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Networked learning – an emerging paradigm? Can we speak of e-learning 2.0? . Course in Learning and Collaboration #5 Thomas Ryberg This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. Først lidt praktisk forespørgsler.

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Networked learning an emerging paradigm can we speak of e learning 2 0

Networked learning – an emerging paradigm? Can we speak of e-learning 2.0? 

Course in Learning and Collaboration #5

Thomas Ryberg

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

F rst lidt praktisk foresp rgsler
Først lidt praktisk forespørgsler

  • Vi regner med at flytte kursusgangen på torsdag til mandag d. 30/10?

  • Så kan I deltage i netværksseminaret med Ola og Brian fra 14-17 (med efterfølgende vin og chips!!!!!) – tilmeld jer ved at sende en mail til

  • Desuden en bonus-forelæsning på 1 time fra 12.30 – 13.30 om Activity Theory og ANT – det skal I også lige melde tilbage om – hvor mange er umiddelbart interesserede?

  • Rita Houmann (smartboard): Onsdag eller fredag i denne uge – onsdag kl 13? Fredag kl.11-13.30 (Men tværgående kursus!) – I skal lige tjekke, at smartboardet fungerer!!!


  • A development? A quick-and-dirty history of technological and theoretical developments – is there a new emerging paradigm, which we could term ’Networked Learning’ and what would be the accompanying technological development

  • The texts – Critique of CoP; the development of CoP and Activity Theory

  • The hallmark of CSCL = Collaboration – is collaboration in the CSCL sense also islands in the sea 

  • Discussion of all of this:

    • Can we speak of an emerging paradigm?

    • What would ’networked learning’ mean in relation to your cases – how can you employ thoughts from that framework?

  • This is very much ideas, my interpretation of current theorising – so it is open to discussion and critique 

  • I will not go deep into the individual texts but rather try to draw some trends out across the texts

Pedagogical framework from last year
Pedagogical framework – from last year

Acquisition metaphor?

Participation metaphor?

Inspired by Dalsgaard, 2004

Another way of re presenting learning orientations
Another way of re-presenting learning orientations

Report 2Literature Review in Thinking Skills, Technology and LearningDr Rupert WegerifSchool of Education, Open University

Broader theoretical move
Broader theoretical move

  • MY CLAIM: It seems that the general ‘unit of analysis’ is on the move in socio-cultural theories of learning

    • Cultural Historical Activity Theory: From single activity systems to multiple interacting systems featuring on-the-spot constructed relations

    • Apprenticeship Learning: Identity as participation across contexts, knowledge transformation as changed participation in multiple settings

    • Social Theory of Learning: Identity formation through trajectories and multi-membership, boundary-crossing

    • Nexus analysis and MDA: Nexus of practice rather than CoP

  • In all theoretical accounts there is a movement away from a single practice, community or activity system – rather the focus is on movements, transformations, boundary crossing, cross-context participation (school, home, work, leisure time, online/offline etc.).

The critique of communities of practice from nl
The Critique of Communities of Practice from NL

  • Communities of Practice have become a very influential concept, both theoretically and in practical pedagogical design

  • This year’s Networked Learning Conference 2006 was heavily loaded with people that had ‘designed’ Communities of Practice

  • Critique from Jones, Jones & Esnault, Hodgson & Reynolds (Fox and others):

    • CoP’s are just one out of many different types of social organisations. One specific type of network – namely a network based on strong ties

    • Inherent value of “collaborative” or “community learning”, which tend to render the value of weak ties invisible

    • Humans in CoPs are seen as the primary agents, whereas actants or non-humans are peripheral in the discussions (e.g. of electronic resources)

    • Problem to focus only on the human-human relations and not looking at resources of various forms – or bits of knowledge

    • Community is seen as a morally good place of consensus, however communities can equally be oppressive and oppose a pedagogy of difference (Hodgson & Reynolds)

The notion of networked learning
The notion of Networked Learning

  • “Networked learning is learning in which information and communication technology (C&IT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources.”

  • Connections is the important word – connections both between humans and between humans and technological artefacts – it is about promoting/enabling such connections

  • No inherent pedagogical ideal – such as collaboration or strong ties

  • The pedagogical design of the online master very different from e.g. MIL

    • MIL organised as strongly tied project groups and consciously tries to create a Community of Practice (AlumneMIL, project groups, discussions)

    • ALT-programme at Lancaster – more flexible, assignments individually oriented, but can be negotiated, experiental – online discussion more an option than mandatory

    • MAML – identity driven, work projects, researchers are role models, students’ experience form the work – not a “thematic framework” (temaramme) – we have had some discussion with Vivien about that 

Challenges for network analysis
Challenges for Network Analysis

  • Tendency to employ quantitative measures and use of graphical or Social Network Analysis software, where structures, properties and graphical representations almost become the network – as much as these approaches can yield interesting and powerful findings we voice a concern that we need to understand meaning making processes and participants’ perspectives:

    • Structural and mathematical laws:

      • Networks exhibit fundamental similar structures e.g. few nodes have many links. However, social practices and norms may be extensively different although underlying structures are the same – what makes one a core node in the Kaleidoscope network may not be the same as on a dating site…

    • What actually constitutes the network or the unit of analysis, and what does it represent?

