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)


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):


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:


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:



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

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 1

2061381703_a57d8d4cb4_qWe live in an era of knowledge abundance – but what does that mean and what are the impli-cations for learning and education? In his article “A pedagogy of abundance”, Martin Weller stresses that “We are witnessing a fundamental change in the production of knowledge and our relationship to content. This is producing an abundance of content which is unprecedented.” (Weller 2011:232). Weller strives for mapping and conceptualizing the effect the abundance of lear-ning content and resources has on how we approach learning and education, while he presents the assumptions that any pedagogy of abundance must take into account. This perspective of abundance extends the presen-tation of the Visitors and Residents framework and  the discussions about credibility and what counts for valid knowledge in an age of digital abundance, I wrote about in my most recent blogposts.

As a background for his examinations of how education may shift as a result of abundance, Martin Weller anticipates and describes a shift in education from ‘a pedagogy of scarcity’ to ‘a pedagogy of abundance’.

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 facing a necessity for education to be relevant to the digital society, another model of education emerges  where:

  • 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)

This view on new technologies as the cause of a shift from an era of knowledge scarcity to an era of knowledge abundance is elaborated on by Bonnie Stewart:

“Prior to the digital era, scholarly knowledge was traditionally organized around the premise that knowledge is scarce and its artifacts materially vulnerable. Eye’s (1974) seminal article on knowledge abundance asserts, “[M]aterial can be transformed from one state to another but the original state is diminished…materials are exhaustible “ (p. 445). Manuscripts and books as knowledge artifacts are exhaustible, and costly to produce and distribute. Digital content, however, is persistent, replicable, scalable and searchable (boyd, 2011, p. 46); digital knowledge artifacts can be distributed with negligible cost to the originator or user, and without being consumed or diminished in the process. Thus widespread and increasingly mobile access to digital knowledge artifacts in “an abundant and continually changing world of information” (Jenkins, 2006, Netwotking section para. 1)) marks a shift from an era of knowledge scarcity to an era of knowledge abundance, even though access remains inequitably distributed.“ (Stewart 2015)

The shift to an era of knowledge abundance leaves Weller with one key question:

This scale and range of learning related content at least raises the question of whether we have developed the appropriate teaching and learning approaches to make best use of it. In short, what would a pedagogy of abundance look like? (Weller 2011:227).

Assumptions for a pedagogy of abundance

In order to pin down the assumptions for any pedagogy of abundance, Martin Weller provides a list to reflect on when looking for a pedagogy of abundance:

  • Content is free – not all content is free and not yet.
  • Content is abundant.
  • Content is varied – content is no longer predominantly text based.
  • Sharing is easy – through the use of tools like social bookmarking, tagging and linking the ‘cost’ of sharing has largely disappeared.
  • Social based.
  • Connections are ‘light’ – as with sharing, it is easy to make and preserve connections within a network since they do not necessitate one to one maintenance.
  • Organisation is cheap – Clay Shirky (2008, 31) argues that the ‘cost’ of organising people has collapsed, which makes informal groupings more likely to occur and often more successful.
  • Based on a generative system – Zittrain (2008) argues that unpredictability and freedom are essential characteristics of the internet and the reasons why it has generated so many innovative developments.
  • User generated content – related to the above, the ease of content generation will see not only a greater variety of formats for content, but courses being updated and constructed from learner’s own content. (Weller 2011:228-229).

This list might seem obvious to many, but I think it is important to keep it in mind to be able to figure out what abundance in all its complexity means to teaching and learning. Weller points to that we may not be needing new pedagogies to meet the assumptions on his list, although we can’t just continue designing and practicing teaching and learning the traditional scarcity way in an era of knowledge abundance, and to stress this apparent contradiction he quotes  Grainné Conole (2008):

Arguably, then there has never been a better alignment of current thinking in terms of good pedagogy – i.e. emphasizing the social and situated nature of learning, rather than a focus on knowledge recall with current practices in the use of technologies – i.e. user-generated content, user-added value and aggregated network effects. Despite this, the impact of Web 2.0 on education has been less dramatic than its impact on other spheres of society – use for social purposes, supporting niche communities, collective political action, amateur journalism and social commentary. (Weller 2011:227-228)

Weller concludes while pursuing this line of thinking:

Many of our approaches to teaching and learning were developed in a different age, and this basic shift from moderate scarcity to excessive abundance constitutes a challenge to higher education, and to individual information processing abilities. It may well be that our existing theories are sufficient, they just need recasting and reimagining for a world of abundance. (Weller 2011:232)

iIn his article Martin Weller examines some of the pedagogies that emphasize the benefit of social and situated learning and also meet at least some of the assumptions on his list. Problem based learning, Constructivism, Communities of practice and Connectivism end up being the ones that are positively evaluated as pedagogies suited for recasting and reimagining for a world of knowledge abundance. All  of these pedagogies and learning theories are convertible into supporting participatory culture as well as collaborative and situative learning as key ingredients in any pedagogy of abundance, although connectivism has been criticized for not being a theory of learning but rather a theory about education. These theories can be recasted and reimagined towards building learning on connections, on networks, in communities and in communities of practice in order to align with a more participatory and socially constructed view of knowledge. Anyhow, the quest for a pedagogy of abundance resembles the move from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0 as Steve Wheeler has described it:

Learning Modes Grid

Steve Wheeler: Next generation learning

And indeed, the shift from moderate scarcity to excessive abundance is a challenge, not only to Higher Education but to the educational system altogether. Martin Weller comments the challenge this way:

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)

This final challenge leaves all the hard work to the educators, so I think it is only fair to give further attention to the double question put to educators by Weller and recast the two questions within the mode of Learning 3.0 dominated by learner-centered learning, networks and communities, and rhizomatic structures.

Rhizomatic learning

Rhizomatic learning is Dave Cormier’s metaphor for ‘chaotic learning’ (Wheeler 2015:42-43), that is learning that takes you across borders when hyperlinks take you to places, content and things you didn’t expect to learn, or connect you with people you have never heard of before:

Rhizomatic learning invokes the biological metaphor of a rhizome where the stem of a plant sends out roots and shoots, each of which can grow into a new plant. Rhizomes resist organizational structure and have no distinct beginning or end; they grow and propagate in a ‘nomadic’ fashion, the only restrictions to growth being those that exist in the surrounding habitat. Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points. (Innovative Pedagogy 2012:33)

Cormier describes these rhizomatic processes as a way of going beyond the canon of what has traditionally been considered knowledge and the way knowledge traditionally has been validated and verified in an era of scarcity:

“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. The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.” (Cormier 2008)

And so, rhizomatic learning is Cormier’s theory of learning in a time of abundance. In the video “Rhizomes and Open Learning”, Dave Cormier introduces rhizomatic learning and how he sees it in relation to education:

With the rhizome as his metaphor for learning in an era of abundance, inspired by Deleuze and Guattari, Dave Cormier draws on pedagogies and approaches to learning like connectivism,  paragogy based on peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange, and distributed cognition including communities.

