Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On chosing not to 'promote connections'

I am working up a project evaluation and, as ever, with networked learning in mind, I have a strange feeling that something is not quite right. The project in question relies on a finely balanced set of access rights and priviledges - who can see and edit, who can alter the access settings...? On the one hand, we have the students. For this project, we do not want students viewing another student's private online discourse. We also do not want 'just anyone' to have access, although Blackboard makes us lean towards giving admin staff more access than we would like, simply because otherwise they are prevented from doing their work. This leaves the academic staff who should all be able to access every students' writing. While there are a multitude of ways of doing exactly this, finding the most efficient way in the long term is more tricky, but not impossible. But the point of this message is to make the point that the 2001 definition of networked learning does not account for learning which happens under the kind of access constraints I've detailed. It seems obvious to say that not everything a student types should be made available to everyone, just in case a serendipitous learning connection can be established, or activated if such a connection already exists. If connections are being deliberately fenced off, instead of being 'promoted', does this still equate to 'networked learning', or am I simply driving too hard at the definition? Yet the definition is designed to encourage productive, 'high-quality' learning (as opposed to the less pedagogically, more technologically oriented definitions you can find for 'e-learning': see http://csalt.lancs.ac.uk/esrc/ )
The question that arises in my mind is therefore: in a given planned learning intervention, what connections are being promoted, by whom, and, in particular, which ones stymied?
Cutting Edge
Something else that occurs to me along these lines is the presentation at Networked Learning 2012 by John Dron and Terry Anderson about https://landing.athabascau.ca
This system gives students full control of what they post and how public to make it. I made the point to Terry that one slip of the permissions could land healthcare students in big trouble with their governing body. But this is also a problem for anyone working with sensitive information. I have to think twice about how much intellectual property to put on show in this blog. This is another one of those implicit skills or aspects of knowledge that we can easily overlook in the rush to get everyone working and learning online.