Exploring physical and digital sites of study: making and breaking boundaries


Published on

Recent studies show how complex and messy students' day-to-day study practices can be. They draw in a wide array of technologies; take place in both institutional and personal settings; and involve the consumption and production of a variety of digital and print texts. In a recent JISC-funded study, a striking element of students' accounts was the importance attached to creating productive places for study. Examples of such work will be presented, using images and textual data to illustrate such sites of study, and focusing on the subsequent management of boundaries between sites of personal, professional and study activities. The analysis will show how spaces are not simply found, nor are they just 'containers' for social practice, but are constantly generated by students and form part of the sociomaterial assemblages required to undertake their studies.

Published in: Education
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Exploring physical and digital sites of study: making and breaking boundaries

  1. 1. Exploring physical and digital sites of study: making and breaking boundaries Martin Oliver & Lesley Gourlay Institute of Education, University of London
  2. 2. Space as relationally defined Space is a social construct The social is spatially constructed Social space is not static but dynamic; it is constituted by changing social relations Space is implicated in questions of power and symbolism, that is the ‘power-geometry’ of space Social space implies a ‘a simultaneous multiplicity of spaces: cross-cutting, intersecting, aligning with one-another, or existing in relations of paradox or antagonism (Massey 1994: 3)
  3. 3. Space as relationally defined We recognise space as the product of interrelations; as constituted through interactions, from the immensity of the global to the intimately tiny. […] We recognise space as always under construction. Precisely because space on this reading is a product of relations-between, relations which are necessarily embedded in material practices which have to be carried out, it is always in the process of being made. It is never finished; never closed. Perhaps we could imagine space as a simultaneity of stories-so-far. (Massey, 2005: 9)
  4. 4. Space and flexibility
  5. 5. Constraint? Technology offers a number of opportunities and challenges for higher education, both enhancing existing provision and opening up new potential. The key consideration underlying this report is why and to what extent flexible pedagogies can be promoted and in what ways. In the context of e-learning the answer lies in the way technology naturally enables the provision and delivery of flexible learning and pedagogy. Flexible learning is concerned with the pace, place and mode of learning: […] place is concerned with the physical location, which may be work based or at home, on public transport while commuting, or abroad when travelling; […] Thinking of the three variables above, namely pace, place and mode, then a pedagogical approach can be positioned within the three degrees of freedom, ie a three-dimensional space of flexible learning. In the following diagram, the bottom, front-left point being no flexibility in any axis, and increasing levels of flexibility, ie choice, as the space is traversed from left to right, front to back and bottom to top. (Gordon, 2014)
  6. 6. Flexibility Nikolova & Collis, 1998
  7. 7. Disaggregating Universities (Weller, 2011) No mention of space (This has been going on since at least 1836; University of London)
  8. 8. What is lost? The campus is best thought of not simply as a constraint but, to borrow Brown and Duguid’s phrase, as a ‘resourceful constraint’ (Brown & Duguid 2000: 246), one it would be premature to write off and which those developing distributed learning need to take seriously. […] The campus – or more generally, the co-location of learners, teachers, labs, class-rooms, lecture theatres, libraries and so on – refuses to lie down and die. […] Those seeking to develop distributed education should understand the support a campus setting gives the educational process and should be prepared for the necessity to find new ways of providing that support in a distributed education context. (Cornford & Pollock, 2005: 181, 170)
  9. 9. A sociomaterial perspective
  10. 10. (Re)assembling the Social Behind the innocuous epistemological claim that social explanations have to be ferreted out, lies the ontological claim that those causes have to mobilize forces made of social stuff. […] To explain is not a mysterious cognitive feat, but a very practical world-building enterprise that consists in connecting entities with other entities, that is, in tracing a network. (Latour, 2005: 103)
  11. 11. Material assemblages Humans, and what they take to be their learning and social process, do not float, distinct, in container-like contexts of education, such as classrooms or community sites, that can be conceptualised and dismissed as simply a wash of material stuff and spaces. The things that assemble these contexts, and incidentally the actions and bodies including human ones that are part of these assemblages, are continuously acting upon each other to bring forth and distribute, as well as to obscure and deny, knowledge. (Fenwick et al, 2011)
  12. 12. Human /nonhuman actors … The more one works with digital technologies, the more one comes to appreciate the capacity of networked and programmable machines to carry out sophisticated cognitive tasks, and the more the keyboard comes to seem an extension of one's thoughts rather than an external device on which one types. Embodiment then takes the form of extended cognition, in which human agency and thought are enmeshed within larger networks that extend beyond the desktop computer into the environment. (Hayles 2012:3)
  13. 13. The digital saturation of the material campus ‘the classroom’ or lecture hall has perhaps remained the most iconic symbol of what is seen as the ‘traditional’ university, and is often placed in opposition to ‘elearning’ as somehow representing the essence of what is ‘face-to-face’ and non-digital. […] Similar to online resources and networked devices, the VLE also causes the epistemological nature of the lecture and the ontological status of the lecturer and students to be destabilised. The claims of the lecturer may be more easily called into question, and may be simultaneously checked, challenged or undermined in class with recourse to external online authorities. The multivocal and unbounded nature of the information serves to relativise the lecturer’s voice as one among many. The biological body of the lecturer has been displaced, shifted to the side or dwarfed by the screen. The lecturer’s voice has become a voiceover to an increasingly visual spectacle. The point at which new knowledge is made available has become radically dispersed. (Gourlay 2012)
  14. 14. Students and spaces
  15. 15. Methodology 2-year JISC-funded project 1st year: student research (Focus groups) Longitudinal multimodal journalling 2nd year: implementation projects Staff longitudinal journalling (Changes to structures and systems)