Self-directed learning is a keyword in this landscape of pedagogies meant to accommodate and deal with knowledge abundance. How to find, handle, interpret, validate, negotiate, create, improve, apply and share information and knowledge through connecting, communicating  and collaborating with online resources, experts, peers, networks, communities and communities of practice is essential in the processes of knowledge creation. They are also an inherent part of current practices in the use of technologies and emphasize the social and situated nature of learning in a culture of knowledge abundance.

In connectivism learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources (Weller 2011:231), and Dave Cormier takes the idea of connectivism a step further when he introduces rhizomatic learning as a learning theory underlining a non-linear, experimenting, multiperspectivist and participatory approach to learning. In rhizomatic learning serendipity, that is accidental discovery, is an important dimension of networking, and bricolage becomes an aspect of knowledge creation within the context of a community that helps finding, interpreting, validating, negotiating and sharing informations and knowledge while co-creating new, accurate and up-to-date knowledge. As Dave Cormier says it in the video:  “to know what it is to know inside this space” is what you need  to learn, whether it is a subject matter, a problem based task, a case or a theme that is your common purpose and the reason why you got together in the community. This way ‘the community becomes the curriculum’:

In the rhizomatic model of learning, curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. This community acts as the curriculum, spontaneously shaping, constructing, and reconstructing itself and the n subject of its learning in the same way that the rhizome responds to changing environmental conditions… (Cormier 2008)

And so, rhizomatic learning is a variation of open networked learning and a model for the construction of knowledge suited for an era of ever changing knowledge.

I think rhizomatic learning is one way to go, when it comes to finding a pedagogy of abundance that corresponds with the affordances of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 while predicting and shaping Learning 3.0. But I don’t think rhizomatic learning is an as seamless process to engage in for many people as it might seem. In Bonnie Stewart’s opinion it requires networked or digital literacies to navigate in an open networked  learning environment, and she has nicely put this into words in “Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities”, a blogpost written some years ago:

“But I believe learning – whether in online social networks or straight from the canon, bound in leather – involves being able to read and make sense of the codes and signals being given off by those you interact with, particularly those you expect to learn from. These are what I refer to when I talk about “legitimacy structures” within academia and networks…” (Stewart 2013a)


Bonnie Stewart: Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities

These two sets of legitimacy structures and practices are reflected in Cormier’s traditional and rhizomatic models for knowledge validation – and they are both essential to understanding the pedagogies and the two models of education, the traditional scarcity model and the model of abundance and open practices, that are up for discussion in this blogpost.

As Bonnie Stewart says, her legitimacy structures and practices are in a sense literacies, and to me the challenging part for education is to make students  and learners embrace these digital and networked literacies that belong to networked learning while learning how to engage online in a Residents mode as mapped by Alison Le Cornu and David White and presented in my most recent blogposts . Bonnie Stewart talks about these digital and networked literacies as new literacies of participation in relation to learning in MOOCs in her article “Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?”. As I see it, this also applies to rhizomatic learning:

“The studies in new literacies (Barton, 1994) established the use of the plural “literacies” rather than the singular “literacy” in order to push beyond the binary of “literate” and “illiterate” that still shapes our cultural threshold-based conceptions surrounding literacy (Belshaw, 2012). Lankshear and Knobel (2007) frame new literacies as follows:

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)

… Belshaw (2012) notes that skills are subject to objective thresholds, whereas “literacy is a condition, not a threshold … you cannot become literate merely through skill acquisition – there are meta-level processes also required”…

To be digitally literate is to be able to engage the connections and communications possibilities of digital technologies, in their capacity to generate, remix, repurpose, and share new knowledge as well as simply deliver existing information. Many people have no experience or conception of these types of possibilities: simply being online does not necessarily build social and communicative familiarity with what Lankshear and Knobel (2007) refer to as the “distinctive ethos” of participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006). But interacting within an environment that exposes and encourages meta-level processing as well as knowledge generation, remixing, repurposing, and sharing can help create that condition of literacy.” (Stewart 2013b)

These digital and networked literacies correspond with Le Cornu and Whites definition of the Resident mode and with my own views on digital and learning literacies, and they can be results of rhizomatic learning as a pedagogy of abundance, too, but they are also learning literacies and dimensions of social and situated learning that needs to be deliberately and consciously developed to keep rhizomatic learning a relevant  pedagogy of abundance. I think this focus on digital and networked literacies could be an answer to Martin Wellers second question to educators: how do you best equip learners to make use of abundance?

Rhizomatic learning is a suggestion for a pedagogy of abundance that has been born of open networked learning and Higher Education, but this leaves an extra question for educators, as I see it: Is it possible to introduce rhizomatic learning and the principles behind it as a pedagogical perspective on knowledge abundance across the entire educational system from primary school to Higher Education?

This blogpost has been edited on 5. June 2016 in order to make the distinction between ‘community’ and ‘community of practice’ clearer in three passages.

Further reading:

Conole, Grainné (2008): New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies, Ariadne, 56

Cormier, Dave (2008): Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum

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

Stewart, Bonnie E (2015): In Abundance: Networked Participatory Practices as Scholarship, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, Vol 16, No 3

Stewart, Bonnie (2013a): Learning in the Open: Networked Student Identities

Stewart, Bonnie (2013b): Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?, MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol. 9, No.2

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

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

Photo:  AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by . .Jef Safi.  on Flickr

Elna Mortensen

In an era of knowledge abundance – Part 1

Visitors and Residents approaches – crossing boundaries, bridging the gap

3209856136_111f60b925_mMapping Visitors and Residents approaches to the web as different ways of engaging online today was up for consideration in my last blogpost. I’m quite intrigued by the at once simplicity and complexity of the Visitors and Residents framework as it puts forward a possibility to explore and explain not only what we are doing on the web but also how and why and with whom we are engaging. At the same time this mapping gives possibilities for teaching digital and learning literacies that nurture and provide students with Residents approaches towards studies and learning in higher education. This ambition links the Visitors and Residents framework to the shift in learning modes from Learning 2.0 to Learning 3.0: these are digital and learning literacies that come from immersion into a present context and into a present culture.

The development of the Visitors and Residents framework is connected with the work of David White and Alison Le Cornu, but to be more precise the background for the extended framework, I mentioned in my last blogpost, is a research project, The Visitors and Residents project, presented in the Jisc Guide “Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach” (2014) by David White, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna Lanclos, Erin M. Hood and Carrie Vass.

