Replied to Belonging is inconvenient (David White)

Sometimes at my institution we slide into thinking which implies that full, residential courses are the authentic way to learn and everything else is either geared relative to this or simply a pipeline into it. We need to design on the basis that there are multiple authentic modes of learning for multiple communities of students. Not all of these require belonging and community but where they do we need to acknowledge that it’s hard work, time consuming, and that access-to-a-building or being-in-a-cohort is not a proxy for membership-of-a-community.

Dave, I always appreciate the way in which you provide frameworks for making sense of things. In this case the differences between independent, communal and networked learning, and how this is more than being face-to-face or online. I was interested in your point about belonging and its relationship with time.

One of the key reasons that students can feel part of a community on residential courses is because they have made a huge commitment in time and effort just to turn-up. In traditional undergraduate terms this is likely to mean relocating the majority of their life to a new city for three years. It’s not just about the physical buildings it’s inherent in the format. In this sense, belonging is exclusive – available only to those who have the time to invest.

This has me thinking about belonging and its association with collaboration, and how whether if we all had the time whether we would naturally wish to collaborate?

Bookmarked Pedagogy, Presence and Placemaking: a learning-as-becoming model of education. (David White)

The emphasis in the model is on a pedagogic approach which first-and-foremost facilitates connections and forms of interaction, creating social, intellectual and creative presence. Through this, the locations of our institutions, especially the digital spaces, become places within which our students have agency. This then increases belonging and supports learning-as-becoming. This is pedagogy as placemaking through the medium of presence.

David White talks about the issues simply moving face-to-face learning online and the need to foster presence to help make online spaces places that foster learning. As an idea, this seems to be a missing gap in regards to teaching groups online.

In the book Teaching Crowds, Dron and Anderson unpack the different ways that people gather within online spaces. To do so, they focus on three key modes of learning:

  • Groups: Distinct entities independent of membership, groups are structured around formal lines of authority. An example are the various learning management systems. Organised hierarchically, they do not allow for cross-system dissemination.
  • Networks: Based on individual connections, networks evolve through interactions. Examples of such spaces are social network platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. These spaces create the means easily sharing and connecting with others.
  • Sets: Bound together by a commonality, with sets there are no expectations of personal engagement. Some examples of sets are social interest sites, such as Pinterest. Both of which provide means of easily finding similar ideas.

It also has me rethinking my explorations of learning hubs a few years ago.

Replied to The lecture paradox (David White)

I suspect we know that the lecture is not as much of a draw as live music or the big screen – the ‘live’ experience is perhaps too similar to the recorded version. This means that we need to work on our live presence (on-site and online), just as many bands have had to, and there are many techniques that can be employed. I’d argue that presence and good pedagogy go hand-in-hand. How can we expect our students to be engaged in something which is unengaging?

We need to refocus our idea of university around the importance of creating moments of shared presence to facilitate new connections – connections in our thinking and connections with those around us.

I am really interested in your correlation between lectures and live music. I recently watched a discussion with Chilly Gonzales in which he spoke about the difference between composing and performance.

You know who’s full of shit? Stupid singer-songwriters who say, “I’m just going to go up there and be myself.” They’re full of shit

Songwriting has to be 100% personal. It’s walking out onstage. It’s taking a photo, choosing an album title. All that you have to have in mind. It can’t be personal any more. It has to be fantastical, which is still personal. It’s the part of your personality that is a fantasy, that has to… That’s the part that carries the football into the end zone of the audience, but when you’re like, planning the music, of course it has to be one hundred percent personal. I never think about who’s listening when I’m composing. That moment is strictly reserved for you and yourself one hundred percent.

For me this same challenge is present in the lecture paradox.

I remember doing a conference presentation a few years ago in which I received scathing feedback. What I realised in hindsight is that I had put far too much effort into the content and failed to provide enough consideration to pedagogy and presentation.

Bookmarked A Manifesto Against EdTech© During an Emergency Online Pivot (Rolin Moe)

Instead of watching pandemic movies, my family started watching movies where bureaucracies fail to honestly account for contrary expert opinions, due to which the fallout is more widespread and dan…

Rolin Moe asks the question of the current pivot to online learning, just because you can, does that mean you should? Although many are talking about the opportunity afforded by the current crisis to reimagine education, Moe argues that now is not the time to introduce a plethora of techniques and tools.

You can’t teach someone to swim while they’re drowning.

Instead, he suggests we should be engaging with whatever is at hand.

