).

In this perspective, participatory culture should not be seen only as a descriptive model that provides  a set of social and cultural practices, but also as an aspirational model that expresses an ideal for how new media literacies as social and cultural practices can facilitate learning, empowerment, civic action and capacity-building, as Henry Jenkins has defined it. Or as he asks in the video at the beginning of this blog post: “What does it mean to be as passionate about the future of society as you are about animé, about games, about the sorts of forms of popular culture that young people are involved with?” This focus on democratic values and empowerment also recurs in Lankshear and Knobel’s comment on the report “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” (2006/2009): “Under current and foreseeable conditions, failure to address the participation, transparency and ethical gaps framed by Jenkins and colleagues (Jenkins et al. 2006) will constitute grave derelictions of commitment to democratic values.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:66).

But there is also another level of concern regarding the participation gap which is mentioned by David Buckingham, also from a Cultural Studies and Media Studies perspective, in his article “Do We Really Need Media Education 2.0? Teaching in the Age of Participatory Media” (2010). It is a level of concern closer to teaching and learning, but it is not skipping the questions of inequity and inequality, as Buckingham comments on the report by Jenkins and his team (2006/2009), and actually he is much in line with their definition of new media literacies quoted earlier:

“To this extent, it is possible that the Internet may accentuate existing inequalities rather than help to overcome them. If disaffected and disadvantaged young people are to be enabled to participate, they need to develop relatively traditional skills in locating and evaluating information, constructing arguments, and thinking critically; these activities depend in turn on fairly advanced forms of traditional literacy.

This is not to imply that nothing is changing – the Internet may be fostering new forms and styles of civic engagement that are at least potentially more inclusive. But participation, in this area as in many others, also requires relatively traditional forms of cultural and educational capital. Addressing the “participation gap”, therefore, depends upon addressing inequalities: it will not disappear simply as a result of widening access to technology.” (Buckingham 2010:297-298)

Buckingham’s argument is in accordance with boyd’s comment quoted above, but he doesn’t rest at that and turns to the status of critique in teaching and learning:

“The kinds of learning typically celebrated in discussions of digital technology in education tend to allow little space for critical reflection or the explicit development of critical skills. There seems to be an assumption that participation or creative production is good in itself and that it either stands for, or automatically generates critical understanding in its own right… However, none of this is to imply that audiences are readily capable and critical – that they already know everything they need to know. Nor does it mean that we can throw out the critical tools and perspectives used to analyze media. We can accept that audiences can be active, discriminating, and indeed “critical”, while also recognizing there are ideals they generally do not know about media – and indeed that they need to learn. There is a body of knowledge here – about how the media work, about the media industries, about the history of media, about the uses and effects of media within society. It is a changing and contested body of knowledge, to be sure, but it is, nevertheless, a body of knowledge with shared criteria for determining what counts as truth.” (Buckingham 2010:298)

A broader critical understanding of the economic, social, and cultural dimensions of media does not follow automatically from the experience of creative production according to Buckingham (Buckingham 2010:299). So the ideal of participation and production, acting up to the characteristics of Anna Sfard’s participation metaphor, is here being met by the demands for acquisition in the context of Cultural Studies and Media Studies, as well. To Buckingham this is important issues to integrate into an aspirational model of participatory culture. And in fact Jenkins and his team acknowledge this legacy when they state in the report, that new media literacies include traditional literacy as well as new forms of literacies within mass media and digital media (Jenkins et al. 2009:29).

The power law of participation

Already Ross Mayfield tested the idea of participatory culture as providing equal opportunities for participation and opening up to dialogical communication when he mapped the power law of participation (2006).

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The Power Law of Participation – Amber Case on Flickr – CC BY-NC

Mayfield finds that the capacity to make a collective pool of social knowledge and the capacity to collaboratively develop, distribute, share and communicate that knowledge are not necessarily the same: “As users engage in low threshold participation (read, favorite, tag and link) we gain a form of collective intelligence. But it is important to distinguish the value of collective intelligence and collaborative intelligence.” (Mayfield 2006). Collective intelligence is connected to the potential of networked communication and communities as “…everyone knows something, nobody knows everything, and what any one person knows can be tapped by the group as a whole” (Jenkins et al. 2009:72), but to establish a participatory culture it takes participants that are engaging at the high end of the model. They must be able to provide a networked community with collaborative intelligence and make sure that the community grows, evolves and collectively learn through ongoing interaction and negotiations of meaning:

“When users participate in high engagement activities, connecting with one another, a different kind of value is being created. But my core point isn’t just the difference between these forms of group intelligence – but actually how they co-exist in the best communities…Participation in communities plots along a power law with a solid core/periphery model – provided social software supports both low threshold participation and high engagement.” (Mayfield 2006)

The kind of community, Mayfield is describing here, seems synonymous with a community of practice as a networked and dynamic community in accordance with Lankshear and Knobel and with Etienne Wenger-Trayner as mentioned in The End No 3:2. And what Mayfield calls ’a different kind of value’ is as far as I’m concerned the equivalent of what Lankshear and Knobel see as the urge to create a shared space of shared interests. A full participant is someone who understands and follows this urge, and it is the quintessence of what Lankshear and Knobel have termed ‘a participatory configuration of ‘the new ethos’’ in The End No 3:2.

But the potential of democratization and empowerment that is seen as inherent in participatory culture, doesn’t come that easy, as David Buckingham and danah boyd agree on, and it is also commented on by Buckingham in this critique of technological determinism:

“To a large extent, the most active participants in the creative world of Web 2.0 are the “usual suspects”: those who already have an established interest in social/political issues, and the skills and motivation to engage in political debate. Indeed, if online participation is as socially, culturally and politically important as the enthusiasts suggest, it seems likely, far from liquidating social inequality, it might actually accentuate it.” (Buckingham 2010:294)

“…it could be argued that far from precipitating a democratic revolution in communications, these new media are merely part of a much broader move towards individualisation, self-surveillance and self-promotion that are characteristic of how identities are formed and lived out in neo-liberal consumer societies.” (Buckingham 2010:295)

Henry Jenkins could answer back, that the worrying about individualisation is exaggerated, and that as an aspirational model with pedagogical and educational purposes, participatory culture exactly takes participation into the context of communities, or he could comment, as he did earlier, that “…participatory culture requires us to move beyond a focus on individualized personal expression; it is about an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself”. (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:181). This argument could at the same time meet Ross Mayfield’s requirement for the power law of participation, so the tension between individual practice and collective and collaborative concern is what characterizes the ethics challenge, much along the lines of ‘the new ethos stuff’/’a new kind of ethos’ vital to new literacies as introduced in The End No 3:2.

A question of empowerment?

In his article “Web 2.0 user knowledge and the limits of individual and collective power” (2016) Nicholas Proferes explores and criticizes the claim put forward by Tim O’Reilly that Web 2.0 technologies inherently serve as “architectures of participation” and that Web 2.0 “…provides novel opportunities for the articulation of individual and collective social power by enhancing participation in media production and cultural expression (Zimmer, 2008).” (Proferes 2016):

“Notably, this debate often only tacitly addresses the connection between user knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies – how data, algorithms, protocols, defaults, platform business practices, and information flows are implemented and arranged – and user power. This misses the important role understandings of technology and its antecedents play in shaping user’s relative power.” (Proferes 2016)

As Proferes elaborates in his article:

“The work of van Dijck and Nieborg (2009) suggests user’s difficulty in developing knowledge about information flows of Web 2.0 platforms may be perpetuated not only by the structuring/code politics of a site, but also by the technological discourse surrounding it. In analyzing a number of Web 2.0 business manifestos, the two observe:

“Web 2.0 manifestos…typically do not provide any technological details about how various sites render profitable business models…they focus on the emancipation of consumers into users and co-creators, rather than on the technical details concerning how these sites turn a profit.”” (Proferes 2016)

And as a consequence, Proferes concludes in his article:

“…studies showing that users frequently maintain inaccurate, incomplete or incorrect understandings of Web 2.0 platforms cast a long shadow over deterministic, unbridled, user empowerment narratives, instead revealing the boundaries and limits on the possibilities of user power.

Users with diminished states of informational power will face difficulty in excercising power in relation to the wider ecosystem that the information they create becomes a part of. After all, it is difficult to object, protest, or consciously consent to that which you do not know about or cannot learn about. Without knowledge of how these platforms function, users may have difficulty in produsage, in their political- economic relationship with the Web 2.0 world, and in making informed use decisions. A lack of knowledge about how Web 2.0 platforms function limits understanding how the technical environment shapes individual informational experience, thus impacting information sense-making; it inhibits understanding the context of the environment others experience and how others may interpret information from Web 2.0 platforms; and it limits the expression of forms of power with the social, political, cultural and economic world surrounding the Web 2.0 environment.” (Proferes 2016)

A starting point for engaging in Proferes’ critique could be to understand the complexity of user roles that are hidden beneath the narratives of participation as “the emancipation of consumers into users and co-creators” when they engage with platforms and social media in a Web 2.0 context. Proferes doesn’t state this complexity explicitly, but it is indirectly part of his argument about user power. A visualization of the multiplicity of user roles might look like this when the context is Web 2.0 as a business model:

User

                                Customer                                            Consumer [& Audience]

Person

                                Producer                                              Community

Participant

 (Ole E. Andersen 2016)

The complexity of user roles can be seen in the interactions between platforms, social media and networks and in the modes of participation. In this sense, the differentiation between user roles and participants’ roles matches the differences between the low end and the high end forms of participation in Ross Mayfield’s model of the power law of participation. The user roles co-exist in complex settings, mixing interests, intentions, gains, reliability, validity and manipulation, trust and loyalty, as the “emancipation of users into users and co-creators” easily turns into business and exploitation. So the complexity of user roles is making the communication processes entangled: who is actually the author/sender/producer, who is the consumer/audience/recipient, and what is basically the intention behind any communication? With the idea of participation in a Web 2.0 context, the multiple positions in the communication processes not only cause ambiguity but they also blur the distinctions between users and participants, between producers and consumers, which is also the issue in the two-way dialogical model of communication – author/sender/producer ↔ ’text’/cultural artefact/product ↔ reader & audience/recipient/user & producer  – and in John Hartley’s comment on user productivity introduced in The End No 3:2.

The purposes of participation are being questioned in general, and Anna Sfard’s point that “[t]he vocabulary of participation brings the message of togetherness, solidarity and collaboration” (Sfard 1998:8) is certainly being contested and questioned by issues like data and algorithms, personalization, and the by now debated filter bubbles , as wells as by the hard facts of platform business models, the limits of user power and the loss of personal control over data and privacy to what Shoshana Zuboff has termed surveillance capitalism. In other words, the transparency problem is at stake here.

The participation gap once again

danah boyd and Nicholas Proferes address their concerns about the participation gap from two perspectives. While boyd especially considers the role of social, cultural and educational capital for equity in participation, Proferes unveils the importance of technological understanding and informational power for enhancing true participation.

And no doubt, both perspectives need to come to the front in education in order to challenge the fact that many people – and that is true for many students, too – either don’t have the means and opportunities to participate or are not able to participate meaningfully as Henry Jenkins puts it in “Participatory culture in a networked era”. So it seems that the message of togetherness, solidarity and collaboration that clings to the metaphor of participation according to Sfard has a more shaky side, too: that of potentially accelerating inequity, as both David Buckingham and Nicholas Proferes point out.

But there is also a third perspective on the participation gap that should be mentioned here, and that is the students’ expectations of what it means to produce. It is a perspective that draws on cultural production as a core concern in both new media literacies and participatory culture and in new literacies. In her article “Digital Ghosts in the Modern Classroom” (2018) Ashley Hinck is seeing students’ expectations of what it means to produce and their perceptions of the processes of making and creativity as barriers to full participation when education engages in fostering participatory culture. According to Hinck the barriers are caused partly by the Web 2.0 platforms students are associating with digital media production and partly by students associating teaching and learning with worksheets and an acquisition mindset, not with the exploring, experimenting, iterative and messy processes of making, creativity and not-yet-ness that are inherent in the idea of production. In short, Hinck says, students don’t realize that digital media production is not a quick fix, but takes new knowledge, a bit of coding, time, effort and failure to succeed, and their assumptions about what education is for and what education is about is not tuned in on production, participation and what it takes to participate in a digital age:

“It’s a deeper frustration that their old ways of thinking don’t apply here – that their assumptions about education, digital media, and future careers are turning out not to be true.” (Hinck 2018)

Much like Proferes, Hinck begins with the platforms students use in their everyday practices: “These platforms restrict the choices we make as users, in many ways…” (Hinck 2018). The easy-to-use Web 2.0 platforms and websites reduce the barriers to entry as users get access not only to online media production tools but also to networks and other easy ways of publishing and sharing online. But being based on shortcuts and templates they actually only give you the possibilities that come with the template and the format.

While giving a lot of examples Hinck goes on stating that the role of education is to provide students with alternative practices and alternative models of cultural production, making and creativity that position the students as participants and help them become full participants:

“We have to help students see that they are not limited to using shortcut/template platforms and websites. Nor are they limited to looking to shortcut/template platforms and websites as models of making. They don’t have to settle for half-hearted, structured participation. They can become full, active, empowered participants. That means helping students to see possibilities beyond the “right answers” prescribed by shortcut/template platforms and websites and their corresponding worksheets.

In the future, I look forward to joining students in reflection about our individual and collective positionalities in relation to participatory culture: do we see ourselves as makers/creators/speakers? When? Why? Who ascribes us these identities? How can we claim them for ourselves? Which technologies offer us these identities? How do technologies steer us away from these identities? How might we all re-imagine digital media making and learning?” (Hinck 2018)

In her view on how education may help fostering participation and participatory culture, Ashley Hinck might be said to change her focus from participatory culture as a descriptive model of new media literacies, social practices and cultural production to participatory culture as an aspirational model emphasizing “…a set of ideals for how these social practices can facilitate learning, empowerment, civic actions and capacity-building.” (Jenkins, Ito, boyd 2016:183). Discussing and reflecting on the power law of participation and on user roles as well as developing platform knowledge and technological understanding is part of this reimagining of making, producing, processuality, experimentation and learning.  So although Ashley Hinck’s context is higher education, a lot of the issues in her perspective might be considered and practiced in K-12 schools as well.

Updating the practices of new media literacies and participatory culture

In 2018 the Transmedia Literacy research project released its updated version of the practices, social skills and cultural competences of participatory culture in the e-book “Teens, Media and Collaborative Cultures. Exploiting teen’s transmedia skills in the classroom” edited by Carlos A. Scolari. The project has “…worked on an alternative and complementary conception to ‘(new) media literacies’ based on informal learning environments (Sefton-Green, 2013), bottom-up processes (Livingstone, 2004), and participatory cultures (Jenkins et al., 2006; Jenkins, Ito, and boyd, 2016).” (Scolari 2018a:12-13). So the project is “…continuing the cultural-studies tradition of focusing on ordinary culture, the active audience, and ‘bottom-up’ causation in the meaning systems” as John Hartley has summarized the perspective of Cultural Studies and Media Studies (Hartley 2012a:57).

In the article “Transmedia literacy in the new media ecology. Teen’s transmedia skills and informal learning strategies” (2018), Carlos A. Scolari, Maria-José Masanet, Mar Guerrero-Pico and Maria-José Establés present the theoretical framework and ethnography-based methodological approach behind their research and they elaborate on their perspective this way:

“…something is happening outside the school: social and technological changes have reframed the meaning of lifelong (over time) and life-wide (across locations) learning (Sefton Green, 2003; 2006; 2013), and the emergence of new participatory practices (Jenkins et al., 2006; Lange; Ito 2010) has redefined the ways of learning and even the actual concept of ’media literacy’. In this context the idea of ‘transmedia literacy’ proposes a move from traditional media literacy – understood as teaching critical media skills at school. (Potter, 2004; 2005) – to the analysis of practices of participatory cultures, youth-generated contents and informal learning strategies, and their use inside the formal educational system (Scolari, 2016; 2018).” (Scolari, Masanet, Guerrero-Pico and Establés 2018:802-803)

In their article Scolari and his colleagues conclude:

“The inclusion of the concept of ‘transmedia’ (Jenkins, 2003; 2006; Scolari, 2009; 2013) for defining teen’s skills is a clear sign of centrality that collaborative culture and transmedia production/sharing/consuming practices have in young people’s lives. The same may be said about ‘transmedia literacy’: it is not just a new name for traditional digital or internet skills but a brand new approach that considers the subject as a prosumer (producer + consumer) and not just a passive and alienated-by-media person. If traditional literacy was book-centered or, in the case of media literacy mostly television-centered, then transmedia literacy places digital networks and interactive media experiences at the centre of its analytical and practical experience (Scolari, 2016; 2018)” (Scolari, Masanet, Guerrero-Pico and Establés 2018:810)

Scolari and his colleagues stress the change among users from the traditional media consumer to the prosumer or the participatory creator – the producer and consumer gathered in the very same person and focusing on active production (Toffler), or produsage to use Brun’s related term used by Proferes. It is a change in user roles that matches the move from user to participant in the model of the multiplicity of user roles shown earlier.

The concept of transmedia literacy might not seem to add much to the ideas of new literacies and new media literacies and participatory culture. But it focuses on the developments within communication and literacies, that is on media ecology, and adds a sense of historical dynamic and evolution to the concepts used – ‘literacy’, ‘media literacy’, ‘transmedia literacy’ – and to the purpose of the project. The purpose is to expand the existing list of skills and competences identified by Henry Jenkins and his team in the 2006/2009-report “Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture” through adding new skills and improving their classification (Scolari 2018a:18).The intention is to capture the current point in the evolution of participatory culture, so to speak. So networking, digital networks and interactive experiences through networks have come into focus, although they were already present in the 2006/2009-report. During their work Scolari and his colleagues have identified six transmedia skills and classified them according to present practices of participatory culture, bottom-up processes and informal learning:

  • Production Skills
  • Management Skills
  • Performative Skills
  • Media and Technology Skills
  • Narrative and Aesthetic Skills
  • Risk Preventing, Ideology and Ethics Skills
  • Informal Learning Strategies: learning by doing, problem solving, imitation, playing, evaluating, and teaching

In this video Scolari and his colleagues present the transmedia skills:

Transmedia Skills and Informal Learning Strategies (2018)

As mentioned, transmedia skills are not just skills but involve a set of competences, practices, values, priorities, sensibilities and learning strategies connected to collaborative culture and users as prosumers or participatory creators (Scolari 2018a:15). Like Jenkins and his team, the Transmedia Literacy project provides educators with ideas on how to use the six transmedia skills in teaching and learning. Apart from the e-book, the online resource Teacher’s Kit is providing educators with transmedia literacy activities and practices for each set of skills on the updated list: “With the Teacher’s Kit, we have compromised to democratize and socialize these skills within the classroom. In other words, we try to pass from the informal to the formal environment, recovering and using in schools this knowledge that is developed in a “wild” way within social media and collaborative and digital spaces. It does not mean that we should abandon the traditional focus on media literacy. Transmedia literacy complements and expands with new techniques and conceptions.” (Scolari 2018b:130-131)

The transmedia literacy activities and practices are mainly aimed at secondary school and high school, but they do establish a horizon for developing transmedia skills and competences in higher education, too.

Types of teenage produsers

Following the elaborated definition of prosumers above, a study from the Transmedia Literacy project aims at drawing up “…the degrees of productive, narrative and aesthetic knowledge that teenagers put into practice when they create their media.” (Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:336). The result is introduced in the article “Toward a typology of young produsers: Teenagers’ transmedia skills, media production, and narrative and aesthetic appreciation” (2019):

“Ever since Jenkins (2006) put the concept of participatory culture, and its offspring transmedia storytelling, on the map there have been countless accounts of how citizens use digital media technologies to empower themselves and acquire the necessary skills to navigate the often complex scenarios of the public sphere. One of these paramount skills revolve around the ability to critically interact, learn and produce with an array of different media platforms from a young age (Buckingham, 2007; Gee, 2003; Jenkins et al., 2006). The transmedia skills that adolescents are acquiring in informal learning settings among their peers away from school and much closer to their everyday interests in the digital world are at the hub of participatory and collaborative culture (Ito et al., 2013; Scolari 2018a).” (Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:336-337)

But what are they doing then when away from school? The study presents three types of teenage produsers:  1) the casual produser, 2) the aspirational produser and 3) the expert produser. The typology focuses on the production practices most used by the teenagers in the study: writing, audiovisual and photography production, graphic design, and drawing. So production means both the processes of production involved and the artefact or ‘text’ being produced in the processes. The three types of produsers exemplify what Mimi Ito and her colleagues have called “hanging out”, “messing around” and “geeking out”:

Produser types: authors’ elaboration

Casual Aspirational Expert
Type of production

 

Photos and videos Writing, photos, videos, graphic design, and drawing Writing, photos, videos, graphic design, and drawing
Planning

 

Spontaneous and simple Moderately planned Highly planned
Consideration and use of narrative and aesthetic values Not important. Basic techniques and concepts are applied Very important. Eagerness to learn and apply new techniques and concepts Very important. Media encyclopedic knowledge and use of various techniques and concepts
Motivation

 

Entertainment and relationship with peers Skill improvement and peer recognition Skill improvement and originality

(Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:342)

A minority of the teenagers in the study can be seen as expert produsers – ‘the usual suspects’ as David Buckingham called them earlier – so most are to be categorized as casual produsers or aspirational produsers: “Casual, aspirational and expert produsers reveal different paths in participatory culture that stress the necessity to keep fostering and cultivating other relevant skills for media literacy in addition and simultaneously to media production. Some of these abilities revolve around narrative and aesthetic appreciation, but they can also include abilities related to observing and reflecting on the ideology and values promoted by corporate media products and their own contents. The recurrence of these abilities is uncommon.” (Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:350).

In other words, there is a role to play for education in making students and learners progress from casual to aspirational and expert produsers, which might challenge students’ and learners’ more varied practices of participation away from school:

“The fact that there are expert produsers with additional abilities to those of their peers does not prevent those same produsers from sliding toward aspirational, or even casual positions in other scenes of their media usage, or in their daily communcations with peers. This typology is not mutually exclusive and it intends to reflect the richness of environments and learning curves that teenagers may navigate when they interact and produce with media. It should not be understood as fixed “levels” of a “participation pyramid” where the expert produsers are always situated at the top of the construction. On the contrary, we prefer to think of this ideal type as part of a complex and evolving network of engagement and participatory practices.” (Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:350).

The network of engagement and participatory practices dependent on context and situation meets the power law of participation and what it means, so to speak. So when production is moved into formal education, students and learners need to learn what it takes to engage in full participation in a community or community of practice. They need to find out that there are varying degrees, kinds and gradations of participation, and that some are more useful in the context of learning and education than others. Participation and collaboration go hand in hand, so they must also learn and be taught how to collaborate and gain a repertoire of ways of collaborating through choice, co-creation and co-production, peer-to-peer feedback, negotiation of meaning, and networking and involvement with experts and other resources. So the informal learning strategies mapped by transmedia literacy are engaged here, too. In other words, learning how to collaborate and learning through collaborating, producing artefacts or ‘texts’ and producing knowledge are interdependent processes, which also should be seen as part of what currently passes for literacy education within transmedia literacy.

I think it is important to remember that participatory culture is not just a descriptive model of practices but also an aspirational model – a set of ideals for how social practices can facilitate learning, empowerment, civic action and capacity-building – and these ideals might actually challenge students’ and learners’ present practices of participation and informal learning when entering education, which the typology of produsers might indicate. And as Ashley Hinck emphasized earlier, students’ and learners’ expectations of what it means to produce might also be barriers to full participation when education engages in fostering participatory culture, just as the lack in platform knowledge and technical understanding is a barrier according to Nicholas Proferes. All three objections may make out challenges to a practice-oriented use of the Teacher’s Kit.

The mapping of narrative and aesthetic skills

My reflections on user productivity and producing knowledge presented in The End No 3:2 apply to new media literacies and participatory culture and to transmedia literacy, too. I stressed, that now literacy/literacies mean reading and writing as interconnected social and cultural activities and practices, but even with an understanding of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ as participation and production in all kinds of media, modalities and modes, including navigating on the web, it leaves the questions of how ‘texts’ and knowledge are understood in the context of a domain, a discipline or a subject matter. Among other things, this calls for dialogical and reception oriented approaches to ‘texts’, meaning making and interpretation, that are able to embrace hypertexts and the networks growing from them, when the communication turns from one-to-many towards many-to-many.

As an example I’ll look into the mapping of narrative and aesthetic skills from the list of transmedia skills introduced above and elaborate on what ‘texts’ and hypertext might mean. The mapping of narrative and aesthetic skills describe that the specific skills and competences students and learners must acquire and practice are to reconstruct transmedia narrative worlds, and that the goals for these sets of skills are to find and check out the different transmedia expansions (film, book, game etc.) that make a narrative world (Scolari 2018a:66). The background for activities like these is that ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and participating in a digital media culture also means interacting with narrative worlds and engaging in transmedia storytelling – characterized by among others transmediality, seriality and worldbuilding – as both consumers, readers and audience as well as interpreters, participants and producers (Jenkins 2009a, 2009b; Waade and Toft-Nielsen 2015; Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård 2018).

Scolari introduces transmedia storytelling this way: “As Henry Jenkins put it, at the most basic level transmedia stories “are stories told across multiple media”: Transmedia storytelling is not just an adaptation from one media to another: it is a narrative expansion. This textual dispersion is one of the most important sources of complexity in contemporary popular culture. This narrative expansion is one of the basic properties of transmedia storytelling: the second one is the participation of users in that narrative expansion. How? Producing new contents, for example parodies, new stories, trailers, mashups, or recapitulations.” (Eleá and Mikos 2017:125)

So fan culture is a link to transmedia storytelling as the interests behind transmedia storytelling are “…to grasp a significant shift in the underlying logic of commercial entertainment, one which has both commercial and aesthetic potentials we are still trying to understand, one which has to do with the interplay between different media systems and delivery platforms (and of course different media audiences and modes of engagement.)”, as Henry Jenkins emphasizes (Jenkins 2009a). According to Jenkins, the principles of transmedia storytelling point to historical and critical perspectives on present cultural and aesthetic practices (Jenkins 2009a), as in for example science fiction as a genre.

Seriality across media, modalities and modes challenges our understanding of what ‘text’ is, not just in introducing a broader concept of ‘text’ as being multimodal, but also fundamentally with breaking up the sense of closure that is quintessential to print culture according to Walter Ong: “Print encourages a sense of closure, a sense that what is found in a text has been finalized, has reached a state of completion.” (Ong 2012:129). Hypertext and the networks evolving from it are dynamic and potentially open-ended, and hypertext has extended the sense of ‘text’ to involve interactivity, intertextuality and multidimensionality where text seen in a network of contexts becomes crucial for meaning making, understanding and interpretation.

But hypertext also exists outside the World Wide Web which among others, N. Katherine Hayles points to with an interest in literary hypertext: “When Vanavar Bush, widely credited with the invention of hypertext, imagined a hypertextual system, it was not electronic but mechanical. His pioneering article (1945) testifies that it is possible to implement hypertext in a wide variety of ways, not only through the “go to” commands that comprise the hypertext link in digital computers. If we restrict the term hypertext to digital media, we lose the opportunity to understand how a literary genre mutates and transforms when it is instantiated in different media.” (Hayles 2004:69)

Practices of serialization across media, materials and modalities

Claus Toft-Nielsen and Rikke Toft Nørgård suggest in their article “Toy bricks and blockbusters” (2018)(my translation), on the practices of serialization across media, materials and modalities, that defining what a text is becomes more complex when several worlds and media are involved as in transmedia storytelling, and what they describe and conceptualize is a hypertext-like conceptualization of ‘text’. They see texts as engaged in a network of connected texts where the texts are not well-defined and ‘closed’ or set off from other texts but a seriality of interconnected texts and a narrative expansion. They distinguish between three forms of textual connections: 1) ‘intratextual’ relations, 2) ‘intertextual’ connections and 3) ‘paratextuality’.

The ‘intratextual’ relations consist of references connected to a single diegetic universe like “Star Wars”, whereas the ‘intertextual’ connections link up texts through quotations, palimpsests and plotlines as intertextual practices – or as Julia Kristeva has defined intertextuality: every text takes form as a mosaic of quotes, every text absorbs and transforms other texts – and thus intertextuality means creating, understanding and interpreting texts through other texts. Borrowing, adapting and sharing modes and themes is what makes a text, as any text is an absorption and transformation of another text. So intertextuality adds extra meaning through connections to a network of unfinished plotlines in the story world of for example “Star Wars” across media, modalities and modes. In the context of transmedia storytelling, ‘paratextuality’ is used to show how paratexts may change the balance between what we see as primary texts and as paratexts depending on when and in which context they turn up as entry points into the transmedia universe. And it is a universe that is continuously evolving and larger than for example the films, the games, the comic books and the LEGO sets in the example of “Star Wars” (Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård 2018:97-98).

With the idea of transmedia storytelling as serial forms and serial practices, Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård broaden Henry Jenkins’ understanding of transmedia storytelling as fans and users consuming and producing stories and products, when they add a more agency-oriented perspective to users’ interactions with stories and franchise and see seriality at work on both the level of texts and on the level of participation (Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård 2018:99-100). This double perspective of textual analysis and interpretation building on intratext, intertext and paratext and of user productivity building on remix, bricolage or design of new interpretations or products (Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård 2018:98) could more generally help emphasizing the textual dimension that is actually inherent to new media literacies and participatory culture and to transmedia literacy. At the same time Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård’s double perspective lead up to textual analysis and interpretation of hypertext in digital form as well as in other media and materialities as ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and participation in networks.

Claus Toft-Nielsen and Rikke Toft Nørgård have made their bid for how to make ‘reading’ meet ‘writing’, textual analysis and interpretation meet participation and production in the context of transmedia storytelling. They take user’s interactions from more traditional fan culture and fan fiction into co-creation and co-production of stories and franchise aka fan culture seen in the context of Web 2.0, so to speak. So Toft-Nielsen and Nørgård’s double perspective on textual analysis and interpretation and user productivity could add a qualitative stance to the mapping of the narrative and aesthetic skills in transmedia literacy and offer an approach that involves user productivity seen in a participatory context: users participating in the narrative expansion through negotiating meaning and producing new media content like trailers, parodies, new endings, new stories, remixes and recapitulations while engaging in dialogue and modeling as ways of learning characteristic to Learning 2.0. This involves communities of practice as well as networks. Like nodes in a continuously expanding network, or hypertext online and offline, users become produsers of new ideas, plotlines, intertextuality, themes and narratives.

So exploring “Star Wars” and science fiction as narrative and genre in this example of transmedia storytelling makes room for discussing that there is a body of knowledge here, too, as David Buckingham stated earlier, about how the media work, about the media industries, about the uses of media and about the history of media, that students and learners need to know. Subjective understanding need to be connected and related to explicit and validated ‘objective’ knowledge, as John Hartley maintained in The End No 3:2. Participation won’t do without acquisition, as Anna Sfard would say.

