Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A dingo ate my homework. CCK08

I'm maintaining a tenuous connection with CCK08. A spatial shift to the other side of the Tasman, and the end of semester tying up of loose ends in an academic institution left me somewhat distracted.
A (belated)second short paper for CCK08

Actor-network theory, connectivism and education
As an educator informed by both Actor-network theory and connectivist learning theory my approach to teaching and learning is shaped within a network. The challenge becomes how to create opportunities for the freedom to learn within mainstream education. It's not Ok in a University course, or at least not in a stage 1 paper, to set no learning outcomes, to leave the assessment criteria open ended, or to allow students to self select their areas of interest. However, accommodations are possible. This paper therefore looks at the role of educator as one who negotiates possibilities with students.

In negotiating possibilities I am assuming a student group who have sufficient maturity to anticipate consequences for setting learning goals and establishing endpoints and time frames. A framework for such a role could be that of agile project development. (I am bemused by the prospect of having 5 minute standing meetings.)

In philosophising education the purpose of that education needs to be considered. I do students a mis-service if I neglect the reasons they enroll in a course. Expectations of outcomes may not sit well with a connectivism learning approach. How to make learning happen within a constrained time frame? How to relate to curriculum content when this needs to be aligned with other connections within a network. In the area I teach, professional education has a significant part of the curriculum prescribed by registering bodies. The measure of success may well include obedience to learning skills deemed essential by others. While this does not sit well with the freedoms of education espoused by a connectivist learning approach, it may be possible to negotiate possibilities that still meet these requirements.

In utilising frameworks informed by Actor- network theory, I would add to the teachers role negotiating power. The lecturer is involved not only in student- lecturer interactions but also in negotiating the connections to both internal and external bodies where power and control have influence. As expressed in a paper by Stephen Fox (2000) on ANT, Foucault and Communities of practice, the strength or force of such connections, can be considerable. It is not just that the connections exist, at times the weight or force brought to bear can be considerable. However, an ANT informed approach is a reminder that this can always be otherwise; it takes work to maintain a network's specific shape or configuration and alterations can occur in a multitude of ways. Such a weight is unlikely to be malleable to a students concerted effort to effect change, but the role of a lecturer may well be in reshaping what makes this possible.

In this analysis I point to changing emphasis in teaching roles. The teaching is not too dissimilar to approaches I have previously enjoyed inside of a student-centred approach. However historical roadblocks remain evident in such approaches; the academy manufactures timelines of study that are finite, the curriculum is most often prescribed. However such roadblocks are not insurmountable. A networked understanding of learning is also about finding that networks currently configured might also be otherwise. Times of change permit reformulations of existing viewpoints. John Heron (1999) when describing techniques of the soft-revolution, talks of how there are cracks within the walls of even the most serious of institutions where a seed might germinate. Taking this opportunity to rethink "what could be" I am more aware of the role of educator that extends outside of classrooms and lecture theatres. The role becomes one that may spend time on reconfiguring the academy and or of professional registration boards. Or at least of challenging the constraints that one finds in the bureaucracy of academia. In this regard, an ANT analysis may well be useful to future planning for connectivism as a theory guiding educational practices. Informed by ANT an approach to sustainable change using appreciative and iterative approaches may be possible.


Fox, S. (2000). Communities Of Practice, Foucault And Actor-Network Theory. Journal of Management Studies, Volume 37, Number 6, September 2000 , pp. 853-868(16)
Haxell, A. (2008). Appreciative and iterative change. Retrieved 18 November 2008, from
Heron, J. (1999). The complete facilitator's handbook. London; Kogan Page.
N.A. (2008). Agile software development. Retrieved 18 November 2008 from


  1. i just cant get there from here. Seems my trip across the ditch has interfered with my ability to connect with the moodle discussions. I am presuming it is just me, as I still get emails of threads continuing. Not being able to link in to networks when i choose and want to is annoying me. And in the wider world, i guess this is also an experience shared by others when distance or ingroup/outgroup behaviours can be a challenge. If there's another way in, let me know.


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