The Visitors and Residents project investigated:

  • if individual approaches shift according to learners’ educational stage starting with students in their last year of high school/secondary school and first year undergraduate college/university students and following three later educational stages through to an experienced academic stage
  • what motivates different types of engagement with the digital environment for learning
  • which sources learners turn to when they search for information and which sources learners choose to interact with online and offline as part of their learning process
  • the learners’ modes of engagement in both personal and institutional contexts
  • potential cultural differences between two countries, as learners from both the UK and the US participated in the project.
  • (Project background In: White et al (2014))

Open practices

From an educational point of view the project has assessed to what degree students and scholars are prepared for the open, networked and participatory practices the Resident web build on:  the practices of web 2.0 and social media and the possibilities of Learning 3.0. The research results show that in early educational stages students are not terribly well-prepared for participating in Residents modes in professional and institutional contexts. The concerns and the possibilities in relation to open practices in higher education are introduced by David White in this video drawing on the results from The Visitors and Residents project:

So to foster experiences with open practices, educators can choose to engage students online in communities of practice, while facilitating Resident modes of interaction within these online spaces/places. The benefits of this are according to The Visitors and Residents project that:

In this way both the teaching and the learning process become Resident in nature and students are challenged to develop their thinking and express their thoughts as part of an open discourse… (Stakeholder snapshots – resident mode In: White et al (2014))

It is also relevant to any discipline at the point where individuals feel it is important for their point of view to become part of the discourse around a given subject. In this way Resident practices can be an important part of students developing their ‘voice’ within their chosen field. (Stakeholder snapshots – resident mode In: White et al (2014))


As David White stresses, the Resident web is a space/place where we can be co-present, but it involves identity, reputation and credibility. So it also challenges what counts for valid knowledge when education engages students and educators in the Resident web and open practices. This issue of credibility is at stake in the results from the research project, too: it is not just a question of discourse but also a question of what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. In a manner of speaking students’ everyday practices, based on ‘we search and connect’, meet and clash with the traditional scholarly practices of how knowledge is acquired, tested, validated and shared in our culture. David White comments and reflects on these matters in the following video:

The informal learning of students’ everyday open practices on social media and the web seems to be difficult to transfer to the contexts of the mainly closed world of formal learning in higher education, as David White sums it up in the video. So the discussion on how to integrate students’ informal learning into formal learning in meaningful ways has moved from being an important issue at primary and secondary educational levels to be a relevant issue for higher education, too. Here the Visitors and Residents framework comes in as a way of mapping and reflecting on students’ informal and formal learning spaces/places and practices and as a starting point for meeting the open, networked and participatory practices of the Resident web in an institutional context. And so, a concluding comment from David White on the research project could be this:

Taking a more Resident approach to education is more than just a question of technology. It confronts under-lying conceptions of what it means to learn and what it means to know. (Visitors and Residents Part 2: Credibility (2014))

A double agenda

The research project on Visitors and Residents approaches has a double agenda, although the development of students’ digital and learning literacies appears to be the heart of the matter. Because the challenges and possibilities of a more Resident approach to education also meet the educators. So, while aiming at turning students into contributors, collaborators and co-creators within connected learning communities of practice, educational institutions should also encourage and embrace the increasing value of online currency that goes along with educators’ presence online. Educators’ open, networked, and participatory practices are a precondition for teaching and designing learning activities that foster digital and learning literacies by using open practices. Donna Lanclos and David White elaborate on this aspect of The Visitors and Residents project in their article “The Resident Web and Its Impact on the Academy” (2015). Here they challenge the understanding of what scholarship is:

In the industrialized, commodified model of intellectual labor that has come to dominate late 20th and early 21st century academia, the focus has historically been on producing units (articles, books, grants awarded, etc.) to be consumed rather than on forming the relationships and networks from which work can emerge. This now needs to be reconsidered as the Web influences the academy to re-position itself within a larger knowledge landscape in a more connected manner. The academy can no longer simply serve its own communities in the context of the networked Web, and it is under increasing cultural pressure to reach out and appear relevant. The web breaks us out of a product-centered publishing cycle and allows us to become part of an ongoing flow, in which knowledge is perpetually negotiated within networks. (Lanclos and White (2015))

Lanclos and White reflect on and work up their understanding of the Resident web in accordance with the concept of ‘Networked Participatory Scholarship’ defined by George Veletsianos and Royce Kimmons:

Networked Participatory Scholarship is the emergent practice of scholars’ use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect upon, critique, im-prove, validate and further their scholarship.(Veletsianos and Kimmons (2012:768))

And as students might resist the open practices of the Resident web in an institutional context, educators in higher education might resist institutional expectations of true openness and networked participatory scholarship, as I have touched on in a previous blogpost. So in many ways the double agenda in The Visitors and Residents project leaves students and educators alike to cross the borders and align with networked participatory scholarly practices and epistemological issues.

Crossing boundaries, bridging the gab

In my last blogpost I came up with a small list on what students need to know about open practices and how to participate on the Resident web. Some of my suggestions overlap the initiatives the research project recommends explicitly and implicitly. So to give a further idea of how to understand and anticipate the digital gap and the clash between informal learning and formal learning, students experience in higher education according to the research project, I would like to turn to Catherine Cronin. She addresses the challenges of being open in higher education in her keynote speech “Navigating the Marvellous: Openness in education” (2014) in the video below.  For a very short moment during the speech, the sound is not the best, but I think it is worthwhile to listen through the minute it takes, if you are interested in the process of opening up education.

Further reading:

Lanclos, Donna and David White (2015): The Resident Web and Its Impact on the Academy, Hybrid Pedagogy, October 8

Veletsianos, George and Royce Kimmons (2012): Networked Participatory Scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks In: Computers & Education 58 p. 766-774

White, David, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna Lanclos, Erin M. Hood and Carrie Vass: (2014): Evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach, Jisc

Photo: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by tanakawho on Flickr

Elna Mortensen




Visitors and Residents approaches – crossing boundaries, bridging the gap

A digital gap

15199950717_95822308c4_n’Digital natives’ and ’digital immigrants’ often turn up as part of an argument about digital media, digital literacies and the use of the internet and the web in education, in everyday life, or in peoples professional lives. A few days ago I experienced it again. The two concepts have become the truth, and in many cases people don’t realize that Marc Prensky’s distinction between ‘digital natives’ (those born in the era of digital and social media) and ‘digital immigrants’ (those born before the internet and the web became part of everyday live) is a myth. And a much-criticised myth. So although Marc Prensky was right about the existence of a digital gap, a gap between people who are at ease within digital environments  and people who are not, the digital gap is not about age, as Prensky claimed, but has to do with attitude and motivation. This is the main critique against Prensky as it goes according to David White and Alison Le Cornu.