Media ecology – a blind spot in transmedia literacy

There is something missing out, a blind spot, when it comes to the concept of transmedia storytelling: a media-specific perspective that implicates the relations between the specific media and the forms of communication involved is lacking. And the blind spot recurs in the concept of transmedia literacy as it is represented in the Transmedia Project. As mentioned earlier, the progressive order of the concepts ‘literacy’, ‘media literacy’ and ‘transmedia literacy’ adds a sense of historical dynamics to the concepts, but the evolution implicated is never elaborated on or connected to the idea of ‘the new media ecology’, although it is part of the title on the main article on the project by Scolari and his colleagues: “Transmedia literacy in the new media ecology”.

One way to start exploring this blind spot is to focus on the concept of transmedia literacy and its bearings. The first step is to uncover what the perspective of media ecology stands for. Media ecology has its focus on the changes and social effects that have occurred in society and culture as a result of the evolution of technology and media throughout history. Walter Ong established in his book “Orality and Literacy” (1982/2002) a way of seeing cultural evolution from ancient times to the present as the impact of communication technologies on how humans think and know: the technologies of speech, writing, print, screen and computer (Hartley 2012b:xiii). His perspective is especially focused on “…the relations between orality and literacy and their dynamics of change or evolutions over the short and long term.” (Hartley 2012c:206). In other words, Ong approaches orality and literacy both synchronically and diachronically (Ong 2012:2).

In his introductory chapter to the 30th Anniversary Edition of “Orality and Literacy” (2012), John Hartley states: “Along with his contemporary, Marshall McLuhan, who coined the slogan “the medium is the massage”, Ong popularized the idea that knowledge is a product of language, and that the medium in which language is communicated – by voice, writing, print – makes us think along certain path-dependent lines.” (Hartley 2012b:xiv). The sense of closure connected to print mentioned earlier is an example of this, another is the concluding remarks in the chapter on narrative and the orality-literacy shift in Ong’s book:

“The present-day phenomenological sense of existence is richer in its conscious and articulate reflection than anything that precedes it. But it is salutary to recognize that this sense depends on the technologies of writing and print, deeply interiorized, made a part of our own psychic resources. The tremendous store of historical, psycholo-gical and other knowledge which can go into sophisti-cated narrative and characterization today could be accumulated only through the use of writing and print (and now electronics). But these technologies of the word do not merely store what we know. They style what we know in ways which made it quite inaccessible and indeed unthinkable in an oral culture.” (Ong 2012:152)

This is a way of thinking Ong carries on into characterizing the post-typographic, the computer as medium, and the arrival of a ‘second’ orality dynamically interacting with the forms of literacy on the internet and in digital media today according to John Hartley:

“In the era of the internet, vastly more people than before can make use of literacy, including print-literacy, by publishing it for themselves. So we are in a time of unprecedented convergence among oral, written and print-literate modes, where oral forms like phatic communication are migrating to the web, the term-taking modes of speech are augmented by links, photos, and file-sharing, private conversations are also global publications, text is literally hyper-inflated, and these multi-modal uses of multimedia literacy extends across much wider sections of the population than heretofore (see Baron 2009; Rettberg 2008; Papacharissi 2011). It is clearly important to rethink the relations between orality and literacy – both written and print – for the new media age.” (Hartley 2012c:208-209)

Thus today, media ecology is a holistic and networked perspective that values media and technological practices and offers contrast and historical perspectives on current transformations in the media systems and in the forms and modes of literacy and communication.

Closing the gap between transmedia literacy and media ecology

Building on among others Walter Ong, Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril, and Kate Pullinger introduce the concept ‘transliteracy’ to embrace the new ways of thinking about human communication generated by the internet. In the article “Transliteracy: Crossing divides” (2007), Sue Thomas and her colleagues establish  transliteracy as a concept this way: “Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” (Thomas et al. 2007). They extend their definition by stating that “…the concept of transliteracy calls for a change of perspective away from the battles over print versus digital, and a move instead towards a unifying ecology not just of media, but of all literacies relevant to reading, writing, interaction and culture, both past and present.” (Thomas et al. 2007)(my emphasis). They see transliteracy not as replacing ‘media literacy’ and ‘digital literacy’ but as containing them because a transliteracy approach implies a wider analysis of reading, writing and interacting across a range of platforms, tools, media and cultures.

Tracing the concept ‘transliteracy’, Thomas and her colleagues introduce the concepts of ‘convergence’ and ‘media ecology’ – ending up with an understanding of transliteracy very close to Hartley’s understanding of convergence quoted above – to establish a context for the idea of transliteracy:

“In 2001 MIT scholar Henry Jenkins wrote: ”Part of the confusion about media convergence stems from the fact that when people talk about it, they’re actually describing at least five processes” (Jenkins, 2001). He lists these types of convergence as technological, economic, social or organic, cultural and global, concluding that “these multiple forms of media convergence are leading us toward a digital renaissance – a period of transition and transformation that will affect all aspects of our lives” (Jenkins, 2001). Transliteracy is, perhaps, the literacy of this process. However, it is important to note that transliteracy is not just about computer-based materials, but about all communication types across time and culture. It does not privilege one above the other but treats all as of equal value and moves between and across them.” (Thomas at al. 2007)(my emphasis).

“In 1964, Marshall McLuhan saw the process Jenkins describes as occurring increasingly via technology, proposing that “in this electric age we see ourselves being translated more and more into the form of information, moving towards the technological extension of consciousness.”…Walter Ong, writing in 1982 about the relationship between literacy and orality, also approached the matter from the point of view of linear progressive change: “The shift from orality to literacy and on to electronic processing engages social, economic, political, religious and other structures.”…The concept of media ecology developed by McLuhan, Ong, Postman and others is certainly closely related to transliteracy. The difference lies in transliteracy’s insistence upon a lateral approach to history, context and culture, its interest in lived experience, and its focus on interpretation via practice and production. It is characteristic of our deliberations that we do not view digital media as part of a linear historical progression, but see them as manifestations of other similar modes of communication. In our view, the ecology of transliteracy is both global and historical.” (Thomas et al. 2007)(my emphasis).

The interest in lived experience and a focus on interpretation via practice and production is matched by an analytic interest in cultural production: “Cultural production is often analyzed from one of two perspectives:

  • the how (practical issues of media and digital literacy, particularly access to and use of the tools and skills of production) or
  • the why (social, economic and cultural determinants).

A transliterate analysis would consider both of these, and more: for example, shift in emphasis from static monologue to dynamic dialogue suggested by participatory narratives; the practices and politics of collaboration particularly when many geographically and linguistically spread authors collaborate simultaneously; and the existence of a “group creativity” or “intelligence”, perhaps as an emergent property of individual creativities of intelligences. (Thomas et al 2007)

The participatory, collaborative, networked and collective aspects and the two-way dialogical model of communication emphasized here are connected to communication in a Web 2.0 context, and as such an analysis of cultural production must be supplemented by a dual perspective on transliteracy inspired by the perspective of media ecology according to Thomas and her colleagues:

“Transliteracy is, of course, inextricable from social practice, and social researchers have an influential part to play by investigating from two directions – transliteracy as a cultural phenomenon, and as a lens through which to examine society and culture. On one hand, it is the kind of literacy we require to be able to simultaneously attend to multiple media and modes of communication: the literacy of ‘trans’. On the other, it also refers to that kind of literacy we use to apply the literacies of one mode or medium to another one: transliteration. This dual nature of transliteracy implies that it can be employed to understand communication both diachronically (over time) and synchronically (at the same time). Diachronically, it helps us understand , for example, how the practice of blogging might draw upon non-digital methods of combining modes in handwritten media or how personal blogs relates to diaries and journals. Synchronically, it can help us see how multiple media and modes of communication are used in relation to each other at the same time. (Thomas et al 2007).

So as an inclusive concept, ‘transliteracy’ bridges and connects the past, the present and potentially the future when it comes to cultural production and cultural evolution involving media, forms and modes of communication and ways of knowing. And as Sue Thomas and her colleagues say: transliteracy is a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the 21st century.

Thus, transliteracy seems to be closing the gap between participatory culture and transmedia literacy and the theoretical approach to media ecology, Carlos A. Scolari introduces in his theoretical article “Media Ecology: Exploring the Metaphor to Expand the Theory” (2012). Transliteracy might be said to anticipate the idea of transmedia literacy and can now be seen as one contextual grasp on transmedia literacy. Another is zooming in on Scolari’s theroretical reflections on the potential usefulness of media ecology as an approach to understanding the contemporary mutations of the media system, that is ‘the new media ecology’.

‘The new media ecology’

In his article Scolari is delving into the concept of media ecology and what it implicates. Setting off from the ecological metaphor, he states how media ecology came into being with divergent views in the field: “The rise of the new ecology was a response to the need for greater attention to holism in science and technology. Working in the same direction, after years of thinking about communication processes from a linear perspective based on the Shannon and Weaver (1949) model – in which the information was an arrow flying from the sender to the receiver – the media ecology scholars proposed a new conception of the relationship between media, individuals, and society based on a different metaphor.” (Scolari 2012:207). According to Scolari, “…media ecologists have interpreted the ecological metaphor in two different ways: a) media ecology as an environment and b) media ecology as an intermedia relationship.” (Scolari 2012:218):

“In a few words, the ecological metaphor applied to media accepts at least two complementary interpretations. The environmental conception considers the media to be an environment that surrounds the subjects and models their cognitive and perceptual system. The intermedia version of the metaphor looks at the interactions between media, as if they were species of an ecosystem. Can both interpretations of the metaphor be integrated into a single framework? In this case we should consider media ecology as an environment that includes different media and technologies (i.e., television, radio, the Internet, radio-frequency identification (RFID), mobile devices and transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP), subjects (i.e., content producers, users, readers, and media researchers) and the social/political forces (Hollywood majors, Wikileaks, legal regimes, etc. ).” (Scolari 2012:209-210)

To explore the media ecology metaphor means to Scolari to take the dialogue with the traditions of the ecological perspective (the environmental conception) and the evolutionary perspective (the intermedia version): “…we can also say that ecology thinks in space and evolution thinks in time. Both conceptions – ecology and evolution – are complementary and can be reorganized following the traditional linguistic opposition between diachronic/synchronic levels.” (Scolari 2012.211). So Scolari includes the concepts of evolution as a framework for studying the history of media, interface as a focus on the dialectics between media, subjects and social interactions, and hybridization as a concept for analyzing and understanding the appearance of new media that combine different devices, languages and functions, also known as remediation in Bolter and Grusin’s understanding of new media (Scolari 2012:218-219).

Carlos A. Scolari’s reflections on media ecology provides an approach to understanding the contemporary changes of the media system – ‘the new media ecology’ – which is the implicit context for the idea of transmedia literacy, as far as I can see. As a parallel to new literacies he is intensely concerned about media and technology in the current historical period. At the same time Scolari contributes with a set of concepts and a meta-language to grasp, analyze, reflect and discuss with when engaging with and relating to new media and the new media systems. So what Scolari offers is not a view of technological determinism, he stresses, but “a dialectic and transactional approach to media and culture”. (Scolari 2012:219).

When viewing transmedia literacy as an updated version of new media literacies and participatory culture, it seems meaningful to combine the ideas of transliteracy and Scolari’s media ecological framework as the context for working with the transmedia skills in a domain, a discipline or a subject matter. The focus of transliteracy on practices, cultural production and cultural evolution involving media, forms and modes of communication and knowledge production – building among others on Walter Ong who in many ways standardized the field of media ecology – matches the understanding of participatory forms, the ideal of full participation and the diversity and complexity of user roles connected to participatory culture. And transliteracy also maintains that digital literacies are more than digital skills, that is, they are the multiplicity of literacies that occur when digital literacies are converging and used in practice in a specific context, as I mentioned in The End No 3:1. On the other hand, Scolari’s framework of media ecology is engaged in the evolution and the present changes of media and technology – going beyond the internet and digital media focused on by Sue Thomas, her colleagues and John Hartley – and this opens up to algorithms, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things as part of the contemporary changes of the media system. Web 3.0 and Web 4.0 are on the agenda.

Within the framework of digital literacy development

The ideas of new media literacies and participatory culture propagated by Henry Jenkins and his colleagues are complementary to new literacies, as new media literacies favour social skills and cultural competences developed through collaboration and networking, but also build on traditional literacy and on research, technical and critical-analysis skills. So with cultural production and participation in focus, new media literacies and participatory culture work on both the level of digital competence and on the level of digital usage in Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development introduced in The End No 3:1. In fact, the two levels are interdependent to Jenkins and his colleagues as they emphasize in their own way in the 2006/2009-report while placing the level of digital usage in the forefront:

“Participatory culture is emerging as the culture absorbs and responds to the explosion of the new media technologies that make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways. A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to develop these tools toward our own ends.” (Jenkins et al. 2009:8).

The focus on developing “these tools toward our own ends” point to participatory culture as not just a descriptive model but also as an aspirational model that has among other things agency and capacity-building, democratic values and democratic citizenship and empowerment as its educational ideal. It is an aspiration that aligns with the level of digital transformation in Martin and Grudziecki’s model, as this level implicates not just innovation and creativity but also intellectual empowerment and evolution and emphasizes the transformation of thinking capacities when new cognitive tools are developed. Together these aspects of the aspirational model contain what education is for and what education is about to Henry Jenkins and his colleagues, and in many ways they correspond to the idea of ‘digital Bildung’ – introduced in The End No 3:2 – that inform the definition of digital literacy by Martin and Grudziecki.

But Jenkins and his colleagues also have their own grasp on the perspective of ‘digital Bildung’. Like new literacies they emphasize ‘the ontological sense of the ‘new’’ – although not without attention towards media evolution – and the idea of collective intelligence play a crucial part in participatory culture. Due to the anthropological understanding of culture in participatory culture, pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence is not necessarily in opposition to the idea of the liberal humanist subject featuring rationality, autonomy, free will and consciousness and supporting the idea of Bildung. But somehow the set of relations between the two changes the constitution and the coordination of personal and collective activities, to paraphrase Felix Stalder’s words, and thus influences the balance of understanding oneself, ‘the other’ and the world when new media and new technology are involved. It makes the liberal humanist subject more relational. And maybe it even contributes to what N. Katherine Hayles has called the break-up of “the liberal humanism in its traditional form”?

Now, participatory culture is also an evolving concept that gets read in relation to present practices and norms. That is the idea behind the updated version of the skills, the social and cultural competences and the practices of participatory culture in the Transmedia Literacy project, too. Although the interest in skills and competences is much more explicit in the mapping of the transmedia skills than in the original list by Jenkins and his colleagues that keeps the collaborative and networked ideal of participatory culture in mind, transmedia literacy also works on both the level of digital competence and the level of digital usage. After all, skills, understanding and knowledge are bound up with each other in action.

With media ecology – including ‘the new media ecology’ – as a perspective, transmedia literacy might also be said to take off from the aspiration of matching new tools, new media and new media systems with cultural production and interpretation via practice and production which develop tools, media and media systems “toward our own ends”: “…such production permits citizens to shape social connections that are fundamental to the development of democratic societies.” (Guerrero-Pico, Masanet and Scolari 2019:349). It is an aspiration that in some aspects corresponds to the idea of ‘digital Bildung’, but seen across the e-book, the Teacher’s Kit and the research articles from the project the focus in the Transmedia Literacy project is on ‘the new media ecology’ in teaching and learning and on the passing from the informal to the formal environment more than on meta-reflections on what education is for and what education is about. And that is needed, too, as complementary to the models and educational ideals of participatory culture.

To be continued…

Further reading:

Buckingham, David (2010): Do We Really Need Media Education 2.0? Teaching Media in the Age of Participatory Culture, Drotner, Kirsten and Schrøder, Kim Christian (Eds.): Digital Content Creation, New York: Peter Lang

Eleá, Ilana and Mikos, Lothar (Eds.)(2017): “Transmedia Storytelling as a Narrative Expansion”. Interview with Carlos Scolari, Young & Creative: Digital Technologies Empowering Children in Everyday Life, Gothenburg: Nordicom

Guerrero-Pico, M., Masanet, M.-J., and Scolari, C.A. (2019): Towards a typology of young produsers: Teenagers’ transmedia skills, media production, and narrative and aesthetic appreciation, New Media and Society, Vol. 21 Issue 2, 336-353

Hartley, John (2012a): Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons

Hartley, John (2012b): Before Ongism, Ong, Walter J. (2012): Orality and Literacy, 30th Anniversary Edition, Oxon: Routledge

Hartley, John (2012c): After Ongism, Ong, Walter J. (2012): Orality and Literacy, 30th Anniversary Edition, Oxon: Routledge

Hayles, N. Katherine (2004): Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis, Poetics Today, Vol. 25, No. 1, 67-90

Hinck, Ashley (2018): Digital Ghosts in the Modern Classroom , Hybrid Pedagogy, March 29, 2018

Jenkins, Henry with Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., and Robison, A.J. (2009): Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Jenkins,H., Ito, M., boyd, d. (2016): Participatory culture in a networked era: a conversation on youth, learning, commerce and politics, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Jenkins, Henry ( 2009a): The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: Seven Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (Well, Two Actually, Five More on Friday), http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2009/12/the_revenge_of_the_origami_unicorn.html

Jenkins, Henry ( 2009b): The Revenge of the Origami Unicorn: The Remaining Four Principles of Transmedia Storytelling, http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2009/12/revenge_of_the_origami_unicorn.html

Lankshear, Colin and Knobel, Michele (2012): ’New’ literacies: technologies and values, Revista Teknokultura, (2012), Vol. 9 Núm 1, 45-69

Martin, Allan and Jan Grudziecki (2006): DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development, Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5:4,249-267, DOI:10.11120/ital.2006.05040249

Mayfield, Ross: The power law of participation

Ong, Walter J. (2012): Orality and Literacy, 30th Anniversary Edition, Oxon: Routledge

Proferes, Nicholas (2016): Web 2.0 user knowledge and the limits of individual and collective power , First Monday, Vol. 21, No. 6

Scolari, C.A., Masanet M.-J., Guerrero-Pico, M. and Estalés, M.-J. (2018): Transmedia literacy in the new media ecology: Teen’s transmedia skills and informal learning strategies, El profesional de la información, vol. 27, no.4, 801-812

Scolari, Carlos A. (Ed.)(2018a): Teens, Media and Collaborative Cultures. Exploiting teen’s transmedia skills in the classroom, TRANSLITERACY H2020 Research and Innovation Actions

Scolari, Carlos A. (2018b): Media ecology, transmedia literacy, and redesign of interfaces, MATRIZes, Vol. 12, No. 3, 129-139

Scolari, Carlos A. (2012): Media Ecology: Exploring the Metaphor to Expand the Theory, Communication Theory 22, 204-225

Sfard, Anna (1998): On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One, Educational Researcher, March 1998, 4-13

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., and Pullinger, K. (2007): Transliteracy: Crossing divides, First Monday, Vol. 12, No. 12

Toft-Nielsen, Claus and Nørgård, Rikke Toft (2018): Byggeklodser og blockbusters, Passage 79, Sommer 2018, Årgang 33 nr. 1, 89-102

Waade, Anne Marit and Toft-Nielsen, Claus (2015): Harry Potter som transmedia storytelling – franchise, fantasy og fans, Lauridsen, Palle Schanz og Svendsen, Erik (red.): Medieanalyse, København: Samfundslitteratur

Elna Mortensen

Photo by Ruben on Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

 

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:3

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:2

24717888002_0217cd0455_mThe theory and practices of new literacies and the work of Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel has inspired Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development, introduced in The End No 3:1, so new literacies is the second approach to digital literacies, I’ll plunge into. Seen through the lens of Martin and Grudziecki’s model, new literacies align especially with the levels of digital usage and digital transformation.

 

 

New literacies as digital literacies

In In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 1 I referred to Bonnie Stewart for seeing digital literacies as new literacies of participation and for framing the legitimacy structures and practices in education, she nails as in a sense literacies. And thus, she quoted Lankshear and Knobel on new literacies (2007):

“The more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, distributed expertise over centralized expertise, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship, dispersion over scarcity, sharing over ownership, experimentation over “normalization,” innovation and evolution over stability and fixity, creative-innovative rule breaking over generic purity and policing, relationship over information broadcast, and so on, the more we should regard it as a “new” literacy. (p. 21)”

This description is a snapshot in the evolution of new literacies as they are conceived of by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. In their book, “New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning” (2003), they introduce new literacies in the context of New Literacy Studies and a sociocultural approach to literacy:

“In addition, the sociocultural approach to literacy overtly rejects the idea that textual practices are even largely, let alone solely, a matter of processes that ‘go on in the head’, or that essentially involve heads communicating with each other by means of graphic signs. From a sociocultural perspective literacy is a matter of social practices. Literacies are bound up with social, institutional and cultural relationships, and can only be understood when they are situated within their social, cultural and historical contexts (Gee et al. 1996:xii). Moreover, they are always connected to social identities – to being particular kinds of people. Literacies are always embedded in Discourses (Gee 2000). Texts are integral parts of innumerable everyday ‘lived, talked, enacted, value-and-belief-laden practices’ that are ‘carried out in specific places and at specific times.’ (Gee et al. 1996:3). Reading and writing are not the same things within a youth zine culture…, an online chat space, a school classroom, a feminist reading group, or within different kinds of religious ceremonies. People read and write differently out of different social practices, and these different ways with words are part of different ways of being persons and different ways and facets of doing life.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:8)

“This has important implications. From a sociocultural perspective, it is impossible to separate out from text-mediated social practices the ‘bits’ concerned with reading and writing (or any other sense of ‘literacy’) and to treat them independently of all the ‘non-print’ bits, like values and gestures, context and meaning, actions and objects, talk and interaction, tools and spaces. They are all non-substractable parts of integrated wholes. ‘Literacy bits’ do not exist apart from the social practices in which they are embedded and within which they are acquired. If, in some trivial sense they can be said to exist (e.g.) as code, they do not mean anything. Hence, they cannot meaningfully be taught and learned separate from the rest of the practice (Gee 1996).” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:8)

Lankshear and Knobel distinguish New Literacy Studies from new literacies by seeing them using ‘new’ in a paradigmatic respectively an ontological way: “The paradigmatic sense occurs in talk of the New Literacy Studies (Street 1993; Gee 1996,2000) to refer to a specific sociocultural approach to understanding and researching literacy.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:16), whereas the ontological sense of ‘new’ is what is the main concern to Lankshear and Knobel :

“What we are calling the ontological sense of ‘new’ refers to the idea that changes have occurred in the character and substance of literacies associated with changes in technology, institutions, media, the economy, and the rapid movement toward global scale in manufacture, finance, communications and so on. These changes have impacted on social practices in all the main areas of everyday life within modern societies: in work, at leisure, in the home, in education, in the community, and in the public sphere.  Established social practices have been transformed, and new forms of social practices have emerged and continue to emerge at the rapid rate. Many of these new and changing social practices involve new and changing ways of producing, distributing, exchanging and receiving texts by electronic means. These have generated new multimodal forms of texts that can arrive via digital code…as sound, text, images, video, animations and any combinations of these.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:16)

“In this ontological sense, the category of ‘new literacies’ largely covers what are often referred to as ‘post-typographic’ forms of textual practice. These include using and constructing hyperlinks between documents and /or images, sounds, movies, semiotic languages (such as those used by the characters in the online episodic game Banja, or emoticons (‘smileys’) used in email, online chat space or instant messaging, manipulating a mouse to move around within a text, reading file extensions and identifying what software will ‘read’ each file, producing ‘non-linear’ texts, navigating three-dimensional worlds online and so on.“ (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:16-17; Martin and Grudziecki 2006:253)

Lankshear and Knobel operate with two broad categories of new literacies: 1) the post-typographic literacies just introduced above, and 2) literacies “…that are comparatively new in chronological terms and/or that are (or will be) new to being recognized as literacies – even within the sociocultural perspective. Literacies in this second category may have little or nothing to do with use of (new) digital electronic technologies. In some cases, however, they may well comprise new technologies within their own right.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:24-25)(my underlining). I see transmedia storytelling, online communities of practice, personal learning networks and network and networking literacies as examples of this.

Investigating and interpreting new literacies

A major achievement of the studies of new literacies is that they document the ongoing development of digital literacies and other new forms of literacies at the current point in their evolution and reflect on their relevance to school and educational settings. As a result of that, Lankshear and Knobel always give some typical examples of new literacies whenever they report on the state of affairs concerning new literacies, although it also causes some repetition in the quotations and the arguments as the uses of new literacies evolve. They suggest in their book, “…that to be useful, the investigation and interpretation of new literacies should involve descriptive, analytical and critical accounts.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:45)

A descriptive account will tell of and uncover practices: “The field needs rich descriptive sociological accounts of new literacies. Ideally these will be produced as much as possible by insiders who can ‘tell it like it is practiced’… (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:45). This priority of informants and an ethnographical approach anchors new literacies within the sociocultural understanding of New Literacy Studies introduced earlier.

An analytic account will expose how meaning making takes place: “Different forms of analytic work are relevant to studying and documenting new literacies…At one level of analysis one might identify and relate the Discourse and discourse aspects of a set of social practices (i.e. the ways of speaking, acting, believing, thinking, etc. that signal one as a member of a particular Discourse, along with the ‘language bits’ of this Discourse; Gee 1996). As a different analytic level, the work might involve a form of sociological imagination (Mills 1959): exploring how subjectivity and identity are related to participation in or membership of Discourses in which new literacies are developed, employed, refined and transformed.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:46-47)

Gee distinguishes between 1) Discourse with a capital D, grasping and conceptualizing ways of being in the world that integrates identities, and 2) discourse with a small letter which refers to the ‘language bits’, that is the language use of a specific Discourse (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:22, Note 1). This points to literacies as plural and context-dependent and to meaning making as socially negotiated, so these aspects of literacies are at the same time seen as determinant factors in new literacies as well as being means of doing, making and being in a culture and in the world.

A critical-evaluative account will consider the role and legitimacy of new literacies in formal literacy education: “Two types of critical-evaluative accounts of new literacies seem especially important in relation to literacy education…One type involves taking an ethical perspective toward new literacies, such that we can make sound and fair judgements that have educational relevance about the worth of particular new literacies and the legitimacy of their claims to places within formal literacy programmes.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:48)

“The second kind of critique we have in mind involves taking a curriculum and pedagogy perspective based on the criterion of efficacious learning. From a sociocultural perspective,

“the focus of learning and education is not children, nor schools, but human lives seen as trajectories through multiple social practices in various social institutions. If learning is to be efficacious, then what a child or adult does now as a learner must be connected in meaningful and motivated ways with ‘mature’ (insider) versions of related social practices.” (Gee et al. 1996:4)

For literacy education to be soundly based, we must be able to demonstrate the efficacy of any and every literacy that is taught compulsorily. This, of course, immediately questions the basis of much, if not most, of what currently passes for literacy education.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:48-49)

These questions of the legitimacy of new literacies within formal literacy education recall Bonnie Stewart’s framing of what she sees as literacies of participation:

“The more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, distributed expertise over centralized expertise, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship, dispersion over scarcity, sharing over ownership, experimentation over “normalization,” innovation and evolution over stability and fixity, creative-innovative rule breaking over generic purity and policing, relationship over information broadcast, and so on, the more we should regard it as a “new” literacy. (p. 21)”

Both the questions of legitimacy and the question of efficacious learning tell of practices, expose how meaning making is up for change, and inquire into the relevance of social, participatory and collaborative practices in education in general. So new literacies may be said to question and challenge the idea of education, as we associate it with the modern period and the industrial society. And at the second level of critique, it links the perspectives and ideas of Lankshear and Knobel to the debates on traditional and new models of education and teaching and learning taken into consideration by Martin Weller and Caroline Haythornthwaite, as they are summed up in The End No 1.

New literacies in the current historical period: ‘the new ethos stuff’

In other words, the critical-evaluative questions regarding new literacies operate on the continuum between two paradigms, moving away from the modern/industrial paradigm and towards the postmodern/post-industrial/knowledge society paradigm, which Lankshear and Knobel introduce in their article, “’New’ Literacies: technologies and values” (2012), as one of their updates on new literacies capturing the current point in their evolution.

In the article they emphasize this continuum, already mentioned in their book, and stress, that “…new literacies are best understood in terms of an historical period of social, cultural, institutional, economic, and intellectual change that is likely to span many decades – some of which are already behind us…From this perspective we suggest that the kinds of practices we currently identify as new literacies will cease to be ‘new’ once the social ways characterizing the ascending paradigm have become sufficiently established and grounded to be regarded as conventional.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:45-46). So Lankshear and Knobel outline the characteristics of the current historical period connected to this ascending new paradigm and the two core concepts concerning new literacies: ‘the new technical stuff’ and ‘the new ethos stuff’. ‘The new ethos stuff’ comes to the front, though:

“We have reached a point where it is necessary to draw some distinctions around the idea of ‘a new ethos’. We began by talking about an ascending paradigm that reflects a different way of thinking about people, social practices and processes, and social phenomena like expertise and intelligence from how such things were thought about under an earlier paradigm. We have talked briefly about how, during recent decades, economic activity – work – has been re-described, understood, and re-structured along lines in which values of participation, collaboration, distributed systems (of expertise, intelligence, team-orientation) have been emphasized. The ‘new’ capitalism pursues new ways of identifying workers and giving them new identities, in association with new ways of organizing their activity (roles, relationships, performances), with a view to enhancing the economic viability of enterprises and bureaucracies (Gee et al. 1996). This is a new angle on an existing game – a new way to create economic value/profit/capital accumulation/efficiency through leverage within a process of coaxing employees to take on new identities as members of a ‘community’ rather than as individuals who just happen to work in this place, for this boss  or this company. The end game remains more or less the same, but is now played under a new kind of ‘ethos’: by affiliates collaborating with each other in a shared mission”. (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:60)

“We have described how this kind of business model and ‘ethos’ was named for the web: as Web 2.0. A new architecture established the web as an interactive platform whereby enterprises could accumulate value by creating conditions and practices – literacies, no less – where uses could generate value that companies/site proprietors could harness. This is Web 2.0 as a business model. At the same time, the architecture supporting this business model represents something of a shift in applied ethos from the more oneway, broadcast-oriented model retrospectively named Web 1.0. We worked our way through a staged sequence of selected examples, seeking to shift the focus from web-mediated collaborations and distributions grounded in leveraging user activity in the interests of the economic viability of an enterprise toward an emphasis on ways in which the impressive affordances of Web 2.0 as an interactive platform enable users to participate in affinities. These are affinities where their participation and collaboration enact relationships to/with others and their shared interests, and contribute collectively to building the affinity and a sense of membership in that affinity.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:60-61)

So far, this analytic account has identified the Discourse and discourse aspects of a set of social practices and ways of being in the world: the ‘new’ capitalism and ‘Web 2.0’ coined by Tim O’Reilly as a business model, as well as the architecture of Web 2.0 as “…a specific concrete instance of the tendency toward thinking and acting, and otherwise organizing ways for doing everyday life – and particularly, for doing literacies – around values central to the currently ascending social paradigm…” like collaboration, distributed expertise, collective intelligence, communities of practice, and team orientation. (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:59).

