Thursday, 25 February 2016

WBLT #3: e-Learner: evidence of participation in an online event as a learner and a critical account of the experience.

Can we harness technology for ludic and emancipatory practice?

Web-based learning and teaching (WBLT) exists in a continuum from courses that are completely online to more blended approaches where F2F teaching is either supported by use of ICT or, and this is a more contested proposition, ‘enhanced’ by ICT in some way… Now I love the fact that the web is there to support my teaching, my learning – and a whole heap of other things as well… (who could not love something that offers you access to the Banana Song - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYqvGWBkiBc - when your class is getting a bit sleepy from all those big heavy thoughts?) – but given that Education has and can adapt to continual technological advances – printing press, radio, television – why the continual top down Government emphasis on eLearning (our critique of Government policy on e-learning https://www.academia.edu/3433954/A_Journey_into_silence_analysis_of_government_e-learning_policy_in_Social_Responsibility_Journal_V5_N4_2009) – and where does it offer the opportunity for bringing the ludic (http://www.ludiclearning.org/ - the play-to-learn opportunities) into education?
What about the pedagogy?
My preparation for #WBLT was to engage lightly with @HybridPed’s mini-MOOC: http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/subversion-and-instructional-design/ - which starts with the argument that much of what happens in eLearning is influenced by Instructional Design emanating from the Computer Aided Instruction models that emerged in the fifties (see http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/a-plea-for-pedagogy/). My problem is that this model seems to emerge from a form of technological determinism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_determinism) rather that a critical engagement with education itself: who and what is education for? How can education be emancipatory and transformative? How can education facilitate action – especially by the previously powerless? Viz. Freire (http://www.freire.org/paulo-freire/).
 When exploring “E-learning and Digital Cultures” (my first MOOC taken January 2013 – and interesting because it was a five-week MOOC taken by some 44,000 people – and embedded within an MSc module: http://digitalculture-ed.net/digitalculture-ed.net/index.html at Edinburgh University) we started with the culture – and models of utopia and dystopia; transhumanism and post-humanism. We explored these ideas through engagement with theoretical texts and videos freely available on the web and the final assessment was to produce an artefact that reflected on the course – and to peer review at least three artefacts produced by other participants.
Tell them about #edcmooc mummy
#edcmooc itself modelled for me in practice what the web does offer educationalists: a chance to develop ludic approaches to thinking and learning – and to assessment. Our artefacts were produced often collaboratively as we reached out to other participants for help and guidance – and we all poured much thought and effort and dialogic behaviour into the production of our digital things. The very act of being part of that MOOC helped me to begin to create my own PLN (personal learning network) – which has since grown as I have participated in other MOOCs – and I have followed the rhizomatic threads and connections of the people I first encountered in my web-enabled learning journey.
Given that that experience was so positive and so life- and learning-enhancing, I am now re-reading Sian Bayne from Edinburgh University to help with wrestle with #WBLT – especially as Bayne critiques the field in an emancipatory way (Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’?. Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851.
What is it like to be a learner in the 21st century?
To be a learner today is to live in a world designed by high-functioning socio-paths: never have I in the UK seen so much inequity and injustice. Never have I seen education so trammelled and controlled by rules, regulations; surveillance and control (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/feb/23/england-schools-extremists-europe-tests-excludes-elitism). This world of SATs and tests and League Tables and the corporate takeover of schools by the so-called Free School initiative contributes to what Mayall calls the ‘scholarisation of childhood’ (http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Education/documents/2007/11/23/livesreport.pdf): a valorisation of what is called education at the expense of learning, joy and growth.
Yes, this world also has the world wide web in it – but whilst it is argued that this is busily re-wiring our brains and the ways that we think – and it is argued that this facilitates access to information (and it does!) – I cannot help but place successive Governments’ policy for eLearning within the context of their desire to control citizens – rather than seeing this as any emancipatory thrust.
At the same time, I must live with hope – and so attempt to harness technology in my practice to enable students to collaborate, to be creative, to play to learn – and to write themselves as they develop their own voice and power negotiating the arcane and exclusionary practices of HE (viz. https://becomingeducational.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/getahead/).
So - in my teaching - I ask my students to Develop a Digital Me – a wide ranging brief that allows them to play with different animation and comic book tools to develop their own stories about themselves or about learning. Some of their most recent digital artefacts are captured here: http://learning.londonmet.ac.uk/epacks/posters-digital2/ - please do have a look at them – and see what you think.
I think this brief enabled them to play with – rather than be controlled by - either the technology itself or the overarching control paradigm that inhabits all of the education narrative. It also helps to shift the essay’s monolithic domination of the assignment repertoire – allowing students to collaborate and cooperate; to explore and discover: to be discursive and emergent rather than recursive and controlled… Now that’s got to be worth something – hasn’t it? Now how to bring that into a Web Development Module!
So, I turn the question back on you – given that education can mean ‘leading out’, given that we can be with Freire and want to empower our students for action – how and why do you use technology in your teaching and learning? 
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