In the article “Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement” (2011) White and Le Cornu introduce the concepts “visitors” and “residents” to describe people’s engagement online and to analyse  the different ways people use tools and social media:

We propose that Visitors understand the Web as akin to an untidy garden tool shed. They have defined a goal or task and go into the shed to select an appropriate tool which they use to attain their goal. Task over, the tool is returned to shed. It may not have been perfect for the task, but they are happy to do so long as some progress is made…Ultimately to Visitors the Web is simply one of many tools they can use to achieve certain goals; it is categorized alongside the telephone, books, pen and paper and off-line software. It is not a ‘place’ to think or to develop ideas and to put it crudely, and at its most extreme, Visitors do their thinking off-line. So, Visitors are users, not members, of the Web and place little value in belonging online. (White and Le Cornu 2011:5-6).

Residents, on the other hand, see the Web as a place, perhaps like a park or a building in which there are clusters of friends and colleagues whom they can approach and with whom they can share information about their life and work. A proportion of their lives is actually lived out online where the distinction between online and off-line is increasingly blurred. Residents are happy to go online simply to spend time with others and they are likely to consider that they ‘belong’ to a commu-nity which is located in the virtual…

Residents see the Web primarily as a network of indivi-duals or clusters of individuals who in turn generate content. Value online is assessed in terms of relationships as well as knowledge. (White and Le Cornu 2011:6).

The two concepts ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ are not to be seen as a dichotomy but as a continuum where people slide to and fro:

Our Visitors and Residents typology should be under-stood as a continuum and not a binary opposition. Individuals may be able to place themselves at a particular point along this continuum rather than in one of two boxes. Nor is a predominantly Visitor approach necessarily any less effective or of less value than a predominantly Resident approach since the value of either has to be set against a given context and set of goals. Similarly, we don’t consider the Visitor to be necessarily any less technically adept than the Resident. (White and Le Cornu 2011:6).

As Wenger (1998) has highlighted, we are all members of multiple communities and have to negotiate our roles and identities as we navigate the ‘nexus’ of communities we belong to. In a similar manner an individual’s approach to the Web is likely to change dependent on context. For example, an individual might take a Resident approach in their private life but a Visitor approach in their role as a professional.  Similarly it is not unusual for someone in a leadership role in a special interest group to manage that responsibility in a Resident style online while in a personal or professional context they choose to act as a Visitor. (White and Le Cornu 2011:7).

An extended framework

David White has been engaged in developing this first model for analyzing online engagement into a framework that sees the visitor and resident modes in relation to private and institutional contexts as well. We have to take into account, too, that context decides our mode of engagement online. In this video David White presents this extended framework and the critique of Marc Prensky’s concepts that set off the work on developing a new typology in the first place:

The question is now, what education can do about the digital gap, that started the hullabaloo? An answer could be, that since the digital gap isn’t running between generations but is an established fact across generations, the visitors – residents framework can be a basis for designing activities and teaching digital and learning literacies, so that students get the chance to develop residential modes relevant to their subjects, their disciplines and the contexts they engage in as students. So to me, students at least need to know how to:

  • be present in places/spaces online where goals and activities lead to dialogue, collaboration, cooperation, and sharing.
  • develop digital literacies relevant to their subjects, disciplines and studies through using tools and developing modes of engagement and participation while evolving civic education/civics.
  • build communities as places/spaces through connecting with individuals, groups and resources while developing participatory culture and sharing.
  • go on developing skills, competences and digital literacies to be able to take up both visitors’ and residents’ modes in the future – and in my last two blogposts I have suggested that Mozilla’s web literacies could be a place to start.

This blogpost has been edited on 25. November 2015 where two extra titles – often referenced to on this blog – were added to the reading list below.

Further reading:

Jenkins, Henry et al. (2009): Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, MacArthur, The MIT Press

Wenger, E. (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

White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011): Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

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Elna Mortensen

A digital gap

Digital literacies, spreadable media and gifting

3703145222_428db0fdbc_mCultural and social understanding are important aspects of digital literacies, and while touching on digital literacies once again in my last blog post on web literacies and The Mozilla Web Literacy Map, I also came up with a model of forms of knowledge to recognize that literacy is a culturally defined social act, as defined by McVerry, Belshaw & O’Byrne (2015:633). The model is containing four forms of knowledge and knowledge building that are involved in developing digital literacies:


Digital literacies

– including critical thinking and reflexivity, imagination, creativity, innovation, social and cultural understanding –



Some of the inspiration to this model came from Steve Wheeler, who has made a model for digital literacies in the context of communities of practice, but I have adapted and enhanced his model and added ‘culture’ as the fourth knowledge form. I did that to stress the socio-cultural and anthropological perspective that is inherent in this understanding of digital literacies as knowledge building and knowledge forms that reflect context and culture as substantial aspects of defining digital literacies in your specific case. Thus, the model is not to be seen as just another taxonomy, but as an assemblage that contains of interdependent knowledge forms qualifying each other, overlapping each other and interacting with each other through combinations in order to develop digital literacies in a specific context and culture.

So which ever framework on digital literacies you start off with to work out your own definition of digital literacies – as suggested in my last blog post with the inspiration from Doug Belshaw – my model takes into account that cultural analysis and your concept of culture is relevant to catch the practices, the social and cultural understanding, and the context you need to apply to your definition of digital literacies. Institutional, local, national, regional or global contexts and cultures might influence the way you frame digital literacies.

Culture or cultures?

It might be worthwhile to consider if the concept at the top of my model of knowledge forms and knowledge building should be culture in singular or cultures in plural as a consequence of my broad understanding of culture. The context chosen for framing a specific understanding of digital literacies would be in singular, but the cultures and communities of practice that are meaningful to digital everyday practices and experiences would be in plural and make up a complex weaving of people’s sense of place, history, identity, community and relationship to learning as the backdrop to developing digital literacies. And it most certainly would be the case if we narrow down digitial literacies to concern web literacies. Then it is most likely that participatory culture would turn up as a practice and a space for reflexive articulation and sharing that links the social and cultural understandings of the context not only to web cultures but also to the broader concept of culture behind them.