This specific level of analysis points to discourse with a small letter, I would say, and reveals how people are ‘joining’ literacies as ways of doing, making and being in the world in order to learn the language of Discourse, so to speak, like “values and gestures, context and meaning, action and objects, talk and interaction, tools and spaces” (Lankshear and Knobel 2003:8):

“While our interest here is wider than learning per se, many of the key features of affinity spaces that enable learning are nonetheless the very ‘stuff’ of how contemporary literacies are constituted and experienced more generally by people engaging in them. Gee describes affinity spaces as:

“specially designed spaces (physical and virtual) constructed to resource people [who are] tied together…by a shared interest or endeavor…[For example, the] many websites and publications devoted to [the videogame ‘Rise of Nations’] create a social space in which people can, to any degree they wish, small or large, affiliate with others to share knowledge and gain knowledge that is distributed and dispersed across many different people, places, Internet sites and modalities (magazines, chat rooms, guides, recordings)”  (Gee, 2004:9,73)

Affinity spaces instantiate participation, collaboration, distribution and dispersion of expertise, and relatedness (ibid., Ch. 6th). These features are integral to the ‘ethos stuff’ of what we mean by ‘new’ literacies.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:58)

New literacies in the current historical period: ‘the new technical stuff’

It is not just the new ethos that needs to be in focus. Equally important is ‘the new technical stuff’ and the two need to be kept together within the frame of new literacies according to Lankshear and Knobel:

“The technical stuff of new literacies is part and parcel of generating, communicating, and negotiating encoded meanings by providing a range of new or more widely accessible resource possibilities (‘affordances’) for making meaning. The technical dimensions of digital technologies greatly enlarge ways of generating encoded meanings available to people in comparison with what we might call conventional literacies.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:51)

They give an example of generating a version of the Sad Keanu (Reeves) meme – an encoded multimodal text from 2010, still to be found online in reports on its life cycle but by now followed by other Keanu Reeves memes – that to a great extend imitate ‘the processes of digital literacy’ described by Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki while performing a range of digital competences to produce a remixed version of the meme: “Someone with access to a family standard computer or other mobile digital device and internet connection, and who has some basic knowledge of standard software applications can create a diverse range of meaningful artifacts using a strictly finite set of physical operations or technologies (keying, clicking, selecting, copying, dragging), in a relatively tiny space, with just one or two (albeit complex) ‘tools’.“(Lankshear and Knobel 2012:51). And at a more general level, this example illustrates that:

“The shift from material inscriptions to digital coding, from analogue to digital representations, has unleashed conditions and possibilities that are massively new. In the case of the shift from print to the post-typographic, Bill Cope (in Cope et al., 2005) describes what this means for the visual rendering of texts. He explains that digital technologies reduce the basic unit of composition from the level of character to a point below character level. In the case of a text on a screen, the unit of composition is reduced to pixels. This means that text and images can be rendered together seamlessly and relatively easily on the same page and, moreover, that text can be layered into images both static and moving – (and viceversa) in ways that were very difficult, and in some respects impossible to do physically with the resources of print.

“…[Moreover] if you go back one layer beyond pixels, the same compositional stuff produces sound as well. So you have got these basic things about human communication – namely language, visuals and sound – which are all being manufactures in the same raw material on the same plane in the same platform (in Cope et al., 2005:200)””  (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:53)

Along the same lines, the kinds of possibilities for ‘enabling’ and ‘sharing’ are new:

“Even the concept of ‘text’ as understood in conventional print terms becomes a hazy concept when considering the array of expressive media now available to everyday folk. Diverse practices of ‘remixing’ – where a range of existing materials are copied, cut, spliced, edited, reworked, and mixed into a new creation – have become highly popular in part because of the quality of product ‘ordinary people’ can achieve.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:54-55)

So whether it is about digital remix practices or uploading and distributing user-generated content to a social network site or platform, the new is about enabling:

“This enabling capacity of what essentially is binary code and associated hardware – the new technical ‘stuff’ – is integral to most of the new literacies that will concern us here. A lot of this enabling is by now so commonplace that we take it for granted, such as in everyday templates and interfaces.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012: 55)

New literacies in the current historical period: participatory forms

With ‘the new technical stuff’ being part of generating, communicating and negotiating encoded meaning, and the ‘new ethos stuff’ emphasizing ways of doing, making and being that instantiate participation, collaboration and distributed expertise, Lankshear and Knobel draw up a participatory configuration of ‘the new ethos’ as an ideal:

Participatory configurations of the new ethos are intimated in the difference between someone who wants to create, say a podcast for some kind of personal purpose or as a personal expression, and those whose podcasting activities arise from motivations like ‘an urge to create a shared space where, for example, fans can discuss their mutual interests in Severus Snape, or where church members can hold prayer circles, or where comic book buffs can interview writers and artists’ (Jenkins, 2010:234). In other words, participation, collaboration, and distributed systems of expertise, knowledge/wisdom/ intelligence and cultural production assume participatory forms within communities and networks of shared interests or affinities that have the kinds of characteristics associated with current conceptions of ‘participation in affinity spaces’ (Gee, 2004), ‘participatory cultures’ (Jenkins et al., 2006), ‘communities of practice’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991), and so on. These terms are widely used to capture the idea of networks and communities of shared interests where people associate, affiliate, and interact in kinds of ‘collective enterprise’ in order to pursue and go as deeply as they wish into their ‘affinities’ or what they are especially interested in.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:63)

“Such activity involves collectively building, resourcing, and maintaining interactive spaces, whether face to face, virtual, or mixes of both, where participants can contribute to and draw upon myriad resources and means for building and enacting identities based on interests, in collaboration with others. Participants play diverse roles and learn from each other ‘in the process of working together to achieve shared goals.’ From a new media literacies perspective, Jenkins and colleagues (2006:3) define a participatory culture in terms of environments and social practices where there are

“relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship where what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (Jenkins et al., 2006:3) “” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:63-64)

“…members of participatory cultures are involved in building and resourcing entire ‘systems’ and networks for developing and enacting identities (and ways of creative doing and being and making) within the very processes of pursuing and enacting these identities. They are collectively building, and developing the conditions and terrain for their interest-based engagements, as an entire enterprise, as distinct from  participating in ‘an enterprise of others’ (proprietary), or drawing on established enterprises to engage in individual or personal goal-directed pursuits with no entrinsic or necessary investment in furthering the community, networks, or affinity space per se.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:64)

So when all the pieces come together – the definitions, the concepts, and the descriptive, analytic and critical-evaluative accounts investigating and interpreting new literacies, their digital contexts and their place within an ascending social paradigm – they reveal an ideal ‘frame’ for understanding the character and role of new literacies:

“…we believe that the closer the ‘new ethos’ dimension approximates to the forms of engagement, collaboration, sharing and distributed expertise and ‘authorship’ that define ‘participatory cultures’ (ibid.), the more we should regard a literacy practice as ‘new’. This involves a values stance based on an ideal of social learning that is actively undermined by existing educational arrangements and the wider social structures and arrangements they support (e.g. credentialing, differential allocation of scarce rewards, consumer commodity production, ownership and property relations, etc.). Paradigm [strongest possible] cases of new literacies confront established social structures and relationships in ways we consider progressive, or ‘better’. They are more inclusive, more egalitarian, more responsive to human needs, interests and satisfactions, and they model the ideal of people working together for collective good and benefit, rather than pitting individuals against one another in the cause of maintaining social arrangements that divide people radically along lines of success, status, wealth, and privilege.” (Lankshear and Knobet 2012:67)

In other words, it is this broad ‘ethos’ of new literacies that differentiates new literacies from being conventional literacies in digital form (Lankshear and Knobel 2014:98).

Skills, knowledge and tools in use within social practices

In their article, “Studying New Literacies” (2014), Lankshear and Knobel follow up on their previous work on new literacies once again. They elaborate on how new literacies research has focused on skills, knowledge and tools in use within social practices, and they gather how researchers are interested in how participants have been producing, distributing, sharing and negotiating meaning in a range of contexts outside school and aim at introducing changing literacy practices in teaching and learning in schools in order to educate for the future (Knobel & Lankshear 2014:97). In the article Lankshear and Knobel offer a list of classroom practices gained from learners, participants and informants from informal practices outside school. The list reveals findings from new literacies research they reckon are worth teachers’ consideration in relation to design, facilitation and teaching in K-12 schools, but, still, they are just as relevant to discussing digital literacies in higher education. I will give a short version here, but do check out the entire list in the article:

  • Not everyone has to know or be good at exactly the same thing; often outcomes are richer when young people bring different bits and pieces of knowledge and know-how to collaborative efforts (Gee & Hayes, 2013). Schools, however, tend to insist on everyone knowing the same thing in the same way.
  • Ongoing cycles of feedback, mentoring, and support from others – novices and experts alike – who share the same interest or goals play a crucial role in learning and practicing new literacies (Black, 2008). Schools usually privilege teacher feedback over peer feedback on work-in-progress; assessment tends to be summative and focus on technical details, with little in-progress advice or mentoring regarding production within a particular specialized space or domain.
  • Doing, contributing, making, and sharing are significant activities (Alverman, 2010; Ito et al., 2010). Schools approach knowledge in terms of consuming information and practicing teacher-taught strategies, often driven by packaged curriculum and textbooks, rather than in terms of production by insiders to a field and novices learning to become insiders.
  • Young people “pull” on available resources – content, materials, people – right at the point of need as they are working on something (Leander & Mills, 2007). This just-in-time approach to learning contrasts with schools and their tendency to “push” a broad range of content at students for abstract, “just-in-case” purposes (Hagel & Brown, 2005).
  • Remixing cultural items to produce new works is valued and central to cultural development within societies (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). This challenges schools’ assumption about the importance of individualized authorship and the production of “original” work.
  • Distributing effort and the ability to communicate with others across distance, cultures, and languages matters (Curwood, Magnifico, & Lammers, 2013; Lam, 2009). Practical experiences entailing such things are less than common in schools.
  • Playing with and exploring the affordances of a technology or online space balanced with serious work is a key element in learning to “be” someone, like a machinima artist, a games designer, a video editor, etc. (Ito et al., 2010). After the early grades, schools are concerned most with students being “on task” with little room for playful and exploratory experimentation. (Knobel & Lankshear 2014:99-100)

In the article Lankshear and Knobel stress the idea of new literacies and its sociocultural orientation this way:

 “A practice orientation to new literacies examines new literacies in terms of technology, knowledge and skills – where skills are understood as “co-ordinated sets of action”, and practices as “socially developed and patterned ways of using technology and knowledge to accomplish tasks [that are] directed to [realizing] socially recognized goals [or purposes].” (Schreibner & Cole, 1981,p. 236). As practices, literacies – all literacies, “new” or conventional – involve bringing technology, knowledge, and skills together within contexts of social purpose.”  (Knobel & Lankshear 2014:98)

The examples of classroom practices listed above are descriptive and critical-evaluative accounts of this practice orientation, but at the same time they show how new literacies challenge old systems of legitimacy like control and validation, and they exceed the traditional model of education, as mentioned earlier, when they emphasize participation and participatory culture as core values:

“New technical stuff can be, and typically is, introduced into classrooms without challenging the established culture of classroom education one iota (Cuban, 2003; Lankshear and Knobel, 2006: Ch.2; Jenkins, 2010). It is impossible, however, to engage with learning from the standpoint of participatory culture without seeing how its learning model challenges ‘the cultural context that surrounds contemporary education’. (Jenkins 2010:241).”  (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:67)

So altogether new literacies go along with participation as a metaphor of learning and with Learning 2.0 as a more personalized and experiential form of learning that “…involves engaging learners in apprenticeship for different kinds of knowledge practice, new processes of inquiry, dialogue, and connectivity” as Beetham and Sharpe have put it (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12) as quoted in The End No 2.

‘Learning to be’: text production and meaning making & social learning processes

In a recent article, “Education and ‘new literacies’ in the middle years” (2018), Lankshear and Knobel revisit their mapping of new literacy practices and more explicitly plot the course of learning , although they are still interested in more than learning ‘per se’. Their view on what new literacies might mean now is seconded by what they call a broad ‘philosophy of education’ as their answer to the questions about what education is for and what education is about. Still, the starting point is that new literacies are characterized by two things: 1) the shift from analogue to digital code and literacies being mediated by digital tool which is characterized as ‘a new technological dimension to ‘new literacies’’ – earlier introduced as ‘the new technical stuff’ – and 2) the possibilities of “…participating in collaborative ways in the creation, editing, refinement, etc. of the same text”, which is seen as “…a new kind of ‘ethos’ possible in ways and on a scale not previously imaginable” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:8)(my underlining) – earlier characterized as ‘the new ethos stuff’.  Lankshear and Knobel are summing up these two dimensions of new literacies much in accordance with their book and earlier articles, but with the difference that ‘texts’ and ‘text production’ in the broadest possible sense are now being coined as a part of the vocabulary within new literacies:

“The technical and ethos dimension of ‘new’ practices of text production is to create, communicate, share and negotiate meanings come together in ways that have been captured in concepts like ‘participatory culture’ (Jenkins et al., 2016; Jenkins, Ito & boyd, 2015) and ‘affinity spaces’ (Gee, 2004). While both concepts are relatively recent coinings, forms of participatory culture and affinity spaces have always existed where people join together to participate and collaborate in forms of shared activity; to build fields of shared interest; to share expertise and resources and so on. The local sports field is as much a space for participating in a shared activity as an app-based service like Musical.ly (a music video generating and sharing network).” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:8)

“Affinity spaces refer to any kind of physical or virtual space that has been specially designed to resource the activity of people who are ‘tied together by a shared interest or endeavor’ (Gee, 2001, p.9). They are social spaces that enable people, to whatever extent they choose, to ‘affiliate with others to share knowledge and gain knowledge [relevant to engaging in their interest] that is distributed and dispersed across many different people, places, Internet sites, and modalities (magazines, chatrooms, guides, recordings)’ (Gee, 2004, p.73). Of course, what has happened in the age of digital electronic technologies and networks is that online affinity spaces have vastly amplified the possible scope, speed, diversity, scale, and range of affiliation and knowledge sharing and gaining.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:8)

In the article Lankshear and Knobel introduce two levels of new literacies to grasp the double processes of new literacies as both text production and meaning making and learning processes inherent to the concepts of participatory culture and affinity spaces: the specific level of new literacies and the level of ‘structure’ of new literacies. This way they add a focus on texts and artefacts, resources, modes and modalities, originating from a socio-semiotic view on literacy (Kabel and Storgaard Brok 2018:230-231), to their ethnographic perspective and their interest in new literacy practices as social and cultural practices. And as usual Lankshear and Knobel give examples of the present paradigm (strongest possible) cases of new literacies focusing on both the new technological dimension and the new ethos dimension including a set of competences, strategies, learning strategies and values nurtured and developed in collaborative cultures:

“At a specific level of ‘new literacies’, participants engage in meaning making, mediated by tools and communicated and negotiated as ‘texts’ (i.e., inscribed cultural artifacts), of the kinds involved in pursuing their particular interests and purposes. At the level of the ‘structure’ of new literacies, however, they encounter a profoundly social approach to learning, driven by shared passions, and steeped in collaboration and companionship. And it is this structure that is most important for reforming education: the ‘lesson’ for educators to take from new literacies. In the context of cultural production, the knowledge and understanding and skill and resourcing needed for mastery, participants (learners at all levels) rub shoulders, share values, and offer insider advice on what makes the work ‘good’. And there is seemingly no limit to where this resourcing could come from. There is usually someone ‘there’ to provide an audience and to mutually share and build enthusiasm within the process of learning to be a fanfiction writer, a photoshopper, a music video or spoof movie trailer creator, game designer, etc. Brown and Adler capture much of the educational significance of such ‘social learning’ when they note (2008, p.19) that:

“Mastering a field…involves not only ‘learning about’ the subject matter but also ‘learning to be’ a full participant in the field. This involves acquiring the practices and the norms of established practitioners, in that field or acculturating into a community of practice [or affinity].”” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:8-9)

‘Learning to be’: challenging the established culture of education

By introducing these double processes of new literacies, Lankshear and Knobel explain more thoroughly what they mean, when they state that in fact ‘the new technical dimension’ challenges the established culture of classroom education, as quoted above: the engagement with participatory culture and affinity spaces includes a move towards social learning. In “Minds on Fire – Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0” (2008), the article quoted from above by Lankshear and Knobel, Brown and Adler have pointed out that:

“The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.” (Brown and Adler 2008:18)

Brown and Adler promote social learning as a contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning, emphasizing that “…the social view of learning says, “We participate, therefore we are.”(Brown and Adler 2008:18), and adding that “[t]his perspective shifts the focus of our attention from the content of a subject to the learning activities and human interactions around which that content is situated.” (Brown and Adler 2008:18). By placing the Cartesian view of knowledge and learning in contrast to social learning and participation, Brown and Adler align with Anna Sfard’s metaphors for learning as acquisition and as participation, but by contrasting them they seem to deny the complementarity of the two metaphors which is fundamentally important to Sfard, as introduced in The End No 3:1. So somehow Brown and Adler seem to contradict themselves to some extent, as they claimed in the quote above, that mastering a field means both ‘learning about’ a subject matter but also ‘learning to be’ a full participant within a field. And here Lankshear and Knobel follow in Brown and Adler’s footsteps when they promote ‘learning to be’ rather than ‘learning about’ as an essential dimension of new literacies:

“… the ‘structure’ of new literacies provides a basis for moving education away from its traditional form of learning about –  content knowledge absorbed from curriculum subjects – toward a model of learning as collaborating producers of knowledge within processes of learning to become ‘kinds of people’ who take on ‘ways of being in the world’. We will argue that what is important for education is not merely finding ways of getting specific ‘new’ literacies, such as digital storytelling, remixing fiction, or programming 3D printers to produce artefacts to our own designs, into classrooms/education – although this might at least be a step in the right direction. Rather the point is to reconstitute education around ‘learning to be’; reorganizing education along the lines James Paul Gee describes in terms of involving people working together to resolve ‘tough problems’ in ways that produce knowledge within social learning processes that are mediated by affinity spaces (Gee, 2013).” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:7)

‘Learning to be’ as introduced by Brown and Adler – or “becoming a participant” and “belonging, participating, communicating in community building” in Sfard’s terminology – is compatible to communities of practices which are being connected directly to participatory culture and affinity spaces by Lankshear and Knobel as it was already evident when they encircled the participatory forms of a new kind of ethos earlier:

“This is [educational] work that provides opportunities for collaborative production of knowledge and solutions to material as well as ‘academic’ problems rather than continuing to emphasise individualised consumption and assessment of subject area content. It should reflect Gee’s insight that ‘affinity spaces have been, and will be even more in the future, the source of new ideas, new solutions to hard problems, and skills for jobs not yet in existence’ (2013, p.178). It should leverage young people’s experiences of and commitment to the values and satisfactions, derived from their investments in ‘participatory culture’, defined by Jenkins and colleagues in terms of environments and forms of activity where there are

“relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices…[and where] members believe their contributions matter. And feel some degree of social connection with one another (Jenkins et al., 2006, p. 3)”

It is work that meets Gee’s requirement that education

“focus on giving every member of society a valued life and the ability to contribute, to learn how to learn, and to adapt to changing times. It has to create a sense of equality at the level not of status of jobs per se, but at the level of participation in knowledge, innovation, and national and global citizenship for a smarter, safer and better world (2013, p. 205).””(Lankshear and Knobel 2018:11-12)

With affiliation to Gregory Bateson’s and Zygmunt Bauman’s forms of learning, presented in The End No 2, Gee positions education in the context of both citizenship and globalization and change and uncertainty. In his article, “Affinity Spaces and 21st Century Learning” (2017), also referred to by Lankshear and Knobel, Gee describes and defines affinity spaces today as “…often really squishy. They are fluid and ever changing and hard to strictly demarcate.” (Gee 2017:29). In other words, they exist as networks in flux with clusters and weak connections, ever changing and reflecting the complexity and uncertainty of today. And in that sense, Gee’s idea and concept of affinity spaces is being re-defined in accordance with ideas of communities of practice, networks, rhizomes and assemblages introduced in this series and thus supplement the idea and concept of participatory culture in Lankshear and Knobel’s focus on ‘the level of ‘structure’ of new literacies’: “Attending to the structure of new literacies (e.g., participatory culture, social practices, affinity spaces, appreciative systems) necessarily shifts the structure of schooling away from a concern with learning about stuff and towards learning to collaborate, contribute, share, understand, resource, empathise etc. as new ways of learning to be in the world.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:15).

The model of ‘new literacy practicies’

It might seem that there has been a slight change in Lankshear and Knobel’s work from their book in 2003 to the article of 2018, sliding from a focus on the current historical period and on new forms of literacies and literacy practices to zooming in on introducing changing literacy practices in teaching and learning in order to educate for the future. But the ideal of social learning has been present all along, accompanying the questions of what currently passes for literacy education, although the reflections on the educational relevance of new literacies are none the less also taking new directions in the 2018-article, “Education and ‘new literacies’ in the middle years”. As Lankshear and Knobel say: “Schools should focus on enabling knowledge and knowhow that middle years youth need but cannot readily access elsewhere – especially by posing what Gee (ibid.) calls ‘tough problems’ that involve working in and across disciplinary areas and engage students with experts beyond the school who can provide useful and important knowledge and insights into the problem being studied. Many of these tough problems will be – ideally – real world, functional or life enhancing problems; problems to be resolved by knowledge and understanding that develop minds within processes of learning to become the kinds of people who meet an ideal of educated persons.”  (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:12).

As the context of education is now to create a sense of equality when it comes to participation, knowledge production and innovation, and national and global citizenship “for a smarter, safer, and better better world”, Lankshear and Knobel still emphasize their practice orientation to new literacies by maintaining “…the importance  of students producing real knowledge of all kinds by attending to the model of ‘new literacy practices’ rather than simply trying to import new literacies into the classrooms and making them the focal point of learning”, as quoted earlier (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:15). This model of ‘new literacy practices’ can be said to have evolved in time in the shape of a set of concepts and terms that contains the dimensions and the contexts of new literacies, so to speak:

current historical period                            educational relevance and structure of schooling

post-typographic                                         chronologically new

new technical stuff:                                     new ethos stuff:

skills, tools, enabling, sharing                      practices, participatory forms

specific level of new literacies:                  ‘structural’ level of new literacies:

‘texts’, cultural artefacts                                CoP’s, participatory culture, affinity spaces

textual dimension:                                       social dimension:

text production and meaning making         social learning processes

producing knowledge                                    from ‘learn about’ to ‘learning to be’

Like a puzzle picture, new literacies gradually emerge and develop as an approach that includes both a textual and a social dimension, although it is not interested in approaches to textual analysis, interpretation or the like. So although the left column in ‘the model’ above is indispensable, there is no doubt that the right column in ‘the model’ is the heart of the matter. It highlights what is at stake in the model of ‘new literacy practices’: the ideal of social learning and of people working together for collective good and benefit (Lankshear and Knobel 2012:67) in combination with the structure of schooling shifting away “…from a concern with learning about stuff and towards learning to collaborate, contribute, share, understand, resource, empathise etc. as new ways of learning to be in the world.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:15).

User productivity and producing knowledge

The practice orientation accentuated by Lankshear and Knobel signals the sociocultural background to their model of ‘new literacy practices’, and as such it is mainly user and production oriented. The perspective regarding texts has moved from the sender to the recipient – but in the sense of seeing the recipient as a user and producer of ‘texts’ within the broader conception of ‘texts’ that new literacies provide. The linear model of communication by Claude Shannon: sender → message → receiver (Hartley 2012:2) is being crossbred with the producer → text/commodity → consumer model (Hartley 2012:9) and transformed into a two-way dialogical model evolved from the altered conditions for communication and participation in digital media and on digital platforms and from the present uses of the internet and digital communication: author/sender/ producer ↔ ‘text’/cultural artefact/product ↔ reader & audience/recipient/user & producer. Now literacy/literacies mean reading and writing as interconnected social and cultural activities and practices, but even with an understanding of reading and writing as production in all kinds of media, modalities and modes, including navigating on the web, as new literacies represent, it leaves the questions of how ‘texts’ and knowledge are understood in the context of a domain, a discipline or a subject matter. Among other things, this calls for dialogical and reception oriented approaches to ‘texts’, meaning making and interpretation, that are able to embrace hypertexts and the networks growing from them, when the communication turns from one-to-many towards many-to-many.

Producing knowledge requires understanding, interpretation, analyzing and seeing the problem or issue concerned in several relevant perspectives, including the historical context of the domain, the discipline or the subject matter, I would suggest. That means knowing its repertoire of ‘texts’ in the broader sense, its practices, and the ways and mechanisms of producing new ’texts’ and actively relate to and take part in the ‘texts’, the repertoire and the knowledge already existing in the domain, the discipline or the subject matter through production, and this way engage in its historicity and in questioning the existing and emerging knowledge. This is crucial and the starting point for participating in and becoming a member of the community of practice and the culture of a domain, a discipline or a subject matter. And it takes social learning, too. In other words, this is what Lankshear and Knobel have called a participatory configuration of ‘the new ethos’.

New literacies have the intention of contributing to the growth of knowledge and learning, and seen in the light of digital media and their present uses, John Hartley mentions in his book, “The uses of digital literacy” (2009), that there is a tendency to self-expression and communication in people’s uses of digital literacy in informal contexts and everyday practices, but also that: “…there is more to language than self-expression and communication: there is also knowledge.” (Hartley 2009:137). Hartley suggests that this tendency has to be acted on and the uses of digital literacy have to be elaborated and developed to meet the requirements for producing knowledge. While discussing digital storytelling he takes up Karl Popper’s levels of language in his argument:

“In fact, the philosopher Karl Popper (1972) has produced a typology of the ‘levels’ of language:

  1. Self-expression
  2. Communication
  3. Description
  4. Argument…

For Popper, the first two levels produce subjective knowledge, the second two can lead to objective knowledge. For us, it is noteworthy that digital storytelling, in common with the media-entertainment complex in general, is obsessively focused on the first level. To take a further step toward the two ‘higher’ levels of language, the question of expertise needs to be expressed: how can everyone in a given community be in a position to contribute to the growth of objective knowledge?” (Hartley 2009:137-138)

So as a precondition for knowledge production, subjective understandings need to be connected and related to explicit and validated ‘objective’ knowledge. On the other hand, Hartley still stresses, that “With the internet and digital communication, mediated communication had been restored to a two-way dialogic model in which everyone is understood as productive.” (Hartley 2012:22). This opens up to questions about what defines knowledge and who defines what kinds of knowledge are needed. And as a kind of counterpart to Bonnie Stewart’s opening quote from Lankshear and Knobel, Hartley comments on the current state of the internet and its affordances:

“Like printing, the internet was invented for instrumental purposes (security, scholarship), but it has rapidly escaped such intentions and is evolving new ‘affordances’ unlooked for a mere decade ago. The most important change is that the structural asymmetry between producers and consumers, experts and amateurs, writers and readers has begun to rebalance. In principle (if not yet in practice), everyone can publish as well as ‘read’ mass media. Users play an important role in making the networks, providing the services, improving the products, forming the communities, and producing the knowledge that characterize digital media. We are entering an era of user productivity, not expert representation. It is now possible to think of consumers as agents, sometimes enterprises, and to see in consumer-created content and user-led innovation not further exploitation by the expert representatives but rather ‘consumer entrepreneurship’ (once a contradiction in terms).

Once again, as was the case for print in early modern Europe, a means of communication has become an agent as well as a carrier of change, extending the capabilities of the publisher across social and geographical boundaries and producing unintended consequences that have hardly begun to be exploited.“ (Hartley 2012:25)

What to think about the question of expertise clashing with the affordances of the internet and digital communication, then? John Hartley’s double perspective on digital media and the internet both meets and challenges the intentions new literacies have to contribute to the growth of knowledge when they focus on changing literacy practices in teaching and learning in schools – challenges where Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s ‘philosophy of education’ can be said to frame their view on ‘the stuff’ that knowledge is made of in a digital age – and that includes both self-expression, communication, description and argument after all.

A philosophy of education

Lankshear and Knobel seem to be about to make a move beyond the affordances of Web 2.0 and the architecture of participation, or maybe rather they are in the move to build on top of these affordances, providing their thinking with new layers of ethics and the present horizon of Web 3.0 and so forth, on the grounds of the critical-evaluative accounts provided by Gee. Gee touches on both kinds introduced earlier: the sound and fair judgement of the educational relevance of particular new literacies and a critical evaluation of what is efficacy learning seen from a curriculum and pedagogical perspective, as quoted above: “[Education] has to create a sense of equality at the level not of status of jobs per se, but at the level of participation in knowledge, innovation, and national and global citizenship for a smarter, safer and better world (2013, p. 205).” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:12).

As their way of answering the questions of what education is for and what education is about in this perspective, Lankshear and Knobel supplement Gee’s requirement for education with four dimensions of human development and wellbeing that make up their ‘philosophy of education’ by now:

  1. Knowledge and building minds:

“By ‘mind’ we mean a combination of cognitive capacity and certain kinds of attitudes, such as a concern for relevance, impartiality, being reasonable, and so on. It is about knowing when information is relevant to a question or issue in ways that mean it counts as valid evidence, and about being willing to weigh evidence on its merits, rather than on the basis of our preferences. It is the willingness to follow arguments where the evidence leads, in order to make the best quality judgements about the matter in question. It is to do with caring enough about our thinking to get it as clear and logical and elegant as we can. It involves appreciating the values and criteria and ways of evaluating and judging within an area of activity and respecting them up to the point where it is reasonable and appropriate to modify them… It involves creating opportunities for learners to develop these values within contexts of acquiring and actively producing knowledge about things, that matter for their lives and the lives of others.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:9)

  1. Becoming ethical persons and kind and decent members of our communities:

“The role of formal education institutions is, we believe, different. It is about providing opportunities for young people to understand and experience what it means to develop and act on principles rather than to follow rules and simply obey authority. Acting on principles comprises opportunities to reflect ethically: to move beyond rules and to consider the ‘whys’ that lie behind them, and to develop a strong sense of caring for the principles in question. One way of thinking about this is in terms of coming to understand persons and communities as systems that have their integrity…While schools cannot ensure that learners in fact do come to care about this, and develop respect for all persons, they can and should – as learning institutions – provide social learning opportunities for conceiving ‘bigger pictures’ and grasping ethical concepts through conversation and experiences.” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:10)

  1. Learning to become ‘stewards of the universe’:

“We believe that a parallel argument holds with respect to our place in the universe, within the ‘larger order’ of things. Our humanity enables us both to grasp the totality of everything that exists as a complex and interconnected system and to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of that system and to respect its integrity. There is no argument to prove that we should do this. Rather, we believe, that perhaps the greatest outcome of an education is to be capable of expressing appreciation of and respect for the integrity of ‘wonderful things’ – as something we do for its own sake, not (merely) because doing so maximizes our chances of survival (which, of course, it does)…” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:10)

  1. Caring for our personal integrity:

“While it is absolutely possible to attain wellbeing on the basis of intuition, habit, and imitation, a good education can enhance awareness and appreciation of the importance of caring for the integrity of our selves as part of a larger dialectic of caring for others and our communities and our world. For us, this is all about providing learners with the wherewithal to help themselves keep body, mind and spirit nurtured and healthy – and developing a very real commitment to their own and others’ wellbeing…The first thing required of formal education in terms of building the disposition to respect and care for personal integrity is to optimize opportunities to experience genuine success in meaningful forms of learning. This is not about ‘passing’ work that is inadequate. Rather, it involves re-organising learning in ways that reflect the ‘structure’ of social practices of new literacies understood as contexts for social learning, collaborative engagement, and membership in participatory culture…” (Lankshear and Knobel 2018:10-11).

