I’m on a high after two days working with a small group of staff and PhD students on the Developing Educational Practice course we run at UAL. It’s like a crash course in the context and purpose of Higher Education and some key pedagogical themes and theories. I feel one of the strengths of the course is that most of the message is in the medium; there’s as little chalk-and-talk as I feel I can get away with (always looking to reduce this further), and plenty of activity, discussion and peer review. Whenever something happens that prompts me to change approach, or make a note to do things differently next time, I share this openly with the group so that they are aware of the reflection-in-action or reflection-on-action that is taking place. This is something the participants often mention specifically in their feedback, which leaves me with a satisfied feeling that I’ve managed to practice what I would preach if preaching was something I do
I found myself referring to Actor-Network theory a few times over the last two days; we were discussing the conceptualisation stage of the reflection/experiential learning cycle and how we come up with new ideas. We concluded that, when we take the perspective of ourselves as existing within an actor network, it becomes apparent how other ‘actors’ have influenced, contributed to and/or enabled our ideas and actions to take shape. We thought it might be a particularly helpful lens at those points where we feel ‘stuck’ and unsure of how to move forward; seeing ourselves not as struggling in isolation but surrounded by a network of actors that is in constant flux. The right combination of actors/actants may at any point align to facilitate a productive connection.
The format of the University of Colorado Denver resource linked to in the Week 4 resources didn’t go unnoticed. There was a definite message in the medium here as well; a series of discrete descriptions and explanations of actor-network theory from a selection of thinkers. There was wide variety in the emphasis and depth of these descriptions but they were all presented equally; this resource wasn’t about synthesis, comparison or analysis; they were presented simply as a collection of nodes of knowledge. Very connectivist
I feel just about ready to move on to Week 5 now, having already delved into connectivism and its distinction from other perspectives on learning while grappling with the week 1 materials. The theme of Week 5 – groups and networks – has serendipitously (or deliberately?) coincided with that phase of the course where it seems many people have dropped off the radar. The blog feeds are tailing off and the feeling is less ‘where do I begin – how do I stop?’ and more ‘where has the good stuff gone?’. It might be a good time to think about the longevity of learning groups and how this is influenced by the existence (or lack) of shared aims and learning outcomes.