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Rita kop thesis may10


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Over the past decades, information technology has had a disruptive effect on adult education. Today, learners can access libraries from their pocket and shape their thoughts while socializing on networks. The position of educators as ‘knowledgeable others’ has been challenged as experts can be found online and learners can control their own learning. Social media are changing adult education, because they offer tremendous potential to enhance learning processes. But do they really?

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Rita kop thesis may10

  1. 1. Networked Connectivity and Adult Learning: Social Media, the Knowledgeable Other and Distance Education Frederika Gerlanda KopSubmitted to the University of Wales in fulfilment of therequirements for the Degree of Doctor of PhilosophySwansea UniversityMay 2010
  2. 2. ABSTRACTOver the past decades, information technology has had a disruptive effect on adulteducation. Today, learners can access libraries from their pocket and shape theirthoughts while socializing on networks. The position of educators as ‘knowledgeableothers’ has been challenged as experts can be found online and learners can controltheir own learning. Social media are changing adult education, because they offertremendous potential to enhance learning processes. But do they really?This doctoral thesis questions the connectivist premise of epistemologicaltransformation. It investigates the position of the learner in the learning experienceand his/her level of control in comparison to the tutor and the institution. It examineshow social media can be used effectively in communication in learning. Thislongitudinal qualitative study shows how students, tutors and staff negotiated theintricacies of social media in a formal adult education setting. The researchersurveyed learners participating in three online networks and immersed herself in onefor nine months.The results show that Web 2.0 technologies can facilitate a high level ofcommunication amongst learners and educators, and consequently raise the level of“presence” in the online environment. New technologies were seen to fosterengagement and self-directed learning. The role of adult educators was seen ascrucial for all learners, and for those displaying higher levels of autonomy, theeducator was perceived as a trusted “human filter” of information.The research adds to the under-conceptualized field of networked learning in theWeb 2.0 era, and challenges the notion that knowledge and learning arerevolutionized by new social media. It shows that a trusted “knowledgeable other” isstill at the heart of a meaningful learning experience. Finally, the thesis providesrecommendations for adult educators and institutions to enhance their effectivenessin networked environments characterized by changing attitudes toward interactionfor learning. i
  3. 3. DECLARATION AND STATEMENTSThis thesis has not previously been accepted in substance for any degree and is notconcurrently submitted in candidature for any degree.This thesis is the result of my own investigations, except when otherwise stated.Other sources are acknowledged in brackets in the text giving explicit references. Abibliography is appended.I grant powers of discretion for the librarian to photocopy this thesis in whole or inpart without consulting me and to make the thesis available for inter-library loans.This permission covers only single copies made for study purposes, subject to normalconditions of acknowledgement. I have no objections for the title page and summaryto be made available to outside organizations.Signed: Date: 20th May 2010Copyright © Frederika G. Kop, May 2010 ii
  4. 4. TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT ______________________________________________________________________  I  DECLARATION AND STATEMENTS  ___________________________________________________ II  TABLE OF CONTENTS  _____________________________________________________________ III  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  __________________________________________________________  VI  LIST OF TABLES _________________________________________________________________  VII  LIST OF FIGURES ________________________________________________________________ VIII  LIST OF CHARTS  _________________________________________________________________ X  _ I ABBREVIATIONS _________________________________________________________________ X  DEFINITIONS ____________________________________________________________________ X CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION  _________________________________________________________ 1  1.1. CONTEXT  ___________________________________________________________________ 1  1.1.1. Personal context  _________________________________________________________ 5  1.2. PURPOSE OF THE STUDY  _______________________________________________________ 6  1.3. THE STUDY __________________________________________________________________ 7  1.4. THESIS ORGANISATION – A GUIDE THROUGH THE CHAPTERS  __________________________ 9 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW  ____________________________________________________ 11  2.1. INTRODUCTION _____________________________________________________________ 11  2.2. THE INTERNET  ______________________________________________________________ 12  2.2.1 Control and Power  _______________________________________________________ 12  2.2.2. The World Wide Web as a Network  _________________________________________ 13  2.2.3. Information abundance ___________________________________________________ 15  2.2.4. Information Communication Technology and Communication  ____________________ 