Participatory culture is associated with a networked culture where dialogue, interactivity, collaboration, sharing and circulation are at the core of web practices and web literacies. And often participatory culture is equated with the architecture of participation and web 2.0, (I have also done that), although that is misleading according to Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green in their book “Spreadable Media. Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture” (2013). Here they state that:

Some people have confused participatory culture with Web 2.0, but Web 2.0 is a business model through which commercial platforms seek to court and capture the participatory energies of desired markets and harness them toward their own ends. While Web 2.0 platforms may offer new technical affordances that further the goals of participatory culture, friction almost always exists between the desires of producers and audiences, a gap which has resulted in ongoing struggles around the term of participation. (Jenkins, Ford & Green 2013:297).

Spreadable media and gifting

I have touched on Henry Jenkins’ work on participatory culture before on this blog, but in “Spreadable Media” the project is not just to understand new media, participatory culture and convergence culture. Instead Jenkins and his co-authors Ford and Green want to qualify the media and entertainment industries for “a moment of transition” where:

…audiences and producers make competing bids for the new moral economy that will displace the broadcast paradigm which has dominated cultural production and distribution throughout the twentieth century. (Spreadable Media 2013:295).

So the book is to be anticipated as:

…appeals to construct a system which pays more attention to the public interest – defined not through elite institutions but by public itself, through its acts of appraisal, curation, and circulation. (Spreadable Media 2013:295).

And so, sharing in accordance with the spirit and values of participatory culture will be spreading and “…transforming commodities into gifts, turning texts into resources, and asserting  [people’s] own expanding communication capacities.” (Spreadable Media 2013:292). This way a ‘spreadable media’ environment could hold the potential for social and cultural change in a wider perspective. And then, I would add, the audiences and visitors of Web 2.0 would become active users and participants that are not only shaped by culture but are also co-creating and shaping culture and forming possible futures.

As a joint project between scholars and industries, “Spreadable Media” is a cultural analysis of the current influence of global cultural flows on new media and entertain- ment, and  spreadability includes:

  • The flow of ideas
  • Dispersed materials
  • Diversified experiences
  • Open-ended participation
  • Motivating and facilitating sharing
  • Temporary and localized communication
  • Grassroot intermediaries who advocate and evangelize
  • Collaborating among roles – which causes blurring relations between producers, marketers and audiences.

This way spreadability and practices of participatory culture become relevant to web literacies as part of understanding and critically reflecting on what is going on on the web and likewise relevant as the basis for visions of a more informed and engaged society:

The spreading of media texts help us articulate who we are, bolster our personal and professional relationships, strengthen our relationships with one another, and build community and awareness around the subjects we care about. And the sharing of media across cultural boundaries increases the opportunity to listen to other perspectives and to develop empathy for perspectives outside our own. We believe that building a more informed and more engaged society will require an environment in which  governments, companies, educational institutions, journalists, artists, and activists all work to support rather than restrict this environment of spreadability and the ability of everyone to have access – not just technically but also culturally – to participate in it. (Spreadable Media 2013:307-308).

As a consequence of this plea for accessibility for everybody in the future, the joint project in “Spreadable Media” is put forward as a reconceptualisation of ‘participation’ and ‘participatory culture’ through a cultural analysis of what participatory culture has been in the past and is in the present. And through a dialogue with governments, companies, educational institutions, journalists, artists and activists the book also sketches out what ‘participation’ and ‘participatory culture’ could be in the future. Participatory culture meets cultural analysis and civics, and it is interesting to notice that the plea for gifting, appraisal, curation and circulation as cultural practices goes well with the open movement and build on top of open licencing like Creative Commons (CC).

This dialogue about how to create an environment of spreadability continues in the essays by scholars and industries which are accessible in what Jenkins, Ford and Green call ‘the enhanced book’. But the strong advocacy for a more informed and more engaged society  based on a new moral economy and gifting is also on the agenda for philosopher Tim Rayner who recently made a contribution on his blog: “Sharing, Gifting and the Moral Evolution of the Social Web”. From a web perspective he argues that a new way of understanding sharing  is needed and highlights that:

These days, when we think about life online, it’s all about ‘sharing’. This has created the perception that sharing is all the social web is good for. I think this is a grand mistake. The concept of sharing blinds us to the moral potential of the social web, gifting.

Sharing is cool, but it’s not the potential of the web. The potential of the web as a connective tissue for human beings is gifting — that is, sharing for impact.

What we need is cultural innovation. We need a philosophical evolution in the way that we think about sharing online in order to focus ourselves on creating valuable content and flourishing environments.

One thing is clear: we cannot capture this activity using the language of sharing. We need the discourse of gifting and gift economics to appreciate the moral potential of the social web and create online communities based in trust, reputation, collaboration, and creativity.

Further reading:

Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013): Spreadable Media. Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, New York University Press

Jenkins, Henry, Sam Ford and Joshua Green: Spreadable Media. Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture – the enhanced book,

McVerry, J. Gregory, Doug Belshaw and W. Ian O’Byrne (2015): Guiding Students as They Explore, Build, and Connect Online, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 58(8) May 2015

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by stevendepolo on Flickr

Elna Mortensen

Digital literacies, spreadable media and gifting

Web literacies – a part of digital literacies

The Mozilla Web Literacy Map version 1.5 was released in the spring and is the result of an ongoing project at the Mozilla Foundation to define the skills and competencies that are required to read, write and participate on the web. The Web Literacy Map was conceived by the Mozilla Community, a group of global stakeholders from formal and informal education and from industry, due to the principles of openness and open culture behind Mozilla. The Web Literacy Map aims at building an understanding of the explicit affordances of the web as a networked medium and offers a starting point for educators to create teaching and learning activities and modules while developing a more holistic understanding of web literacies in students. The project was led by Doug Belshaw, and besides presenting The Web Literacy Map and some of the voices around it I will also dive into how Belshaw’s own work on digital literacies is compatible with the ideas behind Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map and the ongoing discussions of new literacies and digital literacies.

640px-WebLiteracyMap-v1.1-updatedDigital literacy or digital literacies?

I have touched on this issue in a previous blogpost presenting Doug Belshaw’s work on digital literacies in his thesis “What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation”. Here Belshaw concludes that it is not possible to reach a definition of digital literacy to rule out all other definitions, so instead he focuses on digital literacies, the multiplicity of literacies that occurs when digital literacy is used in practice. Digital literacy is different dependent on the context you are working with, and so the definition of digital literacies and the understanding of it is bound up with context: digital literacies are plural, context-dependent and socially negotiated.

In his thesis Belshaw discusses Lankshear and Knobel’s work and views on new literacies in their book “New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning” from 2006. And although he moves beyond their aspirations for a single definition of new literacies covering it all, he shares their sociological view on literacy:

We have moved from a psychological view of understanding literacy (as with Traditional Literacy) to a sociological view where ‘[l]iteracies 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’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006, p. 12).(Belshaw 2012:188).