What does kitchen math look like in an emergency online learning space? It is an engagement of the tools common to your environment and based fully in pedagogical principles. The technology informs the pedagogy. If the goal is instructor presence, why not film a short video on a mobile device reflecting on the relationship of the course and this time in life, and share it with students? If the concern is the validity of an examination, why not think about a way in which students could use those same cameras not to film or photograph themselves taking a multiple choice exam but constructing knowledge by building a manipulative at home that shows the relationship of the individual to instruction? If there’s a concern about some of the reading, use the telecommunications tools for discussion or even a read-aloud session. Working with what’s available not only eases the faculty burden, it grounds the learning in the environment of the learner. Everyone is dealing with the same emergency; the best tools to get through this are the ones we have regular interaction with, not those brought in as a panic buy with a significant instructional manual and learning curve.

In a separate response to the response of edtech, Audrey Watters shares her concerns about surveillance associated with the move to online learning.

One of my greatest fears right now is that this pandemic strengthens this surveillance culture in school. And the new technologies, adopted to ease the “pivot to digital,” will exacerbate existing educational inequalities, will put vulnerable students at even more risk. These technologies will for foreclose possibilities for students and for teachers alike, shutting down dissent and discussion and curiosity and community.

Adding to this concern around surveillance, David White highlights the importance of remembering trust and care when engaging in situations of negotiated risk.

As education moves online we are going to have to get better at stating, and upholding, our values around trust and care with the concomitant acknowledgment of the risk we are accepting to protect certain freedoms. If not, then education will continue to merge with the corporate/civic surveillance state we are now only too aware of. To avoid sleepwalking into this new normal there will be times where we must deliberately refuse to use aspects of the data and control which technology offers, even when there are demands framed in terms of fairness or reduction of risk.

Neil Selwyn captures this sentiment by highlighting the need for educators to remember the human aspects involved within technology.

Teachers need to have good awareness of the social, emotional and affective aspects of technology-based education, and feel confident in their capacity to respond appropriately. Teaching of any sort is never simply a technical process – this is certainly the case when teaching online.

Replied to The need for Presence not ‘Contact Hours’ (David White)

What I propose is that instead of thinking in terms of Contact Hours we should move to the concept of presence -the extent to which a member of teaching staff is present and in what mode. This could come in many forms:

  1. A fairly quick, reliable, turnaround to emailed questions
  2. Being active ‘live’ in forums or text chats (an ‘office hours’ approach to asynchronous)
  3. Lively synchronous sessions – such as, webinars with plenty of Q&A
  4. Artfully ‘flipped’ use of pre-recorded teaching videos
  5. Audio, video or text summative feedback (if it’s been created just for you then it’s always a moment of presence)
  6. …and of course face-to-face sessions in various forms.

We are highly attuned to the levels of presence and attention (we are social beings) which is why a move to online shouldn’t involve cutting staff time or staff-student ratios.

David, I have enjoyed your reflections on the pedagogical move online. I really like your point about the pivot breaking the normalisation spell.

Classic lecture and the seminar practices are still basically sacred and carry massive cultural weight in terms of representing ‘university’. When we move to the digital though, all the questions we should be asking about face-to-face suddenly appear, as the change of location breaks the normalisation spell and greater scrutiny is applied.

It makes me wonder what impact coalescent spaces have on the physical and whether such spaces are really the same again.

Replied to The Global (viral) Village (David White)

When the virus is past its peak and we have done all we can to keep people safe will we better understand that our planet is now more of a village than a collection of nations?

David, I really liked your point about intersecting modes:

One of the aspects of the Web which makes it so difficult to make sense of is that it’s always operating in multiple, intersecting modes. For example, what we see on a daily basis online is a chaotic mix of official announcements and total speculation. We see complex data next to pure antidote – published ‘fact’ interwoven with conversation and gossip. The traditional demarcation of ‘information’ and ‘speculation’ by notions of public and private has dissolved. Just like a village, word travels fast and the community decides how to respond whatever the leaders might be saying.

Bookmarked Visitors & Residents – teaching during Coronavirus (David White)

Fundamentally, one mode or tech is not ‘better’ than another. What is important is how we connect them as a learning narrative and how we communicate that narrative to foster engagement. This helps to ensure we provide opportunities which are mindful of the range of technical, geographical (time-zone), cognitive, social and emotional contexts/experiences of our students and teaching staff.