This almost manifest-like ‘philosophy of education’ both elaborates on and replaces the ‘ideal’ frame for understanding the character and role of new literacies that is closing Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s article “New literacies: technologies and values” (2012:67).

Anna Sfard’s participation metaphor and her point that “[t]he vocabulary of participation brings the message of togetherness, solidarity and collaboration” (Sfard 1998:8) are more or less embedded in this ‘philosophy of education’ and thus in the definition of ‘the new ethos stuff’/‘a new kind of ethos’ combined with the idea of communities of practice, participatory culture and affinity spaces. Ethos is concerned in how people act and interact within a community or culture and in the norms, the values and the attitudes they are socialized into or ought to be involved with due to their personal integrity. Aristoteles coined three aspects of establishing ethos: 1) showing kindness and good-will towards your audience, 2) having a high standard of morality, and 3) being competent and qualified within your domain (Bergstrøm 2015: 311-312). With the terms ‘the new ethos stuff’/‘a new kind of ethos’, new literacies seem to draw on Aristoteles while foregrounding the aspect of showing kindness and good-will towards other connections and participants, although not neglecting the other two, to stress that new literacies are more participatory, collaborative and distributed than conventional literacy. Being focused on social learning, on relationships, connections and networks requires both a high moral standard and being competent and qualified within one’s domain, discipline and subject matter. And that is still worth favouring according to Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel and their ‘philosophy of education’, although they are now also embracing Web 3.0, ‘smart’-concepts and the Internet of Things when they pitch upon the examples of an online global project hub and of youth making ‘smart’ athletic wear in a workshop and makerspace.

Characterizing what they see as the qualities about humans, about things, about the world and about humanity, Lankshear and Knobel value the good, the true and the beautiful in their ‘philosophy of education’. It almost seems like an aspiration for Bildung. They advocate for understanding oneself, ‘the other’ and the world in ways that correspond to the idea of ‘digital Bildung’ (Drotner 2018:9) – a much debated concept – that inform the definition of digital literacy by Martin and Grudziecki in The End No 3:1. Seeing digital tools and facilities as part of a whole life, they build on Morten Søby when they introduce ‘digital Bildung’ as a founding concept for digital literacy:

“”Digital bildung expresses a more holistic understanding of how children and youths learn and develop their identity. In addition, the concept encompasses and combines the way in which skills, qualifications, and knowledge are used. As such, digital bildung suggests an integrated, holistic approach that enables reflection on the effects that ICT has on different aspects of human development: communicative competence, critical thinking skills, and enculturation processes, among others. (Søby, 2003:8)”

Søby uses the german term Bildung to suggest the integrated development of the individual as a whole person. The processes of Bildung goes on throughout life, affects all aspects of the individual’s thought and activity, and affects understandings, interpretations, beliefs, attitudes and emotions as well as actions. It represents the making of the individual both as a unique individual and as a member of a culture.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:255)

Within the framework of digital literacy development

Lankshear and Knobel’s model of ‘new literacy practices’ aligns with and works on all three levels of Martin and Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development introduced in The End No 3:1. ‘Skills’ and ‘practices’ are equivalent to the ideas of ‘the new technical stuff’/the new technical dimension and ‘the new ethos stuff’/a new kind of ethos, and with their definition of a practice orientation to new literacies Lankshear and Knobel turn more directly toward common grounds with the model for digital development: ‘skills’ and ‘practices’ align with the levels of digital competences and digital usage in Martin and Grudziecki’s model. The level of digital competence gets a more modest discussion in Lankshear and Knobel’s writings, though, as the model of ‘new literacy practices’ especially works at the levels of digital usage and digital transformation.

Digital usage involves “…using digital tools to seek, find and process information and then to develop a product or solution addressing the task or problem” in a specific situation and a specific context (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:258), but within the community of practice of a domain, a discipline or a subject matter. And it is with the important addition, that the result of a specific digital usage “…will itself be the trigger for further action in the life context.” (Martin and Gruziecki 2006:258). Knowing is coming to the front in the shape of knowledge processes. This indicates that a community of practice is not just to be seen as a stable ‘entity’ and culture, building solely on trajectories leading from ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ to ‘full participation’, a view McLoughlin and Lee represent as quoted in The End No 2. Instead a community of practice is to be seen as both stable and dynamic and interacting with the world through networks, as both Lankshear and Knobel and Etienne Wenger-Trayner have emphasized, and thus it is representing a dialogical view on learning. Learning through ‘doing’, ‘making’ and ‘being in action’ is being supplemented by learning through ‘productivity’, including ‘producing knowledge’ and ‘knowledge creation’, so  “[d]igital usage becomes embedded within the understandings and actions which evolve within the community and cause the community itself to evolve: the community of practice is thus also a community of learning.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006: 257-258). To Lankshear and Knobel that applies to participatory culture and affinity spaces, too.

This is not just a link to the level of digital transformation, “…achieved when the digital usages which have been developed enable innovation and creativity, and stimulate significant change within the professional or knowledge domain.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:259), but it also makes a link to the model of ‘new literacy practices’. Here social learning, knowledge production and creative innovation merge together and support the ontological sense of ‘new’  and its focus on change that was the starting point for Lankshear and Knobel.

To be continued…

Further reading:

Bergstrøm, Ditte Maria (2015): Online retorik, Christiansen, H-C. og Rose, G. B. (red.): Online kommunikation, København: Hans Reitzels Forlag, 301-329

Brown, John Seely and Adler, Richard P. (2008): Minds on Fire. Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, Educause Review, January/February, 17-32

Drotner, Kirsten (2018): Hvad er digital dannelse og hvordan fremmer skolen den?, Unge Pædagoger Årg. 79, nr. 2, 6-14

Gee, James Paul (2017): Affinity Spaces and 21st Century Learning, Educational Technology, 57 No 2, 27-31

Hartley, John (2012): Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies, Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons

Hartley, John (2009): The uses of digital literacy, St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press

Kabel, Kristine og Storgaard Brok, Lene (2018): Didaktik og kontekst – vi trænger til en teoretisk afklaring af kontekstbegrebet i literacy-didatikken, Christensen, T. S., Elf, N., Hobel, P., Qvortrup, A. og Troelsen, S. (red.): Didaktik i udvikling, Aarhus: Klim

Knobel, Michele and Kalman, Judith (Eds.)(2016): New Literacies and Teacher Learning. Professional Development and the Digital Turn, New York: Peter Lang

Knobel, Michele and Lankshear, Colin (2014): Studying New Literacies, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58 (2), 97-101, DOI: 10.1002/jaal.314

Lankshear, Colin and Knobel, Michele (2018): Education and ‘new literacies’ in the middle years, Literacy Learning: the Middle Years, Vol. 26 No 2, 7-16

Lankshear, Colin and Knobel, Michele (2012): ’New’ literacies: technologies and values, Revista Teknokultura, (2012), Vol. 9 Núm 1, 45-69

Lankshear, Colin and Knobel, Michele (2003): New Literacies: Changing Knowledge and Classroom Learning, Buckingham: Open University Press

Martin, Allan and Jan Grudziecki (2006): DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development, Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5:4,249-267, DOI:10.11120/ital.2006.05040249

McLoughlin, Catherine and Lee, Mark J.W. (2008): The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, 10-27

Sfard, Anna (1998): On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One, Educational Researcher, March 1998, 4-13

Stewart, Bonnie (2013): Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? , MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and teaching Vol. 9, No.2, June 2013, 228-238

Elna Mortensen

Photo by WeMake Milano on Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:2

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:1

2506968434_a18f557a2e_mAfter quite some time of thinking, this is a summing up and an elaboration on some of the issues that have been under scrutiny in my explorations in this series of blog posts. It represents a recursive process, or maybe a matter of bricolage, as it reveals itself in four parts that can be read as one fairly short piece and three quite long pieces with pauses in between, or as a genuinely long read tuning in on 1) pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance, 2) learning modes and a posthuman perspective, 3) the state of participatory culture and digital literacies, and 4) knowledge management and learning for and from the future.

In “Do We Really Need Media Education 2.0? Teaching Media in the Age of Participatory Media” (2010), an article discussing the practices of media education in schools, but with perspectives of interest to education in general, David Buckingham comments on the question of staying relevant in education:

“Many contemporary teenagers are now growing up with the ensemble of participatory media collectively known as ‘Web 2.0’ – social networking, photo- and video sharing, blogging, podcasting, remixing and mashups, wikis, machinima, user-generated content, online games and social worlds, and so on. These new media have not replaced older media…Nevertheless, if we base our teaching on forms of media that are, if not completely outmoded, then at least only part of the environment that young people are now experiencing, there is clearly a danger that it may become irrelevant to their lives. This is not, I would argue, simply a question of curriculum content – of teaching students how to analyse websites as well as television ads, for example. Rather, enthusiasts for new media typically claim that they entail a distinctly different orientation towards information, a different phenomenology of use, a different politics of knowledge and a different mode of learning. If this is the case, it has potentially far-reaching implications for pedagogy – not just for what we teach but also for how we teach.” (Buckingham 2010:289)

So like Web 2.0 has implications for pedagogy, as my discussion of pedagogies in this series point to, Web 3.0 will only add to this. Whether your attitude towards technological change is ‘everything changes, nothing changes’ or you find that the world is becoming radically different due to the advances of technology , or maybe even that the world is being dominated by the hope for/the fear of the radical vision of ‘the singularity’, the advance of the digital and computational regime will only intensify this sense of ongoing challenges to the modes of teaching and learning, that is challenges not just to what we teach but also to how we teach, who we teach, where we teach, when we teach, and not least why we teach. The digital challenges are questioning not just the existing models of education but also the metaphors of learning, we live by, as recognized by Martin Weller, Caroline Haythornthwaite, Tony Bates and Catherine Loughlin and Mark Lee and discussed throughout this series.

In this blogpost I would like to zoom in from the broader perspectives of education and teaching and learning in the postmodern or late modern, being summed up in The End No 1 and The End No 2, and move below the old and new models of education and below my list of pedagogies adequate for the digital age onto some of the processes of teaching and learning where changes in the models of education, in legitimacy structures and in the metaphors of learning become visible. This means zooming in on the state of digital literacies in education today, on participatory culture and on participation as a metaphor of learning. I’ll introduce four approaches to digital literacies, I think it is relevant to reflect on. They take their examples from across education, ranging from K-12 schools to higher education, but due to the apparently somewhat unstable state of digital literacies at all educational levels at present, I think they may all inspire this encirclement of digital literacies, participatory culture and participation. And the question then is: what are the challenges to education just now when it comes to digital literacies?

Participation as a metaphor of learning

In The End No 2 I presented three metaphors of learning advocated for by Catherine McLoughlin and Mark J.W. Lee (2008) while building on Anna Sfard as well as Sami Paavola and Kai Hakkarainen: the metaphor of learning as acquisition, the metaphor of learning as participation and the metaphor of learning as knowledge creation. And eventually I suggested to add yet another metaphor of learning to the list to capture the recent developments within technology, theory and learning: the metaphor of learning as computation. I also introduced the concepts of Learning 1.0, which matches the ideas of teaching and learning and knowledge connected to the acquisition metaphor, and Learning 2.0, which likewise matches the participation metaphor, along with a cluster of definitions and perspectives around Learning 3.0. These metaphors and the conceptualization of learning as version 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 meddle with and help mapping the state of digital literacies and the present condition of participatory culture in education.

Anna Sfard introduced the two metaphors of learning as acquisition and learning as participation in her article “On Two Metaphors of Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One” (1998) in order to dig out “the metaphors that underlie both our spontaneous everyday conceptions and scientific theorizing” (Sfard 1998:4). The two metaphors represent differing views on knowledge and learning, but Sfard sees them as simultaneously present in teaching and learning and in educational research today, and she states that they are both needed as complementary views on knowledge and learning. So although my intention is to focus on participation as a metaphor of learning it doesn’t work without also shortly addressing acquisition as a metaphor of learning.

Catherine McLoughlin and Mark Lee placed Sfard’s two metaphors of learning in the context of Web 2.0 and social software tools and introduced the two metaphors in their article “The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity” (2008) as quoted in The End No 2:

“Sfard (1998) distinguishes between two metaphors of learning: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor. The former represents a passive receptive view according to which learning is mainly a process of acquiring chunks of information, while the latter perceives learning as a process of participating in various cultural practices and shared learning activities. In the participation metaphor, the focus is on the process (i.e., on learning to learn) and not so much on the outcomes or products. According to this view, knowledge does not exist in individual minds but is a product of participation in cultural practices, and learning is embedded in multiple networks of distributed individuals engaging in a variety of social processes, including dialogue, modeling, and “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning occurs through sustained interaction and conversation with practitioners.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:13-14)

Sfard points out that there is a great variety of terms describing learning connected to the acquisition metaphor: “…knowledge, concept, conception, idea, notion, misconception, meaning, sense, schema, fact, representation, material, contents. There are as many terms that denote the action of making such entities one’s own: reception, acquisition, construction, internalization, appropriation, transmission, attainment, development, accumulation, grasp. The teacher may help the student to attain his or her goal by delivering, conveying, facilitating, mediating, etcetera. Once acquired, the knowledge, like any other commodity, may now be applied, transferred (to a different context), and shared with others.” (Sfard 1998:5-6).

Sfard sees the participation metaphor as a new metaphor that by contrast has made the acquisition metaphor visible and marks a foundational shift, and she comments on the terms and the views on learning connected to the participation metaphor compared to the acquisition metaphor: “The talk about states has been replaced with attention to activities. In the image of learning that emerges from this linguistic turn, the permanence of having gives way to the constant flux of doing. While the concept of acquisition implies that there is a clear end point to the process of learning, the new terminology leaves no room for halting signals. Moreover, the ongoing learning activities are never considered separately from the context within which they take place. The context, in its turn, is rich and multifarious, and its importance is pronounced by talk about situatedness, contextuality, cultural embeddedness, and social mediation. The set of new key words that, along with the noun “practice”, prominently features the terms “discourse” and “communication” suggests that the learner should be viewed as a person interested in participation in certain kinds of activities rather than in accumulating private possessions.” (Sfard 1998:6)

In their adaptation of Sfard, in the article “The Knowledge Creation Metaphor – An Emergent Epistemological Approach to Learning”, Sami Paavola and Kai Hakkarainen add that “…the acquisition view represents a “monological” view on human cognition and activity, where important things are seen to happen within the human mind, whereas the participation view represents a “dialogical” view where the interaction with the culture and other people, but also with the surrounding (material) environment is emphasized.” (Paavola and Hakkarainen 2005:539). This dialogical view is what makes the participation metaphor (PM) promising to Sfard as a possible alternative complementary to the metaphor of learning as acquisition (AM):

“The vocabulary of participation brings the message of togetherness, solidarity, and collaboration. The PM language does not allow for talk about permanence of either human possessions or human traits. The new metaphor promotes an interest in people in action rather than in people “as such”. Being “in action” means being in a constant flux. The awareness of the change that never stops means refraining from a permanent labeling. Actions can be clever or unsuccessful, but these adjectives do not apply to the actors. For the learner, all options are always open, even if he or she carries a history of failure. Thus, quite unlike the AM, the PM seems to bring a message of an everlasting hope: Today you act one way; tomorrow you may act differently.” (Sfard 1998:8)

Describing the participation metaphor this way, it seems more suited for a time of change and complexity than the acquisition metaphor, but as already mentioned, Sfard’s point is that the two metaphors of learning are offering differing perspectives rather than competing perspectives (Sfard 1998:11; Dysthe 2013:50), and that they are both needed as complementary views on knowledge and learning to deal with the complexity of teaching and learning in the postmodern or the late modern.

In her article Sfard introduces a model mapping a comparison between the two metaphors of learning as acquisition and learning as participation:

                                              The Metaphorical Mappings

Acquisition metaphor                                                     Participation metaphor

Individual enrichment                Goal of learning            Community building

Acquisition of something           Learning                         Becoming a participant

Recipient (consumer),                Student                            Peripheral participant, apprentice (re-)constructor

Provider, facilitator,                   Teacher                            Expert, participant, preserver mediator                                                                                of practice/discourse

Property, possession, com-      Knowledge, concept        Aspect of practice/ discourse/ modity  (individual, public)                                                 activity

Having,possessing                     Knowing                           Belonging, participating, com-                                                                                                municating

(Sfard 1998:7)

The definitions of the two metaphors and the mapping of them in the model above link the participation metaphor to social and cultural practices and participatory culture, to the idea of communities of practice, to the idea of networks and rhizomes, and to socio-cultural and social constructivist theories of learning as they have been discussed throughout this series. But with a ‘splash’ of the acquisition metaphor added now and again.

Digital literacies within a model for digital literacy development

Digital literacies are part of the preconditions for navigating, learning of and understanding oneself, ‘the other’ and the world in a digital age, and they play a crucial role in debating education, what it is for and what it is about. Digital literacies are often said to be comprised of ICT/computer literacies, information literacies, media literacies, and more recently data literacies. There doesn’t exist one general accepted definition of digital literacy/digital literacies, but I think it is fair to propose, that digital literacies are more than digital skills, they are the multiplicity of literacies that occur when digital literacies are converging and used in practice in a specific context, a domain, a discipline or a subject matter (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:253), or as Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki have put it, balancing individual agency against social action and social learning:

“Digital Literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:255; Martin 2006:155)

In the article “DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development” (2006), Martin and Grudziecki propose a model for digital literacy development building on the evolution of literacy concepts:

“Bélisle (2006) characterizes the evolution of literacy concepts in terms of three models. The functional model views literacy as the mastery of simple cognitive and practical skills, and ranges from the simple view of literacy as the mechanical skills of reading and writing to a more developed approach (evinced by e.g. UNESCO, 2006) regarding literacy as the skills required to function effectively within the community. The socio-cultural practice model takes its basis that the literacy is only meaningful in its social context, and that to be literate is to have access to cultural, economic and political structures of society; in this sense, as Brian Street (1984) has asserted, literacy is ideological. The intellectual empowerment model argues that literacy can bring about the transformation of thinking capacities, particularly when new cognitive tools, such as writing, or new processing tools, such as those relying on digital technology, are developed. In viewing literacy within the context of a digital society as, at one level functional, at another engaged  with the social context, and at the third as transformative, we can see it as a powerful tool for the individual and the group to understand their own relationship to the digital.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:250)

These three models of literacy seen as levels of literacy form the model of digital literacy development consisting of digital competence as level 1 (the functional aspect), digital usage as level 2 (the socio-cultural aspect) and digital transformation as level 3 (the empowerment aspect). Martin and Grudziecki define the three levels this way:

Level 1: “At the foundation of the system is digital competence. This covers a wide range of topics, encompasses skill levels from basic visual recognition and manual skills to more critical, evaluative and conceptual approaches and also includes attitudes and awarenesses. Individuals or groups draw upon digital competence as is appropriate to their life situation, and return to gain more as new challenges are presented by the life situation…In moving from competence to literacy, however, we take on board the cruciality of situational embedding. Digital literacy involves the successful usage of digital competence within life situations. “ (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:255-256)

To be more specific, Martin and Grudziecki have listed thirteen processes that make up digital competence in their opinion. The processes are “…more-or-less sequential functions carried out with digital tools upon digital resources of any type, within the context of a specific task or problem.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:256). These processes of digital literacies are here mentioned from the start to the end and they are almost identical with the definition of digital literacy quoted earlier: statement, identification, ascession, evaluation, interpretation, organisation, integration, analysis, synthesis, creation, communication, dissemination, reflection. These abstract concepts are followed by helpful descriptions, that can be found in the article (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:257).

Level 2: “The central and crucial level is that of digital usage: the application of digital competence within specific professional or domain contexts. Users draw upon relevant digital competences and elements specific to the profession, domain or other life-context. Each user brings to this exercise his/her own history and personal/professional development. Digital usages are thus shaped by the requirements of the situation. The drawing upon digital competence is determined by the individual’s existing digital literacy and the requirements of the problem or task. Digital usages are therefore fully embedded within the activity of the professional, discipline or domain community. They become part of the culture of what Wenger has called “communities of practice”:

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis. (Wenger et al., 2002:4)

In communities of practice, learning becomes a communal activity intimately linked with everyday practice. Digital usages become embedded within the understandings and actions which evolve within the community and cause the community itself to evolve: the community of practice is thus also a community of learning.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:257-258)

So at this level digital literacies are put into action while individuals or groups are working on building the necessary digital competences relevant for the specific task or problem, and thus the term ‘digital usages’ gets a specific meaning within the situation: “…the informed use of digital competences within life-situations are termed here digital usages. These involve using digital tools to seek, find and process information, and then to develop a product or solution addressing the task or problem. This outcome will itself be the trigger for further action in the life context.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:258). Learning – and pedagogies, too, building on communities and networks  – go before tools, so to speak, but it involves improving one’s digital competences to engage in digital usages, as shown in a figure in the article depicting the processes in which digital literacies are put into action. This way, digital usages imply both personalization, participation and productivity, that were stressed by McLoughlin and Lee as pedagogical principles and clusters of practice in Learning 2.0: production as demonstrating learning and digital production as a means of becoming a part of the community and the culture of a domain, a discipline or a subject matter today.

Level 3: “The ultimate stage is that of digital transformation, and is achieved when the digital usages which have been developed enable innovation and creativity, and stimulate significant change within the professional or knowledge domain. This change could happen at the individual level, or at that of the group or organization. Whilst many digitally literate persons may achieve a transformative level, transformation is not a necessary condition of digital literacy.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:259)

Thus, the idea of digital usages as sources for creativity, innovation and change within a domain places the level of digital transformation and intellectual empowerment within the context of knowledge creation, too. The levels of digital competence and digital usage suffice in framing digital literacies and becoming confident with functional uses and skills, understanding, concepts, approaches and attitudes, as well as with the social and cultural practices within a profession, a domain, a discipline or a subject matter that put digital literacies in action as informed usages. But this also means, that there is no strict progression in working with digital literacies apart from the processes of digital literacies introduces at level 1: “Users do not necessarily follow a sequential path at each stage. They will draw upon whatever is relevant for the life-project, they are currently addressing; the pattern is more one of random rather than serial access, although there will be many cases where certain low level knowledge and skill is necessary in order to develop or understand material from a higher level.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:259). This situational embedding of digital literacies is the backdrop for Martin and Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development:

Digital transformation

  • Innovation/creativity
  • LEVEL 3

Digital Usage

  • Professional/discipline application
  • LEVEL 2

Digital Competence

  • Skills, concepts, approaches, attitudes, etc.
  • LEVEL 1

The model encapsulates Gregory Bateson’s theory of learning introduced in The End No 2 but especially draws on the three forms of learning in Bateson’s theory that are emphasized by Zygmunt Bauman: primary learning, which is ‘to learn’ – although it is not connected  to a specific content or curriculum in Martin and Grudziecki’s case – is at stake at the level of digital competence, while secondary learning, that  stresses ‘learning how to learn’ and the understanding of ‘learning to learn’, is at work at the level of digital usage, and tertiary learning, which cultivates ‘re-learning’ and  “means training the capacity for ‘changing the frames’” as Bauman put it, might take place at the level of digital transformation. But it is not a must in Martin and Grudziecki’s model, whereas Bauman highlights cultivating tertiary learning as a “supreme adaptational value”, a precondition for living in a rapidly changing world, and an indispensable “equipment for life” as quoted in The End No 2. In other words, the model of digital literacy development is a model that makes room for uncertainty, complexity and change as well as it is nurturing agency and intellectual empowerment.

A project taking off from the model of digital literacy development

An example of how the model has been expanded and integrated in a research and development project in primary and secondary school can be found in Karin Tweddell Levinsen and Birgitte Holm Sørensen’s article “Digital Literacy and Subject Matter Learning” (2015). In the project “…students worked with digital production of subjects and cross-disciplinary learning objects that were aimed at other students. These learning designs appeared to produce arenas in which students challenged and developed their digital literacy.” (Levinsen og Sørensen 2015: 305)(Sørensen og Levinsen 2017). As Levinsen and Sørensen write, they expanded Martin and Grudziecki’s model of digital literacy development in the research and development project. They briefly introduce their theoretical framework this way:

“We have chosen Martin’s (2006) interpretations of digital literacy, as it combines specific digitally related competencies with bildung. We expand Martin’s digital literacy-perspective with Castells’ general literacy or bildung-perspective of the self-programmable person who meets challenges in informal ways and who collaborates when new knowledge and competences are needed in order to cope with an ever-changing environment (Castells 2000). The self-programmable person breaks with downloading, which is the habitual practice of repeating previous experiences and routines (Hildebrandt et al. 2012). In relation to our suggested approaches to acquiring digital literacy, we look to Martin’s and Castell’s work as the providers of learning objectives. Achieving these learning objectives demands creativity, which is also a twenty-first century competency (EU-Commission 2006). As neither creativity nor digital literacy always emerge spontaneously, however, but have to be facilitated, we use Boden’s (1990) work as the provider of a learning design-frame, as Boden defines creativity as the ability to generate new and valuable ideas, as well as offers practices that invite creativity.” (Levinsen og Sørensen 2015:308)

“Boden (1990) identifies three ways of exercising creativity:

  • Combinatorial creativity – unfamiliar combinations of the familiar inspire associations that allow new ideas to materialize;
  • Explorative creativity – when a ‘space’, defined by domain-specific generative rules, is explored for potentials and limitations, and the space is subsequently expanded;
  • Transformative creativity – when a ‘space’, defined by domain-specific generative rules, is not only expanded, but the defining rules are changed into new and fundamentally different rules and ideas.

According to Boden, it is not possible to plan for specific creative products or processes. It is possible, however, to design obstructions that challenge students in various ways towards creative agency, and that in this context are aimed at digital literacy.” (Levinsen og Sørensen 2015:309)(Skovbjerg og Ejsing-Duun 2017).

‘Learning to learn’, ‘re-learning’, self-directed learning, agency and innovation are some of the issues in this theoretical framework that also have been discussed in relation to networked learning and to rhizomatic learning throughout this series of blog posts, at the latest in the closing sections of The End No 2. So potentially the approaches in this project on digital production in K-12 schools might prepare for and lead to any of the pedagogies and pedagogical approaches on my list being practiced in higher education. But it starts off with digital literacies.

Adding up

So to add up, digital literacies are plural, context-dependent and socially negotiated, as I quoted Doug Belshaw in an earlier blogpost ,“Web literacies – a part of digital literacies” (August 2015). Belshaw’s definition of digital literacies – recaptured in “Recognising, developing & credentialing digital literacies” (2017) –  and his eight essential elements of digital literacies are the result of a meta-analysis of digital literacy frameworks that reveals what the frameworks have in common and names the elements involved in digital literacies:

Belshaw2-300x234

But at the same time Belshaw is also stressing a point made by Allan Martin: “Digital literacy is an ongoing and dynamic process – it is not a threshold which, once achieved, guarantees familiarity with the digital for ever after; it is rather a temporary achievement which will be good as long as the current environment does not change…Digital literacy is a condition, not a threshold.” (Martin 2006:157). So digital literacies development is a ‘constraint’ and an ongoing challenge whenever technological, social and cultural changes occur. The model of digital literacy development, the listing of the processes of digital literacies and the visualization of digital literacies in action in Allan Martin and Jan Grudziecki’s model help conceptualizing and understanding this condition of the digital age. They see the digital as implicated in “the genesis and maintenance” of the “post-modern” society (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:250), inspired by Zygmunt Bauman and Ulrich Beck, and as mentioned earlier, the model of digital literacy development is a model that makes room for uncertainty, complexity and change as well as it is nurturing agency and intellectual empowerment. And this is, as quoted earlier, a main concern to Martin and Grudziecki:

“In viewing literacy within the context of a digital society as, at one level functional, at another engaged with the social context, and at a third as transformative, we can see it as a powerful tool for the individual and the group to understand their own relationship to the digital.” (Martin and Grudziecki 2006:250)

But it is not just a matter for students and learners to understand their own relationship to the digital, it is also a matter of concern for teaching and learning to understand its relationship to the digital and its role in digital literacy development. At the beginning of this blog post David Buckingham comments on the question of staying relevant in education: “Rather, enthusiasts for new media typically claim that they entail a distinctly different orientation towards information, a different phenomenology of use, a different politics of knowledge and a different mode of learning. If this is the case, it has potentially far-reaching implications for pedagogy – not just for what we teach but also for how we teach.” (Buckingham 2010:289) And exactly this argument is the backdrop for placing Sfard’s two metaphors of learning in the context of Web 2.0 and social software tools and platforms, as McLoughlin and Lee does. The metaphor of learning as participation represents this foundational shift in how learning and knowledge is understood that has been strongly connected to the advance of the affordances of Web 2.0 and social and participatory platforms and networking sites. But in fact, David Buckingham doesn’t uncritically accept this idea of a foundational shift and reflects thoughtful on these claims as a kind of answer to his own wondering:

“New media can offer new opportunities for participation, for creative communication and for the generation of content, at least for some people in some contexts. However, the competences that people need in order to take up those opportunities are not equally distributed, and they do not arise simply because people have access to technology. Furthermore, it would be wrong to assume that participation is always a good thing or that it is necessarily democratic, countercultural or liberating. Creative production can be a powerful means of learning – whether it involves remixing of various kinds, appropriating and adapting existing texts, or creating wholly new ones, or simply exploiting the potential for networked communication. However, all of this needs critical reflection, and it needs to be combined with critical analysis – although how that combination happens is a genuinely difficult question.” (Buckingham 2010:301)

“More broadly, media education itself needs to adopt a stronger and more critical stance towards the celebration of technology in education and the kind of market-driven techno-fetishism that is mistakenly seen by some as the cutting edge of educational change. There is a risk here that media education might be seen as just another way of importing computer technology into schools – or indeed as a sexy alternative to the wasteland of spreadsheets, file management, and instrumental training that constitutes most “information technology” courses in schools. There is an opportunity here, but it should not involve abandoning the traditional critical imperatives of media education – which are about much more than practical skills or the sentimental appeal to “creativity”. (Buckingham 2010:301)

However, Buckingham’s concerns might not be that far from Anna Sfard’s point of view and Martin and Grudziecki’s model as it might seem. Sfard’s mapping of the metaphor of learning as participation is easy to recognize in Martin and Grudziecki’s model and in Belshaw’s definition and also shows up in the present discussions about how to define digital literacies and how to integrate them in teaching and learning. These discussions often circle around aspects of doing, being in action, usage and practice while stressing ‘belonging’, ‘participating’, ‘communicating’ as learning objectives, core activities and ways of meaning-making, and they are often based on a dialogical view on human cognition and activity. (Dysthe 2013:51-52). But to follow Sfard, the metaphor of learning as acquisition also always needs to be present as complementary to the metaphor of learning as participation: they are both needed as complementary views on knowledge and learning to deal with the complexity of teaching and learning in the postmodern or the late modern. And that sometimes seems to be forgotten. It is here Buckingham’s call for critical analysis and critical reflection comes in relevant. Martin and Grudziecki’s model for digital literacy development makes room for differing views on literacy and digital literacy/literacies, combining them in a united approach, it relates to Gregory Bateson’s and Zygmunt Bauman’s three forms of learning focusing on ‘to learn’, on ‘learning how to learn’ and on ‘re-learning’, and, not least, the model meets the need for the metaphor of learning as acquisition as well as the metaphor of learning as participation in teaching and learning, although the central and crucial level of their model is that of digital usage and participation.