      • If we theoretically and empirically are moving towards an understanding of learning as happening across boundaries and by engagements in different contexts, then what actually constitutes the network or the unit of analysis? Can the network be limited to e.g. a course or the interactions in forums? (Enriquez, 2006)

    • When talking about weak and strong ties, a question related to the parameters for whether a relation is strong or weak arises. How do we establish whether a relation is strong or weak?

      • What parameters can we use? Number of messages could signal a large flow of information between nodes, but would an equally low flow mean that the relation is weak?

Engestr m

  • The historical development of activity theory

  • Always been critical of the CoP concept – lack of ‘revolutionary’ development or expansive learning

  • Has now moved towards looking at concepts such as ‘Knotworking’ and ‘Co-configuration’

  • Claims that knotworking is not networks – understand networks as stable (p. 346)

Engestr ms model four modes of learning
Engeströms model: “four modes of learning”

Engeström has continuously claimed that CoP and LPP (Lave & Wenger) is problematic as it is ‘enculturation’ rather than exploration

The development of activity theory according to engestr m
The development of Activity Theory according to Engeström

First generation - Vygotsky

Second generation - Leontjev

Third generation

A citation from engestr m
A citation from Engeström

  • “Much recent ethnographic research on the organization of work has focused on temporally and spatially compact and stable “centers of coordination” (Suchman, 1997), typically different kinds of control rooms. We want to direct attention to another, in a sense almost opposite, type of work organization. We refer to work that requires active construction of constantly changing combinations of people and artifacts over lengthy trajectories of time and widely distributed in space” (Engeström, 1999)

  • The concept of ‘knotworking’ instantiates a new focus for research on organisational practices, as Engeström argues that workplace studies have tended to focus on relatively temporal and spatial stable practices e.g. a setting with the same people and re-occurring tasks

  • ‘Knotworking’ describes unstable, actively on-the-spot constructed relations and constantly changing configurations of people and artefacts

Problems of activity theory
Problems of Activity Theory

  • Problems of the triangle model:

    • Is it too static? Does clinging to the model inhibit us from understanding the dynamics of knotworking and co-configuration

    • How are temporal aspects visualised in the model? Engeströms example in the text is a very simple situation that turns out to be actually very complicated

    • Does it not in a sense visually represent something, which is stable?

    • How many activity systems are actually in play at the same time – multiple interacting activity systems – question is if people in actual interaction represent just one (Caretaker, ambulance crew etc.)

    • How can we maintain a balance between something, which forms a history, practice or activity and then at the same time represent the actively on the spot constructed relations

    • BUT what should we put instead? What should be the unit of analysis?


  • Moving a bit away from the idea of Communities of Practice as the core idea and towards other parts that have not been taken up in academic writings on CoP:

    • “This simultaneous focus on constellations of communities of practice and individual trajectories will place emphasis on aspects of the theory that have not received as much attention as communities of practice per se: boundary structures, multimembership, cross-community trajectories, various modes of belonging, and large-scale properties of composite systems.”

  • A social theory of learning – stresses that his theory is NOT a social learning theory, but a social theory of learning! He counters the interpretations that learning is best performed as a collective activity – this is not what he means

Development of cop
Development of CoP

  • Agency and structure in social learning systems

  • Because of its mid-level character, the concept of community of practice is a useful entry point into the study of learning systems and identity formation. […] our participation in specific communities acts as a mediating context of engagement for negotiating the meaning of large structures and our experience of identity in them. (p. 18)

Development of cop1
Development of CoP

  • The four trends:

    • The “horizontalization” of learning - a shift in our a view of knowledge communication that emphasizes less the vertical relationship between a producer and a recipient and more horizontal interactions required for the negotiation of mutual relevance

    • The “partialization” of learning imperatives - : the complexity of knowledge domains creates relationships of interdependence so that learning increasingly means being part of broader systems and learning to participate productively rather than mastering everything oneself

Development of cop2
Development of CoP

  • The four trends (continued)

    • The “personalization” of value creation - the need for personal engagement in work as a key to creativity and knowledge-related activities

    • The “individualization” of trajectories of identity - Identity becomes an individual experience when it involves complex multimembership

  • Both of these could be compared with what Castells terms “Networked individualism”


  • Is the notion of the communities viable?

  • CoP live at the interstices of formal organisations (Jones)

  • How stable are CoPS – are they bubbles/circles

  • Do they have the same problem as activity systems? BUT what should we put instead

  • Are itineraries a better description than trajectories?


