Navigating the marvellous at #altc

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CC BY-NC-SA pascalvenier (Flickr)

On September 1st, I’ll be joining a few hundred other educators, researchers, and policy-makers at the ALT 2014 Conference organised by the Association for Learning Technology (UK). The theme of the conference this year is an ambitious one: Riding Giants: How to innovate and educate ahead of the wave.

I’ll be one of the speakers at this year’s conference, but mostly I’m excited about meeting and sharing ideas with the diverse range of people who will be participating, both in person and virtually — and, of course, getting to hear and catch up with Audrey Watters. :)  I’ll be speaking from my perspective as an open educator, sharing a few questions, as well as examples of practice and research which illuminate possible paths for us as educators. I hope, too, to include voices other than my own in the keynote. Here’s an overview:

Navigating the Marvellous: Openness and Education

Inspired by a Seamus Heaney poem, I’ll explore “navigating the marvellous”, the challenge of embracing open practices, of being open, in higher education, from the perspective of educators and students, citizens and policy makers. To be in higher education is to learn in two worlds: the open world of informal learning and networked connections, and the predominantly closed world of the institution. As higher education moves slowly, warily, and unevenly towards openness, students deal daily with the dissonance between these two worlds; navigating their own paths between them, and developing different skills, practices, and identities in the various learning spaces which they visit and inhabit. Educators also make daily choices about the extent to which they teach, share their work, and interact, with students and others, in bounded and open spaces. How might we construct and navigate Third Spaces of learning, not formal or informal but combined spaces where connections are made between students and educators (across all sectors), scholars, thinkers, and citizens — and where a range of identities and literacy practices are welcomed? And if, as Joi Ito has said, openness is a survival trait for the future, how do we facilitate this process of “opening education”? The task is one not just of changing practices but of culture change; we can learn much from other movements for justice, equality and social change.

I look forward to many stimulating conversations at the conference, and in the meantime, as I continue working on my presentation and plans for the session. Do you use and foster open practices in your own learning? in your work? with students? Is an ethos of openness central or peripheral to your work? If you experience a tension between openness and your work in (higher) education, how do you resolve this? I welcome your thoughts.

Photo:CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 pascalvenier

 

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About catherinecronin
Academic coordinator of online IT programmes and lecturer in Information Technology. My work focuses on online and open education, digital literacies, social media in education, and #ITwomen. Currently working towards Ph.D. exploring open education and digital identities.

4 Responses to Navigating the marvellous at #altc

  1. As you know I too am an advocate for openness in learning and teaching. I place great value in my personal learning network with whom I continue to learn so much. Together with Chrissi Nerantzi and a team of wonderful facilitators we have offered #BYOD4L Bring your own devices for learning twice now. This open learning event is for both educators and students and has been a wonderful rich opportunity to learn together. This third space of learning is social learning.

    I sadly cannot make ALT-C this year but look forward to hearing your keynote virtually (I hope!) and emerging conversations this will raise.

    • Many thanks, Sue! Our learning paths are similar in many ways and I love when they cross :) Sadly, I could not join either of the #BYOD4L courses, but I’m following @BYOD4L and know that you’ve done some amazing work. Congratulations to you, Chrissi and all for creating this opportunity and for forging some exciting and valuable new paths.

      I’ve got a few too many balls in the air at the moment, but my schedule will be much more focused on research and some teaching after October. I’m looking forward to a bit of space for more research and writing, and to get involved in some collaborative projects. I’ll be sure to chat with you then.

      Sorry you won’t be at ALT-C. I’m looking forward to it and will see you on Twitter then — and in the meantime :)

  2. Bob Banks says:

    Thanks for this presentation at ALT-C- a wonderful injection of inspiration, reminding me why I’m in this business.
    It reminded me of George Lakey’s work on mainstreams and margins. In any group there will be people who feel on the margins – perhaps working class people in a predominantly middle-class group, women in a predominantly male group, black people in a predominantly white group, etc.. The people on the margins often have the key insights which can unlock deep learning, and enable real positive change. But they often aren’t enabled to get this across, because the dynamics of the group reflect and privelege those in the mainstream.
    Lakey, in his book “Facilitating Group Learning”, explores how this can be overcome, and how constructing a safe (but still challenging) space – what he calls a “container” – is essential to this.
    His experience is with face-to-face settings, but this feels really important to think about in the online context – in online third spaces, and so on.
    Thanks!

    • Many thanks for your comment, Bob. You identify just what I was trying to get to the heart of — difference and power. Reflecting on our own Otherness, how we may have been (or continue to be) marginalised in different spaces, can make us more aware as educators. I believe it can inform our pedagogies in meaningful ways, particularly with respect to open and connected learning. The complexities of identity and power will operate in all learning spaces — whether we explicitly engage with them or not. There were many people at the conference, I am sure, who may have answered “no” when I asked: “Have you ever felt unable to “breathe” in institutions or learning spaces?”. And that is important. As educators, ideally each of us strives to See our students, to invite them to Be in the learning spaces we create together. It is deep work, essential work. But for educators who have never felt marginalised themselves, this can be even more challenging — and, of course, some may miss it altogether.

      I am not familiar with Lakey’s work but will be sure to look at it now. Thanks again :)

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