18  2.2.5. New developments in Information and Communication Technology ________________ 20  2.2.6. Access  ________________________________________________________________ 27  2.2.7. Young people and technology ______________________________________________ 29  2.2.8. Technology as part of everyday existence ‐ Identity _____________________________ 31  2.2.9. Post Modernism  ________________________________________________________ 32  _ 2.3. TECHNOLOGY ENHANCED LEARNING ____________________________________________ 39  2.3.1. Adult Education and new technologies _______________________________________ 40  2.3.2. The learning space _______________________________________________________ 42  2.3.3. Theories of mind, knowledge and (online) learning _____________________________ 43  2.3.4. Discussion of theories of online learning and knowledge _________________________ 57  2.3.5. Online pedagogy ________________________________________________________ 59  2.3.6. Institutional Change  _____________________________________________________ 84  2.4. CONCLUSION _______________________________________________________________ 89 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY _______________________________________________ 95  3.1. INTRODUCTION _____________________________________________________________ 95  3.1.1. The move towards qualitative research methods _______________________________ 95  3.1.2. Epistemological Perspectives within Qualitative Research _______________________ 100  3.1.3. Objectivity and generalization in qualitative research __________________________ 102  3.2. CHOOSING A RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ________________________________________ 105  3.2.2. Design Based Research __________________________________________________ 105  3.3. FIT OF DESIGN BASED RESEARCH WITH RESEARCH QUESTIONS _______________________ 108  3.4. DECISIONS ON RESEARCH METHODOLOGY _______________________________________ 112  3.5. RESEARCH METHODS USED ___________________________________________________ 113  3.5.1. Research Methods ABCD Project ___________________________________________ 113  3.5.2. Research methods online network  _________________________________________ 117  3.6. ETHICAL ISSUES ____________________________________________________________ 119  3.6.1. Setting One: the ABCD Project  ____________________________________________ 120  _ 3.6.2. Setting Two: online network study _________________________________________ 122  3.7. METHODS OF ANALYSIS ______________________________________________________ 123  iii
  5. 5. CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS OF THE ABCD PROJECT __________________________________________ 126  4.1. CONTEXT ‐ BACKGROUND ABCD PROJECT  _______________________________________ 126  _ 4.1.1. Why choose the ABCD Project? ____________________________________________ 126  4.1.2. The Research Setting ____________________________________________________ 126  4.1.3. The Programme of study _________________________________________________ 127  4.1.4. The teaching and learning environment _____________________________________ 129  4.1.5. Restraints and Flexibility in designing the learning environment __________________ 129  4.2. DESIGN ISSUES _____________________________________________________________ 130  4.2.1. Context  ______________________________________________________________ 130  _ 4.2.2. Instructional Design. ____________________________________________________ 132  4.2.3. Experience Design ______________________________________________________ 135  4.2.4. Control – Constraints ____________________________________________________ 144  4.3. THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE  __________________________________________________ 145  4.3.1. Context  ______________________________________________________________ 145  _ 4.3.2  Learning Preferences ____________________________________________________ 146  4.3.3. Communication and dialogue _____________________________________________ 151  4.3.4. Learning a social activity? ________________________________________________ 159  4.3.5. Thinking Processes  _____________________________________________________ 161  _ 4.3.6. Affective Issues  ________________________________________________________ 164  4.3.7. Control and Constraints __________________________________________________ 165  4.4. THE TUTOR EXPERIENCE  _____________________________________________________ 170  4.4.1. Context  ______________________________________________________________ 171  _ 4.4.2. Teaching Preferences  ___________________________________________________ 172  4.4.3. Pedagogy _____________________________________________________________ 174  4.4.4. Communication and dialogue _____________________________________________ 182  4.4.5. Affective Issue _________________________________________________________ 194  4.4.6.  Higher Order Thinking  __________________________________________________ 196  4.4.7. What fostered learner engagement? _______________________________________ 200  4.4.8. Control – Constraints ____________________________________________________ 201  4.5. MOST SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS _________________________________________________ 211 CHAPTER 5:  FINDINGS OF THE ONLINE NETWORK PROJECT ______________________________ 214  5.1 BACKGROUND PROJECT ______________________________________________________ 214  5.1.1. Research setting  _______________________________________________________ 214  5.2. FINDINGS _________________________________________________________________ 215  5.2.1. Accessing information and validating information _____________________________ 215  5.2.2. Analysis of the online networks ____________________________________________ 220  5.2.3. Knowledge on online networks ____________________________________________ 223  5.3. MOST SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS _________________________________________________ 226 CHAPTER 6: DISCUSSION  __________________________________________________________ 228  6.1. THE INTERNET AND WEB2.0 TECHNOLOGIES  _____________________________________ 228  6.1.1. Processing of information ________________________________________________ 228  6.1.2. Affordances of the new technologies  _______________________________________ 230  6.1.3  Design of learning experiences ____________________________________________ 231  6.2. TOWARDS A THEORY OF NETWORKED BUT MEDIATED LEARNING  ____________________ 240  6.2.1. ‘Pedagogy of abundance’, or ‘pedagogy for human beings’?  ____________________ 240  6.2.2. New interactive technologies and the learning experience  ______________________ 242  6.2.3. The knowledgeable other  ________________________________________________ 252  6.2.4. The relevance of learner autonomy  ________________________________________ 258 CHAPTER 7 CONCLUSIONS _________________________________________________________ 266  7.1 CONCLUSIONS – VIEWS ON KNOWLEDGE AND LEARNING  ___________________________ 266  7.2 CONCLUSIONS ABOUT LEARNING AND TEACHING  _________________________________ 267  _ 7.2.1. Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate communication in learning  ___________________ 268  7.2.2.Recommendations and implications for adult education and institutions  ___________ 268  iv
  6. 6. 7.3. CONCLUSIONS ABOUT THE RESEARCH METHODOLOGY _____________________________ 276  7.4. AREAS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH ________________________________________________ 279  7.5. RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION ___________________________________________________ 280  7.6  FINAL CONCLUSIONS ________________________________________________________ 282 APPENDIX 1 RELATED PUBLICATIONS _________________________________________________ XI APPENDIX 2 (SECOND) TUTOR INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ___________________________________ XIII APPENDIX 3 (SECOND) STUDENT INTERVIEW SCHEDULE ________________________________  XVII APPENDIX 4  (SECOND) INTERVIEW SCHEDULE LEARNING TECHNOLOGIST AND PROJECT MANAGER _______________________________________________________________________________ XXI APPENDIX 5 PRE COURSE QUESTIONNAIRE  __________________________________________  XXV APPENDIX 6 EXAMPLE OF SURVEY ONLINE  NETWORK ________________________________  XXVII APPENDIX 7 CONSENT FORM  _____________________________________________________ XXXI  _GLOSSARY OF TERMS ___________________________________________________________ XXXIII BIBLIOGRAPHY ________________________________________________________________ XXXVI  v
  7. 7. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to thank everybody who has helped me over the past five years to finishthis project. I would like to mention in particular:Lynne Jenkins and Patrick Walters who have been patient and kind and helped meover numerous hurdles on my way to producing this substantial piece of writing andthinking. Lynne helped me to keep organized and Patrick was always ready to comeup with a new title to read or another issue to critically assess. I am very grateful forall the sparring and debating of particular issues in the thesis as it has helped megrow and develop.The participants in the research as this thesis would not have been written withouttheir input.Alyce von Rothkirch for being kind enough to proofread this thesis. Her attention todetail and knowledge of the English language have put my mind at rest and made mefeel confident about submitting this thesis in the English language.Chaouki Regoui for working his magic on the page numbers and table of content ofthis document.My critical friend Paul Bouchard for spending hours and hours on the telephone withme, discussing issues of adult education and networked learning. I have had to thinkand re-think issues that I took for granted and that he made me reconsider. His lovefor the written word has taught me a thing or two about the power of semiotics,digital or otherwise, and has shown me the magic you can bring about with words ifyou dare to use these symbols creatively. The mastodon has awoken! vi
  8. 8. LIST OF TABLES Table 1 2.2.6. Reasons why people do not use the Internet_____________________ 28Table 2 3.7. Research analysis matrix __________________________________ 125Table 3 4.4.6. Relation between Higher Order Thinking and tutor level of support _ 197Table 4 4.4.6. Relation between level of presence and engagement of learners ____ 200Table 5 Who is in control? (Adapted from model by Grow, 1996) _________ 259  vii
  9. 9. LIST OF FIGURESFigure 1 2.3.3. Influences on education practices (Adapted from Leach et al, 1999) 44Figure 2 Dimensions of learner autonomy (Bouchard, 2009b, p5.) ________ 76Figure 3 3.2.2. ‘Integrative Learning Design Framework’ (Bannan-Ritland, 2003) 107Figure 4 4.1.4. The ABCD online learning environment ____________________ 129Figure 5 Layout of the ABCD online learning environment _____________ 136Figure 6 Front cover of reference book _____________________________ 137Figure 7 A page in the reference book______________________________ 137Figure 8 An example of an ABCD learning activity ___________________ 138Figure 9 4.4.5. Visualisation of a chat session ____________________________ 195Figure 10 5.2.2. Visualisation of network development (Krebs and Holley, ND) __ 221Figure 11 Design is the process of evoking meaning (Shedroff, 2009). ____ 233 viii
  10. 10. LIST OF CHARTSChart 1 5.2.1. Main reasons for using the network ____________________________ 218Chart 2 5.2.1. Participants becoming more knowledgeable on the network ________ 219Chart 3 5.2.3. What makes online experts knowledgeable? _____________________ 224Chart 4 5.2.3. Level of truth in what experts disseminate ______________________ 225 ix
  11. 11. ABBREVIATIONSABCD Anonymised name of the researched projectDACE Department of Adult Continuing Education, Swansea UniversityESF European Social FundListserv Electronic mailing list software applicationLT1 Learning Technologist 1LT2 Learning Technologist 2LT3 Learning Technologist 3MOOC Massive Open Online CoursePLE Personal Learning EnvironmentPM Project ManagerS1 Student 2S2 Student 2S3 Student 3S4 Student 4S5 Student 5S6 Student 6S7 Student 7S8 Student 8T1 Tutor 1T2 Tutor 2T3 Tutor 3T4 Tutor 4VLE Virtual Learning EnvironmentWAG Welsh Assembly GovernmentDEFINITIONSTutor In this thesis the term tutor is used as a member of staff teaching adult students. This term is widely used in the UK in this context, but has a different meaning in the USA and Canada x
  12. 12. CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION1.1. CONTEXTTechnological change and the drive by the developed world for economiccompetitiveness and globalization have greatly influenced adult education in recentyears. They have contributed to the shift in discourse from adult continuingeducation to lifelong learning (Edwards & Usher 1998). This change has not onlyencompassed new skills in the work place. Several commentators (Wellman et al,2003, Shearman, 2000) have indicated that the introduction of Information andCommunications Technology (ICT) has blurred the boundaries between home, work,leisure, learning and play, and has reshaped our life-styles and social interaction,while creating a new form of literacy. Being able to read books is not enough tofunction well in society, “effective” citizens also have to be able to “read” newmedia, understand and learn from interactive learning programmes and adjust to newways of communicating. Self-directed and informal learning from videos, televisionprogrammes and computers have gained in popularity and a more consumer-orientedfield of adult education has been born (Field 1996) in which the learner chooseslearning opportunities that suit him or her and which take place wherever he or shelikes at the time most appropriate to him or her.Governments in the developed world have seen the importance of ICT in the advanceof the “knowledge economy” and in aid of economic development.European Heads of State in Lisbon (European ODL liaison committee, 2004)committed themselves to make Europe the worlds most competitive and dynamiceconomy, characterised by sustainable growth, more and better jobs and greatersocial cohesion, by 2010. At the ‘Knowledge 2000’ conference, Tony Blair, the thenBritish Prime Minister, said: I strongly believe that the knowledge economy is our best route for success and prosperity. But we must be careful not to make a fundamental mistake. We mustnt think that because the knowledge economy is the future, it will happen only in the future. The new knowledge economy is here, and it is now. . . . The Internet is dissolving physical barriers, and levelling the business playing field. Blair (2000, p1) 1
  13. 13. In addition, the UK government highlighted the importance of enabling the UK toengage with technology by stating that ‘digital engagement is important because itcan improve people’s lives, opening doors to things that really matter, such aseducation, jobs, entrepreneurial innovation, entertainment and making contact withfamily and friends.’ (Cabinet Office, 2004, page 9)Learners, particularly adult learners, make choices about the level of control imposedby others on their lives and their learning. Indeed, the choice to study at an institutionand with a tutor on a classroom-based course or to study on a course mediatedthrough technology will mean a different level of control imposed on the learningprocess by different actors and on the different aspects of learning itself.Much discussion has taken place about the impact of the introduction of virtuallearning systems on adult education, as technology in education has the potential tochange the traditional level of control over education, and to a certain extent, overthe creation of knowledge that used to be exercised by the authorities of knowledge,academics in universities. The changed position of educational institutions such asuniversities due to the altered sense of space, place and identity in a virtual learningspace has been lamented as a loss, as universities were seen as places where peoplecame together, where minds met and where new ideas were conceived, criticised andtested and provisionally accepted if they were found to stand up sufficiently robustlyunder criticism. Some academics have expressed reservations about the networkedalternatives (Greener & Perriton, 2005) suggesting that Virtual LearningEnvironments (VLEs) have neither managed to be convincing in areas such ascommunication and in engaging students, nor are they an effective alternative to theactual classroom. However, proponents of the use of peer-to-peer technology ineducation have argued that tools such as wikis and blogs, the new social media and“Web 2.0 technologies”, can fulfil exactly this role (Downes, 2006; Lamb, B., 2004).The openness of the media and the willingness of people to share in onlineexperiences encourage the discussion of ideas and collaborative development ofthoughts and knowledge that traditionally form part of a quality universityexperience. The added advantage of the online tools lies in their globally positioned 2
  14. 14. communication forums, which provide immediate responses on a scale unimaginablein the traditional university.Education has its roots in age-old cultural traditions that have developed overcenturies. To move away from a teaching room bounded by doors and walls to anopen and undefined virtual environment has major consequences for education. Intraditional teaching there is usually a particular teaching room, and teaching takesplace at a particular time. Peters was reminded of rites with religious undertones,which link location, time and action: ‘Learning and teaching might be based onunconscious, but at the same time “deep-seated” patterns of behaviour, not only ofstudents but also of the teachers. Their ritualisation lends solidity and permanence tothe actions taking place in the teaching space’ (Peters, 1999, p. 1). Although informalteaching has taken place before, it is only recently that suggestions have been madeto seriously change the education system and leave the traditional classroom behind,initially in the 1970s through the radical perspectives of Freire and Illich, and in thepast decades, under the influence of developing technologies. LearningTechnologists, teachers and learners have started to question the effectiveness of theteaching strategies developed over generations (Peters, 1999; Illich, 1971; Freire,1972).In E-learning over the past decades two different positions on the main aspects inpeople’s learning have developed (Weller, 2007). In the first view, information andresources are seen to be at the centre of the learning environment, while in thesecond, communication is seen to be the most important to develop a positivelearning environment. Some argue that an emphasis on resources has lead in e-learning to the delivery of education as a commodity, which suggested thattechnology would not be suitable to bring into practice the ideas of Illich and Freirethat became prominent in the 1970s. Gur and Wiley (2007, p. 1), for instance,discuss the concept of objectification in relation to online learning and conclude that‘education is often reduced to the packaging and delivery of information, in whichthe process of teaching is reduced to the transmission of information and courses aretransformed into courseware.’ The development of VLEs has facilitated thisdepersonalization of learning, as communication in such environments has been seento be problematic, and turned teaching into “delivery” and the process of teaching 3
  15. 15. into a transaction consisting of the transmission of information. Intelligent tutoring isanother example of how the delivery of content could be at the centre of learning.Weller (2007) highlighted that e-learning might be organised in quite a different way.In the second model information would be related to two-way communication. Inthis view of e-learning, ‘The Internet encourages discussion, dialogue andcommunity that is not limited by time or place. The role of educators in this world isto facilitate dialogue and support students in their understanding of resources’(Weller, 2007, p.6).Communication has had a place in distance education since the 70s, when Turoffintroduced and developed the first conferencing system that progressed intobecoming full conferencing and personal messaging systems such as Lotus Notes,Forum, First Class and Participate (Harasim, 1995), which contained synchronousand asynchronous systems. In the late 1980s distance education institutions startedtheir development towards the use of the VLE, which has formed a naturalprogression from the use of early conferencing systems such as First Class (Masonand Bacsich, 1998). The VLE combines communication with the distribution ofresources and information.In traditional “brick and mortar” universities, however, technology use has beenmainly limited to the use of VLEs to transfer information, or to store resources andalthough a VLE has a variety of options for communication, these have not alwaysbeen chosen by users ‘as most people have a tendency to take the default path’ (Dron& Anderson, 2009, p.2), the easy option of accessing resources, rather than the morecomplicated option of using the tools made available for communication.In recent years the new developments in technology have encouraged a higher levelof communication in technology-based learning. Especially the use of Web 2.0technologies have been seen to make possible the development of lifelong andlifewide learning with possibilities to facilitate informal and self-directed learningand also opportunities to enhance communication in the online learning environment(Siemens, 2008; Downes, 2009; Dron and Anderson, 2009). The new social mediahave not long been used in an educational context. The first discussions about their 4
  16. 16. possibilities for education and learning started about five years ago, just before thisstudy was started (Downes, 2004) and the need for research that analyses criticallyhow Web 2.0 technologies might alter adult learning and teaching in and outsideeducational institutions was also identified (Conole et al, 2006, Gulati, 2006)The term “Web 2.0 technologies”, will in this study indicate the technologies thatemerged around 2004 and which are commonly associated with web applications thatfacilitate interactive information sharing and collaboration on the World Wide Web.Web 2.0 technologies include blogs, wikis, social-networking sites, video and photo-sharing sites and bookmark-sharing sites. A Web 2.0 site allows its users to interactwith other users or to change website content easily, quite often through a contentmanagement system. This in contrast to websites that were the norm in the Web 1.0era, where hyperlinks were the main interactive feature and direct communicationwith other Web users was more complicated. This will be further expanded upon insection study took place in the political and pedagogical context just described. It aimsto challenge the assumptions about the nearly magical properties of the technologiesthat have been made by enthusiasts, but