Summarising the texts
Summarising the texts

  • Increased focus on terms such as relations, movement, interaction, boundary, instability, trajectories and network/knotwork, rather than the more stable entities such as activity systems and CoPs.

  • Socio-cultural learning theories are increasingly becoming interested in learning that happens not only in discrete contexts, such as a school class, a work place or an organisational unit, but rather in the learning that happens across and between these constellations

  • Here the analytical unit for Wenger moves towards identity, for Engeström onto the ‘knot’ that is being constructed and Jones, Hodgson et al. are talking about networks

Same phenomenon but a changed focus
Same phenomenon but a changed focus?

  • Not a changed society or new ways of learning – but maybe a new focus:

  • From ”Social bounded” spaces to liquid networks and relations between actors in the network – Maybe very much as things are in the world 

Vertical understanding of learning
Vertical understanding of learning

  • The top-down view:

There is a well-defined body of knowledge that should be passed on to students through the educational food-chain – from ministry plans to the student – National strategies, material databases, learning objects, curriculum.

Knowledge view: “Delivery or transmission of knowledge”

Ministry: National curriculum




Education (e.g. human centred informatics)


Student or groups of students

Horisontal understanding of learning an emerging understanding
Horisontal understanding of learning – an emerging understanding?

  • The dispersion model

There is an ill-defined and massive body of knowledge that no individual or institution in itself can handle. Knowledge construction can be seen as diffusion of knowledge between different types of nodes in networks, where some nodes are more central than others. Knowledge is created, through transgressing boundaries, collecting, distributing and aggregating ”bits” of knowledge into regimes of competence

Knowledge view: “Chaotic diffusion of knowledge”

The problem of collaboration in cscl
The problem of collaboration in CSCL understanding?

  • “For example, Roschelle and Teasley (1995) say that co-operative work ‘…is accomplished by the division of labor among participants, as an activity where each person is responsible for a portion of the problem solving…’, whereas collaboration involves the ‘…mutual engagement of participants in a coordinated effort to solve the problem together.” (Goodyear, 2001)

  • When referring to collaboration, about what is one actually speaking? To put it simply, in the public conversation the term 'collaboration' appears to refer to any activities that a pair of individuals, or a group of people perform together. Among researchers, however, including those in academic fields, the term 'collaboration' is understood rather differently. Within learning sciences, common to the different definitions of collaboration is that they stress the idea of co construction of knowledge and mutual engagement of participants. In this sense, collaboration can be considered as a special form of interaction. (Lipponnen, 2002)

  • Is collaboration in this form actually something which also lives in the interstices of our everyday life?

  • Are tightly knitted groups with strong ties and ‘collaboration’ the vehicle of knowledge creation, or is it rather the networks which all people draw upon and are engaged in that are the vehicle?

  • Are blogs collaborative, are wikis? And how about your everyday life and studies – how much is collaborative – and what is not?

An emerging paradigm
An emerging paradigm? understanding?

From social bounded spaces to liquid networks
From social bounded spaces to liquid networks understanding?


Problem Oriented Project pedagogy

Bounded Social Spaces


Problem Oriented Project pedagogy – in another perspective

Liquid Networks

I think we have tended to favour the left model while not giving enough attention to the model on the right – it has always been there, but not in focus

The learning systems
The learning systems understanding?

  • How would learning systems look if:

    • They took their departure in students’ and lecturers’ networks, interest groups and research projects rather than being constructed around subject matter and courses

    • If students and lecturers could display a wider variety of their interest and relations to different networks and enterprises – one can be both a lecturer, mother, vivid WoW player, socialist and interested in quiliting

    • Which types of identity and relations would emerge and how could this bridge and enable relations between different disciplines, environments and people?

    • How would learning technologies if they were genuinely based on the metaphor of networks and intersections of weak and strong ties – how can we prepare for 500.000 youngsters used to social networking sites? ( – will it work????)

    • We are going to play the next with some of this

  • What are the problems? How do you like the Elgg for an example – does it have a different structure?

More readings
More readings understanding?

  • Ryberg, T. and Larsen, M.C. (2006). Networked Identities - Understanding Different Types of Social Organisation and Movements Between Strong and Weak Ties in Networked Environments.

  • Ryberg, T. and L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld (2005). Challenges to Work and Education in the Knowledge Society - Studying Power Users of Technology.

  • Both can be downloaded from my homepage:

Questions and discussion
Questions and discussion understanding?

  • What do you think of these ideas?

  • What are the roles of tightly knitted groups – how are they valuable, how are they not – where is the vehicle of learning and development – what should be the unifying principle?

  • How do these ideas fit your cases? In which sense do your designs allow for multimembership, boundary crossing, networked identities, utilisation of resources