  16. 16. Journaling 12 students recruited from the focus groups 3 from each of the four groups (PGCE, taught masters, taught masters at a distance, Phd) Distance students interviewed via Skype A structured sequence of interviews: A digital ‘biography’, exploration of current practice, guidance on data generation Students capture images, video and other forms of documentation to explore engagement with technologies for study 2-3 further interviews, building student analysis of data via presentations 4 Members of staff
  17. 17. Co-constituted spaces
  18. 18. Juan’s space engineering Library TextsDesks Folders Notes Another collegeDesktop computer Electronic resources A printer that prints double-sided The institute Pens and Paper Post-it Notes A girlfriend Another desktop Her password
  19. 19. When spaces fail
  20. 20. In my school, I… we had… our staff room was equipped… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… seven computers now we can use and only one of them attached with a printer. So, actually we’ve got six PGC students over there, so it’s, kind of, everybody wants to get to that computer where you can use the printer. Yes, so in the end I found actually I can also use the printer from the library in the school. So, six student teachers tried to use other computer. So, it, kind of, sometimes feels a bit crowded. And when the school staff want to use it, well, okay, it seems like we are the invaders, intruders?
  21. 21. Nowhere That’s really interesting how much I use the iPad for a start everywhere and anywhere... And I have the information there all the time constantly, and I just feel as though I don’t have to be anywhere physical at all anymore… (Django interview 3)
  22. 22. Everywhere For me the most important thing is portability, because I use technologies, ICT, everywhere I go, anywhere I go. For example of course I use some technologies, PCs and laptops and my iPad in the IOE building, and in the IOE building I use PC, I use them in PC room, in library, and for searching some data or journals. In the lecture room I record my, record the lectures and taking memos by that. (Yuki; Japanese, female in her 40s, MA student)
  23. 23. 24
  24. 24. Somewhere I’ll only work at the computer usually to actually do the final part of writing an essay. I enjoy… the image of being, sort of, in a dusty, you know, sort of, wooden shelved, kind of, old library, where it’s, sort of, cosy and warm, that’s, you know, I like that and that’s a part of the experience of studying that I enjoy. (Juan interview 1)
  25. 25. Physical Location Bloomsbury: Academic, historical, artistic, studious, important
  26. 26. Because the institute is in the centre of London, and because […] where I live it could be, you could be in a town sort of anywhere and you wouldn’t really necessarily notice. Whereas you come in here and you come over the Waterloo Bridge and you see St Pauls and the Houses of Parliament, you know, you’re in London, you’re doing something again. You know, this is where people do important things and that, kind of, thing and it gives it a reality and it puts it in a context of potentially important or more, or a seriousness to it […] It focuses me a little bit on that. Whereas at home, it’s, yes, it doesn’t sometimes feel as though I’m part of a thing, part of a, you know, part of a course. […] And the writing style, it depends I think on the style of which I like to write is quite potentially, sort of, I don’t know, confrontational... not confrontational, but critique, you know, being a critique where you, sort of, say it’s this and you have to have a strong opinion or you have to feel strongly in, and confidence in your opinion that this is the way. And I think that all comes from, you know, feeling that you’re a part of it and that you’re important and that what you’re doing is important.
  27. 27. Intimate spaces
  28. 28. “The bathroom is a good place to read”
  29. 29. Establishing boundaries
  30. 30. Establishing boundaries
  31. 31. Dwelling & Building Things like such locations shelter or house men's (sic) lives. Things of this sort are housings, though not necessarily dwelling-houses in the narrower sense. The making of such things is building. Its nature consists in this, that it corresponds to the character of these things. They are locations that allow spaces. This is why building, by virtue of constructing locations, is a founding and joining of spaces. Because building produces locations, the joining of the spaces of these locations necessarily brings with it space, as spatium and as extension into the thingly structure of buildings. But building never shapes pure "space" as a single entity. Neither directly nor indirectly. Nevertheless, because it produces things as locations, building is closer to the nature of spaces and to the origin of the nature of "space" than any geometry and mathematic. (Heidegger 1971: 347)
  32. 32. A space, then, which is neither a container for always- already constituted identities nor a completed closure of holism. This is a space of loose ends and missing links. For the future to be open, space must by open too. (Massey, 2005: 12)
  33. 33. Conclusions “Study” is too broad a category, fine-grained analysis of specific (textual) practices is required Space is not a backcloth, container or context to practice Spaces of study that are offered to students; that we require them to use; and that they are required to make Instead space may be viewed as contingent, emergent and endlessly constituted through unfolding socialmaterial/posthuman/textual practice
  34. 34. References Cornford, J. & Pollock, N. (2005) The University Campus as a ‘resourceful constraint’: process and practice in the construction of the virtual university. In Lea, M. & Nicoll, K. (Eds), Distributed Learning: Social and cultural approaches to practice, London: RoutledgeFalmer, 170-181. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R. & Sawchuk, P. (2011) Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge. Gourlay, L. (2012) Cyborg ontologies and the lecturer’s voice: a posthuman reading of the ‘face-to-face’. Learning, Media and Technology 37 (2), 198-211 Gordon, N. (2014) Flexible Pedagogies: Technology-Enhanced Learning. York: Higher Education Academy. http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/flexiblelearning/Flexiblepeda gogies/tech_enhanced_learning/TEL_report.pdf Hayles, K. (2012) How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. London: University of Chicago Press.
  35. 35. References Heidegger, M. (1971) (Trans. Albert Hofstadter) Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper Colophon. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Massey, D. (1994) Space, Place and Gender. Cambridge: Polity Press. Massey, D. (2005) For Space. London: Sage. Nikolova, I., & Collis, B. (1998) Flexible learning and the design of instruction. British Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1), 59-72. Weller, M. (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-digital-scholar-9781849666268/