Today’s #digped discussion is about listening to learners in order to find out about what learning actually happens “in the wild”:

From Hybrid Pedagogy:

In what ways have digital students begun to break apart the idea of the course, to break apart even our long-held thoughts about how, when, and where learning happens? Do our notions of learning — even our most progressive ones — reflect learning that’s already happening informally?The goal of this #digped chat will be to question whether we are learning enough from learners — particularly the ones who populate the digital. Here are some questions to consider in advance of the discussion:

Where does learning happen outside of MOOCs and other online courses?

What does “learning in the wild” imply? How can naturally-occurring, informal learning translate to the online classroom or MOOC?

If, as Jesse has said, there lie opportunities for analysis “not in the thesis but the fissure”, how do we change the way we evaluate learning to accommodate learning that happens unexpectedly, outside the institution’s purview, and in ways that can’t always be measured?

This is a topic that is close to my heart – and this is a quick post to try and say (part of) something that has been rolling around my mind for months.

You see, I am currently unaffiliated to any academic institution, and I have no intention of changing this in the near future (“why” is a long enough topic for another post).

When MOOCs first appeared, I was supercharged with excitement. This has disappeared.

My issue is this: despite all the lip service paid to radical leanings within MOOCs, there remains a huge divide. This is not so much between “teachers” and “learners” – but rather “the academy” versus “everyone else on the planet”.

And, you would think, listening to all the rhetoric, that everyone outside of the academy is sat there, passively and cluelessly waiting for the next MOOC installment – that “open learning” happened in a quick revolution only months ago – and that “educators” hold the sole responsibility for directing this movement.

You might also think that learners, without the magic of MOOCs, would never pick up a book or engage in an (‘academic’) conversation, let alone create or direct the learning process.

I would like to draw attention to an ignored kind of learner.

This “outsider learner” is not acquiring skills in order to progress at work. They are not trying to achieve credits to enable to get on to a course. They are not using their “Personal Learning Network” as an exercise in career-self-promotion. But neither are they a post-doc or a tenured academic.

Instead, this learner learns in their leisure time, for fun. Or they learn because they already feel compelled to do it. They are drawn to libraries and other repositories of information. They set up reading groups because they are bored. They form collectives and messageboards and group blogs. They make lists on arg dot org. This learner often feels more at home drunkenly discussing theory in the pub than trying to explain themselves to academics.

My personal experience is this – I have been engaged in far more fulfilling, exciting and productive conversations far away from academia. My MA seminars sometimes reduced me to tears of frustration. In comparison, I’ve had reading group discussions that have made me feel completely alive and on the edge of something new – that most precious “Oh my god, exciting and new!” feeling that the best learning experiences give you.

Sometimes this has happened via MOOCs. But rarely, and always in Tweets or chats, and never on a Canvas forum underneath a question from “the tutor”. I don’t need a teacher to tell me how to discuss things. I just need other people with the same passion to talk to.

There is also a political point to this. Some people feel excluded from dominant discourse. Some do not want to contribute to the dominant discourse. Some of us are fed up of being consistently on the wrong end of power structures with the academy. Furthermore, many of us have already been doing just fine creating our own conversations and resource repositories – it would have just been quite exciting to do this on a larger scale (a “massive” scale), because it would help us reach people in new and different ways.

However, it now seems to me even more than before, that academics are often busy talking to themselves inside their own bubbles. As a final thought, consider this infographic for the FemTechNet “DOCC” – a radical new way to do a MOOC:

(From Feminist Online Spaces)

Notice anything?

You’re right – this network is still composed entirely of academic institutions. I’m really not sure where I fit in there.

posthumanism edcmooc copy

Reading list:

N. Katherine Hayles (1999) How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics, esp. Chapter 4 “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety”

Donna Haraway (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women, esp. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”

Elizabeth Grosz (1994) Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism.

I don’t really know why these stories about supposed telepathic temporary tattoos have surfaced, but they are hilarious:

“Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones, researchers say.”


However, my second thought is – maybe this is meant to be a strangely literal interpretation of Elizabeth Grosz? It almost seems to perfect – a cyborg vision of the future where literally inscribing the flesh really does mean that we create a connection, via the skin, from interiority to exteriority – where the “mind” can extend into the “world” through technological dermatographia…

Grosz says:

This metaphorics of body writing posits the body, and particularly its epidermic surface, muscular-skeletal frame, ligaments, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs as corporeal surfaces, the blank page on which engraving, graffiti, tattooing, or inscription can take place. This metaphor of the textualized body asserts that the body is a page or material surface, possibly even a book of interfolded leaves (one of Merleau-Ponty’s favorite metaphors), ready to receive, bear, and transmit meanings, messages, or signs, much like a system of writing.

(p. 117, Elizabeth Grosz (1994), Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism)

I wonder what other examples of fantastical telekinetic cyborg body inscriptions I can find ヽ(^o^)ノ