also to find out if the technologies couldenhance the sometimes static online adult education provision at the time.1.1.1. Personal contextMy original background is in primary education. I used to be a teacher and head-teacher in the Netherlands before moving to the UK and eventually working in aUniversity Department of Adult Continuing Education. Lifelong Learning “from thecradle to old age” has been my background and interest for a long time. Workingwith adults in community locations, my initial role was to manage a large project thatprovided an ICT infrastructure in twelve community education centres. This involvedinstalling a computer lab and network connectivity as well as raising awareness inthe communities of South West Wales and the Valleys of what technology couldmean to local people’s lives, digital inclusion, and taking initial steps towards e-learning. 5
  17. 17. It became clear very early on that digital inclusion not only involves access totechnology and networked connectivity, but especially gaining confidence andrealising that technology has relevance to one’s life, and breaking down barrierssimilar to non-participation in learning.This led to other e-learning projects, but always with the central premise of the activeinvolvement in learning of people who might otherwise not be involved in HigherEducation. My interest in educational technology, and the drive to make peopleexperience the creative and “fun” potential of technology made me apply for fundingfor the ABCD project. This provided the opportunity to design and develop learningopportunities that used Web 2.0 technology and to investigate whether their usewould enhance or hinder the communication of participants in the teaching andlearning process. In addition, it offered the opportunity to enquire if an environmentcould be created that would facilitate a “human” form of e-learning that mightengage non-traditional adult learners.1.2. PURPOSE OF THE STUDYTerry Freedman advocated robust research in the use of social software in educationto determine if the anecdotes by enthusiasts are a valid indication of the long-termpositive effect of the new social tools (Freeman, 2006). Moreover, Thorpe andGodwin encouraged continued research in the interaction between learner and onlinetutor that includes the ‘impact of the design of tasks and learning environments’(Thorpe & Godwin, 2006, 204) as the design of the learning environment and thetools used will influence the learning experience. Furthermore, Gulati’s research inthe learning experience of professional students on online and blended coursesquestioned the use of institutionally controlled VLEs and in particular theirdiscussion boards. Students used informal strategies for communication and learningoutside the formal environment to complement the formal structures because thediscussion boards created difficulties in the communication process betweenlearners, and between learners and their tutors. She recommended that ‘the new andexisting strategies for online socialising needed to be studied for their effectivenessin enabling group and social identities in the formal educational contexts’ (Gulati,2003, p. 50). 6
  18. 18. It seemed important to find out what the learning and teaching experience might bewhile using such tools. Learning technologists could see how they would help tomake the learning environment less formal, how they could create a social onlineenvironment, while the discussions online amongst technologists also indicated howthey could cross the boundaries of institutional and informal learning. How theywould challenge educational institutions to change their practice was anotherimportant issue raised, and worthy of research, as one characteristic of the toolswould be their ability to facilitate self-directed learning and people would be able toconsult experts and peers on internet networks to find information and validateknowledge, rather than to remain within institutional boundaries. This wouldinfluence the institutions themselves. 1.3. THE STUDYThe speculations amongst technologists on the positive and negative effects of socialmedia and their possible disruption of adult education have raised two interlinkedresearch questions: 1. The interpersonal informal online networks that people build up throughout their lives provide expertise and knowledge in addition to the guidance that tutors offer in formal education. Would it be desirable for the learner to be at the centre of the learning experience rather than the tutor and the institution? Other more specific questions will be discussed in answering this research question: How much control could and should be passed over from the institution to the learner in a technology-rich environment to enhance the learning experience? Should students have more say in the content of the learning opportunity and the route the learning journey takes? What would be the implications for the institution? What would be the implications for the concept, reliability and validity of knowledge if knowledge is investigated and created on online networks independently from the institution? 7
