Saturday, 16 November 2013

#edcmooc: W2: Metaphors of the future

As humans we are metaphor. Language is the metaphors that we speak: our clothes are the metaphors that we display to tell the world about ourselves...  This week #edcmooc introduced us to metaphors that inform and inflame us about the web. The web itself is an initiating metaphor that I have seen used in contexts other than the WWW. Margo Blythman, then of the University of The Arts, London at a time of the closing down of university Learning Development Units used the web metaphor for learning development: we are there, ubiquitous and supportive; every new broom sweeps us away; but we reform… What does the web metaphor mean to #edcmoocers?

The course
In the film show we saw terrifying utopian (sic) visions of teaching with students still being constructed as passively as possible by the shiny shiny education system with all its goodies… (‘A Day Made of Glass’ and ‘Bridging our Future’ – and we saw the virtual as infuriating (‘A digital tomorrow’ or rapacious (‘Sight’

: Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday,14(4). 
Extension: Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.
Education: Balfour, S., 2013. Assessing Writing in MOOCs: Automated Essay Scoring and Calibrated Peer ReviewTM. Research and Practice in Assessment, 8, pp.40–48. 
Stewart, B., 2013. Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? Journal of Online Learning and Teaching,9(2).

On metaphors
It was fascinating to read about the metaphors that have been and are deployed about the Web. My colleagues and I have also been interested in the metaphors deployed in Government Policy documents on Digital Education. When we investigated a UK document entitled 'Harnessing Technology' we were unhappily surprised to find that references to education itself - real or metaphorical - were exceedingly rare. Instead there was constant reference to ‘skills’ (a contested term in itself), calls for IT training and multiple references to gaining the IT Skills necessary for business. 

If you are interested in taking metaphorical research further, I would suggest that you find your institution's policy documents on Technology Enhanced Education or E-learning or Blended Learning. Look for the metaphors used about education itself, about teaching and learning – and about the technology. See what your metaphor and/or discourse analysis reveals – and share it with us.

More metaphors
So, as human beings re-presenting ourselves in the world, we are metaphor, we speak metaphor, we enact metaphor… And recently we have explored student avatars as metaphors: how are our students constructing themselves in virtual worlds? Do these representations position them (more) powerfully with respect to education itself?

In our small study we constructed a (SecondLife) seashore with sussurating sea as a learning space – and our students constructed themselves as ship captains, as bees and Klingons. So we felt that if handled well then yes the virtual allows a more powerful student to emerge. (

And for education?
In Stewart argues convincingly that MOOCs are neither the alpha nor omega of education - but that they can be a Trojan Horse ushering in a new age of distributed, participatory education. The Trojan Horse metaphor, as was pointed out in the Hangout, evokes annihilation and destruction - but if we put that swiftly aside - we can share the positive, creative and inspiring ways that MOOCs have influenced our own practice.

My colleagues and I have used our MOOC experiences to argue for truly blended learning – a blend that not only includes virtual and actual teaching and assessment strategies - but that offers much more active and student-initiated learning.

Our new module incorporates creative and visual activities (collage, drawing, animation); problem and project based learning (real research projects, students as partners in conferences and bids, students producing installations and Cabinets of Curiosities)... and the production of Digital Artefacts as part of the assessment offer - no matter what the course.

If you are participating in #edcmooc, please post examples of how MOOCs have influenced your practice here: If not in #edcmooc – please post some examples as Comments below.

No comments: