Networked Learning Conference 2010

June 16th, 2009 by Thomas Ryberg

I am looking very much forward to the next Networked Learning Conference which will be hosted here in Aalborg 3-4 May 2010 (also I am proud to say that I am part of the local organising committee :-) ). The Networked Learning conference is:

“an international, research-based conference. Since its inception in 1998 the conference has developed a strong following by international researchers. In addition it is well supported by practitioners, managers and learning technologists interested in contributing to and hearing about research in this area. The conference is considered a major event in the international ‘technology enhanced learning’ conference circuit.”

The bi-annual conferences are organised by Lancaster University, Glasgow Caledonian University and Open University UK in collaboration with local hosts (in this case Aalborg University with collaboration from Open University Netherlands). I have attended the NLC conferences since 2004, and I always find them to be both engaging and challenging with good quality papers and interesting people, so I am very happy be involved in the planning of the conference.

The upcoming conference features keynotes by Etienne Wenger and Yrjö Engeström, and I think it will be very interesting to hear about their views on networked learning and more their current research – really great that they both had the time and wanted to do it.

The call for paper is being circulated to various list and conferences at the moment, and one thing to note for the upcoming conference (and future ones I suppose) is that  papers will go through a full peer review, whereas it used to be only review of an extended abstract (also this time it will be possible to submit the paper online – you can read more about paper submission here) -deadline for full papers is the Friday 13th of November.

Another thing is that we have been putting some work into implementing the conference website in Joomla, (Joomla is an open source content management system that is really easy to use, but with loads of functionalty – I can reallly recommend it!). The primary reason for doing this was to make the conference site more interactive and community oriented – so this year the conference site also features a community/social network where people can:

  • Create a profile (or use their facebook login through facebook connect)
  • Import their tweets, external feeds, slideshare presentations, delicious bookmarks etc.
  • Create groups to discuss symposia and paper proposals or to host a hot-seat or seminar (the latter can be arranged and scheduled by contacting the conference committee)
  • Participate in various discussion forums and connect with other researchers interested in Networked Learning and much more :-)

The community is up and running and people are welcome to sign up  (we’re still adding bits and pieces and working on some guides and descriptions). The community builds on the JomSocial plugin for Joomla, which is a very nice and easy to use plugin (but is not freely available beyond the trial version).

Anyways – I hope to see lot of interesting people at the conference and online before the conference :-) Do stop by and have a look at:

http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk

Now featured on Youtube

December 10th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

Last Thursday I participated in a network meeting for people interested i e-learning. The meeting was hosted and arranged by the VidenDanmarknetwork. I was invited to give a short presentation on social media and learning – after the presentation I did a short re-cap which was recorded and is now on Youtube (to be honest I have not seen it myself – I hate seeing myself on video/pictures). The slides, videoes etc from me and all of the other presenters can be found here – Ohh I should mention – it is in Danish…so if you do not already speak Danish, now there’s a reason to learn it :)

Paper and Panel for AoIR-conference

September 17th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

In collaboration with some good friend and colleagues I have been part of preparing a panel for the upcoming AoIR-conference (Copenhagen, October 15-18). The title of the panel is: “At the Intersection: Public and Private, Global and Local, Design and Use, Virtual and Textual” and it features the following papers:Thomas Ryberg, Aalborg University: “Privacy, Power, Place and Identity: The Dynamic Construction of Mixed Spaces in an Educational Context” (download paper here:  AoIR-Paper – Ryberg)

Anders Albrechtslund, Aalborg University: “Surveillance in Mixed Spaces: Persuasion and Resistance”

Rikke Frank Joergensen, Roskilde University/Danish Institute for Human Rights: “Internet: Remixing Public and Private”

Anne-Mette Albrechtslund, Aalborg University: “Gamers Telling Stories: Intersections of Games, Narratives and Lives”

Malene Charlotte Larsen, Aalborg University: “Online Social Networking: From Local Experiences to Global Discourses” (Malene’s post on the paper»)

Below I have pasted in a small extract from the introduction.

“We begin the paper by synthesising and discussing current ideas about web 2.0 tools and practices, as they have unfolded within educational contexts. Furthermore, we highlight some of the concerns, potentials and tensions that have been articulated in relation to educational uptake of social media. We then outline the educational intentions and design of Ekademia, which we analyse and discuss by drawing on the empirical data. We focus, in particular, on notions of identity, place, privacy, power and mixed spaces in an educational context. Furthermore, we discuss tensions that relate to pedagogical challenges in designing learning environments that draw on social technologies and practices which have their offspring in informal, rather than formal contexts, and were not intentionally designed for educational use. We conclude the paper by highlighting and discussing some of the concerns, challenges and potentials that arise from employing social technologies within educational contexts.”

The paper only begins to outline some ideas which I would have liked to articulate more clearly in the paper – instead I will reserve this for an upcoming blog-post :-)

Paper out in Educational Media Journal

September 15th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

I am happy to say that a paper I and Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld have been working on as a further development of a paper presented at the LYICT conference is now out in the Educational Media Journal. It is work which build on my PhD project about understanding learning as a process of patchworking, but it also takes a critical look at notions such as digital natives, power users etc. Below is an abstract:

This paper sets out to problematise generational categories such as “Power Users” or “New Millennium Learners” by discussing these in the light of recent research on youth and information and communication technology. We then suggest analytic and conceptual pathways to engage in more critical and empirically founded studies of young people’s learning in technology and media-rich settings. Based on a study of a group of young “Power Users”, it is argued that conceptualising and analysing learning as a process of patchworking can enhance our knowledge of young people’s learning in such settings. We argue that the analytical approach gives us ways of critically investigating young people’s learning in technology and media-rich settings, and study if these are processes of critical, reflexive enquiry where resources are creatively re-appropriated. With departure in an analytical example, the paper presents the proposed metaphor of understanding learning as a process of patchworking and discusses how we might use this to understand young people’s learning with digital media.

For those interested the paper can be found here:

Ryberg, Thomas & Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Lone (2008). Power Users and patchworking – An analytical approach to critical studies of young people’s learning with digital media. Educational Media International, 45 (3), 143-156. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/09523980802283608

Back from LYICT conference in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

July 14th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

This Saturday I returned from four days conference in Kuala Lumpur. The LYICT conference entitled ‘ICT and Learning for the Net Generation’ was an IFIP conference (Internation Federation for Information Processing) and more specifically connected to TC3 (Technical Committee) on ICT and Education. It consisted of a two days open conference and a two day working conference, where there were discussions in smaller groups around different themes. The conference took place at the beautiful and comfortable Saujana Hotel and it was arranged as a joint venture between the International Program Committee and a Local Organising Committee – the latter headed by Open University Malaysia. I have not attended an IFIP conference previously (though I did co-author a paper for the 8th IFIP World Conference on Computers in Education (WCCE) 2005 in Stellenbosch, South Africa), but the organisation, venue and logistics were really great. Furthermore, the organisers have put a lot of pictures from the conference online, which can be found here. The only thing missing was actually access to a wireless network during the conference sessions (which might actually also be a good thing :-) ).

The conference in general was really exciting, and there were many interesting presentations. I presented the paper Patchworking and Power Users – a Novel Approach to Understand Learning? (co-authored with Prof. Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld). The paper develops and presents some of the ideas from my PhD dissertation, but also critically addresses notions such as Digital Millennium Learners, Power Users, the Net Generation, Digital Natives and other generational metaphors (see also a previous blog-posting on this issue). It was presented in a session together with three other presenters. Michael Weigend presented his experiences with some programming projects where students had to model and program scenarios of ‘how to tell a joke’. As Michael writes in the abstract:

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PhD defence: In the Eyes of the Beholder

June 27th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

Anders Albrechtslund will be defending his PhD dissertation Monday the 30th. The dissertation is called “In the Eyes of the Beholder: Introducing participation and ethics to surveillance“. Anders is both a very good friend and colleague, so I am really looking forward to the event. Anders has posted some information about the defence on his blog and also you can read more about the event here (in Danish).

If you are in the area, I would highly recommend stopping by (it is open for the general public) – I think it will be very interesting and there will be some good debates about notions of ‘surveillance’!

We need hype cycles and peaks of inflated expectations!

June 4th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

Recently I have been working on articles about ‘web 2.0′ technologies and practices in relation to education and also been engaging in discussions of youth and their use of ICT (where terms such as the Net Generation, Digital Natives, The New Millennium Learners, Power Users etc. are prevalent in the debate).