  19. 19. 2. What Web 2.0 technologies could be used effectively in communication and in learning? How could their use enhance or hinder the learning experience of adults?In the literature review, these questions will be further explored. In order to researchall aspects of these questions it will not be sufficient to solely study formaleducation. Research in the learning that takes place on online networks will also beinvestigated and carried out.The term “online networks” will be used throughout this study and will meannetworks of people who share information on the World Wide Web. A node on thenetwork will signify a person, or a group of people, distributing and sharinginformation.The design of the online learning environment will be an important factor in theeducational issues researched as the design of the learning space influences thelearning experience (Barab & Squire, 2004; Cobb et al, 2003; The Design-BasedResearch Collective, 2003) as well as the informal learning space.Barab and Squire propose that ‘cognition is not a thing located within the individualthinker but is a process that is distributed across the knower, the environment inwhich knowledge occurs, and the activity in which the learner participates’ (Barab &Squire, 2004, p. 1). The context is an important factor in the learning process, as hasbeen conclusively shown by educationalists and psychologists over the past decades(Bruner, 1999; Lave and Wenger, 2002). This means that the contextual realitiesneed to be taken into consideration when researching adult learning and technology.Moreover, the environment in which young people operate is also an importantconsideration. This will, after all, give an indication of future possible changes, as ofcourse young people grow into adults. The above explanation and research questionshave led to the following research aim: 8
  20. 20. To investigate how people learn and teach while using social media, and thechallenges and opportunities they face, in two different settings: the ABCD project ina formal education institution, and on three online networks.The analysis of the data gathered will create an understanding of the positive andnegative effects of social media in learning and their possible effects on adulteducation. It will draw conclusions on the effective educational practice when usingthe tools as it will synthesise key influences on online learning and on the use of themedia in question, and it will generate recommendations for future practice.1.4. THESIS ORGANISATION – A GUIDE THROUGH THE CHAPTERSThe thesis is organised in seven chapters. Chapter one and two are introductory andset the subject matter in context. Chapter two contains the literature review thatanalyses the development of the internet, including political, social, andphilosophical influences. It analyses theories of knowledge and learning and howtechnology has influenced these. It investigates issues of learner autonomy, onlinepedagogy and the place of communication in the learning experience and it exploreschanges in behavioural patterns in computer use between young and old people. Italso makes an attempt at re-evaluating the position of knowledge in a connectedworld. It closes with a section on the place of the educational institution, in particularof the university, in a world where life without technology has become unthinkable.Chapter three deals with the research approach and methodology. It exploresdifferent research methods in order to find out the best possible “fit” with theresearch questions. It also explores the ethical issues that need to be taken intoconsideration when carrying out research in a virtual learning environment and in anopen online environment.Chapters four and five will report on the findings of the research in the two settings:The ABCD project and the online networks. Chapter four discusses the context, themethods of analysis, and reports on issues such as the learning experience and theteaching experience, which also include learner and tutor preferences in usingtechnologies, the value of an online presence of participants and the significance ofcommunication in learning. Particular attention is given to issues of self-direction 9
  21. 21. and personalisation. An extensive discussion on the positive and negative sides ofWeb 2.0 use in online education will also form part of the chapter. It will also reporton what activities lead to a higher level of engagement, and the skills andcompetencies required to learn and teach in a semi-autonomous learningenvironment. Design issues are also explored to find out what particular aspects areof importance for the creation of engaging learning experiences.Chapter five explains how the online networked research was carried out andanalyses how people communicate online and what makes them learn. It alsoexplores how important “other” people on the network are for learning and inparticular who the “knowledgeable others” are and why. An analysis of the networkwill explain how particular nodes on online networks are perceived by learners.Chapter six contain a discussion of the findings and the literature. It reports on theaffordances of the new tools and the design of meaningful online learningexperiences. It will show a view of networked mediated learning that consists of ananalysis of interactive technologies in the learning experience and their influences increating an online presence, including how to foster affective relationships. The roleof the learner and the tutor will be analysed and the level of control that each of themhas when the new tools are being used. Finally, the benefits and limitations of thisuse on the educational experience and learner autonomy will be addressed.Chapter seven brings the thesis to a close with the conclusions. It containsconclusions on views on knowledge and learning. This section will provide somerecommendations for tutors, learners and educational institutions. The chapter willclose with conclusions about the research methodology and a section on possiblefuture research to advance the knowledge gained through this research. The finalsection will deal with the original contribution to knowledge that this research studyhas provided. 10
