An occasional blog, pulled together from my research diary for the Teaching and Learning Online Module for the MA: Digital Technologies, Communication and Education at the University of Manchester.
from Pocket http://ift.tt/2oLX7HE
The post above is written by a colleague and friend of mine, Ange Fitzpatrick. Ange is a student on the Digital Technologies course at the University of Manchester. It is a brutally honest post about the ways in which she engages with the course she is taking, and in it she talks about her engagement with the course structure, and the technology through which it is enacted.
The post resonated with me for several reasons. I’m interested in the way that Ange is taught, in comparison with the way that I am, in the similarities and differences between the two offerings. Empathy is a big thing too – like Ange, I’ve juggled this course with a family (occasionally in crisis, like most families) and a demanding job. I can snatch time here and there during the week, and usually am able to carve out more time at weekends, but it means I’m not always available (or awake enough) for much of the pre-fixed ‘teaching’.
Like Ange, I’ve been an independent learner for a long time; I fear it’s turned me into a really bad student. I like finding my own stuff to read rather than going with what is suggested. I feel as though I don’t need much support (though others may disagree!). I’m neither proud nor ashamed of this, but it does put me at odds – and it makes me feel at odds – with what has been an extremely supportive cohort of students and teachers. I have a laissez-faire attitude to assessment: I’ll do my best, and I do care a little about the marks. But more than anything I’m here to be ‘contaminated’ (to borrow the term of Lewis and Khan) by ideas that are new to me. I’d rather things got more complicated than more simple.
The reason I really wanted to share this, though, was that I feel that Ange’s post highlights and exemplifies the entanglements of digital and distance education. It reveals the complex assemblages and networks at play in how we engage with course materials, in how we define ‘engagement’. It uncovers the dispersal of activity, the instability, the times when instrumentalist approaches feel like the only option. It epitomises our attempts to stay in control, to centre and recentre ourselves at the nexus of our studying. It underlines the networks: the multi-institutional, political, cultural, familial, social, soteriological networks that combine and collide and co-constitute. It exposes the totalising sociomateriality of experience, “the delicate material and cultural ecologies within which life is situated” (Bayne, 2015, p. 15). And it does so from the perspective of the student.
But it also, I think, emphasises the – I say this tentatively – relative redundancy of these ideas and critical assessments. Recognition of the networks and rhizomes does not provide Ange with a more navigable path through her course. This doesn’t mean that these considerations are not important but it does – for me at least – point to a disjunction between theory and practice.
Bayne, S. (2015). What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, 40(1), 5–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2014.915851
With many many thanks to Ange for letting me share her post.