In relation to the latter, I have just read the article “The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence” by Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin (which I would recommend). The authors criticise the ideas of stark generational discontinuities between a group of IT-savvy, young ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ who lack the technological fluency of the ‘digital natives’. The distinction has been heralded by e.g. Mark Prensky who has argued that the ‘language’ and cultural gap between the two generations is one of the biggest challenges the educational sector faces to today:

“[...] the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” (Prensky, 2001, p. 2)

Similar claims have been made in relation to some of the other broad generational labels mentioned above and Bennett, Maton & Kervin elegantly summarise these claims:

“1. Young people of the digital native generation possess sophisticated knowledge of and skills with information technologies.
2. As a result of their upbringing and experiences with technology, digital natives have particular learning preferences or styles that differ from earlier generations of students.”

In general they argue that the claims and assumptions are based on ‘limited empirical evidence‘ and basically ‘supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs‘. On basis of a review of existing research on youth and their use of technology they conclude:

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Conference Papers online and happy students

May 22nd, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

This is just a quick post to say that the papers from the Networked Learning Conference are now available from the conference website. This might not exactly be why some students are happy today (although that would be nice). A lot of the students at Aalborg University have handed in their semester projects today – at least at Humanistic Informatics, where I do some teaching and supervision. The semester projects are the result of three to four months of work where students work collaboratively in groups with a self-chosen problem. These group projects are results of the Problem Oriented Project Pedagogy (also called Project Oriented Problem Based Learning) which is the pedagogical foundation at Aalborg University. Simultaneously with the courses on a semester the students work with their projects, and as the courses begin to fade out they engage fully with their projects. This, however, also means that those who supervise and facilitate the groups become busy reading through the student reports, comment, suggest literature, propose ways of engaging with the empirical work, the analysis and so on. This semester I have been supervising quite a lotof students on different semesters – at least more than I am used to! Therefore I have been quite busy lately with supervising groups and individual students. Even though this is time consuming it is usually a pleasure, as the students often write interesting reports and really engage in interesting theoretical and empirical work in relation to their cases/problem (the group projects are usually between 40-100 pages depending on the number of members in the group).
So, congrats to those of you who have handed in your projects today (there’s still also batch handing in on the 28th on the Master of ICT and Learning).

Well, to return briefly to the networked learning conference, the papers are now online and there are really many interesting papers that I am looking forward to read in more depth (and comment on in later posts). As earlier mentioned I was part of two symposiums ‘where is the learning in networked learning?’, (organised by Vivien Hodgson) and ‘Breaching the Garden Walls? Social media, institutions, infrastructures and design for learning‘ (organised by Chris Jones) . No time to go more into the symposiums now, but I really enjoyed the other presenters’ papers and the feedback and discussions!

Social Networking for Justice – Flat worlds, ‘access’ and Online Activism

May 15th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

As mentioned in my previous post I have recently returned from lovely Greece and the Networked Learning Conference, so now it is time to return to some of the issues and presentations that I found thought-provoking and interesting.

The conference actually started off with a very interesting keynote delivered by Charalambos Vrasidas with the title ‘Social Networking for Social Justice: Challenges and Possibilities‘ (Grainne Conole has already posted a good summary and discussion of the keynote on her excellent blog where she has also commented on other presentations from the conference).

The keynote was a thought provoking reminder of the unequal access to education in the world (and the general inequality in terms of the economical and social distribution of power and goods) – something we should really keep in mind every time we talk about “open education”, “digital generations” or the “world wide web” which is really not that “world wide” in terms of access and the capacity to utilise the online resources (a good point I shall return to).

Charalambos Vrasidas argued against the notion that ‘the world is flat’ (adopted from Friedman) and drawing on Richard Florida he suggested instead that the world is ‘spiky’ – meaning that even though we are indeed seeing new power centers and super economies emerge (e.g. in Asia) there are still billions of people around the world (in both developing and developed countries) living in (extreme) poverty not benefiting from the apparently ‘flat world’.

The notion of a ‘flat world’ also seems to include the idea that more people have been given access to information through the ‘world wide web’, which to some extent is also true. Here, however, I think that Charalambos made a great point! While initiatives like MIT Opencourseware and OER Commons (open educational resources) give people free access to wonderful resources for teaching and learning two questions should be asked: whom are they actually open to – or rather what languages are they available in? But actually more important – where are the infrastructures (e.g. teachers, context and networks, accreditation systems etc.) to make sense and use of these resources? While having access to material is of course a great thing it may not be enough in and off itself.