To be continued…

Further reading:

Belshaw, Doug (2017): Recognising, developing & credentialing digital literacies, Presentation at iEdTech 2017

Buckingham, David (2010): Do We Really Need Media Education 2.0? Teaching Media in the Age of Participatory Media, Drotner, K. and Schroder, K. (eds.): Digital Content Creation, 287-304, New York: Peter Lang

Dysthe, Olga, Bernhardt, Nana, Esbjørn, Line (2013): Dialogue-based teaching: the art museum as a learning space, Copenhagen: Skoletjenesten, Bergen: Fakbokforlaget

Levinsen, Karin Tweddell and Sørensen, Birgitte Holm (2015): Digital Literacy and Subject Matter Learning, Jefferies, A. & Cubric, M. (Eds.): Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on e-Learning – University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK, 305-312, Reading, UK: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited

Martin, Allan (2006): A european framework for digital literacy, Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy Nr. 02, 151-161

Martin, Allan and Jan Grudziecki (2006): DigEuLit: Concepts and Tools for Digital Literacy Development, Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences, 5:4,249-267, DOI:10.11120/ital.2006.05040249

McLoughlin, Catherine and Lee, Mark J.W (2008): The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, 10-27

Paavola, Sami and Hakkarainen, Kai (2005):The Knowledge Creation Metaphor – An Emergent Epistemological Approach to Learning, Science & Education, 14, 535-557, DOI: 10.1007/s11191-004-5157-0

Sfard, Anna (1998): On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One, Educational Researcher, March 1998, 4-13

Skovbjerg, Helle Marie og Ejsing-Duun, Stine (2017): Kreativitetsprocesser, Sørensen, Birgitte Holm, Levinsen, Karin og Skovbjerg, Helle Marie (red.): Digital produktion. Deltagelse og læring, 61-81, Frederikshavn: Dafolo

Sørensen, Birgitte Holm og Levinsen, Karin Tweddell (2017): Elevernes digitale produktion og eleverne som didaktiske designere – Introduktion, Sørensen, Birgitte Holm, Levinsen, Karin og Skovbjerg, Helle Marie (red.): Digital produktion. Deltagelse og læring, 11-26, Frederikshavn: Dafolo

Photo by Mezdoce on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND

Elna Mortensen

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 3:1

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 2

5370376951_55fbe97076_qAfter quite some time of thinking, this is a summing up and an elaboration on some of the issues that have been under scrutiny in my explorations in this series of blog posts. It represents a recursive process, or maybe a matter of bricolage, as it reveals itself in four parts that can be read as one fairly short piece and three quite long pieces with pauses in between, or as a genuinely long read tuning in on 1) pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance, 2) learning modes and a posthuman perspective, 3) the state of participatory culture and digital literacies, and 4) knowledge management and learning for and from the future.

The Learning Mode Grid

I am once again facing Steve Wheeler’s Learning Mode Grid – to be seen in The End No 1 – and my question about which pedagogies are suited for connecting knowledge while education is developing from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 (Wheeler 2015:33-45). And yet, I have been building equally on Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 in my comments on pedagogies and teaching and learning up till now in this series, so let me elaborate a little bit on the relationship between the developments of the internet and the web and the pedagogies and learning principles that are suited for integrating both emerging social and cultural practices, new media and new smart devices into contemporary education: what is meant by Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0?

In her paper “The Futures of Learning 3: What Kind of Pedagogies for the 21st Century?” (2015) Cynthia Luna Scott introduces Learning 1.0 and Learning 2.0. Learning 1.0 is defined this way:

“The standard learning model, Learning 1.0, evolved in the early part of the twentieth century and incorporates the aspects of schooling generally considered ‘normal and proper: students divided by grades, lessons by subjects, tests to the end of the year, and high school units collected until graduation’ (Kerchner, 2011). In this model, schooling and most other forms of formal learning are built on the principle of acquisition and storage of information with a view to analysing and eventually using it (p.1). ‘Pedagogy becomes the means to transfer knowledge through known and authoritative channels’ (p.2). Traditional roles prevail – in other words, the teachers teach and students learn.” (Scott 2015:8)

Playing on the internet being originally a network of computers building on databases and acquisition and storage of information and knowledge, the definition of Learning 1.0 matches the traditional lecture and textbook models of education Weller and Haythorntwaithe also reflect on in their models of education. And as a parallel to their emerging models of education, Scott abandons Learning 1.0 and advocates for Learning 2.0 instead:

“This model has outgrown its usefulness. Kerchner (2011) argues that Learning 2.0 is a very different proposition, consisting of a more flexible, personalized and experiential form of learning. He attributes the inspiration for this model in part to the internet, but mainly to recent changes in how people think about learning (p.3).” (Scott 2015:8)

Learning 2.0 is linked to the business model of Web 2.0, the principles behind it and the rise of social media (Wheeler 2015:169), which have basically been the backdrop of my writings on this blog so far. But just to be sure, here is a condensed definition of Web 2.0:

“In addition to the openness of Web 2.0, there is an “architecture of participation” (Barsky & Purdon, 2006; O’Reilly, 2005), which entails sharing of digital artifacts by groups, teams, and individuals, ensuring that the Web is responsive to users. It thrives on the concept of collective intelligence, or “wisdom of the crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004), which acknowledges that when working cooperatively and sharing ideas, communities can be significantly more productive than individuals working in isolation.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:10)

Learning 2.0

More than Kerchner, Scott is influenced by Catherine McLoughlin and Mark J. W. Lee who in their article “The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity” (2008) couple up pedagogy with what they call Pedagogy 2.0 and “social software that enables participation, communication, personalization and productivity (e.g. content creation), as these are elements of what it means to be educated in a networked age (Bryant 2006).” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12). So they elaborate on what rethinking pedagogy in the context of Web 2.0 means for teaching and learning:

“The “new” pedagogy is therefore not a matter of simply offering learners the technologies they are likely to use in the knowledge economy – these, like the knowledge itself, are subject to rapid change. According to Beetham and Sharpe (2007), it involves engaging learners in apprenticeship for different kinds of knowledge practice, new processes of inquiry, dialogue, and connectivity. Practices underpinning effective, innovative pedagogy will differ depending on the subject area or professional discipline in which learners seek to become proficient but are likely to include some or all of the following:

  • digital competencies that focus on creativity and performance;
  • strategies for meta-learning, including learner-designed learning;
  • inductive and creative modes of reasoning and problem-solving;
  • learner-driven content creation and collaborative knowledge building;
  • horizontal (peer-to-peer) learning and contribution to communities of learning (e.g. through social tagging, collaborative editing, and peer review.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12)

By placing apprenticeship for knowledge practices and processuality at the center of teaching and learning, the focus is moved away from mainly transmitting content towards “helping students to understand each discipline (or subject) as a system of thought (with its own codes, methods, strengths and limits)”, as Scott mentions (Scott 2015:14), and this involves the four types of skills and capabilities advocated for by Tony Bates and listed in The End No 1: the combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills to be practiced in highly complex situations.

The ‘new’ purpose of learning is exactly reflected in the interplay of digital affordances and the changing view on learning according to McLoughlin and Lee:

“Calls for change and innovation in pedagogy are representative of an emerging view of learning as knowledge creation (Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005) and mirror the societal shift towards a knowledge age, in which creativity and originality are highly values. Applying social software tools to teaching and learning compels us to reconsider how the affordances and interconnectedness offered by Web 2.0 impacts on pedagogy and opens up the debate on how we conceptualize the dynamics of student learning.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:13).

To grasp this emerging view of learning as knowledge creation and different kinds of knowledge practice McLoughlin and Lee introduce knowledge creation as a new metaphor of learning to add to the metaphors of learning as acquisition and learning as participation:

“Sfard (1998) distinguishes between two metaphors of learning: the acquisition metaphor and the participation metaphor. The former represents a passive receptive view according to which learning is mainly a process of acquiring chunks of information, while the latter perceives learning as a process of participating in various cultural practices and shared learning activities. In the participation metaphor, the focus is on the process (i.e., on learning to learn) and not so much on the outcomes or products. According to this view, knowledge does not exist in individual minds but is a product of participation in cultural practices, and learning is embedded in multiple networks of distributed individuals engaging in a variety of social processes, including dialogue, modeling, and “legitimate peripheral participation” (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning occurs through sustained interaction and conversation with practitioners.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:13-14)

“To keep pace with the content creation processes enabled by Web 2.0 and social software tools, it appears to be necessary to go a step further and venture beyond the acquisition and participation dichotomy. Paavola and Hakkarainen (2005) propose the knowledge creation metaphor of learning, which builds on common elements of Carl Bereiter’s (2002) theory of knowledge building, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi’s (1995) model of knowledge creation, and Yrjö Engeström’s (1987,1999) theory of expansive learning. From the perspective of the knowledge creation metaphor, learning means becoming part of a community through participation, exchange of ideas, sharing, contribution of ideas, and knowledge generation. Students are both producers and consumers (“prosumers”) of knowledge, ideas and artifacts. .. The knowledge construction paradigm can be appropriately applied to learning environments where digital affordances and tools enable engagement in self-directed activities, and learners exercise agency in moving beyond mere participation in communities of inquiry to become active creators of ideas, resources, and knowledge artifacts.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:14)

To conceptualize the dýnamics of student learning as a motive force in a Web 2.0 context, McLoughlin and Lee coin the term ‘Pedagogy 2.0’ and highlights the three p’spersonalization, participation, productivity – as pedagogical principles and clusters of practice in Pedagogy 2.0. But besides that, Pedagogy 2.0 can also be seen as a framework for revising pedagogies while emphasizing the power of social software tools and social media, networks and communities, including communities of practice. Pedagogy 2.0 involves Learning 2.0, so to speak, so the three p’s function both as guidelines for designing learning activities and as strategies for meta-learning through co-creation of learning and knowledge construction. Learning to learn is at stake here:

1. Participation opens up to both horizontal peer-to-peer learning due to communities of practice, communities and networks and to personalization when following one’s own interests and choices in dialogue and collaboration with others:

“ A defining feature of Pedagogy 2.0 is that alongside the increased socialization of learning and teaching, there is a focus on a less prescriptive curriculum and a greater emphasis on teacher- to- student partnerships in learning, with teachers as co-learners…”

“…not only is this element of Pedagogy 2.0 reflective of the “participation model of learning” (Sfard, 1998), as opposed to the “acquisition” model, but it also adds a further dimension to participative learning by increasing the level of socialization and collaboration with experts, community, and peer groups, and by fostering connections that are often global in reach. Jenkins (2007, p. 51) aptly summarizes the process as follows:

Learning in a networked society involves understanding how networks work and how to deploy them for one’s own ends. It involves understanding the social and cultural contexts within which different information emerges…and how to use networks to get one’s own work out into the world and in front of a relevant and, with hope, appreciative public.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008-16-17)

2. Personalization is about engaging in personally meaningful learning by giving learners control over the whole learning process through facilitation and modeling and eventually fostering self-directed learning. The quest for learning and being part of self-directed, or learner-centered and self- regulated learning as it has also been named, is not new according to McLoughlin and Lee:

“The learning experiences that are made possible by social software tools are active, process based, anchored in and driven by learner’s interests, and therefore have the potential to cultivate self regulated, independent learning. Self regulated learning…refers to the ability of a learner to prepare for his/her own learning, take the necessary steps to learn, manage and evaluate the learning and provide self feedback and judgement, while simultaneously maintaining a high level of motivation. A self regulated learner is able to execute learning activities that lead to knowledge creation, comprehension and higher order learning…by using processes such as monitoring, reflection, testing, questioning and self evaluation.”   (McLoughlin and Lee 2010:29)

Nevertheless, four areas go into the development of personalization through digital technologies, and pedagogy must:

  • ensure that learners are capable of making informed educational decisions;
  • diversify and recognize different forms of skills and knowledge
  • create diverse learning environments; and
  • include learner focused forms of feedback and assessment. (McLoughin and Lee 2010:33)

One version of personalized learning is peer-to-peer self-organized learning that draws on groups, on egocentric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs) as well as on communities or communities of practice, while another version is following a more individual agenda where learners occasionally collaborate with others when needed. In either case there needs to be room for choice: choice of problems, questions, ideas and issues to work with; choice of cases, activities and tasks to engage in; choice of resources, networks and tools to use; choice of how to engage in knowledge creation, networks and communities; and choice of how to reflect on response and feedback. It might open up not only to motivation but might also cause in-depth engagement in a discipline or a subject matter and end up developing generic skills, competences and transferable knowledge.

3. Productivity is part of both the process of learning and a result of learning when it takes the form of ideas, resources, concepts, work in progress or knowledge artefacts. User-generated content is being placed in the context of education and might be supplemented by e-portfolios tracing and incorporating the pathways of learning, by asynchronous and synchronous dialogue and discussion, by reflective writing or multi modal production as blogs, summaries, reviews by individuals, groups or in a community, and by sharing resources, ideas, people and experts found in networks and communities (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:18). Demonstrating learning through production and performance of ideas, resources, concepts, work in progress and knowledge artefacts is closely connected to the idea of knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning introduced earlier:

“Students are capable of creating and generating ideas, concepts, and knowledge, and it is arguable that the ultimate goal of learning in the knowledge age is to enable this form of creativity and productivity.” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:17)

Engaging learners in apprenticeship for different kinds of knowledge practice will include not only a re-definition of the role of learners but also a re-definition of the role of educators and teachers. Besides becoming co-learners, Scott suggests that teachers also need to become ‘learning coaches’ – or facilitators, as I would put it:

“Teachers as learning coaches will encourage students to interact with knowledge – to understand, critique, manipulate, design, create and transform it. Teachers will need to reinforce learner’s intellectual curiosity, problem identification and problem solving skills, and their capacity to construct new knowledge with others (Bull and Gilbert, 2012)…A key part of their role will be to model confidence, openness, persistence and commitment for learners in the face of uncertainty (Bull and Gilbert, 2012)” (Scott 2015:14)

So the three p’s, participation, personalization and productivity, are overlapping and complementary pedagogical principles and practices that are interacting with the emerging view of learning as knowledge creation also paid attention to by Martin Weller, Caroline Haythornthwaite and Tony Bates. To use Haythornthwaite’s words, the questions of “…how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base” (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)  /link/  summarize not only the main concerns of Learning 2.0 but might also serve as a bridge to Learning 3.0.

Learning 3.0

Learning 3.0 has not yet been explored, standardized and conceptualized fully the same way as Learning 1.0 and Learning 2.0, although several people have taken on framing what is meant by Learning 3.0. Learning 3.0 is characterized by interconnectivity and is based on user- and machine-generated content and data. Content is contextually reinvented through the connections it becomes part of while existing data are being re-connected for other smarter uses (Wheeler 2012). So the notion of knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning already present in Learning 2.0 is being highlighted and transferred to Learning 3.0. At the same time, the issues of learning change their focus towards working with emerging knowledge.

Learning 3.0 is linked to the semantic web and is conditioned by connecting people, ideas, questions, devices, data, information, communication and knowledge, so that the processes of learning are based on the confrontation of multiple perspectives through learners engaging with resources, ideas, people, experts and serendipity in ego-centric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs), other kinds of networks and communities, including communities of practice – like the learning processes of rhizomatic learning and networked learning, I compared in Part 5 of this series . But I would like to introduce a broader understanding of the semantic web which includes the Internet of Things (IoT) because it is the intersection of ‘things’ and the networks that connect them and the data, the information, the communication and the knowledge they generate that is the concern with IoT (Weber and Wong 2017) and the basis of interpretations, meaning-making and decisions:

“The internet started by connecting computers; in its second major phase it connected people and organizations. A third major phase of connectivity now emerging is about connections between ‘things’. While there is no precise and agreed definition of IoT, what exists is a proliferation of descriptive phrases which imply that something resembling a difference in kind (not just a difference of degree) is happening or is about to happen at the intersection of these things and the networks that connect them (Bassi and Horn, 2008). Importantly, the ’things’ that IoT will connect subsume and go beyond devices with computational capabilities, to include any and potentially all devices that have some ability to sense their environment or generate data about their interactions with other devices and/or people.” (Weber and Wong 2017)

So Beetham and Shape’s point of view is still counting in Learning 3.0: 21st century pedagogy will involve “engaging learners in apprenticeships for different kinds of knowledge practice, new processes of inquiry, dialogue and connectivity” (McLoughlin and Lee 2008:12), but the conditions for and the consequences of working with data in a world of complexity and uncertainty become a new issue with Learning 3.0, I would say. Also, when knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning has an increased focus on sensing and working with emerging knowledge in order to produce new knowledge, it means that knowledge creation very easily becomes equated with innovation. But it might be a too narrow view on knowledge creation. The creation of new knowledge not only includes understanding a domain, a discipline or a subject matter as a system of thought with its own codes, methods, strengths and limits, as I quoted Scott earlier, but it also includes working with creativity and imagination, serendipity and bricolage in a context of contingency and complexity, so that the processes of producing new ideas, new concepts and new knowledge show ways of evolving and using a knowledge base, in Haythornthwaite’s sense, that possibly involves data. It is a process of creating knowledge that is in interaction with the semantic web, but it is also challenged by it and by artificial intelligence. I have already discussed knowledge production in relation to rhizomatic learning in such a way in Part 5 of this series, that rhizomatic learning clearly qualifies as a pedagogy that agrees with Learning 3.0, and I just want to add that I still see the rest of the pedagogies on my list as suitable for Learning 3.0, too. The list is to be found in The End No 1.

A cluster of definitions and perspectives around Learning 3.0

As an example of the somewhat diverse conceptualizations connected to Learning 3.0, I would like to present a cluster of definitions and perspectives around concepts like Education 3.0, Society 3.0, e-learning 3.0, and the knowmad society, that might all merge into an understanding of what Learning 3.0 might become. In her blog post “Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile learning” (2013), Jackie Gerstein confirms that the connection between self-directed learning, participatory culture and knowledge creation are important in Learning 3.0. In favor of connectivism she states that “Education 3.0 is a connectivist, heutagogical approach to teaching and learning”, building on self-determined learning, or self-directed learning, that involves non-linear learning, connectivity and learner choice. In her blog post Gerstein presents an e-learning grid where the characterization of e-learning 3.0 can be seen as an attempt to defining Learning 3.0 and trying to meet the affordances of the semantic web, but Gerstein also introduces the concept Education 3.0 that goes well together with Learning 3.0. Here Gerstein builds on John Moravec who coins the concepts Society 3.0 and Education 3.0 in his presentation “Towards Society 3.0: A New Paradigm for 21st Century Education” (2008):

According to Morvec, Society 3.0 is an innovation society characterized by conveying technology and social change, expressed by using the notion of ‘the singularity’, and accordingly schools and education need to focus on sharing, remixing and capitalizing on new ideas, on producing new knowledge and on embracing accelerating change rather than fighting it. So knowledge creation as a metaphor of learning is part of John Moravec’s thinking, but here the idea of knowledge creation is closely connected to innovation, and in his talk “Rise of Knowmads” (2013) Moravec states what this focus on innovation means for schools (and education in general, I would add): they need to provide education for learners who are used to learn, unlearn and adapt to new ideas. In his equally sociological and pedagogical analysis and its future-facing aspirations and expectations Moravec is expressing ideas involving theories of the knowledge society and eventually also predicts the rise of the precariate:

 

In other words, Learning 3.0 must provide spaces and opportunities for teaching and learning that allow for blended and online learning working with emerging knowledge and knowledge creation as ways of evolving and using a knowledge base. And this version of Learning 3.0 involves innovation and the new world of data as part of teaching and learning in a domain, a discipline or a subject matter.

But what should actually decide the top issues for education in the postmodern, or the late modern: an economic, technological and growth perspective according to the ideas of the knowledge society , or the idea of the public good, preparing for life and a common interest in co-creating education and society as part of imagining the future? Steve Wheeler gave a presentation some years ago that pins down his view on Learning 3.0 in the context of technological change, social change and possible futures:

Not surprisingly, IoT, the Internet of Things, turns up in Wheeler’s presentation, but I think that in an educational context the new data, IoT will generate, and the ways of working with data as knowledge practices, that evolve with IoT, are as important as the devices, the computers and other ‘things’, although computers and ‘things’ can provide and mediate learning activities and spaces for learning. Having briefly defined the Internet of Things in their article “The new world of data: Four provocations on the Internet of Things”, Steven Weber and Richmond Y. Wong introduce more fully a pragmatic definition of IoT that foregrounds two components:

“Component 1 is about how data flows. Older distinctions (like Machine-to-Machine or Business-to-Consumer, M2M or B2C) are becoming obsolete in the IoT, where data moves in a more truly networked fashion that disregards most of these boundaries. Component 2 is about the granularity of these data flows./…The Internet of Things combines these two definitional components. As data flows move toward becoming continuous, 24/7, and correlated through networked connectivity with many other data flows of similar granularity, we have something that is more likely to demonstrate a difference of kind and thus be called IoT./…Our definition foregrounds the ‘sensing’ side of the IoT not the ‘acting’ side; it puts sensors rather than actuators at the center of the discussion.” (Weber and Wong 2017).

“Why then, if the Internet has always been an Internet of things, and ubiquitous computing research and deployments have occurred for decades, has the phrase IoT burst onto the scene in the last few years?/…However, we think there is something simpler and more profound in play that marks IoT as something different. Five developments have come together in time to make today’s IoT (and tomorrow’s) something different, possibly in the same way that the development of the World Wide Web was transformative and more than simply an application running on the Internet./ The first ingredient is the rapid decline in cost and size of sensors. The second is nearly ubiquitous and inexpensive wireless connectivity. The third is distributed ‘super’-computing, conveniently masquerading as mobile phones. The fourth is the recent development and widespread deployment of software tools for managing and working with very large data sets. Fifth is the development of an ecosystem of knowledge, techniques, institutions, and capital that purport to make valuable use out of large quantities of data./ Putting those five ingredients together creates a network that has a distinctively higher level of interdependencies and potential classes of applications, and thus deserves a new label like IoT (Zelenkauskaite, et al.,2012).” (Weber and Wong 2017)

We may not anticipate the social and cultural changes that the interconnected, interdependent and boundary-crossing nature of the Internet of Things might lead to, but they will most likely affect our assumptions about what teaching and learning ought to be like. But I would also like to touch on the other side of the Internet of Things: robotics and artificial intelligence. It worries Weber and Wong:

“We have emphasized for the purpose of this paper the sensing (and by implication the data) side of IoT based on a view of comparative developments in computation and robotics. That distinction may very well collapse over time, in which case critical choices about autonomous decision making and where humans do and do not belong ‘in the loop’ will rise to the fore and could re-cast many of the issues we’ve raised. In the longer term the relationship between human and machine autonomy may be the most important choice that IoT presents to individuals and societies;” (Weber and Wong 2017)

Robotics and artificial intelligence are not only threats of the future, it is already a dimension to consider in education today, although many educators and institutions from K-12 to university are still working on reimagining and recasting pedagogies for a digital age and implementing Learning 2.0 in their teaching and learning while considering to what degree they want to cave in. Or they have moved on to Learning 3.0 but are all the same still evaluating how Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 might benefit their domain, discipline, subject matter or institution. Nevertheless, I think it is important to be aware of what has already arrived by the back door and is present without us noticing, what is in the melting pot, what are buzz words to critically examine and discuss, and what might influence Learning 3.0, so here is Roy Clariana’s presentation on artificial intelligence in e-learning:

In his presentation Clariana refers to the report “Intelligence Unleashed. An argument for AI in Education” (2016) by Rose Luckin, Wayne Holmes, Mark Griffiths and Laurie B. Forcier. The report introduces artificial intelligence and definitions and issues that are relevant for discussing the implications of artificial intelligence in education, no matter if you are positive, more hesitating or reluctant or purely negative towards the idea. Luckin et al distinguish domain specific artificial intelligence that focuses on one thing (like playing Go or driving a car) from general artificial intelligence which is able to perform any intellectual task a human being can perform, and as they say – which might comfort Weber and Wong a little: “And right now, general AI does not exist.” (Luckin, Holmes, Griffiths and Forcier 2016:15).

One idea connects the report on AI in education and the presentations by John Moravec, Steve Wheeler and Roy Clariana: the notion of ‘the singularity’ shows up as an explicit or implicit point of reference in all of them. The term ‘technological singularity’ by Vernon Vinge coins the idea of a tipping point “…at which an AI-powered computer or robot becomes capable of redesigning and improving itself or of designing AI more advanced than itself. Inevitably, it is argued, this will lead to AI that far exceeds human intelligence, understanding, and control, and to what Vinge describes as the end of the human era…” (Luckin, Holmes, Griffiths and Forcier 2016:15). As an imagination of the future ‘the singularity’ signifies both fears and possibilities that might influence not only the educational thinkers and researchers introduced here but also will affect more generally debates on what education is for and what education is about. And although ‘the singularity’ and general artificial intelligence still belong to the future, this opens up to a posthuman perspective on the intermediating dynamics between the human, the digital computer, computation and things and to the thinking of N. Katherine Hayles.

Learning 3.0 and a posthuman perspective

In an interview  a few years ago Hayles – who is intensely concerned about the relations between science, literature and technology – explains her idea of posthumanism:

“Posthumanism as I define it in my book How we became Posthuman (1999) was in part about the deconstruction of the liberal humanist subject and the attributes normally associated with it such as autonomy, free will, self determination and so forth. What I saw happening in the 1980s and 1990s was the rise of thinking about human beings that was in flat contradictions to all these attributes; that was what I called posthumanism. One of its manifestations was the idea that if you capture the informational patterns of the human brain, you could then upload it to a computer and achieve effective immortality. To me this seemed absolutely wrong, even pernicious, because it plays on mere fantasies of cognition and of what constitutes human life. I was, at this point, very concerned to insert embodiment back into the equation.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:95-96).

In an earlier article, Hayles commented on the project of her book in terms a little closer to the cybernetics perspective that is also a part of the book:

“…I argued that a shift was under way from the human to the posthuman. I regard the posthuman, like the ‘human’, as a historically specific and contingent term, rather than a stable ontology. Whereas the ‘human’ has since the Enlightenment been associated with rationality, free will, autonomy and a celebration of consciousness as the seat of identity, the posthuman in its more nefarious forms is construed as an informational pattern that happens to be instantiated in a biological substrate. There are, however, more benign forms of the posthuman that can serve as effective counterbalances to the liberal humanist subject, transforming untrammeled free will into a recognition that agency is always relational and distributed, and correcting an over-emphasis on consciousness to a more accurate view of cognition as embodied through human flesh and extended into the social and technological environment.” (Hayles 2006:160-161).

By the time of the article Hayles had added a fourth stage to the mapping of cybernetics in her book, a stage she calls the regime of computation:

“The characteristic dynamic of this formation is the penetration of computational processes not only into every aspect of biological, social, economic and political realms but also into the construction of reality itself…In highly developed and networked societies such as the US, human awareness comprises the tip of a huge pyramid of data flows, most of which occur between machines. Emphasizing the dynamic and interactive nature of these exchanges, Thomas Whalen (2000) has called this global phenomenon the cognisphere. Expanded to include not only the Internet but also networked and programmable systems that feed into it, including wired and wireless data flows across the electro-magnetic spectrum, the cognisphere gives a name and shape to the globally interconnected cognitive systems in which humans are increasingly embedded. As the name implies, humans are not the only actors within this system; machine cognizers are crucial players as well. If our machines are ‘lively’…they are also more intensely cognitive than ever before in human history.” (Hayles 2006:161)

This is a stage where the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence have become parts of the systems, as far as I can see (but eventually check out Hayles (2009)). It makes it worth considering if the computational metaphor Hayles introduces here can also be seen as a metaphor of learning, eventually being added to the line of metaphors of learning introduced earlier: learning as acquisition, learning as participation and learning as knowledge creation. It would place learning as computation as a metaphor of learning belonging to Learning 3.0. And this brings me back to the interview with Hayles, where she is being asked if we can still account for creativity and change – two aspects most relevant to my narrative of education, teaching and learning in a digital age – if the liberal humanist subject is deconstructed. She replied:

“Why would this deconstruction impede change, creativity, or as others have claimed progress? Can we assume 1) that human beings actually can be isolated from their technological or other contexts, and 2) that humans are the only agents capable of complex cognitive operations? I do not think we can. On the other hand, posthumanist thinking might help us to take a new look at the boundaries between what counts as human, animal, machine, or object. A redrawing of this boundary certainly entails highly political questions that can point either toward an inclusive and progressive, or an exclusory, direction.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:97).

Agency and the posthuman perspective

So while Hayles’ project is focused on deconstructing the liberal humanist subject, she is at the same time reconsidering aspects of Enlightenment thinking through discussing, criticizing and contextualizing the values of liberal humanism which are: “a coherent, rational self; the right of that self to autonomy and freedom; and a sense of agency linked with a belief in enlightened self-interest.” (Hayles 1999:85-86). These are the values Hayles draws on in her comments above, and in the interview the question of agency is being followed up by asking how posthumanism does change received ideas of agency. Hayles says:

“In the version of the human articulated within the liberal-humanist tradition, agency is seen to reside primarily in the individual subject. Individuals can be incorporated into large structures, but it is ultimately the individual that possesses agency. As we move deeper into a highly technological regime and as the technological infrastructure surrounding us becomes more and more complex, it becomes increasingly obvious that human agency cannot ever be seen in isolation from the systems with which humans are in constant and constitutive interaction. In fact the ideas that human agency is paramount appears to be an illusion; as Bruno Latour and others have pointed out, it is a good corrective to see agency as distributed among both human and non-human entities. This is a primary focus of the emerging field of new materialism that looks into how technological, and also biological and social, processes predispose and channel human action.” (Pötzsch & Hayles 2014:97)

This posthuman perspective challenges the values of liberal humanism, the notion of Bildung and the Humboldtian ideals of education I emphasized as  important dimensions of a pedagogy for the digital age when I was exploring and discussing rhizomatic learning in previous parts of this series of blog posts. Agency, autonomy, choice and self-directed learning are capabilities closely connected to Bildung and liberal humanist ideals of education, and they are also embedded in the pedagogical principles and strategies of personalization, participation, collaboration and knowledge creation I have framed as characteristic for Learning 2.0. But agency is also questioned by the networked, distributed and heterogeneous aspects of the pedagogies suited for Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0: the ideas of independence and interdependencies are enmeshed in Learning 2.0 and 3.0 and exceed the idea of individual agency, too.

