This is part two of my impressions and reflections on being a delegate at the -Networked Learning Conference taking place 7-9th April 2014 hosted by the University of Edinburgh.
I think it is fair to say that I was still a bit confused by Day 2 as to what ‘Networked learning’ was all about but then I had certainly not done all I could do to read up on the history of the field so it was rather self-inflicted confusion on my part. I only mention this because for me this question of what is ‘Networked Learning’ all about seemed to actually be a sort of characteristic of the conference in its current ninth incarnation. (Disclaimer: this is of course very much my interpretation). So from the next two days of conference I think my highlights were:
Prof Steve Fuller improvises and enlightens
Day 2: I found the keynote from Prof Steve Fuller thought-provoking – excellent notes on the content were made by Peter J Evans
Steve Fuller – one of the most important skills for academics is public thinking – improvisation. PowerPoint is cheating. #nlc2014
— Gabi Witthaus (@twitthaus) April 8, 2014
I liked his call for academics to do intellectual thinking in public and the lecture as a place to perform this thinking in and enjoyed his argument for the University as an innovative organisation/organism in the tradition of Humboldt and the tradition of the Enlightenment where knowledge is not simply reproduced but where individuals learn to think for themselves and make informed judgements following Kant’s motto Sapere Aude (“Dare to know”).
But to me it seemed to be quite focused on a sort of ‘lone academic on stage’ and I don’t think this really foregrounds the importance of collaboration which is the reality I work in. Of academics and other colleagues in support roles working together in course teams designing, delivering, researching, supporting etc. And then of course there are the students and the spaces they need to perform in but maybe that is for another time.
Somewhat coincidentally, today Mark Carrigan wrote a really great post Improvisation in Academic Life about Prof Fuller and his call for improvisation - I think Mark does a great job of saying why Prof Fuller’s idea of improvisation is significant. You should read it.
Great pecha kucha presentations
I was fascinated by the presentation How do we know who we are online? Reputation, identity and influence in scholarly networks which featured the ethnographic research by Bonnie Stewart from University of Prince Edward Island. An innovative approach involving the ‘reputational economies’ of academia and social networks in relation to networked scholarly practices. To be fair any paper that combines the ideas of Clifford Geertz and Donna Haraway gets my vote.
‘What’s wrong with ‘technology enhanced learning’ by Sian Bayne from University of Edinburgh in which much turned out to be wrong with the term technology, the idea of enhancement and the notion of learning. Using TEL as a shorthand masks the complexities of the relations between technology, education, individual and the world.
Teaching and learning gets weird
Really liked the presentation entitled: Becoming jelly: A call for gelatinous pedagogy within higher education by Søren Bengtsen and Rikke T. Nørgård from Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Aarhus University. Some great ideas (and an awful lot of philosophers thrown in) about the need to conceptualise and talk about learning in different ways without classic underlying narrative assumptions about linear progress and growth.
Collaboration, Connection, Cooperation and Community
Chris Jones from Liverpool John Moores provided me with a lot of background in relation to the concept of ‘Networked Learning’ as his presentation ‘The Politics of networked learning in an age of austerity‘ outlined some of the underpinning values and gave a really useful historical perspective.
Chris Jones called for networked learning to more explicitly deal with the broader political landscape which I think echoes points made in the keynote from the first day where Neil Selwyn called for more criticality.
I must mention that the #NLC2014 conference tweet stream was fantastic, so useful with great observations, thoughts and new people to connect with. Definitely a highlight.
I look forward to learning about the location of Networked Learning Conference 2016!
posted by Kathrine Jensen (@kshjensen)