If we assume that learning arises, not only from reading/internalising information, but equally through participation, dialogue and students’ active self-governed, problem-based and collaborative activities, then we might need to think about how we can leverage the access to active networks, dialogues and spaces of meaning making – just as much as access to materials and resources.

One other point (out of many others) mentioned in Charalambos’ presentation was the idea of how social networking and ‘Online Activism’ might be a way to promote and strengthen social justice. He used a video from Amnesty International and mentioned the power of networks in (virally) distributing the video, thereby raising awareness about Human Rights and that ‘your signature counts‘. Distributing videos and utilising the power of networks certainly help in getting messages across to a broader public, and Charalambos also gave other examples of how technology and social networks can be used to promote social justice (e.g. games such as food-force or the empowerment experienced by peasants being able to check crop prices on the net).

However, I have come to think of if certain forms of ‘Online Activism’ may actually lead to a sort of ‘laid back’ or even ‘lazy activism’. For instance it is great that just by using Facebook I can (apparently) help reduce C02 emission, give rice to poor people and save the rain forest by nursing my (Lil) Green Patch…but on the other hand – do they actually engage me or disengage me (one is helping while maybe not being particularly aware of or reflexive about it)? A lot of great work is going on within the field of ‘motivating design’ or persuasive design’ (for instance I would recommend the blog Architectures of Control? Design with Intent that is maintained by Dan Lockton). Here one of the ideas is to embed ‘good, sustainable practices’ into the design and function of various technologies causing people to automatically save water, electricity and so forth. Like many of the Facebook-application this is a really great idea (assuming that they actually do work), but I do have one concern! While such ‘persuasive or motivational’ designs surely can change people’s behaviour, do they also raise awareness and engagement – do they change our minds and not only our behaviour?

Likewise, it is great that I can easily sign petitions at Avaaz.org and hope that politicians will listen and take action correspondingly – also it is wonderful that I can quickly send an sms to the Danish Red Cross to donate money for the victims in Myanmar. But do such initiatives and ‘the easiness’ also eschew our collective focus from long-term, difficult efforts of capacity building, sustainability onto ’causes’ and ‘immediate solutions’. Not that these two are mutually exclusive, but some Danish charity and developmental organisations have pointed out that while people are willing to donate a lot of money for specific ’causes’ and ‘events’ it is harder to promote and ensure support for more long-term and slow-moving projects which may take decades to succeed. With ‘direct’ support and aid we can see the value and results (or imagine the impact) quickly (people get rice, blankets, water or the popular ‘donate a goat’ presents etc.), whereas with an ‘indirect’ support (building up public administration, training teachers, collaborating on building up capacity on Universities or in other sectors) it is somewhat more difficult to see immediate and concrete results.

Of course this is not to argue that we should not engage with motivating or persuasive design and embedding good practices into technology; that we should not easily be able to donate money, school books, goats etc. to poor people needing the help – or raising awareness by distributing widely videos like the one from Amnesty International. However, what would be very interesting to study is how and if such initiatives and technologies affect or transform our ways of engaging with the world and our ways of taking action?

Back from Networked Learning Conference 2008 and Greece

May 12th, 2008 by Thomas Ryberg

This Friday Malene and me returned from a wonderful week in Halkidiki, Greece. I went there to participate in the Networked Learning Conference, which ran on the 5-6 of May. We, however, decided to arrive a bit in advance and stay a few days after for a bit of vacation. The conference was held at the Sani Beach hotel, which was a wonderful setting for a great conference (and for vacation I might add :-) – below are some pictures of the view from our room).




The conference was really good, well organised and a great inspiration – something which I will explore in more depth in some follow-up posts on some of the presentations, symposia and keynotes from the conference (Gráinne Conole has already summarised and discussed some of the presentations and keynotes on her very interesting blog).

I was part of two symposiums which both went really well, I think (Where is the learning in Networked Learning? & Breaching the Garden Walls? Social media, institutions, infrastructures and design for learning) . They both generated good discussions which was a great opportunity for getting some feedback and start reflecting more on the central themes of the symposiums and one’s own paper(s) – the full papers by the way should soon be available from the conference website, and I will discuss the symposiums in other posts.

For now, it is sufficient to say that the conference was really good, and that I met a lot of interesting people and heard some great presentations and keynotes – so a big thanks to the organisers of the conference and to all participants for making it a very worthwhile event!