David White uses his vistor vs resident model to make sense of online learning and the challenge of engagement during such times when everybody is forced into different spaces. He explains that what matters is not the technology, but rather the learning narrative that surrounds this use. It was interesting reading this alongside Kath Murdoch’s personal inquiry into online learning.
Replied to Twisted intentions (David White)

Many of us are concerned that technology is being proposed as the ‘solution’ to care-at-scale. With terms such as ‘personalisation’ and ‘predictive analytics’ often being used in a way which implies that the tech can take the strain as long as we feed it enough data. This is why the subject of care-at-scale within education is so important to discuss. Especially where it risks becoming a technologically supported institutionalised asset which we have to then build safe, human-centred, spaces of authentic care outside of (or to hide from it).

I think it’s fair to say that myself and Bonnie are not convinced that open pedagogy can help to scale care, or even if ‘scaling care’ is a valid idea. What we are sure of is that this is a discussion that needs to take place, especially in education systems where, despite the promise of technology, the burden of care is often with overworked members of staff in precarious roles.

This is a really interesting provocation David. It reminds me of the argument that technology is never neutral, I guess we can add “and it doesn’t care”
Liked Undisciplined advantage (David White)

For me, all disciplines bring depth but often with the cost that what constitutes a legitimate question and approach is narrowed. I want to stay in the ‘space of risk and positive uncertainty’ which is one of the many reasons I enjoy working in and around the creative arts. If this means that I lose easy identifiers of expertise and practice then that’s a price I’m willing to pay. I’ll never gain the kind of credibility colleagues who become experts in their field will but I might be able to make connections that they can’t and I reduce the chance of becoming stuck in a specific currency of expertise.

Replied to Explicit education (David White)

The point being, that unless these strategies are explicitly stated, students are likely to make assumptions about the reasons why the recordings exist and how they might be used (usually based on not being able to attend lectures rather than on more positive, long-term, learning strategies). When highlighting the need to be explicit about the use of recordings Nordmann asked if we ever explain to students what the value of attending lectures face-to-face is – or do we simply assume it’s obvious?

This facinanted me because I suspect we say it’s important to attend, but might not explain why it’s important to attend in terms of learning strategies. I work at a university where there are no marks awarded for attendance (or, let’s be honest, no marks removed for not attending) so if it’s not clear what the value of attending is in terms of learning, why would you? Information is now abundant and if there is a recording, what’s the point of being there ‘live’?

David, your discussion of assumed ideas about university reminds me of a post from Robert Manne reflecting on the changes he experience during his time, with lectures a part of this.

I was also left thinking about a recent post from Sam Sherratt on having a clear why before the what.

Listened Networked Making – Podcast by David White from

On the 10th July 2019 we ran the ‘Networked Making’ event at the University of the Arts London. This post introduces a podcast in which myself and Jon Martin reflect on the ‘Making Networks’ workshop activity we designed for the start of the day
(with input from Dr Sheena Calvert and the ‘Interpolate’ student group) .

The activity was described as: “A workshop session in which participants collaboratively make and reflect on a physical model/metaphor of their networks.”

David White and Dr Sheena Calvert explore the sense of risk, negotiated assessment and challenges associated with agency in delivering
an open-ended session. This is a useful reflection on professional development and learning.
Replied to What am I? (Digital – Learning – Culture)

A couple of months ago I joined a running club and discovered two things: Running is quite hard I can’t explain my job to anyone at the running club This forced me to ask ‘what am I?’

I can totally relate to your point about struggling to tell your story. I too struggle with this. I work on a technology project that has struggled with its own identity which only adds to my own conundrum. I think that you capture some of that problem with your discussion of the place of technology. For some the project I am a part of is about improving efficiency, while for others it is about transformation. In addition to the reality that my role and responsibility seems to continually morph and change, I still don’t know what being a ‘Subject Matter Expert’ actually means.

Also on: Read Write Collect

Liked Don’t fear complexity by Dave White (Digital – Learning – Culture)

At my institution, the University of the Arts London, we see the value in uncertainty. In many of our courses it is important that our students are in a liminal state for much of the time within which they are not quite sure of what they know. This is a key aspect of the process of creativity and it’s also central to my reframing, or extension of, information literacy. Questioning our self, our motivations and methods, for seeking and validating information is our only chance of maintaining our agency within complexity. Not being afraid of being immersed in complexity requires understanding the value of uncertainty. This is all the more important where we receive information as an effect of our interactions. To ask how what we engage with has arrived in front of us and why we are comfortable with it (in the context of our identity and position) has to be central to what it means to critically evaluate.

To maintain the agency of our students (and ourselves) and not fall into the trap of assuming a ‘natural order’ which just so happens to be our current worldview we must reveal, not simplify, complexity. In tandem with this we must provide the critical tools to navigate complexity without denying it.