With seeing agency as distributed among both human and non-human entities, a posthuman perspective rethinks agency more explicitly and conceptualizes agency as distributed and networked. This understanding of agency agrees with seeing subjectivity as networked and distributed, too, and works with the construction of subjectivity in relation to computers and artificial intelligence, for example. The possibility of subjective agency is not ruled out in a posthuman perspective, instead agency is to be seen as the both/and of complexity, so that both human subjectivity and the possibility of agency are transformed through interactions with technology (Flanagan 2014:20-21).

Learning 3.0 and cognitive assemblage

In a recent article N. Katherine Hayles widens her understanding of agency and introduces the concept ‘cognitive assemblage’ as a multi-perspective, multi-layered, multi-dimensional network that involves technical agency as well as human interactions:

“I want to define cognition as a process of interpreting information in contexts that connect it with meaning. This view foregrounds interpretation, choice, and decision and highlights the special properties that cognition bestows, expanding the traditional view of cognition as human thought to processes occurring at multiple levels and sites within biological life forms and technical systems. Cognitive assemblage emphasizes cognition as the common element among parts and as the functionality by which parts connect.” (Hayles 2016:32)

The definition connects knowledge networks with meaning-making and transforms the understanding of networks into a complex of agency and interactions of interpretations, conditions, contexts and meaning-making at multiple levels of data flows and relations between human, machine, animate, thing :

“My reason for choosing assemblage over network (the obvious alternative) is to allow for arrangements that scale up. Starting with cognitive processes occurring at a low threshold – using information to make choises within contexts – cognitive assemblages can progress to higher levels of cognition and consequently decisions affecting larger areas of concern. Other advantages include the notion of an arrangement not so tightly bound that it cannot lose or add parts, yet not so loosely connected that the relations between parts cease to matter; indeed, they matter a great deal. A cognitive assemblage operates through contextual relations at multiple levels and sites, with boundaries fluctuating as conditions and contexts change. Further comparisons emerge through considering the kinds of materialities involved in networks versus those in assemblages. Networks consist of edges and nodes and are analyzed trough graph theory, conveying a sense of a spare, clean materiality. Assemblage, by contrast, allow for contiguity in a fleshy sense – touching, incorporating, repelling, mutating. When analyzed as dynamic systems, networks are sites of exchange, transformation, and dissemination, but they lack the sense of these interactions occurring across complex three-dimensional surfaces, whereas assemblages include information transactions occurring across membranes, involuted and convoluted surfaces, and multiple volumetric entities interacting with many conspecifics simultaneously.” (Hayles 2016:32-33).

With her definition of assemblages as interpretation of information, decisions and meaning-making, Hayles’ shift from network to assemblage reflects the increased focus on contingency, complexity and emergent knowledge, that subsequently has shown itself as an interest in assemblages in education and pedagogy. Hayles’ definition makes room for including the semantic web, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, while she weighs the assemblage of Deleuze and Guattari against the assemblage of Bruno Latour. She seems to choose Latour’s understanding of assemblage affected by transformative technologies and the relations that emerge through the processes involving human and non-human actors:

“As a whole, a cognitive assemblage performs the functions identified with cognition – flexibly attending to new situations, incorporating this knowledge into adaptive strategies, and evolving through experience to create new strategies and kind of responses…” (Hayles 2016:33)

And to stress that cognitive assemblages do not belong to her imagination of the future but are already existing as emblems of the digital age and the computational regime, Hayles states: “The most transformative technologies of the later twentieth century have been cognitive assemblages; the internet is a prime example.” (Hayles 2016:34)

If computation is a metaphor of learning in Learning 3.0, then the cognitive assemblage must be considered as part of rethinking pedagogy for Learning 3.0, if we take on Hayles’ thinking. Whether you prefer Deleuze and Guattari’s assemblage, Bruno Latour’s actor-networks, Hayles’ cognitive assemblage or others as the framework for understanding assemblages, the communities, the networks and the ego-centric networks/personal learning networks (PLNs) of Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 need to have a place as part of the assemblages of Learning 3.0. As I wrote earlier, the pedagogies on my list can be recast to provide for Learning 3.0, including participation, knowledge creation, innovation and working with data in networked and distributed contexts, and I am aware of that there are both epistemological and ontological questions and issues to consider in relation to rethinking any of the pedagogies on my list. My discussion of rhizomatic learning in Part 5 in this series hopefully shows this while it exemplifies one version of combining pedagogy and the concepts and ideas of rhizome, chaos and order, lines of flight and assemblage adapted from Deleuze and Guattari.

Hayles’ posthuman perspective might provoke, and it does challenge the Enlightenment foundations of education from K-12 to higher education and university when she deconstructs the liberal humanist subject and shakes the traditional preconditions for both legitimacy structures, knowledge practices and Bildung. But it doesn’t end it, “rather ‘human’ and ‘posthuman’ coexist in shifting configurations”, as she puts it (Hayles 1999:6), so reimagining, rethinking and recasting pedagogy for Learning 3.0 still means discussing what education is for and what education is about. Weber and Wong and Hayles help pinning down some of the technological changes that have made and make the semantic web, the Internet of Things and domain specific artificial intelligence transformative, and furthermore Hayles’ project of deconstructing the liberal humanist subject is not only involving the development of cybernetics and issues related to scientific and technological progress but also focuses on the social and cultural changes equally important to uncovering and questioning the ethical and cultural implications of cybernetic technologies (Hayles 1999:21). And here, literature and narrative as fictional representations of the past, the present and the future play an important part in Hayles’ book and help her discussing the social, cultural and ethical implications of scientific and technological transformations while demonstrating that “culture circulates through science no less than science circulates through culture.” (Hayles 1999:21).

I’ll leave the narrative and literary history aspects of Hayles’ project for now and bring this section to an end by implicating that embedded in her thinking there is not only an aesthetic and anthropological role but also a societal role for literature to play (Flanagan 2014:5-6), indicating that science, literature and technology are more intertwined than we are used to think:

“Literary texts are not, of course, merely passive conduits. They actively shape what the technologies mean and what the scientific theories signify in cultural contexts.” (Hayles 1999:21).

In other words, literature and narrative belong as part of cognitive assemblages with the double agenda of reinscribing traditional ideas and assumptions but also articulating something new (Hayles 1999:6), and this way assemblages are making historically processes visible, embodied and interpreted as emerging knowledge and as a melting pot of knowledge creation.

Learning for an unknown and unexplored future

In his essay “Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity” (2001), Zygmunt Bauman gives his view on what education is for and what education is about today:

“’Preparing for life’ – that perennial, invariable task of all education – must mean first and foremost cultivating the ability to live daily and at peace with uncertainty and ambivalence, with a variety of standpoints and the absence of unerring and trustworthy authorities: must mean instilling tolerance of difference and the will to respect the right to be different, must mean fortifying critical and self-critical faculties and the courage needed to assure responsibility for one’s choices and their consequences; must mean training the capacity for ‘changing the frames’ and for resisting the temptation to escape from freedom, with the anxiety of indecision it brings alongside the joys of the new and the unexplored.” (Bauman 2001:138)

“The point is, though, that such qualities can hardly be developed in full through that aspect of the educational process which lends itself to the designing and controlling powers of the theorists and professional practitioners of education: through the verbally explicit contents of curricula and vested in what Bateson called ‘proto-learning’. One could attach more hope to the ‘deutero-learning’ aspect of education, which, however, is notoriously less amenable to planning and to comprehensive all-out control. The qualities in question can be expected to emerge, though, primarily out of the ‘tertiary learning’ aspect of educational processes, related not only to one particular curriculum and to the setting of one particular educational event, but precisely to the variety of criss-crossing and competing curricula and events.” (Bauman 2001:138)

So to realize learning for a present of complexity and for an uncertain future, where knowledge is abundant and dynamic, continuously changing and emergent, Bauman identifies three forms of learning – following Gregory Bateson’s theory of learning: primary learning, secondary learning and tertiary learning. Bateson’s three forms of learning condense an ecological perspective on the relations and mutual influences of individuals and culture on human meaning-making and knowledge and the way learning is structured. Bauman’s and Hayles’ agendas are criss-crossing here, as Bateson was also participating in the foundational debates on cybernetics, uncovered and disussed by Hayles in “How we became posthuman”.

Bateson’s three forms of learning express an expectation of how to think of the processes of learning and how to organize for learning, and Bauman claims that they all belong and need to be practiced in education today, although Bateson regarded tertiary learning as abnormality when he first introduced his theory.

Primary learning – or proto-learning – is the content, curriculum and the learning of something already known to the educator and the domain, discipline or subject matter and with learning being planned and designed for a certain outcome. Primary learning is ‘to learn’.

Secondary learning – or deutero-learning – is learning how to expect and handle sets of alternatives in specific contexts despite the contingencies one encounters. Secondary learning is ‘learning how to learn’ and the understanding of ‘learning to learn’.

Tertiary learning is learning “when the subject of education acquires the skills to modify the set of alternatives which they have learned to expect and handle in the course of deutero-learning” (Bauman 2001:124). It is the need “to reassemble an established conceptual network” to make it able “to capture novel phenomena in a new cognitive frame” that constitutes tertiary learning (Bauman and Mazzeo 2016:82). Tertiary learning is ‘re-learning’, that is learning something unpredictable and unknown to both learners and educators (Bauman 2001:123-126; Dahlbeck 2011:78). And this re-learning is synonymous with emerging knowledge, the new and the unexplored that Bauman mentions in the quote above.

Eventually, Bateson also operates with a fourth degree of learning where the social context and ‘the store of learning’, the collective stock of experience and knowledge, and how it is shared and used, is seen as decisive for the process of teaching, learning and ‘re-learning’ (Bauman 2001:121). This fourth degree of learning is culture and thus contains the predictions of the social contexts that cultivate and direct emerging knowledge.  It is both the backdrop and the result of the first three forms of learning, but Zygmunt Bauman only touches shortly on this degree of learning in his essay.

No doubt that Bauman supports cultivating tertiary learning in a liquid, rapidly changing world of complexity as quoted earlier, but it is a formative process we don’t have traditions for in education, he says, and a way of learning that can’t be planned or organized for as we traditionally do when designing learning. Whether we like it or not, tertiary learning is necessary in a world of constant change. So the three forms of learning active in Bauman’s analysis of education are as much to be considered at an institutional level as at the level of the individual educator, learner and student:

“These times of ours excel in dismantling frames and liquidizing patterns – all frames and all patterns are random and without advance warning. Under such circumstances ‘tertiary learning’ – learning how to break the regularity, how to get free from habits and prevent habitualization, how to rearrange fragmentary experiences into heretofore unfamiliar patterns while treating all patterns as acceptable solely ‘until further notice’ – far from being a distortion from its true purpose, acquires a supreme adaptational value and fast becomes central to what is indispensable ‘equipment for life’.” (Bauman 2001:125)

So, as I mentioned a little while ago, what for Bateson could be viewed as abnormality is now normal, Bauman states, and this tertiary approach to learning has become common. It is an approach that is echoed in John Moravec’s claim that schools need to provide education for learners who are used to learn, unlearn and adapt to new ideas.

As such, Bateson’s three forms of learning are not identical with Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0, but in some ways they seem to merge in the present historical context of the postmodern, or the late modern. It is three of the metaphors of learning, learning as participation, learning as knowledge creation and learning as computation, that act as specific historical metaphors because they draw on present technological, social and cultural changes. They connect the ideas, the knowledge practices and the concepts of the dynamic changing learning modes in Learning 1.0, Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 with the stable forms of learning in Bateson’s theory of learning. And as Bauman has emphasized already, Bateson’s three forms of learning all belong and need to be practiced in education today.

Learning 2.0 has not become obsolete or outdated by the progressing of Learning 3.0 – they are existing as parallel modes of learning that are relevant to different degrees and in different combinations depending on the domain, the discipline or the subject matter. Secondary learning can make learners creative and provide them with agency both in the liberal humanist sense, based on self-cultivation adn Bildung, that Bauman supports, and in Hayles’ posthuman sense. In many ways secondary learning, as framed by Bateson and Bauman, is embedded in Learning 2.0 and the understanding of how pedagogies might look like to align with Martin Weller’s and Caroline Haythornthwaite’s new models of education. But tertiary learning, which challenges ‘old’ frameworks, conceptualizations and understandings of education and learning might also become synonymous with reimagining and rethinking pedagogies and practices for Learning 3.0 – marked by complexity and uncertainty and for a future of the unknown.  The pedagogies on my list in The End No 1 involve secondary learning and all have the potential to initiate, integrate and stage tertiary learning as they focus on personalized, participatory and social learning but also on learning something unpredictable and unexplored.

And as mentioned rhizomatic learning is an example of rethinking pedagogy for Learning 3.0 that through its practices opens up to tertiary learning. The way rhizomatic learning promotes non-linearity, heterogeneity, unpredictability and complexity, it places itself as a pedagogy and learning approach that challenges traditional primary learning and implies secondary learning and knowing how to learn while it ideally also initiates tertiary learning in a postmodern context of uncertainty, multiplicity and rapid change. At least that is what Dave Cormier intends with rhizomatic learning as a vision of learning and innovation when he is coupling it with Dave Snowden’s knowledge management model “The Cynefin Framework”. The tertiary learning aspect of educational processes are not related “to one particular curriculum and the setting of one particular educational event” as I quoted Bauman earlier, and this is also what Dave Cormier strongly advocates for in his article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as curriculum” (2008).

The aspects of tertiary learning are not something you teach but it might be the result of a design for learning that gives learners the opportunity to experience, experiment and explore a way of learning and re-learning that is necessary in a world of uncertainty and rapid changes: it is a way of learning that focuses on the variety of criss-crossing and competing curricula and educational events that you might meet in communities, networks and assemblages. But it also aims at developing new knowledge and thus pedagogies must be able to design for learning that challenges the capacity for ‘changing the frames’, works with emerging knowledge and strives to stay open-ended. And eventually they might be inspired by N. Katherine Hayles’ cognitive assemblage as a concept of the computational regime as well as the embodiment of technological, social and cultural practices in a digital age.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital age

Bauman, Zygmunt (2001): Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity, The Individualized Society, Cambridge, UK: Polity

Dahlbeck, Per (2011): En krigsmaskin på Malmö högskola – Ett hot eller en möjlighet, Per Dahlbeck, Magnus Persson (red.): Deltagarkultur – i teori och praktik, Malmö högskola    –

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

Flanagan, Victoria (2014): Technology and Identity in Young Adult Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan

Gerstein, Jackie (2013): Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile learning , User Generated Education

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999): How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Hayles, N. Katherine (2006): Unfinished Work. From Cyborg to Cognisphere , Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 23(7-8): 159-166

Hayles, N. Katherine (2009): RFID: Human Agency and Meaning in Information-Intensive Environments, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 26(2-3): 47-72

Hayles, N. Katherine (2016): Cognitive Assemblages: Technical Agency and Human Interaction, Critical Inquiry 43, Autumn 2016

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

McLoughlin, Catherine and Lee, Mark J.W (2008): The Three P’s of Pedagogy for the Networked Society: Personalization, Participation, and Productivity , International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Volume 20, Number 1, 10-27

Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M., Forcier, L.B. (2016): Intelligence Unleashed. An argument for AI in Education, London: Pearson

Pötzsch, Holger and Hayles, N. Katherine (2014): FCJ-172 Posthumanism, Technogenesis, and Digital Technologies: A Conversation with N. Katherine Hayles , The Fibreculture Journal, Issue 23: General Issue

Scott, Cynthia Luna (2015): The Futures of Learning 3: What Kind of Pedagogies for the 21st Century? , UNESCO Education Research and Foresight, Paris. ERF Working Papers Series, No. 15

Weber, Steven and Wong, Richmond Y. (2017): The new world of data: Four provocations on the Internet of Things, First Monday, Volume 22, Number 2-6 February 2017. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v22i2.6936

Wheeler, Steve (2015): Learning with ‘e’s. Educational theory and practice in the digital age, Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing

Wheeler, Steve (2012): Learning 3.0 and the Smart eXtended Web 

Photo by Alexandra Cavoulacos on Flickr – CC BY-ND 2.0

Elna Mortensen

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 2

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 1

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After quite some time of thinking, this is a summing up and an elaboration on some of the issues that have been under scrutiny in my explorations in this series of blog posts. It represents a recursive process, or maybe a matter of bricolage, as it reveals itself in four parts that can be read as one fairly short piece and three quite long pieces with pauses in between, or as a genuinely long read tuning in on 1) pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance, 2) learning modes and a posthuman perspective, 3) the state of participatory culture and digital literacies, and 4) knowledge management and learning for and from the future.

Change

Change has become the motive and a persistent concept in present discussions about the function and role of education and its relationship to society in a digital age. Developments in technology and media have led to not only rapidly changing knowledge but also to increasing sources of knowledge, and as a result change has pervaded the ideas of education, pedagogies and necessary skills and competences in an era of knowledge abundance and complexity. Some theorists are framing these changes as the result of the postmodern, some prefer to call it the late modern and others have named it the risk society, the knowledge society and the network society. Whether they are leaning on and propagating the ideas and the thinking of Castells, Bauman, Beck, Luhmann, Deleuze and Guattari, Latour or others, they are all concerned in teaching and learning in an era of knowledge abundance, considering what education is for and what education is about. And they wonder which pedagogies are suited for connecting knowledge while education is developing from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 and seeing Learning 4.0 in the horizon. Just see Steve Wheeler’s Learning Modes Grid below – also introduced in Part 1 of this series on pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance – to get a grip of the connections between developments in technology, media and pedagogies.

Learning Modes GridSteve Wheeler: Learning Mode Grid

I’ll add new characteristics to this model during this summing up while following some of the thinkers and researchers introduced in this series and drawing on others, too. These researchers and thinkers come together in their responses to the changes, the challenges and the possibilities in education, teaching and learning in a digital age, when they urge educators to rethink, reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update and redo the existing pedagogies and our models of learning and teaching to suit a world of knowledge abundance embracing digital media and new social and cultural practices. ‘Re-‘ as an approach to change in education implies that core conceptualizations and practices of relevant pedagogies are retained , but also that they are being realized in new forms due to the ongoing discussions about what education is about and what education is for.

But the question is not just what education is for and what education is about in a digital age and a time of knowledge abundance and complexity. It is also a question of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge in a phase of change when the function and role of education, including the focus of knowledge production, is moving from one state to another, from knowledge production and knowledge dissemination in the industrial society, or the modern, to a focus on development, circulation and use of new ideas and new knowledge in the postmodern, the late modern, the risk society, the knowledge society, the network society or the actor-networks, depending on which theory and conceptual framework one prefers. This is a main issue in the discussions of the relations between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge production which I introduced in my comparison of rhizomatic learning with networked learning as possible pedagogies of abundance in Part 5 of this series. In the pieces summing up on this series I will extend this focus to modes of learning, modes of knowledge production and conceptions of knowledge and look into how they are incorporated into the idea of knowledge management and how they are influencing forms of learning and visions of teaching and learning for an unpredictable future.  This has an impact on how pedagogies might be reimagined and recast for a digital age and a time marked by rapid changes. And so they must be uncovered as part of the challenges put forward by Martin Weller that started off this series on pedagogies in an era of knowledge abundance:

“The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance.” (Weller 2011:232-233)

In line with Weller’s point of view Tony Bates has stated in his e-book “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) that the development of skills should be given the same attention as content acquisition so that learners have both the knowledge and the skills needed to handle and succeed in a digital age characterized by for instance knowledge abundance. Bates emphasizes that knowledge management is perhaps the most important and overarching skill needed in the 21st century (Bates 2015:19). I quoted this statement in Part 5 of this series where I also introduced The Cynefin Framework by Dave Snowden which is the knowledge management model that Dave Cormier has chosen to embody his vision of learning when he talks about rhizomatic learning in his video talks. But how does it all fit together, and what about participatory culture, digital literacies and the model of 21st century learning that I have brought into my attempts to pin down what pedagogies of abundance might look like? They are certainly aspects that go into the answers offered to Weller’s challenge, but what goes into seeing them as broader perspectives on pedagogies, teaching and learning practices, too? I will try to gather the bits and ends while summing up on this series on pedagogies, knowledge and knowledge management in a digital age.

A new model of education

Due to the effect the abundance of learning content and resources has on how we approach teaching, learning and education, Martin Weller suggested a shift in education from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011) As a consequence he also suggested a new model of education to replace the traditional model of education that has dominated higher education but also has influenced K-12 teaching and learning and its basic understandings of education.

A traditional model of education is based on that:

  • Expertise is scarce.
  • Learners come to the place where the experts are located.
  • The lecture is the place for students’ physical interaction with the expert.
  • Content – books and journals – are manufactured according to demand.
  • Access to content is scarce and only accessible through libraries. (Weller 2011:226)

and hence a pedagogy of scarcity has developed promoting:

  • A one-to-many model to make the best use of the scarce resource – that is the expert.
  • The lecture.
  • An instructivist pedagogy as a direct consequence of the demands for scarcity. (Weller 2011:226)

Now a new model of education emerges that builds on new developments in technology and media and on new forms of cultural competence which education needs to address:

  • Expertise is still rare, but access to content associated with it is now much easier – e.g. resources, critical analysis, dialogue, discussion and reflection are abundant.
  • The traditional model of supply-push needs to be replaced with one of demand-pull due to the growing demand for education and lifelong learning.
  • A shift to active participation will characterize students’ interaction with content and expertise.
  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:226-228)

As mentioned this new model of education emerges as a necessity for education to adapt to developments in technology and media in order to be relevant in a digital society. But it is also necessary to notice that technological changes are often merely part of much broader societal and historical developments causing societal change (Buckingham 2008:10). Caroline Haythornthwaite stresses this in her view on the impact of social and technical changes on emergent models of knowledge and educational practice, and this way Haythornthwaite is complementary to Weller’s new model of education when explaining what this shift from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’ means to pedagogy and educational practices:

 “The dynamic and emergent nature of our media and learning spaces reformulates questions away from what is the best structure, system, or set of facts to address a problem to how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base. This changes the orientation from: closed systems and communities to open systems and crowds; information retrieval to contribution; individual – to – social learning; individual – to – community knowledge-building (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006); authority-defined knowledge and practice – to – peer knowledge and practice; following a class syllabus and being in a class to defining the content of the class and what it means to be in  a class (Paulin & Haythorn-thwaite, in press)./This is not a call for a clean sweep of past questions and practices. These have worked well for many years and continue to be important ways of learning and knowledge building. But, like the complexity brought about by the interplay of contemporary new media trends, learning practices also have become more complex.” (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)

Weller and Haythornthwaite both agree on identifying significant changes in structures and authority within education, and they see the closely connected changes in cultural practices and in spaces for student’s agency as determining factors for changing and developing teaching, learning practices and pedagogies within education. But they promote a continuum from ‘old’ to ‘new’ when it comes to revisiting pedagogies and exploring existing and new theories and learning practices in order to reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update and redo pedagogies and approaches to teaching and learning that are suited for a digital age.

Through their models both Weller and Haythornthwaite answer to what Zygmunt Bauman has called ‘the present educational crisis’ in his essay “Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity” (2001). Here Bauman points to how the postmodern crisis is haunting educational institutions at all levels, although he focuses especially on the situation of universities. In a comment on the role and the legitimacy structures of the modern university he puts the discussion of what education is for and what education is about at the very center of educational change:

“The institutional centrality of knowledge and its practitioners was anchored, on the one side, in a state-national reliance on legitimation (Max Weber), a ruling formula (Gaetano Mosca), or a central cluster of values (Talcott Parsons) for the translation of domination into authority and discipline; on the other, in the practice of culture (education, Bildung) which was meant to shape individual members of society into social beings fit to perform, and willing to abide by, the socially assigned roles. Both anchors were serviced by the universities – the crucial sites where the values instrumental in social integration were generated, and the training ground where the educators meant to disseminate them and translate them into social skills were trained. Both anchors, though, are today afloat…After all, both the autonomy and the centrality of the universities and the scholarship as such are today in question. “ (Bauman 2001:128-129)

Exactly the two anchors of the modern university also affected education at all other levels, due to the authority, I would say, and although discussions about the role of education, about teaching and learning practices, and about students’ agency might take different roads depending on educational level, I think Weller’s and Haythornthwaite’s models can work as emerging models of education in both K-12 schools and higher education in most respects. Weller and Haythornthwaite are in both their own ways responding to social, technological and cultural changes and to the present educational crisis, which is still going on:

“The present educational crisis is first and foremost a crisis of inherited institutions and inherited philosophies. Meant for a different kind of reality, they find it increasingly difficult to absorb, accommodate and hold the changes without a thorough revision of the conceptual frames they deploy, and such a revision, as we know from Thomas Kuhn, is the most overpowering and deadly of all the challenges thought may encounter. Short of designing different frames, philosophical orthodoxy can only set aside and dismiss the rising pile of new phenomena as so many anomalies and deviations.” (Bauman 2001:128)

When it comes to universities and higher education, it is the discussions about the function and role of the university and its exclusive relationship to society during the modern era that has also caused the discussions about legitimacy structures and practices, and as a consequence the evaluation of what counts as knowledge has resulted in the differentiation of knowledge production into Mode 1 and Mode 2 as introduced in Part 5 of this series. Mode 1 knowledge production belongs to the closed systems of the autonomous university in the industrial society, while Mode 2 knowledge production is a child of the knowledge society according to Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al who have introduced this distinction between Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge. With Mode 2 knowledge production the changes that occur are among others that the connection between university and society becomes closer and stronger, that the hierarchy between core functions – like research – and functions regarded more peripheral – like teaching and public engagement – is flattened, and that not only traditional research led by scholars counts as knowledge production but also existing knowledge can be systematized and combined in new ways through inter-disciplinary work involving a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts inside and outside of universities and higher education:

“Gibbons et al write (1994:vii): “A new mode of knowledge production affects not only what knowledge is produced but also how it is produced; the context in which it is produced, the way it is organized, the reward systems it utilizes and the mechanisms that control the quality of that which is produced.” (Darsø 2001:127)

And in fact, the starting point of Martin Weller’s challenge is resting on the changes that Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al have captured, as he introduces Boyer’s work on scholarship as a backdrop for his own challenge to educators : to place all scholarly activity on an equal footing:

“ What we urgently need today is a more inclusive view of what it means to be a scholar – a recognition that knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice, and through teaching ” (Boyer, 1990,24)” (Weller 2011:223)

So both on an institutional level and at the level of the individual educator ‘the present educational crisis’, as Bauman called it, challenges ‘old’ frameworks, conceptualizations and understandings of education at universities and in higher education. And I would say that a lot of the fears, the challenges and the changes implied by Bauman are being discussed under the umbrella term of ‘openness’, seeing open education, open scholarship and the open educator (aka the networked educator) as revisions, renewals or unbundling of well-known conceptual frameworks of education being promoted in the light of technological possibilities and global perspectives and under influence of social and cultural changes. Debates about the advantages and disadvantages of campus based courses seen against blended learning and online courses, recommendations of schools working with their community and education working with real-world problems and in real-world contexts (which come from Mode 2 knowledge production), as well as discussions of badges and block chain for learning are all part of this discussion.  It has caused more complex teaching and learning practices which has hopefully been demonstrated throughout this series. Martin Weller’s and Caroline Haythornthwaite’s new models of education take part in and are results of these discussions.

The two sets of legitimacy structures and practices introduced by Bonnie Stewart illustrate the changes in the role of scholarship and education as an orientation away from ‘old’ systems of legitimacy, control and validation, that are synonymous with traditional scholarship, practice and teaching, towards peer knowledge, co-creation and participatory teaching and learning:

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Bonnie Stewart: Learning in the Open

As an intermediary between the institutional level and the level of the individual educator and their students and learners, these legitimacy structures and practices draw up the complex contexts educators engage in when they take on Weller’s challenge and start exploring pedagogies to equip their learners with the skills they need in a digital age. They are most likely to balance on the scale from ‘old’ to ‘new’, just like Weller and Haythornthwaite ask educators to work with a continuum from ‘old’ to ‘new’ when it comes to revisiting pedagogies and exploring existing and new theories and learning practices.

Pedagogies in a digital age

The pedagogies that have been explored and touched on in this series as suitable for teaching and learning in a digital world facing knowledge abundance are listed below:

Project-based Learning       Connected Learning

Problem-based Learning    Connectivism

Community of Practice       Rhizomatic Learning

Networked Learning:

-Project- and Problem-based Learning

-Community of Practice

-Community of Inquiry/Inquiry-based Learning

-Community of Learning

-Community of Knowledge

-Actor-Network Theory

More pedagogies and teaching methods suited for an age of digital abundance can be found in Tony Bates: “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) and in “Innovating Pedagogy 2016” and previous reports in this series of reports. See Garcia: “Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom” (2014) for an introduction to Connected Learning.  If the pedagogies don’t include didactic strategies and guidelines for learning design, Gilly Salmon: “The Five Stage Model” works for designing and evaluating online learning. The model is learner-centered and based on a socio-cultural approach.

The pedagogies on my list focus on collaboration, networked and distributed learning, and as I noticed in Part 5 of this series, they are social and situated pedagogies and theories of learning that foster and build on self-directed learning and participatory culture, too. They are either ‘born’ as pedagogies for a digital age or have been recast and reworked to conceptualize and practice collaboration in groups, communities and networks, to work with applying and producing knowledge and to embrace messiness and complexity. They also aim at embedding learning within real-world problems, and so as a bonus, the pedagogies mentioned in my list above also ideally add aspects of experiential learning to their practices (see Bates 2015:91-92,98).

The pedagogies on my list are in accordance with Martin Weller’s criteria for ‘a pedagogy of abundance’, and they prove that many pedagogies can be reimagined and updated through changing the implied learning processes from unambiguity, linearity, repetition and reproduction and basic applied knowledge to complexity, heterogeneity, processuality, recursivity and knowledge production (Mortensen 2002:144). So maybe it is about time to leave the term ‘pedagogies of abundance’ behind and just talk about pedagogies while implying that adequate pedagogies of the digital age can be practiced in class rooms and on campus, as blended learning and as online learning, but to be such a pedagogy involves contributing to the overall goal of education from K-12 schools to university, as it has been put into words by Tony Bates:

“…it is not sufficient just to teach academic content (applied or not). It is equally important also to enable students to develop the ability to know how to find, analyse, organise and apply information/content within their professional and personal activities, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to be flexible and adaptable in developing new knowledge and skills. All this is needed because of the explosion in the quantity of knowledge in any professional field that makes it impossible to memorise or even be aware of all the developments that are happening in the field, and the need to keep up-to-date within the field after gradua-ting.” (Bates 2015:63).

