So long…

“So, I guess that’s why I’m here. I want to be able to reflect on my own practice. I want to work with others to discuss what educational technology and digital education mean. I also want to reflect on what is seemingly mundane – a picture being shared on Facebook – and see that, once again, for the complex and vital interchange which it really is.”

My stated aims and objectives, outlined at the start of our IDEL studies seem, on reflection, modest in comparison with what we’ve experienced in the last 12 weeks or so. We have achieved so much more than reflection and discussion. I have…

  • been introduced to new ways of thinking about digital education;
  • read…and read…and read…;
  • experienced new ways of communicating, interacting and learning;
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  • created teaching and learning artefacts using new tools;
    new tools
  • experienced ontological uncertainty;
  • come first…
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  • …twice;
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  • …reinvigorated my own practice;
  • …made new connections;

…and much more. I have found the IDEL course challenging, exhilarating and enlightening. I have recognised how stale and static my own thinking and practice had become and, through our readings, our discussions, the tasks and, importantly, my blogging, I have reset my own professional mindset.

My journey as a learner has led me to reflect on the journeys the students and teachers I work with are on when it comes to understanding, seeing the value in, and using educational technologies. The ‘loop input’ design of the course has enabled us to experience what it is to study online, to use different media and to learn, communicate and create using new technologies and tools.

My thinking about technology and its role within education has changed over the course of this term. I used to, somewhat unthinkingly, refer to technology as a tool which was there to support teaching and learning; the pedagogy had primacy and the technology was a medium for delivery. However, the experience I have had of studying educational technology through educational technologies is – of course – very different to that which I would have had had technology been absent from the process. As Cousin asserts, ‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them’ (Cousin, 2005, p.118); this renewed awareness has impacted on my professional approaches to thinking about technology adoption and training. I have changed the way that I talk with teachers about technology and its role within schools, highlighting that the digital medium is vital, it has impact on how we teach and how we learn and it is not ‘in service’ (Cousin, 2005, p.117) to our practice. I have also developed more coherent responses to educators who retreat into the safety of the digital native/immigrant binary which is, I believe, a damaging dichotomy. Helsper and Eynon’s separation of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ has proven to be a useful distinction to make when discussing these issues with staff.

I have learned about and experienced the co-creation of learning spaces, of learning experiences and of effective communities of inquiry. I have been part of the ‘social brain’ of the IDEL course, and, as I noted in Week 3:

“…this social brain is one of the real benefits of online learning. In a classroom, exchanges can be transient and lost; online, we have a record of contributions, references, links and ideas. We are developing a learning text, a multi-modal, multi-authored sociotechnological educational space across a multitude of online places.

lord-acton-historian-quote-learn-as-much-by-writing-as-byThis blog has captured some of the essence of the broader learning text which we have co-authored on the IDEL course through Moodle discussions, Skype conversations, Twitter exchanges, Second Life experiences and more. It has also allowed me to reflect in a quieter, slower way on the ideas, readings, tools and practices we have been introduced to and worked with. It is a space which has offered me a place to test new technologies, work out my ideas and play with my thoughts.

Although my writing has improved in recent months, I’m still no good at endings. I am, however, good at quoting other people who are much cleverer than me. I started with Douglas Adams all those weeks ago, so I’ll end with him here.

so long

Cousin, G. (2005). Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. London, Routledge-Falmer. pp.117-129.


…and and and…

“Why should things be easy to understand?”
– Thomas Pynchon

I’m a fan of postmodernist fiction. I like the game of it, the acknowledgement of itself as a structure, the rejection of the logos, of the author, of meaning. The internet is postmodern: plurivocal and intertextual, ‘cyberspace’ is, as Cousin acknowledges, ‘postmodern because it allows playful and deceitful identity performances…and is labyrinthine rather than linear’ (Cousin, 2005, p.124*).

Cousin proposes the rhizome as a metaphor which encapsulates the characteristics of the internet. Extending and developing the definition of rhizomatic learning proposed by French postmodern theorists Deleuze and Guattari (1987**), ‘rhizomatic learning requires the creation of a context within which the curriculum and knowledge are constructed by contributions made by members of the learning community, and which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner…As Cormier (2010) puts it, ‘the community is the curriculum’ (OpenLearn***).

The tree is the first metaphor which must be rejected as a representation of learning and of the internet. It symbolises a logical branching structure, a singular rootedness, a linear development and a beginning and an end.


Conversely ‘any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be’ (Cousin, 2005, p. 125). This ‘heterogeneity and connectivity’ (ibid, p.125) facilitates ‘the development of multiple ‘additions’ to a text, as learners post their comments from their own position…’ (ibid, p.125). The rhizome, therefore, establishes a ‘logic of the AND’ (Tapscott, 1998, p.25****).

As Deleuze and Guattari conclude, ‘we are tired of trees’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p.25).

Cousin’s article concludes with an evocative statement about the power and potential of a reimagining of learning within less traditional metaphorical boundaries:

‘…the limit (is) beyond the skies, all is possible, the map is the territory, the medium is definitely the message, the message being that all contact, fleeting or sustained, is possible. All identities are fictional to any degree, and all points of departure are available. It is also more playful, more daring and perhaps more dangerous’ (Cousin, 2005, p.127).

*Cousin, G. (2005). Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. London, Routledge-Falmer. pp.117-129.
**Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F, (1987) A Thousand Plateaus, Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press
****Tapscott, D (1998) Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, New York: McGraw Hill

Geekly interference

In one of my roles, I work for a company which has been commissioned by a Multi-Academy Trust to develop and embed a learning platform into their schools (we don’t refer to it as a VLE because of the now negative connotations the term has). The suite of tools harnesses Office 365 technologies to offer much of what would typically be found in a VLE.

I have spent two years in what has felt like a war of attrition trying to encourage, cajole and persuade staff to adopt these new technologies, these new ways of working, of creating knowledge, of constructing learning. Throughout this time the constant refrain, which has been repeated by the Trust and by the schools, is a variant on ‘teaching comes first, the technology should support the teaching’. There is a frequently expressed concern that ‘geekly interference’ (Cousin, 2005, p.117*) should get in the way of practice.

It was, therefore, a relief to spend some time in the company of Glynis Cousin this week. Her assertion that ‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them’ (ibid, p.118) defines what we need to convey (with sensitivity and empathy) to the teachers and leaders with whom we are working. Cousin’s stance offers a refreshing counterpoint to the ‘mantra’ (ibid, p.117) that humans and technology are separate and the ‘latter is neutral and in the service of the former’ (ibid, p.117):

‘technologies work dynamically with pedagogies, not for them, and in the process they become mutually determining.’ (ibid, p.118)

We have to figure out ways to counter the notions that technology is a threat, a tool, or ‘a neutral extension of some rock-solid human nature’ (ibid, p.119). We need to recognise that the media serves to construct the self, imprinting ‘our imagination with the realm of the possible’ (p.119).

I have no ready answers as to how we can shift teachers’ perceptions and attitudes towards the technologies we are introducing. At the heart of much of the resistance, there is a sense of threat and disempowerment and a weary disillusionment with the false promises which edtech brings. However, what Cousin’s article has highlighted is that what I can readily shift and change is my own lexicon; I need to treat terms like ‘tool’ with care. When working with teachers, I also need to challenge the notion that the pedagogy defines the technology and the use of the technology; a more nuanced exploration of the interrelationship and interconnectedness of our selves, our practices and our technologies is required.

*Cousin, G. (2005). Learning from cyberspace in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. London, Routledge-Falmer. pp.117-129.