Peering into Digital Futures.


Let’s start at the end: #INF537 Digital Future Colloquium. The final mountain to climb in this four-year journey into Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation.


Digital Scholarship
Exploring concepts of Digital Scholarship was hard going and at the start seemed a fuzzy concept relevant only to higher education. However, I became intrigued by ideas presented by Martin Weller and his suggestion that “…in a digital, networked, open world people become less defined by the institution to which they belong and more by the network and online identity they establish” (Weller, 2011). This quite liberating idea, relevant to all connected educators, buoyed me to explore further and eventually had me bumping into the very engaging work of George Veletsianos and his concept of Networked Participatory Scholarship (Veletsianos, 2011). Intrigued even more, especially by Veletsianos’ writings in “Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning” I moved forward to eventually author an Interpretative Essay on Digital Scholarship. This was tough going but immensely rewarding.

On the surface, the interpretative discussion that emerged seems very esoteric but I have embedded into my writing some very nuanced ways that all teachers can find a voice in education. It points the way for bringing digital, networked and open practices into secondary education, to transform social practices that surround education and yes, transform learning. Very importantly, this view of digital scholarship hands evidence-based practice back to teachers in a context where “experts” spend a lot of time talking about teachers and their work, yet, often exclude the voice of teachers themselves and their lived experiences in classrooms (Ryan et al., 2017). It also points to a digital, networked and open pedagogy which I also argue provides a path forward for secondary education. Of course, these ideas must be negotiated at a local level but they are empowering ideas to explore.

And as always the collaborative and reflective approach:

Case Study


From the above theoretical exploration of digital futures, I dove into designing a case study where I pulled together a focus group of Year 9 students so that we could explore together, their views of knowledge and how they think these beliefs affect how they use technology to learn.

This case study idea stemmed from a dive into EER500 Introduction to Educational Research and then EER501 Qualitative Research Methods that culminated in my first attempt at qualitative research where I explored the epistemological beliefs of teachers. In this site of exploration, I discovered the magic of qualitative research and the power in discussing and analysing everyday teaching practice. In my most recent case study, I found joy and professional reward in discussing knowledge beliefs and technology uses with my students. Student voice in much research and wider sectors of education is largely silent. My journey into research methods has been a blessing and informed my practice greatly. I have learned that schools are very focused on treating knowledge from very positivistic points of view. My research journey provided me with powerful insights into new ways of viewing knowledge, students and learning; both my own learning and that of my students.

At this point, albeit very briefly, I would like to declare a bias towards viewing students through a constructivist lens. I therefore see significant value in (re)viewing their learning through a qualitative paradigm and how a predominantly quantitative analysis of their learning creates a distance between us and them. This is a conversation for another post. 🤔

Of course, I have not journeyed alone, as is evidenced by the following Flipgrid and Voicethread media as rich sites of questioning, critical discussion and reflexivity. The 14 comments added at the end of my blog post “Digital Scholarship – A Conversation” also provide examples of the highly collaborative nature of this learning journey and the deep critical questioning and discussion that it entailed.

These collaborative endeavours have been hugely liberating for me. I am a product of an education system that was grounded in the model of tabula rasa – a model that subordinates learning to teaching (Atkinson, 2015). I have now gained deep, deep experience in learning in digital learning environments where learning is a very social and collaborative activity.  I have lived networked participatory scholarship and learning.

Flipgrid: Collaborative Feedback

Voicethread: Reflective Comments

The wider picture
“Power and knowledge are reflexive, they work together to change how people see each other” (O’Toole & Beckett, 2016).

How I see myself  as a learner, how I view my students and how I view the education system has shifted immensely. In a system that still isolates students in their learning, we must show them how to network in their endeavours to learn. We should not subordinate their learning to our teaching. Such attitudes and practices are very liberating for many students. I know, I have seen it in practice as I shift my teaching in very subtle ways. This reflective and reflexive approach also points to the future of education.

For one, we should not approach technology from a deterministic point of view in a hope of transforming education. There is much I could say here suffice to quote Neil Selwyn “…the history of eduction has been characterised by attempts to use the ‘power’ of technology in order to solve problems that are non-technical in nature” (Selwyn, 2016).  Furthermore, I have learnt that educational transformation comes from within, as we learn to see each other and our students in new ways. Of course that shift must include new practices –  it is time that teachers were given agency to shift education. Much #edtech talk robs teachers of this agency. Indeed, simply embedding tech into classrooms can be very ineffective, mundane even. It is teachers leveraging these technologies to build unique ways of doing that is important…the tech has no special power, but teachers working together do. And teachers working with students.

Which takes me back to some inspirational words that I came across at the start of this masters journey. John Seely Brown asks in the following video clip “How do we take these technologies and invent new types of institutional forms, new types of social practices and in fact new types of skills to be able to leverage the capabilities of the technologies?” If education is to shift towards new social practices, to discover new ways of doing then these are the questions to start with…. they propelled me on a four year journey. Watch the following video for inspiration and be prepared to dig deep.

The way forward isn’t that hard to see, you just need to be willing to question, learn and connect.

Please gift me with your thoughts.

References:
Atkinson, D. (2015). The adventure of pedagogy, learning and the not-known. Subjectivity, 8(1), 43-56.

O’Toole, J., & Beckett, D. (2016). Educational research: Creative thinking and doing (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Ryan, M., Taylor, M., Barone, A., Della Pesca, L., Durgana, S., Ostrowski, K., Piccirillo, T., & Pikaard, K. (2017). Teacher as researcher, teacher as scholar and teacher as leader. The New Educator, 13(2), 102-116.

Selwyn, N. (2016). Education and technology: Key issues and debates [Kindle version]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com.au

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766-774.

Weller, M. (2011). The digital scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. A&C Black.

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61 Comments
  1. Simon, it’s been a pleasure collaborating with you over the last 4 years. Throughout the course you’ve often been the spokesman for questioning, for ideas, and for critical discussion. I’ve greatly appreciate that, and it has helped me immensely.

    I remember the first assignment in #INF530 – your professed … difficulty, unsureness? And then look at you now. Absolutely slamming the assignments with complex, articulate written pieces. You’ve shown a great development in your academic confidence and ability.

    I’m sure we’ll continue to bump into each other across our shared knowledge networks.

    Enjoy the time off!

    #LastAssignmentEver

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  2. Hi Simon,
    I just want to echo Matt’s thoughts – it’s been fantastic connecting with you over this Masters journey, I don’t think I could have done it without you (and others).
    One of the best aspects is the support we’ve been able to provide each other through Twitter. It really does make a difference to know you can post an idea, a question, a whinge and have someone who knows what you’re doing respond.
    I’ve particularly enjoyed the twitter challenges from you over the past few weeks – who knew serious study could be such fun!
    Thanks and keep in touch (or else!).
    Cheers,
    Heather

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