Not all of the pedagogies on my list above might seem equally suited for all educational levels, but in fact most of the pedagogies on the list can work across the entire educational system after a few adjustments. In the case of rhizomatic learning, I introduced how a pedagogy and learning approach mainly aimed at higher education and postgraduate studies actually has been adapted for K-12 schools, too. The case can be found in Part 3 of this series. But nevertheless, the questions of disciplinary didactics still need to be asked: the questions of who, what, how, why, where, when are always at stake when a pedagogy is going to be the basis of teaching and learning in a specific discipline or subject matter, no matter what educational level we are at. The context of the domain, the discipline or the subject matter may change, but the questions remain. And any pedagogy up for choice would have to be evaluated against both this particular context and against the types of skills that students and learners need in the 21st century. In a roundup Tony Bates points out that this evaluation is vital:

“…First we can identify a number of different types of skills needed:

  • conceptual skills, such as knowledge management, critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, problem–solving, creativity/innovation, experimental design;
  • developmental or personal skills, such as independent learning, communications skills, ethics, networking, responsibility and teamwork;
  • digital skills, embedded within and related to a particular subject or professional domain;
  • manual and practical skills, such as machine and equipment operation, safety procedures, observation and recognition of data, patterns, and spatial factors.

…It is the combination of conceptual, practical, personal and social skills in highly complex situations that are needed. This again means combining a variety of teaching methods.” (Bates 2015:104-106)

These four types of skills correspond with pedagogies and approaches to teaching and learning that focus on collaborative, networked and distributed learning and are dealing with community, networks and complexity, just as the ones on my list.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital Age

Bauman, Zygmunt (2001): Education: under, for and in spite of postmodernity, In The Individualized Society, Cambridge, UK: Polity

Bauman, Zygmunt and Mazzeo, Riccardo (2016): In Praise of Literature, Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity

Buckingham, David (2008): Introducing Identity, In Buckingham, David (Ed.): Youth, Identity, and Digital Media, Cambridge, MA and London, UK: The MIT Press

Darsø, Lotte (2001): Innovation in the Making, København: Samfundslitteratur (in English)

Garcia, Antero (Ed.)(2014): Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

Mortensen, Elna (2002): At gribe kompleksiteten. Æstetiske læreprocesser og IKT, In Gramkow, K., Lindhardt, L., og Lund, B. (Red.): Innovation, læring og undervisning, Aarhus: Systime

Salmon, Gilly: The Five Stage Model

Sharples, M., de Roock, R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi, C-K., McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L.H. (2016): Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5, Milton Keynes: The Open University

Stewart, Bonnie (2013): Learning in The Open

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wheeler, Steve: Next Generation Learning

Photo by Petit-Louis on Flickr – CC By 2.0

Elna Mortensen

In an era of knowledge abundance – The End No 1

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 5

complexityWhat if? Could it be that…? It is impossible, but still: why not try to…? These have been some of my starting questions throughout the exploratory processes of this series concerned with what a pedagogy of abundance might look like. While suggesting that rhizomatic learning could be such a pedagogy of abundance, I have taken on the challenge put forward by Martin Weller in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

The issue for educators is twofold I would suggest: firstly how can they best take advantage of abundance in their own teaching practice, and secondly how do they best equip learners to make use of it? It is the second challenge that is perhaps the most significant. Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance. (Weller 2011:232-233)

My exploration has intendedly been processes of experimentation and of developing knowledge about rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy, whereas I have not been that interested in discussing the way Dave Cormier has adopted, adapted and rewritten the theories of Deleuze and Guattari in his vision of rhizomatic learning. Others have done that. But the exploratory processes and the ongoing questioning also mean that I have been presenting views, assumptions and perspectives on rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance – views, assumptions and perspectives that are up for evaluation throughout this series.

It might be provoking that my voice hasn’t been a firm, authoritative academic voice, present at once, when it comes to rhizomatic learning in this series. That is what we are used to, and maybe implicitly expect in blogposts, too, even though the blog as genre is a genre that foregrounds processuality and ongoing reflection – a space of construction, experimentation and improvement. But I have rephrased views earlier on in this series, I have tried out how far similarities between networked learning and rhizomatic learning might vouch for rhizomatic learning being a variation of networked learning, and I have focused on communities of practice, serendipity and bricolage as important aspects of ‘community’ and ‘networking’ in rhizomatic learning. I’m going to evaluate and rephrase these aspects that I have attributed to rhizomatic learning once more, while stating that rhizomatic learning is not a version of networked learning.

Exploration is exploring an area over time for new possibilities, experimenting while building up a knowledge base, and sometimes acquiring new knowledge through serendipity or through searching for interesting problems, (Darsø 2001:76). My exploratory approach in this series has been about asking curious questions, trying out hypotheses and making mistakes, then starting out somewhere else and eventually having to reconsider my previous analysis and viewpoints and assumptions once again. Much along the same line that Michelle Knobel and Judy Kalman point out teachers need to go:

Creativity and change require an ability to brave the unknown and a willingness to try, rethink and redo…While it is widely recognized that failure is an integral part of learning, it is often not welcome or ignored in professional development context or classrooms. Teachers have to be at ease with mistakes and taking risks when trying to learn something new; they’re also well served by appreciating what making mistakes and trying to correct them means for their students. Placing teachers in the learners’ seat is as much a part of their professional development as is theorizing education, critiquing policy, or analyzing practices. (Knobel and Kalman 2016:15)

Knobel and Kalman write about teachers’ professional development but to me this is also very much becoming the practical precondition for taking on Weller’s claim and exploring pedagogies of abundance. And when it comes to discussing pedagogies and necessary skills in an era of knowledge abundance, this is also what the researchers introduced in this series all recommend: rethink, reexamine, reimagine, recast, evaluate, update, redo the existing pedagogies and our models of learning and teaching to suit a world of knowledge abundance embracing digital media and new social and cultural practices.

Two pedagogies dealing with community, networks, complexity

The pedagogies and learning theories that are up for consideration as pedagogies and learning approaches of abundance all focus on collaborative, networked and distributed learning, and as social and situated pedagogies and learning theories they foster and build on self-directed learning and participatory culture. That counts for rhizomatic learning and networked learning, too. So there are a great many similarities between rhizomatic learning and networked learning, and in this series I wanted to challenge my understanding of what rhizomatic learning is as a pedagogy by comparing it to networked learning, taking off from a broader conception of open networked learning as it is presented by Kop, Fournier and Mak (2011)(see Part 1 of this series).

This broader and descriptive conception unfolds a perspective that includes connectivism as networked learning and shows an understanding of networked learning that is not compatible with the dominating understanding of networked learning as a theory, pedagogy and practices according to Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen who distinguish between connectivism and networked learning (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:44-45). I introduced this dominating understanding of networked learning in Part 4 of this series, and it places rhizomatic learning – where each learner brings his/her context and has his/her own needs as a starting point – as a parallel to connectivism as a pedagogy and approach to learning that is not included in networked learning, and so rhizomatic learning is not a variation of (open) networked learning, although I claimed that in Part 1 and Part 4 of this series.

Despite the fact that rhizomatic learning and networked learning are having keywords, concepts and educational values in common, they are not the same and must be seen as two distinct theories with pedagogies and practices that in many ways respond similarly to societal developments and changes in education, teaching and learning. In his video “Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning” (2012) Dave Cormier in fact comments on many people’s assumptions that rhizomatic learning is networked learning and agrees to some degree that they look the same, but he also maintains that they are not. And I agree with him, but my comparison with networked learning – starting with my asking “What if?”, “Could it be that…?” – has made visible where some of the challenges might occur when choosing rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance in a campus-based course integrating online-learning. The theory, pedagogy and practice of rhizomatic learning certainly resisted being forced into the pedagogical framework of networked learning. This calls for a few precisions, definitions and comments in order to see rhizomatic learning and networked learning as two distinct theories, pedagogies and practices that in each their way are responding to an emerging new model of education (see Part 1 of this series) and a shift to an era of knowledge abundance.

Networks and community are equally important to rhizomatic learning and networked learning, and in my presentation of Dave Cormier’s campus-based course integrating online-learning drawing on his e-book “Making the community the curriculum” (2016) in Part 2, I saw a community of practice as the framework that can give direction to the learning processes initiated by the rhizome as a metaphor for the learning process. I listened to Dave Cormier presenting his idea of the rhizome, and in the embedded video “A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC” (2013) I heard him point to a community of practice as the kind of community he works with. I listened many times and I quoted what I heard. But I must have been wrong. Frances Bell and Jenny Mackness have kindly told me that Dave Cormier is not promoting a community of practice in his theory or pedagogy but just a community, and it is true that Cormier usually doesn’t define what he means by community in his writings or in his talks on video (Bell, Mackness & Funes 2016). So I have to admit that most places where I have written ‘communities of practice’ in relation to rhizomatic learning in this series it should have said ‘community’ in order to be true to Cormier’s way of conceiving rhizomatic learning. Nevertheless, the descriptions of the campus-based course integrating online-learning and the way the community is integrated into the learning processes introduced in the e-book still look very much like the practices of a community of practice to me.

A statement that definitely differentiates rhizomatic learning from networked learning is the comment I quoted in Part 2 of this series: “First rule of community learning is to give up control…” (A talk on Rhizomatic Learning for ETMOOC (2013) – embedded in Making the community the curriculum (2016)). It is a comment that in many ways is provokingly in opposition to the pedagogical values of networked learning as they are introduced in Part 4 of this series. The resistance to conformity that is inherent in rhizomatic learning as a learning approach became visible when I tried to fit the four cornerstones of rhizomatic learning into the design and processuality of a facilitated learning process much more consistent with networked learning (see Part 2 of this series). When dealing with education the rhizomatic way, students have to develop an understanding of the learning process they are going through while they are going through it, Dave Cormier says:

  • Students have to understand what they are looking for when joining the course.
  • Students have to take it upon themselves to engage and to continue to grow.
  • Students have to choose and to make a syllabus for themselves through connecting, responding and collaborating.
  • Students have to understand what it is to learn and what it is to know in a subject matter or a discipline and to be able to make decisions about how to create their own learning within that process.

So when I asked for a learning process that is facilitating, modelling and scaffolding students to get to know and understand what it is to learn, what it is to know and negotiate meaning, and what counts as knowledge in a discipline or a subject matter, I was in accordance with networked learning, whereas Dave Cormier clearly promotes self-directed learning right from the beginning of the learning process.

Networks play an equally important part of the understanding of learning in rhizomatic learning and networked learning, but as social and distributed theories they differ in their understanding of what a network is. The rhizome is a special kind of network that is non-linear, multi-perspective, heterogeneous and growing in any direction. But in part 1 I already added two concepts, serendipity and bricolage, to my description of the rhizome, knowing that none of them are part of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing. I did it to emphasize the chances of discovering new people, unknown resources, innovating ideas and knowledge through networking and thus describe the rhizome as a network that spreads via experimentation in a context, as Dave Cormier has put it in his talk “Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic learning” (2012). This way the rhizome as a network combines the processes of networking with connecting knowledge in ever changing constellations, in assemblages with no entry point and no exit point. This exploratory aspect of networking is crucial to understanding the rhizome as the motor in rhizomatic learning when it comes to creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. Apparently it is a self-perpetuating process once it has started but a process that may at the same time underexpose and overexpose the node in the processes of connecting ideas, people, resources and knowledge. It might almost seem more important to connect than what and who you connect with or where, when, how and why you connect.

When I called for a kind of balance between networks and community in Part 4 of this series, it turned out to be one of the aspects where rhizomatic learning resists my comparison with networked learning:

“But there needs to be some kind of balance to see rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning: a balance between the messy and sometime chaotic self-directed learning processes where individuals form and determine their own routes and learning through connecting to people and resources, and the open and mutual engagement in a learning community based on participatory culture and knowledge construction.“

After all, the balance between networks and community I advocate here is more a balance of networked learning – assuming that the community is existing prior to the learning process – than that of rhizomatic learning, as rhizomatic learning leaves room for smaller groups or individuals to break away. The community is not necessarily a stable group but an emergent grouping formed on the basis of interest and a result of ongoing networking in rhizomatic learning.

Networked learning makes room for several types of network theories within the framework of the theory, but social network analysis (SNA) might be at the centre as with Maarten de Laat when he defines “learning as a social network relationship” in Part 4 of this series (De Laat 2012:27; Haythornthwaite & De Laat 2010). With its focus on strong and weak ties social network analysis is integrated in De Laat’s definition of networked learning as a perspective: “…that aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for learning and development…” (De Laat 2012:26). In Part 4 I also focused on personal learning networks as a road to collaboration and participation in networked learning, but I think it is important to add the distinctions Haythornthwaite and De Laat make when  individual’s personal learning networks are integrated in a learning network as it is intended seen from a networked learning perspective. They add the two social network terms ‘ego-centric networks’ and ‘whole networks’. The ego-centric network is a personal network seen from the individual’s point of view and has the learner at the centre of the network as presented in part 4, and the term was also used by Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep as a synonym for the personal learning network in their article presented in Part 4:

Considering the network from the learner’s perspective provides a view of who they learn from (beyond peers), but also where conflicts in understanding may come from (e.g., unvetted online resources). It also reveals the conflicting – or complementary – demands on individuals… (Haythornthwaite and De Laat 2010:189)

On the other hand, the whole network view opens up to insights into how information and learning is occurring across a set of people, and this view is what we usually associate with social network analysis (SNA):

A whole network perspective provides a view of the entire structure, and thus of the ‘character’ of the network to which an individual belongs. Is the network collaborative: e.g., do most or all people freely share information, engage in discussion, or help search for information? Is the network divided into cliques, and if so on what basis (information hoarding? different interests? separate tasks?). Perhaps the most important contribution to SNA is this whole network view that takes the results of pair-wise connections to describe what holds the network together. As we begin to use SNA to examine and reveal learning networks, we are just at the beginning of understanding how and what makes for the kind of network outcomes we desire. (Haythornthwaite & De Laat 2010:189)

Social network analysis is not only a matter for educators but also for students to become aware of, and so both the skills, the competencies and the understanding of how to build and maintain ego-centric networks (personal learning networks) and how to use the social network analysis perspective must be part of what students know about networks and networking seen from a networked learning perspective. So here networked learning is much more specific than rhizomatic learning about what networks, networking literacies and learning literacies are and what must be integrated in a pedagogy of abundance. The way networks are applied in practice in rhizomatic learning and networked learning differ due to the differences in the conception of networks in the two learning theories. And still, I would like serendipity, bricolage and a bit of messiness to become part of social networking in networked learning in order to accentuate the necessity for diversity, inquiry and exploration if learning is going to happen and new knowledge to evolve.

I have tried to keep my own exploration open and running for as long as possible. My comparison between rhizomatic learning and networked learning has tended to join the two learning theories and pedagogies together to an extend that has more or less merged the two into one and the same in Part 4 of this series, until my exploration collapsed. It happened when I made the impossible attempt to merge in the design principles of rhizomatic learning with the principles and goals of networked learning. It is a paragraph of absurd prose.

And although I’m now ripping the bonds apart, there is yet another keyword that rhizomatic learning and networked learning have in common: complexity. Dealing with change, uncertainty and complexity are equally concerns and backdrops for the two learning theories. In this post-modern or late modern context complexity can be seen as a trend in education that is closely connected to seeing fluidity, contingency and emergence as characteristics of the post-modern or late modern which also changes the understanding of what counts as knowledge: knowledge is dynamic, continuously changing and emergent. This understanding of knowledge is based on complexity theory that stresses non-linearity, unpredictability and disorder as normal conditions, and as a consequence knowledge can be characterized as 1) indeterminate, 2) emergent and self-organizing, 3) both-and, 4) dominated by uncertainty, 5) emphasizing potentiality, and 6) working in a participatory universe (Darsø 2001:91).

I presented Maarten de Laat’s call for ‘New learning’ in Part 4:

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-slide1Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices (2015)

and in her talk “New Metaphors for Networked Learning”  (2016) Caroline Haythornthwaite also advocates for opening up to complexity at many levels of education, stating that “Structure giving way to complexity”. She sees complexity as one of a number of trends that are at work simultaneously and have effects on learning, information dissemination and knowledge production (Haythormthwaite 2015:294).

Both De Laat and Haythornthwaithe respond to the challenges in Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance from a networked learning perspective and embrace change and complexity in both learning and education to meet these challenges. In many ways Caroline Haythornthwaite is complementary to Martin Weller’s model when she puts forward her view on the impact of social and technical changes on emergent models of knowledge and practice:

The dynamic and emergent nature of our media and learning spaces reformulates questions away from what is the best structure, system, or set of facts to address a problem to how to plan for complexity, be prepared for emergent factors, and continue to evolve and use a knowledge base. This changes the orientation from: closed systems and communities to open systems and crowds; information retrieval to contribution; individual – to – social learning; individual – to – community knowledge-building (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 2006); authority-defined knowledge and practice – to – peer knowledge and practice; following a class syllabus and being in a class to defining the content of the class and what it means to be in a class (Paulin & Haythornthwaite, in press)./This is not a call for a clean sweep of past questions and practices. These have worked well for many years and continue to be important ways of learning and knowledge building. But, like the complexity brought about by the interplay of contemporary new media trends, learning practices also have become more complex. (Haythornthwaite 2015:302)

Likewise Dave Cormier has sharpened his perspective on complexity in his recent talk “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). When discussing how and why rhizomatic learning is supporting complexity in a world of abundance Cormier positions rhizomatic learning as an ‘answer’ to my inquiry about what a pedagogy of abundance might look like:

And still, despite the resemblances and the parallels in keywords, concepts and educational values, the question of what counts as knowledge is exactly where it becomes evident to me, that rhizomatic learning is not a variation of networked learning. So it is time to break off the experiment of comparison and introduce a change of perspective in my exploration while asking: how is rhizomatic learning working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters and how is complexity linked to the aim of being a pedagogy that promotes and fosters new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge and innovation in a world of abundance. This is also a matter of what counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning.

Knowledge and knowledge management in an era of knowledge abundance

In an era of knowledge abundance and knowledge being connected through digital media, knowledge management becomes an important aspect of learning and education. How to find, handle, interpret, validate, negotiate, create, improve, apply and share information and knowledge through connecting , communication and collaboration with online resources, experts, peers, networks, communities and communities of practice is essential in the processes of knowledge creation, I wrote in Part 1 of this series. And in his e-book “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015) Tony Bates adds that knowledge management is perhaps the most overarching skill needed in the 21st century, as “Knowledge is not only rapidly changing with new research, new developments, and rapid dissemination of ideas and practices over the Internet, but the sources of information are increasing, with a great deal of variability in the reliability or validity of information.” (Bates 2015:19). And this is a double challenge to any pedagogy of abundance, I would say.  But there are different views of what constitutes knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and how knowledge is validated depending on the domain, the discipline or the subject matter in question. So Bates agrees with the view on knowledge as dynamic, expanding and constantly changing which has been introduced by Maarten De Laat, Caroline Haythornthwaite and Dave Cormier. But Bates resists the idea advocated by among others Dave Cormier that the nature of knowledge has undergone radical changes (Bates 2015:62).

As a backdrop for understanding what constitutes knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and how knowledge is validated in rhizomatic learning, I’ll dwell on Tony Bates’ arguments about knowledge and academic knowledge in a digital age. While discussing academic versus applied knowledge in his book, Bates comments: “The difficulty I have with the broad generalisations about the changing nature of knowledge is that there have always been different kinds of knowledge…Thus while beliefs about what constitutes ‘important’ knowledge may be changing, this does not mean that the nature of academic knowledge is changing.” (Bates 2015:62). And Bates develops his arguments:

I agree that academic knowledge is different from everyday knowledge, but I challenge the view that academic knowledge is ‘pure’, not applied. It is too narrow a definition, because it thus excludes all the professional schools and disciplines, such as engineering, medicine, law, business, education that ‘apply’ academic knowledge. These are just as accepted and ‘valued’ parts of universities and colleges as the ‘pure’ disciplines of humanities and science…(Bates 2015:62-63)

These arguments are also met within the views on new production of knowledge by Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny et al as they promote two modes of knowledge production: Mode 1 and Mode 2. Mode 1 is focused within a particular discipline, produces knowledge in the absence of interested parties (autonomy), is an individual matter with criteria of one particular discipline (peer reviewed publications, peers and experts as gatekeepers in relation to relevant problems, ideas and research techniques in the discipline, making quality and control two sides of the same coin while establishing an understanding of what good or ‘correct’ research is inside that particular discipline). Mode 1 is associated with ‘traditional’ research in universities and higher education, but it is also an ideal of knowledge production that is already taught in K-12 schools.

Mode 2 is focused on application in practice. Mode 2 knowledge production is set in a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts, and Mode 2 is centered on the usefulness for the involved parties and for the society in general, so heterogenous groups of professionals, practitioners and experts collaborate on problems defined in a specific but complex context of application and people. This makes Mode 2 a collective phenomenon with a wider set of criteria that is not grounded in a normative understanding of what good or ‘correct’ research is, but has to be evaluated from several parameters of quality due to the heterogenous group of people involved and their different norms of quality. So Mode 2 is transdisciplinary and heterogenous. Mode 2 knowledge production is taking place not only at universities and colleges but also in contexts like professions, businesses, research centres, libraries, museums, trades and ministries (Darsø 2001:126-127; Hobel, Nielsen, Thomsen and Zeuner 2015:14-16).

As in Tony Bates’ discussion of academic versus applied knowledge, Mode 1 and Mode 2 are to be seen as modes of knowledge production supplementing each other. Mode 1 has not become obsolete, and it is still needed and has its role to play in knowledge production in an era of knowledge abundance. Mode 2 knowledge is to be considered just as valid as Mode 1 knowledge. And the two of them are interdependent on many occasions. The production of Mode 1 knowledge is obviously associated with academic knowledge which is a specific kind of knowledge according to Tony Bates:

“In summary, academic knowledge is a second order form of knowledge that seeks abstractions and generalization based on reasoning and evidence.

Fundamental components of academic knowledge are:

  • transparency
  • codification
  • reproduction, and
  • communicability.

Transparency means that the source can be traced and verified. Codification means that the knowledge can be consistently represented in some form (words, symbols, videos) that enables interpretation by someone other than the originator. Knowledge can be reproduced or have multiple copies. Lastly knowledge must be in a form such that it can be communicated and challenged by others.” (Bates 2015:61)

When it comes to academic knowledge, Bates argues that although some aspects of knowledge do change in a digital age where knowledge is dynamic, expanding and ever changing as quoted earlier, academic knowledge does not and should not change a lot with regards to its values and goals. But Bates has his eyes on the necessity for the students of today to learn not only content but also how it can be applied and used and to develop the skills that are needed to go on learning (Bates 2015:61). Knowledge involves, Bates says, “…two strongly inter-linked but different components: content and skills. Content includes facts, ideas, principles, evidence and descriptions of processes and procedures.” (Bates 2015:18), while skills are consisting of the skills that are required in a knowledge-based society – also known as 21st century skills and presented in the model of 21st century learning in Part 3 of this series.  To Bates the point is that the development of skills should be given the same attention as content acquisition so that learners have both the knowledge and the skills to handle and succeed in an era of knowledge abundance (Bates 2015:19). And as mentioned earlier: knowledge management is the most important skill of them all.

So Bates wants to develop the conception of academic knowledge, but he doesn’t see it as redundant or as a kind of knowledge that can be replaced by self-directed learning and networking (Bates 2015:66). Here Bates’ view almost echoes the view on past and emergent models of knowledge and practice presented by Caroline Haythornthwaithe earlier. Mode 1 knowledge has to go hand in hand with Mode 2 knowledge, and likewise learning has to be a combination of content, skills and competencies, and attitudes. At least this is how I read Tony Bates, and that is the reason why “…it is not sufficient just to teach academic content (applied or not). It is equally important also to enable students to develop the ability to know how to find, analyse, organise and apply information/content within their professional and personal activities, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to be flexible and adaptable in developing new knowledge and skills. All this is needed because of the explosion in the quantity of knowledge in any professional field that makes it impossible to memorise or even be aware of all the developments that are happening in the field, and the need to keep up-to-date within the field after graduating.” (Bates 2015:63).

What counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning?

What counts as knowledge in rhizomatic learning? How is rhizomatic learning working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters, and does it make innovation happen? Looking at rhizomatic learning as a model for knowledge production suited for an era of ever changing knowledge, knowledge management becomes a core theme closely connected to the question of how we know what we know. And while Tony Bates equally emphasizes Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge as important forms of knowledge in an era of knowledge abundance, supplementing each other, Dave Cormier focuses on Mode 2 knowledge and knowledge production as a collective phenomenon while he is in alignment with the view of knowledge introduced in Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance (see Part 1 of this series):

  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:228)

In his much cited article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum” (2008) Dave Cormier supports this view due to its promotion of new technology, web 2.0 and participatory culture:

The existing educational model with its expert-centered pedagogical planning and publishing cycle is too static and prescribed to accommodate the kind of fluid, transitory conception of knowledge that is necessary to understand the simplest of Web-based concepts. The ephemeral nature of the Web and the rate at which cutting-edge knowledge about it and on it becomes obsolete disrupts the painstaking process by which knowledge has traditionally been codified. Traditional curricular domains are based on long accepted knowledge, and the “experts” in those domains are easily identified by comparing their assertions with the canon of accepted thought (Banks 1993);…In less-traditional curricular domains then, knowledge creators are not accurately epitomized as traditional, formal, verified experts; rather, knowledge in these areas is created by a broad collection of knowers sharing in the construction and ongoing evolution of a given field. Knowledge becomes a negotiation (Farrell 2001). (Cormier 2008)

Tony Bates discussion of academic knowledge, Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge echoes in Cormier’s writing, and while supporting Weller’s claim for a changing view on knowledge, Cormier especially opposes the rules of transparency, codification and communicability as aspects of reliability and validity of information and knowledge in traditional academic knowledge management:

New communication technologies and the speeds at which they allow the dissemination of information and the conversion of information to knowledge have forced us to reexamine what constitutes knowledge; moreover, it has encouraged us to take a critical look at where it can be found and how it can be validated. The explosion of freely available sources of information has helped drive rapid expansion in the accessibility of the canon and in the range of knowledge available to learners. (Cormier 2008)

Thus the foundations upon which we are working are changing as well as the speed at which new information must be integrated into those foundations. The traditional method of expert translation of information to knowledge requires time: time for expertise to be brought to bear on new information, time for peer review and validation. In the current climate, however, the delay could make the knowledge itself outdated by the time it is verified (Evans and Hayes 2005; Meile 2005)…Information is coming too fast for our traditional methods of expert verification to adapt. (Cormier 2008)

In favour of Mode 2 knowledge production Dave Cormier also goes along with a change to a more participatory and socially constructed view of knowledge: “In particular, social learning practices are allowing for a more discursive rhizomatic approach to knowledge discovery. Social learning is the practice of working in groups, not only to explore an established canon but also to negotiate what qualifies as knowledge.” (Cormier 2008). Here Cormier proposes his view of knowledge: knowledge is dynamic, emergent and ever changing – a view that is grounded in the rhizome as a more flexible conception of knowledge for the digital age. So in the theoretical arguments framing rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance, the rhizome is both 1) a conception of knowledge (what knowledge is), 2) a specific kind of network (what it means to know), and 3) a metaphor for learning in a specific context (what it means to learn). And so, as a multi-perspective metaphor, the rhizome cristallizes as a metaphor for “coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge.” (Cormier 2008). Cormiers answer to this condition of uncertainty is to focus on complex problems and collaborative problem-solving that match the complexity and uncertainty of rapidly changing knowledge and the abundance of ideas, resources, people and practices online.

Through the solving of complex problems that call for networking and collaborative interaction while experimenting, developing and co-creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge, Cormier challenges authoritarian and hierarchical ways of thinking and claims to replace the canon and the curriculum of a discipline or subject matter with interpretations, negotiations, peer-defined knowledge and practice, and with diverse and changing perspectives on complex problems set in a complex situation and context. The idea of the tree as knowledge is substituted for the idea of weed as knowledge as Cormier expresses it in his talk “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Stressing the processuality of rhizomatic learning this way, Cormier emphasizes that knowledge is not a thing but a result of negotiation and a way of knowing. And so Dave Cormier tries to save knowing from becoming a fixed canon of ‘pure’ content. It is this dichotomy between ‘pure’ and applied knowledge Tony Bates offers resistance to in “Teaching in a Digital Age” (2015), and in a sense Cormier tries to overcome the dichotomy when he adopts Dave Snowden’s The Cynefin Framework as the complexity model he connects to and combines with his own conception of knowledge in order to establish a vision of learning: rhizomatic learning works in the complex domain of The Cynefin Framework.

As a complexity model The Cynefin Framework presents four “domains of knowledge all of which have validity within different contexts” (Snowden 2002:11), and in an early article Snowden announces that “It is about creating focused dynamic interactions between traditional and unexpected sources of knowledge to enable the emergence of new meaning and insight.” (Snowden 2002:3). Knowledge is not just to be considered a thing but also to be managed as flow, “…as an ephemeral, active process of relating.” (Snowden 2002:5-6). So as a complexity model The Cynefin Framework works with both-and, with paradox:

Philosophers have long seen paradox as a means of creating new knowledge and understanding. Physicists breaking out of the Newtonian era have had to accept that electrons are paradoxically both waves and particles – if you look for waves, you see waves, if you look for particles, you see particles. Properly understood knowledge is paradoxically both a thing and a flow…we look for both in different ways and embrace the consequent paradox. (Snowden 2002:7)

This sounds familiar to me, there is alignment with the ideas of rhizomatic learning, and in fact there is also a paradox entangled in the rhizomatic learning process: students following their own paths like rhizomes while getting accustomed to lines of flight and flow. As I wrote in Part 3 of this series an important aspect of rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy is that in many ways it turns the ‘end goals’ of a traditional learning process into its starting point: as a student you need to know what you have come in to learn when you enter the rhizomatic learning process, but to know what you have come in to learn implies critical thinking, reflection and independence, and that is paradoxically also what and why you have come in to learn. By introducing non-linearity in the form of the rhizome as a metaphor for learning in an experimenting, multi-nodal, multi-directional, multi-perspective and participatory way, learning itself becomes a complex system that is a network of many interdependent parts which interact according to the context.

A parallel can be found in Dave Snowden’s article where he describes the processes of the complex domain this way:

By increasing information flow, variety and connective-ness either singly or in combination, we can break down existing patterns and create the conditions under which new patterns will emerge, although the nature of emergence is not predictable. (Snowden 2002:16).

It is these processes of grasping relationships and recognizing changes in culture, Dave Cormier tries to initiate by describing the phases of the students’ self-directed learning processes as 1) orient, 2) declare, 3) network, 4) cluster, and 5) focus (Cormier 2015). The unpredictability of the non-linear dynamic exploration and connection of knowledge, people, resources and ideas is kept in a kind of balance by a sense of insight and temporary order through working in informal communities (cluster) and focusing on the complex problems and challenges chosen in order to co-create new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. But there are also traces of the domain of chaos in rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy: it is the uncharted domain focusing on new and innovative knowledge and working through temporary communities (Snowden 2002:10-13).

