Thursday, September 29, 2011

Edge effect

Probably this is another area with a massive literature I know nothing about (although it was evading me in scopus and scirus :(
But it struck me the other day and today the penny finally dropped. I was in a class of students who were learning about the role of a clinical teacher, one of whom, a Mental Health nurse, stated that they were enjoying the 'edge effects' of a clinical and education-based role. I asked for some clarification and apparently this idea was from ecology, permaculture in particular - wikipedia is worth quoting here actually:

The edge effect in ecology is the effect of the juxtaposition or placing side by side of contrasting environments on an ecosystem. Permaculturists maintain that, where vastly differing systems meet, there is an intense area of productivity and useful connections
I'm not sure I can live up to the 'intense productivity' side of things, but I do think I enjoy the 'edge effect' of useful connections through working in a School of Nursing and Midwifery but also within Higher Education and being into learning technology, or IT in some form or another. I have observed that if you spend all your time in learning technology circles, it can have a very detrimental effect upon your vision for learning technology, in terms of making assumptions about how well or not people are likely to engage with your 'grand designs'.
I like the term 'edge effect' so much that I think I'll use it for tweeting from conferences and learning technology stuff when I think it's going to get particularly busy over on my original account. So, if that is a version of me you'd like to follow, I'm at!/edgeeffect
There are probably 'not so beneficial' edge effects though... one of those is the difficulty of being spread too thinly to get anywhere near a credible research profile. Ah well... just got to keep plugging away at the nlc2012 paper.
What are the implications for networked learning about the whole concept of the 'edge effect'?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Literacies vs. Digital Scholarship

I've read a few authors recently who seem to be arguing that the new literacies that children (are assumed to) have are to be embraced and encouraged. Teachers everywhere must adapt their practice so as to avoid alienating these young people and value their huge new skill-sets. This is familiar enough line to take but to me it must impact on time and attention given to traditional foundational literacies and does not account for the harsh realities of the digital literacies that students need to run with on entering Higher Education. I think there is a difference: social networking and mash-ups contribute to a growing trade in memes and pop-culturally informed media on the internet, but what role do they play in building useful theory (including within one's own brain), what role can they really play in the individual gaining expertise in participating in the ‘unpopular culture’ that also subsists on the Internet (i.e. the world of research, digital scholarship, knowledge work)? In particular, how do 'new literacies' contribute to learning to be a good nurse/midwife?
There is a significant missmatch between being able to type in a few words into a generic search engine and performing a literature review. A significant amount of unlearning old 'new literacy' ways needs to happen before students can really progress and gain a good grounding in their subject. Perhaps this accounts for why students were confident that they were 'effective online researchers' while they still request training in 'how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources' (NUS 2010 report for HEFCE cited in JISC infoNet Digital Literacies page).

Friday, September 9, 2011

What constitutes Networked Learning activity?

Having previously asked, 'What does it mean to be network learned?', I am now thinking about what networked learning looks like from the outside. I wouldnt presume to be able to measure or define what happens inside the brain, but the results of neurological synapses can surface in various kinds of networked learning activity. Since we are not able (yet) to use telepathy, and since many non-face2face interactions are possible, if not actually carried out, via the Internet, it must be possible to recognise and come up with a reasonably complete list of these networked learning activities.
As a start, there is:
  1. writing something in a shared space 
  2. reading something someone else wrote
  3. replying to something
  4. rating something (selecting a score from a list of options to express your opinion of value)
  5. building and maintaining a network (and all that goes with it - i.e. needs unpacking),
  6. sharing a link via social bookmarking
If you know of more, please comment or get in touch.
Of course, implicit in this some of the items in this list is an ethic that values sharing and an in-built commitment to and awareness of the network(s) in chosing what move to make while engaging in learning activity. If we are to see students becoming networked learners, they will not only have to perform the items in the list with sufficient elan, they will also have to become 'network aware'. Is this too much to hope for? Or is it possible to so design curricula and constituent activities that require networked learning activity for long enough for students to become wired to 'think the network'?