Promoting a pragmatic approach, Belshaw proposes a framework or matrix of new and digital literacies that is “resilient enough to include both those literacies no longer culturally or technologically relevant, as well as accommodating those that may be developed in the future.” (Belshaw 2012:199):

A semi-fluid, community-accepted matrix of literacies could be flexible enough to be adaptable to various current contexts as well as having the ability to be updated as necessary in future.(Belshaw 2012: 199).

This matrix consists of overlapping literacies involving eight essential elements:


If you are going to work with digital literacies your work starts with defining what these eight essential elements of digital literacies mean in your context, according to Belshaw, as “digital literacies are an overlapping matrix in which certain parts are either foregrounded or backgrounded, depending upon context.” (Belshaw 2012: 210). Belshaw sees digital literacies as “transient: they change over time, many involve using different tools or developing different habits of mind, and almost always depend upon the context in which an individual finds herself.” (Belshaw 2012:204). And every time you revise your definition of digital literacies to integrate things that are relevant and important to you, the point of departure will be these eight essential elements of digital literacies.

The Mozilla Web Literacy Map version 1.5

Doug Belshaw has been pondering whether web literacies are a part of digital literacies or not and has mentioned that digital literacies are like a lot of dots where you have to draw the line, while web literacies are easier to start with because you can draw a circle around them and get to know how to navigate the web. And so he establishes web literacies as a part of digital literacies.

belshaw.400- web literacies

Never the less, I see The Mozilla Web Literacy Map as an example of how to work with Belshaw’s definition of digital literacies – a semi-fluid, community-accepted matrix of literacies being adaptable to a current context – as the Mozilla community has set off with a joint definition as their starting point and has worked with alignment around the definition:  “It focuses on Frank (2001) and Bigum’s (2002) notion of “the Internet as literacy” (McVerry, Belshaw & O’Byrne (2015:633), and thus the joint definition of the Mozilla community pins down Belshaw’s creed that a definition of digital literacies must cover literacies of the past, the present and the future:

Many frameworks, such as digital literacy, media literacy, and information literacy have considered the skills for the Web. However, these frameworks have attempted to make sense of the Web using previous metaphors, rather than understanding the explicit affordances of the Web as a networked medium…The Web Literacy Map attempts not to merely understand, but to build a better Web. (McVerry, Belshaw  & O’Byrne 2015:632).

The idea of the Web Literacy Map is to provide a prescriptive guidance for educators regarding the internet as literacy, so that they can teach reading, writing and connecting on the web and people can develop digital skills and competencies while capturing what is happening on the web just now. Thus, the Web Literacy Map builds on web 2.0 practices and tools, moving towards web 3.0, and among others things seeing them in the contexts of networks, of communities of practice, of participatory culture and of the open web movement:

The Web Literacy Map, while presented in grid form with the three strands (e.g., Exploring, Building, and Connecting), recognizes literacy as a culturally defined social act. You cannot learn Web literacy by separating the competencies contained in the strands from the act of doing (Ito et al., 2013). The three strands of the Web Literacy map are intertwined. (McVerry, Belshaw & O’Byrne 2015:633).

This understanding of web literacies resembles points made by Wyn Kelley and Henry Jenkins in “Reading in a Participatory Culture”:

In this context, literacy is no longer read as a set of personal skills; rather the new media literacies are a set of social skills and cultural competencies, vitally connected to our increasingly public lives online and to the social networks through which we operate. Just as authors are increasingly seen as sampling and remixing earlier works in their same tradition, so too, creative expression, critical engagement, and intellectual argument are understood as  part of an exchange that involves multiple minds, and as such, developing literacy is about learning how to read, think, critique and create together. (Kelley & Jenkins 2013:48).

So understanding the explicit affordances of the web as a networked medium involves the characteristics of web 2.0 tools, media and approaches as:

  • open
  • social
  • complex
  • participatory
  • networked
  • distributed
  • dynamic
  • mass scale.

And the understanding also involves an insight in the architecture of participation that allows us to interact and take part on many different levels while we are working with exploring and navigating the web (reading), building and creating for the web (writing) and connecting and participating on the web. This is why the three strands of the Web Literacy Map are overlapping in supporting the acts of doing and making:

wheeler-architecture of participation

Tim O’Reilley coined the term web 2.0 in 2004 and also put forward the term ‘architecture of participation’ to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution, and so, an architecture of participation is both social and technical as it is influencing the skills and involvement of users to cooperate as much as possible: it builds on a culture of sharing and open practices, and it involves networks and communities of practice. So in the context of learning, the architecture of participation and the related affordances of web 2.0 (collaboration, reflection, interaction, dialogue, creativity, organization, inquiry, authenticity) are both the condition for and a part of the grid and the competencies labeled in the three strands and the skills nested under each of the competencies in the Web Literacy Map: the map builds on the principles that all learning is social (McVerry, Belshaw & O’Byrne 2015:635). In this sense it is possible to design teaching and learning activities based on the Web Literacy Map that allow students to take part on different levels of learning, developing skills, competencies and digital literacies while a variety of forms of knowledge and social and cultural understanding are evolving:


digital literacies



As a consequence of the architecture of participation and the affordances of web 2.0 tools and media and their impact on learning how to read (exploring), write (building) and participate (connecting) on the web, it also becomes crucial to develop transliteracy, as Steve Wheeler mentions in his recent book, “Learning with ‘e’s. Educational theory and practice in the digital age”: “Transliteracy can be defined as being literate across a number of platforms. In essence, it is the ability to be able to create content, organize, share and communicate through a variety of social media, discussion groups, mobile tools and other services that are commonly available. It is being able to articulate your ideas equally powerfully in a variety of available contexts, whether it is face to face or via telephone, video, audio or text.” (Wheeler 2015:175).

Transliteracy is an aspect of web literacies and needs to be a part of developing digital literacies. The following quote from Wheeler’s book echoes Belshaw’s view on digital literacies as transient while placing his eight essential elements to be identified as practices, skills, competences and mindsets in your current context:

From early signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV and film to networked digital media, 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. It is, we hope, an opportunity to cross some very obstructive divides. (Wheeler 2015:175)

Teaching the web

The Web Literacy Map is joined by a global platform with teaching and learning resources to use in an open practice while you are remixing the Web Literacy Map into your context, as McVerry, Belshaw and O’Byrne state in “Guiding Students as They Explore, Build, and Connect Online”, their article on the map and the open source project.