The complex domain is a domain of informal learning according to Snowden: “…we create ecologies in which the informal communities of the complex domain can self-organise and self-manage their knowledge to transfer to the formal, knowable [complicated] domain on a just in time basis.” (Snowden 2002:19). And ‘just in time’ requires openness to networks. But when Snowden in his article insists on keeping a connection between complex and complicated, informal and formal, and between learning and teaching when it comes to an educational context, Cormier focuses wholeheartedly on the complex domain and students following their own pathways in his introductions to rhizomatic learning in the video talks embedded in this series.

That is, Dave Snowden is intensely concerned about the exchange and flow of knowledge between the four domains in his complexity model, while – although he recognizes the dialogue between the complex and the complicated domains – Dave Cormier seems to see the complex domain as an alternative to the ‘traditional’ knowledge production in the complicated domain as he writes in his article:

If a given bit of information is recognized as useful to the community or proves itself able to do something, it can be counted as knowledge. The community, then, has the power to create knowledge within a given context and leave that knowledge as a new node connected to the rest of the network. (Cormier 2008)

Informal learning is connected to the complex domain in Dave Snowden’s complexity model, and his vision of the community is associated with clustering – communities being based on mutual interest – and with swarming like in swarming bees as an alternative that “is used where no naturally occurring cluster can be found, either to create a cluster or to make one visible.” (Snowden 2002:21). Snowden’s conceptualizations match Cormier’s emphasis on initiating informal learning through introduction to an existing professional community where students can participate, and the processes of clustering and swarming, forming temporary communities, look very similar to the learning approach of rhizomatic learning that the student has to adapt and perform in order to learn what he/she has come in to learn: 1) orient, 2) declare, 3) network, 4) cluster, and 5) focus. I think the answer to why community is not to be understood as a community of practice in rhizomatic learning can be found here: the metaphor of swarming, the idea of clustering and the heterogeneity and temporary existence of them both goes against the idea of what a community of practice is in The Cynefyn Framework: a community based on known membership and known objectives and belonging to the complicated domain, not the complex. So social learning has a special meaning in rhizomatic learning as it connects students following their own pathways into clusters for a while where the processes of knowledge production and negotiation of meaning causes learning based on a social constructivist view of learning.

Aiming at bringing the knowledge flow of complexity at work in a pedagogical and educational context, rhizomatic learning has an affinity with Dave Snowden’s thinking – and not with networked learning – as it becomes very visible with Snowden’s characterization of The Cynefin Framework:

…an idealised model of knowledge flow involving three key boundary transitions – the disruption of entrained thinking, the creation and stimulation of informal communities and the just in time transfer of knowledge from informal to formal.(Snowden 2002:18)

But in his visions for learning Dave Cormier at the same time sketches what he sees as a key issue for a pedagogy and a practice that incapsulates the conditions of complexity in a digital age: “…a weird historical process has happened: as we have got more abundant access to knowledge, we have reduced the complexity of the teaching.” (Cormier 2015). In Cormier’s world abundance is synonymous with fact checking and how to-videos online, with foundational knowledge and surveys a few clicks away, as he presents it in his talk “The rhizomatic lense –seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Abundance understood as the explosion in the quantity of knowledge – stressing heterogeneity and a diversity of knowledge, ideas, resources and people being available – is what is associated with complexity in Cormier’s world, and that is what qualifies rhizomatic learning to be seen as a pedagogy of abundance according to Martin Weller’s educational model of education (see Part 1).

This focus on knowledge production, on the other hand, calls for a pedagogical attention to teaching students how to be sure they enter and stay in the complex domain, and this has all to do with acquiring skills, competencies and meta knowledge about knowledge management, I think. In the complex domain both problems and solutions are ambiguous, so you’ll have to ask not just good questions but complex questions that deal with relevant and critical just in time problems, and there are no correct answers but possibilities coming from connecting knowledge, people, ideas and resources while crossing the borders of disciplines, subject matters and institutions. Complex problem-solving is about asking new and open questions, about recycling and combining the information and knowledge already available while coping with paradoxes, about finding new methods, and about trying to rethink and reimagine preconditions, understandings, norms and values. This is where networking and interdisciplinarity play a crucial role along with negotiating meaning, where the possibilities of networks and serendipity are tried out, and problem-solving and heterogeneity meet and stimulate each other. Understanding dynamic processes and complex contexts are the hearth of the matter here. As Mode 2 knowledge production, knowledge production in rhizomatic learning is focused on application in practice of actual, relevant problem-solving and set in a web of co-producers coming from different disciplines, domains and contexts as described earlier. But introducing students to a full description of what, how, why, where and when to do to enter and stay in the complex domain is not a part of Dave Cormier’s pedagogical considerations.

Innovation is an asset of the pedagogy of rhizomatic learning and implicitly connected to the practice of rhizomatic learning where the processes of qualifying new knowledge might produce innovation (Darsø 2001:29) – and when comparing with Cormier’s thinking about what counts as knowledge, it seems that it is rather radical innovation than incremental innovation that is the purpose. Innovation is about producing something new, that has to be useful and have value and it has to be usable and applicable in practice. And value has to be understood in the broadest possible sense, not just in the economical sense. The new – whether it is knowledge, procedures, methods, programming or artefacts – is not an innovation until it has been proven usable and valuable in practice and accepted by its users. And this is exactly what the complex domain – and especially the domain of chaos – is about in Dave Snowden’s thinking: an emergent practice focused on producing the new, the different, the unique (Snowden 2010). So students will have to master not only entering and staying in the complex domain but also to try to work actively with producing innovative knowledge in order to accomplish the rhizomatic quest, but I don’t think they will get there by navigating the complexity only.

Students will need to know how to work with the uncharted and with ‘unknowledge’, that is asking questions about the knowledge you don’t know you don’t know, and asking questions about areas you didn’t know existed, by asking “What if?”, “Could it be that…?, “It is impossible, but still: why not try to…?”. That would also be a start working deliberately, creatively, critically and reflective not only with uncertainty and complexity, understanding dynamic processes and changing perspectives, but also with producing new knowledge and innovation. As it is, there is no guarantee that rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy and a practice produces anything but knowledge that is new to the students but well known to the experts, the discipline, the subject matter or the social practice. Students still need to learn and be taught how to. But by saying that, I have left the informal space of rhizomatic learning.

A conclusion and almost the end of my exploration

The question of what counts as knowledge is what distinguishes rhizomatic learning from networked learning. Rhizomatic learning is concerned with producing innovative Mode 2 knowledge and based on a social constructivist view on learning, as far as I can see, as the starting point of the rhizomatic learning process is the individual learner or student. Networked learning, on the other hand, is engaged in working with foundational knowledge and Mode 1 knowledge as well as Mode 2 knowledge production, as I see it. Networked learning strives to keep a connection between teaching and learning, formal and informal education, and deals with both the simple, the complicated and the complex domains in Dave Snowden’s complexity model, so to say, whereas rhizomatic learning has its specific focus on self-directed learning and preferably in informal spaces in the complex domain. Networked learning is based on a socio-cultural perspective on learning and teaching (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:292-293; Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:51). This is the reason why networked learning values more strongly tied groups and communities of practice/learning/inquiry/knowledge – contrary to rhizomatic learning – while building on collaborative interdependences between learners and on relational dialogue, critical reflexivity and shared experiences during the learning processes:

“Rather, learning and knowledge construction is located in the connections and interactions between learners, teacher and resources, and seen as emerging from critical dialogues and enquiries. As such, networked learning theory seems to encompass an understanding of learning as a social, relational phenomenon, and a view of knowledge and identity as constructed through interaction and dialogue.” (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

“…there is a shift from seeing knowledge as an object to seeing knowing and indeed learning as a situated activity and something people “do” together, collectively and socially.” (Hodgson, De Laat, McConnell and Ryberg 2014:22)

I won’t blame you, if you still find it hard to see and understand the differences and distinctions between rhizomatic learning and networked learning. It can still be difficult to grasp that the definition of networked learning, quoted at the beginning of Part 4 in this series, doesn’t cover rhizomatic learning, too. You need to dig deep down into these two pedagogies to find out that they are not the same. And it shows that it might not be that easy to take on Martin Weller’s challenge and start exploring and experimenting with possible pedagogies of abundance. But it is also necessary to remember that these two pedagogies and practices of abundance might not be fully developed, described, conceptualized or theorized, even though networked learning has a quite long history by now. They might still be considered pedagogies in the making, so to speak.

I have come to an end with my exploration and I will conclude firstly that rhizomatic learning is a pedagogy of abundance not only in Dave Cormier’s view but also in the sense of Martin Weller. There is agreement between Weller’s educational model of abundance and the principal lines in Cormier’s thinking. Secondly I’ll repeat that rhizomatic learning is not a version of (open) networked learning as this blogpost hopefully has proved.  And thirdly it is equally important to stress that networked learning is not a generic term for several pedagogies of abundance but a specific pedagogy with a range of specific practices and a possible pedagogical choise for an era of knowledge abundance side by side with among others problem based learning, communities of practice, connectivism, rhizomatic learning and connected learning.

Is there anything left to say then? Well, after all I think there is still a little summing up to be done on pedagogies of abundance in general. It is not quite the end yet.

Further reading:

Bates, Tony (2015): Teaching in a Digital Age

Bell, Frances, Mackness, Jenny and Funes, Mariana (2016): Participant Association and Emergent Curriculum in a MOOC: Can the Community be the Curriculum?, Research in Learning Technology 2016, 24: 29927 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v24.29927

Cormier, Dave (2016): Making the community the curriculum

Cormier, Dave (2015): The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance. IATED talks

Cormier, Dave (2012): Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic learning

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

Darsø, Lotte (2001): Innovation in the Making, Samfundslitteratur København

Haythornthwaithe, Caroline (2015): Rethinking learning spaces: networks, structures, and possibilities for learning in the twenty-first century, Communication Research and Practice, 1:4, 292-306, DOI:10.1080/22041451.2015.1105773

Haythornthwaite, Caroline and De Laat, Maarten (2010): Social Networks and Learning Networks: Using social network perspectives to understand social learning, Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010, Edited by: Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L, Hodgson, V, Jones, C, de Laat M, McConnell, D & Ryberg, T

Hobel, Peter, Nielsen, Helle Lykke, Thomsen, Pia og Zeuner, Lilli (red.)(2015): Interkulturel pædagogik – Kulturmøder i teori og praksis, U Press København

Hodgson, Vivien, De Laat, Maarten, McConnell, David, and Ryberg, Thomas (2014): Researching Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning: An Overview. In V. Hodgson et al. (eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 1-26, Springer New York

Hodgson, Vivien, McConnell, David, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): The Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Networked Learning. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 291-305, Springer New York

Knobel, Michele and Kalman, Judith (eds.)(2016): New Literacies and Teacher Learning. Professional Development and the Digital Turn, Peter Lang Publishing New York

Kop, Rita, Fournier, Helene and Mak, John Sui Fai (2011): A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Online Courses, The International Review of research In Open and Distributed Learning Vol. 12. No 7

Mackness, J., Bell, F., & Funes, M. (2016): The rhizome: A problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC,  Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 32 (1), 78-91

McConnell, David, Hodgson, Vivien, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): Networked Learning: A Brief History and New Trends. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 3-24, Springer New York

Rajagopal, Kamakshi, Brinke, Desirée Joosten-ten, Van Bruggen, Jan, and Sloep, Peter B. (2012): Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and networking skills needed to optimally use them, First Monday, Volume 17, Number 1-2 January 2012

Ryberg, Thomas, Buus, Lillian, and Georgsen, Marianne (2012): Differences in Understandings of Networked Learning Theory: Connectivity or Collaboration? In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 43-58, Springer New York

Snowden, Dave (2010): The Cynefin Framework

Snowden, Dave (2002): Complex acts of knowing – paradox and descriptive self-awareness, IBM Global Series

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Photo by photo fiddler on Flickr CC-BY-SA – Some rights reserved

Elna Mortensen

 

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 5

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 4

536068094_69f72b259f_mRhizomatic learning is a variation of ‘open networked learning’, I stated in part one of this series of blog posts while looking into what a pedagogy of abundance might look like. At first sight this might not seem the most likely conclusion to make, but to me the design for learning laid out in Dave Cormier’s conception of rhizomatic learning is in alignment with the definition of networked learning:

Networked learning is learning in which information and communications (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors, between a learning community and its lear-ning resources. (Goodyear et al 2004, p.2) (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

In their focus on communities, networks, participation and participatory culture, collaboration and negotiation of meaning the four examples of rhizomatic learning and networking across the educational system, presented in part two and part three of this series, show that the educational and pedagogical values in rhizomatic learning as a pedagogical approach overlap the educational and pedagogical values in networked learning as a theory and a pedagogy:

…networked learning can be seen to be derived from critical and humanistic traditions (e.g. those of Dewey, 1916; Freire, 1970; Mead, 1934) and that learning is social, takes place in communities and networks, is a shared practice, involves negotiation and requires colla-borative dialogue (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, 2012). (Hodgson, De Laat, McConnell and Ryberg 2014:2)

So while seeing the world, including learning and teaching, from a socio-cultural standpoint, networked learning “offers the theory and practice for a pedagogy that is appropriate or suited to live in a digitally and networked world where sharing and collaborative ways of working are the norm rather than the exception”, as it is defined by Vivien Hodgson, David McConnell, and Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:292). Hence, my comment on rhizomatic learning as ‘open networked learning’ seems to be an unnecessary doubling, as openness is to be seen as an inherent and implicit characteristic of networked learning today:

Over the years, interest has widened to include the social aspects of networked learning, with a focus on building and cultivating social networks and seeing technology as a part of the phenomenon rather than as an end in itself. Networked learning focuses therefore on the diversity of social relationships that people develop, the strategies that they use to maintain them and the value that the relationships creates for learning. (De Laat 2012:27)

So let me rephrase my statement: rhizomatic learning is a variation of networked learning, as I see it.

The landscape of networked learning

The landscape of networked learning is formed by shared pedagogical values, although the shared values can lead to a variety of learning designs. Nevertheless, Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld estimate that most networked learning practitioners agree in valuing these aspects of networked learning:

  • Cooperation and collaboration in the learning process.
  • Working in groups and in communities.
  • Discussion and dialogue.
  • Self-determination in the learning process.
  • Difference and its place in a central learning process.
  • Trust and relationships: weak and strong ties.
  • Reflexivity and investment of self in the networked learning processes.
  • The role technology plays in connecting and mediating. (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:295)

And they suggest that the practice of networked learning should be seen from a holistic perspective, where each aspect of networked learning has to be present and integrated in the practice and has to contribute to the educational values underpinning networked learning (Hodgson, McDonnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:295)

Originating as an approach and a theory interested in understanding the developments in technology to support learning and engrossed in exploring socio-cultural designs of learning, networked learning is linked to the traditions of open education and to radical emancipatory and humanistic educational ideas and approaches such as critical pedagogy and democratic and experiental learning, as referred to in the quote earlier. These educational values of dialogue, independence and interdependence become visible in the six areas of pedagogy that David McConnell has emphasized as areas that need to be addressed when designing for networked learning. And of course, the shared pedagogical values mentioned earlier must be contained in these six areas of pedagogy, too:

1 Openness in the educational process.

Openness leads to meaningful learning and can be facilitated by the development of a learning community, where one works for oneself and for others and where development occurs.

2 Self-determined learning.

Self-determined learners take primarily responsibility for identifying their own learning needs, and help others in determining theirs. In these processes, learners become aware of how they learn, and develop deep approaches to learning.

3 A real purpose in the cooperative process.

Much higher education learning is abstract and often unrelated to real situations, and many students struggle to see the purpose of it. If learners have a real purpose in learning, they engage with the learning process in a qualitatively different way.

4 A supportive learning environment.

A supportive learning environment is one where learners encourage and facilitate each other’s efforts. Being supportive does not, however, mean a lack of intellectual challenge.

5 Collaborative assessment of learning.

Collaborative self-peer-tutor-assessment processes are central to networked learning: they are a corollary of cooperative learning and support the cooperative process.

6 Assessment and evaluation of the ongoing learning process.

Assessing and evaluating the networked learning course is also a cooperative tutor-learner process. Learners must feel that there is a real opportunity to change the design of the course; this can be achieved by the tutor and learners working together in regular group processing. (McConnell 2006)”(McConnell, Hodgson and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:8-9)

Accordingly, in order to sum up, collaborative and cooperative learning, learning through dialogue and group work together with online resources and collaborative knowledge construction is the hearth of the matter in networked learning (McConnell, Hodgson and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:10). With Web 2.0 the participatory aspect of networked learning gives possibilities for focusing on the learner as a node in a network while designing for “the relational interdependencies and connections between learners in their mutual meaning construction.” (Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:300). This way learning and knowledge construction happens in a dynamic, ongoing process of connecting knowledge and negotiating meaning:

However, the ideas of relations and connections suggest that learning is not confined to the individual mind or the individual learner. Rather, learning and knowledge con-struction is located in the connections and interactions between learners, teachers and resources, and seen as emerging from  critical dialogues and enquiries. As such, networked learning theory seems to encompass an understanding of learning as a social, relational pheno-menon, and a view of knowledge and identity as con-structed through interactions and dialogue. (Ryberg, Buus and Georgsen 2012:45)

This is what Maarten de Laat terms ‘learning as a social network relationship’ (De Laat 2012:27). And rather, this intersection of networks and community leaves space for rhizomatic learning to fit in: the focus on independence and interdependence underlines my view, I think. But there needs to be some kind of balance to see rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning: a balance between the messy and sometime chaotic self-directed learning processes where individuals form and determine their own routes and learning through connecting to people and resources, and the open and mutual engagement in a learning community based on participatory culture and knowledge construction. And in Dave Cormier’s case the motto “The community becomes the curriculum” is the expression of this. With Cormier the community is a community of practice (Wenger 1998), as introduced in part two of this series of blog posts, but networked learning does not privilege a particular pedagogical model, so the kind of community that can be applied in networked learning might just as well be:

  • A learning community with a focus on learning together, sharing and developing relationships.
  • Communities of inquiry with a focus on inquiring about issues of common interest.
  • Knowledge communities with a focus on developing knowledge.(Hodgson, McConnell and Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012:297)

So needless to say, but still, designing for rhizomatic learning must 1) take the structures, principles and attitudes of networks and a community of practice into account, 2) while implementing the six areas of pedagogy in networked learning and creating learning activities that support them, 3) and seeing to that the shared values of networked learning end up being a part of the basis of the rhizomatic learning processes. It almost seems like an act of bricolage itself that must also activate and embody the rhizomatic vision in order to make rhizomatic learning happen:

In the rhizomatic view knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by Constructivist and Connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises. (Cormier 2008)

Networking

As a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes are based on the interconnectedness of ideas, on the boundless exploration across many domains with many different starting points (Innovating Pedagogy 2012:33) and on serendipity and bricolage. While accepting complexity as a condition, the focus on connectivity and networks is making the rhizomatic learning process multi-nodal, multi-directional and multi-perspective: the rhizome is navigating the complexity as Dave Cormier expresses it in his talk in the video “The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance” (2015). Here Dave Cormier challenges the problem of abundance and points out that:

“…a weird historical process has happened: as we have got a more abundant access to knowledge, we have reduced the complexity of the teaching.” (Cormier 2015)

Rhizomatic learning is working on reinstalling the complex domain in disciplines and subject matters and on being an innovating pedagogy in an era of knowledge abundance. Maarten de Laat has characterized this as “New Learning” in his talk on “Networked Learning in Open Practices” (2015):

maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-slide1

In the talk De Laat presents the results of research on teachers’ professional deve-lopment that was introduced in his address “Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?” (2012). The research has been based on a networked learning perspective, and although it focuses on teachers’ professional development, I think quite a few of the insights from the research are relevant and useful to teaching and learning in schools and higher education as well – and especially relevant to understanding rhizomatic learning as a variation of networked learning. De Laat defines networked learning as a perspecitive:

…that aims to understand social learning processes by asking how people develop and maintain a ‘web’ of social relations used for their learning and development (Good-year, Banks, Hodgson & McConnell, 2004; Haythorn-thwaite &  De Laat, 2011; Sleeples & Jones, 2002). (De Laat 2012:26)

De Laat suggests to combine formal and informal learning, and with an emphasis on participation, construction and becoming as metaphors for learning (De Laat 2012:26) he identifies these aspects as important for learning in an informal-formal environment – much in alignment with rhizomatic learning and with Martin Weller’s educational model of abundance introduced in part one of this series on knowledge abundance:

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Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices

Networking and communities are inevitable here, and in an interview with Steve Whee-ler after the talk, Maarten de Laat emphasizes the importance of learning networks to education and learning today:

As De Laat puts it:

“Networks are everything. I don’t think you can do anything on your own anymore, so for me networked learning is about creating a social web around you, if you like, so you have access to people who you can talk to, who you can share issues with, who you can do things together with….In terms of educational future I think it is very important to learn and teach those learning and thinking skills in order to participate in the debate and being able to contribute. So for me networking or communities or any social circulation is a very important part of education.” (Maarten de Laat – Interview with Steve Wheeler EDEN Conference 2015)

Apart from being networked, the skills we need to equip learners with in an age of digital abundance are the skills and the competences that are necessary for learning in the 21st century. De Laat refers to the framework of Partnership for 21st Century Skills which is one of the 15 frameworks analysed when establishing the model of the 21st century learning, I presented in the last blog post. And although social networking and technology are not identical, Web 2.0 and Learning 3.0 has placed social networking online as a part of networked learning. And likewise, De Laat explains in his address:

By social networking we mean the configurations of con-nectivity that exist when people interact with each other by communicating, sharing resources, and working, learning or playing together, supported through face-to-face interaction as well as through the use of information and communication technology (Hay-thornthwaite & De Laat, 2011). Each interaction defines a connection between people, known as a social network tie. These ties vary in strength from weak to strong according to the range and types of activities that people engage in. In other words, networked relationships – ties – connect the dots between otherwise isolated people. (De Laat 2012:23)

Here Maarten de Laat refers to Mark Granovetter’s theory of the strength of weak ties (1973/1983):

“In a favorite article on the strength of weak ties, Granovetter (1973) demonstrated that weak ties are important for gaining access to new knowledge, perspectives and alternative conversations. Strong ties with those who are close to you, on the other hand, are needed to deepen and embed knowledge closely related to day-to-day shared practice, as well as commitment to joint activities.” (De Laat 2012:27)

Communities of practice are often based on strong ties as the process of moving towards full participation usually builds on strong relationships, as I mentioned in part two of this series, but as Maarten de Laat defines it in the interview and Wenger–Trayner has said it: “Rather than contrasting a community here and a network there…it is more useful to think of community and network as two types of structuring processes. Community emphasizes identity and network emphasizes connectivity.” (Wenger 2010:10)

This way networking can be seen as both an important aspect of self-directed learning and of developing communities or communities of practice as places/spaces for practicing self-directed learning: the relationships and resources in a personal learning network (PLN) can be put forward as challenging or confirmatory perspectives in the negotiations of meaning with peers and facilitators/educators in a domain and in the community or the community of practice.

Personal learning networks – on the road to collaboration

In their article “Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them” (2012) Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep engage in defining networks that support individuals’ learning:

In our understanding, the skills at the centre of network-ing involve an ability to identify and understand other peoples’ work in relation to one’s own, and to assess the value of the connectivity with these others for potential future work. The result of networking is a personal professional network, i.e., an egocentric, personally and intentionally created network of people set up by an individual specifically in the context of her professional activities. This network gathers a heterogeneous circle of people, distributed across different groups and places, and connected to the individual with connections of varying degrees of strengths (Granovetter, 1983; Nardi, et al., 2000). (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

For personal networks, Grabher and Ibert (2008) propo-sed a three-layered approach, consisting of a communa-lity layer (strong ties), a sociality layer (weak ties) and a connectivity layer (very weak ties)…By including weak links in their personal networks, learners can create an envi-ronment for learning (Kester and Sloep, 2009). We be-lieve the intentionality of the professional is the strongest at the sociality layer, as contacts in this layer are the most mobile within someones’s personal network. Depen-ding on the intentions of the professional, these ties have the potential to become stronger connections or develop into even weaker ties. An individual can therefore create and orchestrate ties to effectively support learning needs and potentially use technology to support this network, effectively making it a personal learning network (PLN). (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

And so the focus on social networking seen from an individual’s personal perspective offers bridges to collaboration and participation in communities and communities of practice:

“Both strong and weak connections contribute to the individuals’s learning: strong ties allow for active collaboration on knowledge creation, whereas weak ties are sources for new information, knowledge and ideas (Bell, 2010; Gargiulo and Benassi, 2000; Jones, 2008; Jones, et al., 2008; Ryberg and Larsen, 2008; Wenger, 1998).” (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

A personal learning network requires, as mentioned, all three types of ties: strong, weak, and very weak, and while both Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep and Maarten de Laat focus on the importance of weak and strong ties for learning, I think the very weak ties are equally important to rhizomatic learning as they might lead to serendipity and growing networks in a ‘nomadic’ fashion. And this is a real potential for new learning, too.

According to Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep the following factors influence the choises taken in each of the three stages of building, maintaining and activating personal learning networks:

  • Communality
  • Organisation of the contact
  • Network of a contact
  • Reputation
  • Benevolence
  • Like-mindedness
  • Real potential for collaboration
  • Real potential for learning
  • Trends in work environment.

Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep conclude, that ”…networking for networked learning is not only a skill to be developed, but also an attitude towards learning to be cultivated…networking revolves around a complex ability of (i) recognizing and identifying the other’s qualities; and, of (ii) making (valuable) associations of these qualities with the learner’s own qualities that could take place when interacting with a contact or even in the contact’s absence. Learners have different levels of proficiency in this skill, but can also differ in the actual application of the skill, due to the attitude with which they approach learning.”  (Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep (2012))

Networking is crucial to Rajagopal, Brinke, Van Bruggen and Sloep not only as a key skill for individual learners but also as a starting point for learning to learn and for future collaboration. This is also what Maarten de Laat hints at in the interview with Steve Wheeler quoted earlier. I would add, that this is the basics learners need to know about networks and networking, so that they can understand and practice the skills, the strategies and the attitudes required “to adopt a networking style” for their learning as De Laat calls it (De Laat 2012:29), and so that they are able to participate, collaborate, reflect and construct new knowledge – eventually through serendipity, rhizomatic structures and bricolage.

In his talk De Laat mentions the close relationship between networked learning and open practices, while he presents his model of education as “New Learning”. As mentioned earlier it is a model that resembles Martin Weller’s educational models of scarcity and abundance described in part one of this series. But De Laat’s  model of “New Learning” is also a model that includes perspectives and understandings from the theory of communities of practice and maybe from rhizomatic learning, as I see it. I think learners need to know these educational models and their implications on teaching and learning as part of the basics of networks and networking, too, and Maarten de Laat has summed it all up in these slides:

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maarten-de-laat-networked-learning-in-open-practices-Slide4.jpg

Maarten de Laat: Networked Learning in Open Practices 

But how to get started?

Being a student entering a domain, a discipline or a subject matter, one of the first nodes in the network could be the educator opening up his/her professional network for students to connect to online. In many ways there is nothing new in educators introducing their students to resources, interesting people, stakeholders and different positions in a field, but the accessibility, the spreadability, the searchability and the ease and speed with which connections can be made is new and made possible by social media and participatory environments. Starting this way, the students get to know experts, members of communities, resources, ideas and links while they are getting a grip of networks and networking in the domain or the discipline, and they can begin exploring and networking across domains and disciplines from a diversity of starting points. As in rhizomatic learning. And as Dave Cormier exemplifies in his article “Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum” (2008). And eventually, the student turns into a learner who discovers that there are different kinds of problems and knowledge in education, and that they call for different types of networks to make collaboration emerge in a productive fashion. This must also be practiced and taught as part of digital literacies and networked literacies in the domain or discipline along with foundational knowledge, meta knowledge and humanistic knowledge due to the model of 21st learning presented in the last blog post.

And so, once again I have met the challenge of Martin Weller and have tried to look into to what extend rhizomatic learning can be regarded as a pedagogy of abundance, as Weller suggested in his article “A pedagogy of abundance” (2011):

“Exploring pedagogies of abundance will be essential for educators to meet the challenge and equip their learners with the skills they need in an age of digital abundance.” (Weller 2011:233)

But what then, when Martin Weller also mentions these two characteristics of the fundamental change in education, he is mapping in his educational model of abundance:

  • A change to a more participatory, socially constructed view of knowledge is needed to suit a demand-pull model of education.
  • New technologies are the basis in realizing this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed. (Weller 2011:228)

Well, then there are still issues to return to and to explore while asking: where do different types of network fit in in a pedagogy of abundance, and – apart from what has already been said  – how does rhizomatic learning realize this new conception of knowledge as networked and socially constructed? And is rhizomatic learning really a version of networked learning, as I have been claiming until now?

This blogpost has been edited on 14. June 2016 in order to make the distinction between ‘community’ and ‘community of practice’ clearer in three passages and in order to make my exploratory approach more visible in another two passages.

Further reading:

Dave Cormier (2015): The rhizomatic lense – seeing learning from the perspective of abundance. IATED talks

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum, Dave’s Educational Blog

De Laat, Maarten (2012): Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?, Open Universiteit, The Netherlands

Granovetter, Mark (1983): The strength of weak ties: A network theory revisited, Sociological Theory, volume 1, pp. 201-233

Granovetter, Mark (1973): The strength of weak ties, American Journal of Sociology, pp. 1360-1380

Hodgson, Vivien, De Laat, Maarten, McConnell, David, and Ryberg, Thomas (2014): Researching Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning: An Overview. In V. Hodgson et al. (eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 1-26, Springer New York

Hodgson, Vivien, McConnell, David, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): The Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Networked Learning. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 291-305, Springer New York

McConnell, David, Hodgson, Vivien, and Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2012): Networked Learning: A Brief History and New Trends. In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 3-24, Springer New York

Networks are Everything – Maarten de Laat – Interview with Steve Wheeler #EDEN15, EDEN Conference 2015

Rajagopal, Kamakshi, Brinke, Desirée Joosten-ten, Van Bruggen, Jan, and Sloep, Peter B. (2012): Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and networking skills needed to optimally use them, First Monday, Volume 17, Number 1-2 January 2012

Ryberg, Thomas, Buus, Lillian, and Georgsen, Marianne (2012): Differences in Understandings of Networked Learning Theory: Connectivity or Collaboration? In L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al. (eds.), Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning, pp. 43-58, Springer New York

Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., Mor, Y., Gaved, M. and Whitelock, D. (2012): Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1, The Open University

Weller, Martin (2011): A pedagogy of abundance, revista española de pedagogia año LXIX, no 249, mayo-agosto, 223-236

Wenger, Etienne (2010): Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice, pp. 179-198, Springer London

Wenger, Etienne (1998): Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press

Photo by Kris A on Flickr – CC-BY-NC-ND  Some rights reserved

Networks are Everything – Maarten de Laat Interview by Steve Wheeler #EDEN15 on YouTube – CC-BY-NC-SA

Elna Mortensen

 

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 4