While remixing the skills and competencies in the Web Literacy Map to fit your context and planning  teaching and learning activities that integrate web literacies, you must – as an educator – consider that “[t]he core belief uniting the community is that exploring, building and connecting online can never be taught in isolation” (McVerry, Belshaw & O’Byrne 2015:633), and so you must make sure that the design of learning pathways travels across the strands of the map and combines exploring (reading), building (writing) and connecting online, as digital literacies, like any literacy, are defined by the relations between reception, production and context. Laura Hilliger has created an example of how to shape web literacy learning pathways with the Web Literacy Map and as a member of the Mozilla community she discusses teaching the web with the Web Literacy Map in this video:

In addition, I think, that as an educator your reflections about the whos, the wheres, the whys, the whats and the hows of your teaching and learning activities or module should be challenged by your thoughts about how different technologies can be used to support different forms of pedagogy through the affordances of web 2.0 tools and media (Conole  2013:97). In the context of the Web Literacy Map this means pedagogies that imply social learning. And then it is time to question the rhetoric of web 2.0, too, while discussing  “the new ethos stuff” in relation to the web as a networked medium,  and to help building a more holistic and sustainable model for understanding how digital culture operates, as  Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green call for in their book “Spreadable media”.

Further reading:

Belshaw, Douglas, AJ (2012): What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Conole, Gráinne (2013): Designing for Learning in an Open World, New York

Kelley, Wyn and Henry Jenkins (2013): Defining Reading: A (Sort of) Historical Perspective In: Jenkins and Kelley (eds.): Reading in a Participatory Culture, New York

McVerry, J. Gregory, Doug Belshaw and W. Ian O’Byrne (2015): Guiding Students as They Explore, Build, and Connect Online, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 58(8) May 2015

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

Images by Doug Belshaw,The Mozilla Foundation, and Steve Wheeler –CC-BY-NC-ND

Elna Mortensen

Web literacies – a part of digital literacies

New modes of learning and teaching – a starter kit with a European perspective

The development in higher education is provoked by technology changes, a networked world, participation culture, changing employer expectations and globalization of the sector, which has been resulting in growing diversity in learner profiles and pathways through higher education. Several of these challenges are challenges across the educational system in a globalized world, and the conception of the need for flexibility and open learning in education now and in the future is as compelling for schools as for secondary education and higher education. But how do you as a policy-maker, an institution, faculty or an educator get a grasp of what would seem as self-evident changes, challenges, contexts and practices when it comes to new modes of learning and teaching?  In this blogpost I will try to give an introduction to a variety of aspects of and views on the need for more flexibility and open learning across the educational system – at first focusing on higher education and next on schools and secondary education – so that you can get a fundamental understanding of what is going on and start making up your own mind.

The need for new modes of learning and teaching in higher education

The term ‘flexible learning’ is “about enabling choises and responsiveness in the pace, place and mode of learning” (Ryan and Tilbury 2013:8). I have touched on flexible learning , flexible pedagogies and the need for a shift to increased flexibility in the modes of learning and teaching in higher education in a previous blogpost, and here flexibility and agility was viewed

…through pedagogical lenses as the ability of people to think, act, live and work differently in complex, uncertain and changeable scenarios. (Ryan and Tilbury 2013:4)

In “Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education” flexible learning and flexible pedagogies are aspects of the visions for the development of higher education in Europe. In the report, the European Commission’s High Level Group on the Modernisation in Higher Education states that

…fully-fledged institutional or national strategies for adopting new modes of learning and teaching are few and far between. (Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education 2014:4)

The High Level Group  behind the report claims that there is a culture of conservatism within European higher education which needs to change, and apart from engaging policy-makers and institutions in developing comprehensive strategies, there are also rapid needs for organizational and infrastructure change:

Our message is clear. While accepting that higher education institutions and, more particularly, teaching staff are the main actors in delivering these pedagogical changes, it is the responsibility of public authorities to create the environment and the incentives for action.  (Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education 2014:11)

While pedagogy and curriculum design are matters for institutions, governments are responsible for defining the policy, legal and funding contexts which impact on the motivation and ability of institutions to integrate new modes across higher education provision. This is why we have sought, where possible, to direct our recommendations to policy-makers, and to urge strategic action to tackle the key challenges we identify: instigating an open culture for change; developing political and institutional leadership; supporting digital skills for teachers and learners; and adapting funding frameworks for targeted investment into new technologies and pedagogies, and quality assurance regimes that apply to onsite and online education. (Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education 2014:6-7)

The High Level Group stresses that tackling these key challenges will involve significant changes in how higher education institutions is organized and operate, as well as a change in culture and mindset, and they present three categories within developments in new modes of learning and teaching:

Differentiation of models of the use of new modes of learning and teaching:

a) Conventional higher education providers offering programmes and courses on campus that make use of online technologies and pedagogies within courses and programmes – better known as blended learning. This also applies to conventional distance education providers.

b) Conventional higher educational providers offering full programmes or short courses online. These courses and programmes can be limited to enrolled students or open to non-enrolled students with or without credits. This model has particular potential for lifelong learning and transitional education.

c) Non-university providers offering courses free of charge or fee charging, with or without credits. (Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education 2014:15)

A change to more flexibility and open learning in higher education is due to meeting the key challenges mentioned above with the following aims:

  • Quality enhancement as a result of shared, high-quality learning materials and more creative and individualized pedagogical approaches.
  • Creating a more diverse higher education system by widening access and facilitating lifelong learning.
  • Increased global visibility by reaching new target groups in an international context.
  • Greater global and local collaboration and cooperation.
  • More personalized learning informed by better data.

The High Level Group’s recommendations for starting up developing strategies for modernizing higher education can be read in full in “Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education”.

The recommendations address challenges on a national and an institutional level, and to enhance the understanding of flexible learning and flexible pedagogies as dimensions of developing higher education they can be supplemented by the recommendations in the report “Flexible Pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas” (Ryan and Tilbury 2013) in the process of framing visions, aims and concrete solutions on how to modernize higher education.  As such they might have implications for relevance, policy, leadership and practices in future education.

The models of the use of new modes of learning and teaching, the challenges and the aims for higher education in Europe mentioned above can partly be mirrored in another recent report, the “NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition”. This report identifies key trends, challenges and technological developments that are described to have potential impact on global higher education:


The NMC Horizon Report operates with three movement-related categories:

 …long-term trends that typically have already been impacting decision-making, and will continue to be important for more than five years; mid-term trends that will likely continue to be a factor in decision-making for the next three to five years; and short-term trends that are driving edtech adoption now, but will likely remain important for only one to two years, becoming commonplace or fading away in that time. (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada and Freeman 2015:6)

The report and the method behind it has been criticized for “fad-hopping” and for “not [being] based on a deep knowledge of significant technology development”. I think, though, that it is still worthwhile to debate the views of the report in your actual context, while building a social and cultural understanding of the need for new modes of learning and teaching in higher education.

Three ideas of education and learning today

One thing is that a starter kit might be useful for policy-makers and institutions in the form of recommendations, but how do faculty and individual educators meet these new models of education and new modes of learning and teaching, if they have not really ever heard much about them and definitely never have thought that it was any concern of theirs? To me, the first step is to get acquainted with some of the ideas, the concepts, the vocabulary and the pedagogies that have gained influence in an era of increased flexibility and open learning in education, in order to examine them, to build contexts for them via social and cultural understanding, to discuss them, and to take a stance towards the relevance and the implications of them on curriculum design and learning design. And in parallel with that you need to get a grip of digital literacies, if you haven’t got it yet. That is my idea of a starter kit for faculty and educators in discussing and evolving educational development, and here are a few suggestions on how to get down to it.

In the area of pedagogy, didactics and curriculum design, the 21st century has brought a change of focus from education towards learning, from consumption of information to participatory learning and from institutions towards networks. On these grounds, I think it is relevant to get acquainted with three ideas of education and learning today that direct and influence discussions on new modes of learning and teaching:

  • the idea of open education
  • the idea of personal learning in a networked world
  • the idea of learning as participation in communities of practice while you are getting the grip of how to modulate your participation in a landscape of communities.

The three ideas are introduced in the three videos below and they all relate to the three concepts mentioned above: learning, participatory culture and networks, although they also differ in their conception of pedagogies and their understanding of what constitutes them:

David Wiley: “Open Education 101” (2014)

Stephen Downes: “New learning, new society” (2015)

Etienne Wenger: “Learning in and across landscapes of practice” (2013)

Wiley, Downes and Wenger all contextualize their ideas in the shift in learning modes from Learning 1.0 to Learning 2.0 and Learning 3.0 – a development I have touched on in a previous blogpost, “The Art and Meaning of Collaborative and Peer Learning”:

Learning Modes Grid

The model is to be found on Steve Wheelers blog “Learning with ‘e’s”.

Besides changes in pedagogies, this shift means changes in definitions of learning spaces, in the roles of educators and students, and in tasks, materials, medias and modes of collaboration and cooperation engaged in studies and learning.  And while in dialogue with the three ideas of education and learning today and in the future, you may also want to consider how to improve your own and your students’ digital literacies. I have introduced digital literacies in an earlier blogpost, but go on examining The Open University’s “Digital and Information Literacy Framework”.  Look at the way they implement digital literacies in their curriculum, check their learning materials, watch their examples from modules. And start practicing.

The state of technology in Scandinavian schools and the new purpose of schooling

While new modes of learning and teaching in higher education are inspired, influenced and inflicted by the movement of opening up education to a degree where the idea of openness has become mainstream and social learning is part of the vocabulary, the situation in schools is more complex. While one trend is calling for creativity and innovation along the lines of the wished for development in higher education, another very strong tendency still seems to move toward a narrowing down the purpose of schooling to testing and standardization. This tendency can be observed in the report “2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Scandinavian Schools” (covering schools and secondary education) where trends, challenges and technologies are examined and chosen for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning and creative inquiry:


In a webinar by Swedish “Skolverket” the report is presented and commented in Swedish. Watch it here. Skip it, if Swedish isn’t one of your languages, and go on reading below.

The New Media Consortium operates with three movement-related categories just as in the previously mentioned “NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition”. Especially two interrelated challenges are important at the moment, I think, and they are even marked as solvable challenges in the report: Integrating Technology in Teacher Education and Navigating Digital Competence:

Integrating Technology in Teacher Education.…As teachers begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital competence skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital competence as a norm. Furthermore, although Danish teachers are performing exceptionally well with IT in student activities, the technologies are still widely used for outdated modes of traditionally type of teaching. (2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Scandinavian Schools 2015:7)

Navigating Digital Competence. The challenge is that learning digital competence is different from applying digital tools in specific subjects, such as language and science. However, in many discussions, these topics are often confused.…The confusion between the two ideas often hinders the creation of cohesive policy and teacher education curriculum. (2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Scandinavian Schools 2015:7)

The comments to both challenges point to, that there doesn’t seem to be an awareness of the differences between skills and tools, which has been a lot in focus in developing IT-activities in at least Denmark, and developing digital literacies and digital citizenship. It seems that the report actually implicitly connects learning digital competences with what I call developing digital literacies and digital citizenship. So I will suggest that you consider and discuss what it might be to develop and use digital competence skills across the curriculum in schools and teacher education. See how the report “Digital literacy across the curriculum” defines digital literacy, look at my discussion of the definition in an earlier blogpost, and get ideas from the report’s examples of working with digital literacies and digital citizenship including networking, creativity, critical thinking and social and cultural understanding. This would be a starting point for me, be it schools or teacher education.

And check out the “DigiLit Leicester” project and their list of resources to get inspired.

So in parallel with getting a grip of digital literacies, if you haven’t got it yet, it seems just as important for to me, that – like educators and policy-makers in higher education – teachers, schools and policy-makers start building contexts for the ideas, the concepts, the vocabulary and the pedagogies that characterize the new modes of learning and teaching. And here I think teachers and schools can gain from the theories, the research, the experiences and the discussions in higher education around the globe to create a social and cultural understanding of the need and creed to change. Discuss with the views of people like Wiley, Downes and Wenger.

That is my idea of a starter kit for teachers and educators in discussing and evolving educational development.

The “DigiLit Leicester” project was brought to my attention by the OER Research Hub on their blog

This blogpost has been edited on 13. November 2015 to replace David Wiley’s well-known TEDTalk “Open Education and the Future” (2010) with a webcast presenting David Wiley’s up-to-date version on what open means in education: “Open Education 101”. – On 4. December 2015 this blogpost has been edited again to remove a dead link to Pasi Sahlberg’s presen-tation on the Open Education Europa 2014 Conference on “Education in the Digital Era”. 

Further reading:

Hague, Cassie and Sarah Payton (2010): Digital literacy across the curriculum, Futurlab

High Level Group (2014): Report to the European Commission on New modes of learning and teaching in higher education, European Commission

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015): NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition, The New Media Consortium

Johnson L., Adams Becker, S., and Hall, C. (2015): 2015 NMC Technology Outlook for Scandinavian Schools: A Horizon Project Regional Report, The New Media Consortium

Ryan, A., & Tilbury, D. (2013): Flexible Pedagogies: new pedagogical ideas, The Higher Education Academy

Wenger, E. (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

Wheeler, Steve (2012): Next generation learning

Elna Mortensen

New modes of learning and teaching – a starter kit with a European perspective