  22. 22. CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW2.1. INTRODUCTIONIn recent years the traditional view of knowledge in a rapidly changing world has beenchallenged (Lyotard, 1984; O’Hara, 2002; Lankshear et al, 2003; Lewis, 1999; Glaser,1999). Moreover, technological change has had a major influence on lifelong learningand has been a force for change in adult education. It has introduced a new flexibility,with a range of new developments, including the introduction of VLEs, knowledgebanks, global online networks, knowledge management systems in the workplace and theuse of handheld and mobile devices for learning. Emergent Internet tools such as blogsand wikis are also making their way into adult education classrooms.Much discussion has taken place about these new developments as it is thought thatnetworked learning spaces could take over from lecture theatres and that libraries, whichused to be places where librarians were the gate-keepers of stores of paper-basedinformation, might be revolutionised by technology, for example with the exponentialgrowth in digital archives and online journal publications.It is perhaps not surprising that a vast number of academics, librarians and teachers havereservations about the pace of change and the need for change, wondering what kind ofknowledge may be acquired, how valid the created knowledge would be, what their roleshould be in the learning process, and who is to control both knowledge and learning?This literature review will explore the ways Information and CommunicationTechnologies and the Internet are changing the educational landscape. It will identify andanalyse the prominent theories of knowledge and views of learning and the mostsignificant changes that Information and Communication Technology might pose foradult education and the possible consequences for educational institutions and educationin general. 11
  23. 23. 2.2. THE INTERNETPerhaps the most significant development in new technologies for education has been theInternet. The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks thatdeveloped from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), the major think tankof the Ministry of Defence in the United States of America in the 1950s. In the late1970s USENET (User’s Network), and in the early 1980s, BITNET (Because It’s TimeNetwork) and CSNET (the Computer Science Network) were created to facilitatenetworking opportunities within the academic and research community (Harasim et al,1995). When in 1982 ARPA adopted the TCP/IP protocol (Transmission ControlProtocol/Internet Protocol, the communications procedure to connect hosts on theInternet) the Internet was born: a connected set of networks using the TCP/IP standard.Up to that point the development had mostly been the work of scientists, but majoradvances in the power and speed of computers facilitated the growth of the system. In1986 the American Science Foundation Network was formed connecting the academicand science community to five super computers. In 1989 the World Wide Web (WWW),a global network of networks was developed by Tim Berners-Lee. It is a network ofinterlinked hypertext documents that can be searched and on which information can beretrieved by a special protocol known as a Hypertext Transfer protocol (HTTP). Thisprotocol has facilitated the automated searching of the Internet for particular sites andgreatly boosted its use.A year later Berners-Lee developed a browser/editor programme and coined the nameWorld Wide Web as a name for the programme. The development of a browser andHypertext Markup Language (HTML) that could be activated by a mouse click enabledsimple searching (Cerf, 2003). By using a web browser people can view web pages thatmight contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia and navigate between these.2.2.1 Control and PowerSince its inception only limited control has been exercised over the Internet by nationstates. During the 1990s, the commercial world realized the potential of the WWW forcommunication, for managing information flows and for retailing, while users saw itscreative potential. We have seen an exponential growth of the Web. Nation states havehad problems keeping up with new developments and consequently have only hadlimited control over it. Although it is based in the USA, the global nature of its 12
  24. 24. development has been a factor in the lack of control by individual states over contentdeveloped. Individual nations police sites originating from their own country and only anumber of nations have gone further than this, notably China and Iran, who haveimposed limitations on the web sites its population is able to access.There has been an exponential growth in the use of blogs (Smith, 2008), and video-sharing sites such as YouTube, on which, in October 2006, 100 million home-madevideos were downloaded per day, and personal presence sites such as MySpace andFacebook that have been embraced by youth culture. They have shown the creativepotential of the WWW if left uncontrolled, which was acknowledged when the EuropeanUnion decided that ‘internet users should be left to police themselves within the boundsof the law’ (Gibson, 2006).It should be noted, however, that most new, successful grass-roots developments havebeen commercialised and integrated in the corporate world. Increasingly concern is beingraised about the influence of commerce on the Web (Burke, 2007; Lanier 2010; Mejias,2009). Lanier (2010) and Mejias (2009) emphasise the high level of influence by a lownumber of companies, such as Google. The market seems to slowly but steadilyinfluence and control the new tools. Burke posits: The connotations of freedom, democracy and egalitarianism are used to sell both White House policy at one end of the spectrum, and the commercial dream of the first “must have” personalized infrastructure (the net, cell phones, blackberry’s etc) to the gadget crazed consumer desires of the middle classes on the other (Burke, 2007, p. 55)On the other hand, others highlighted the freedom to express oneself. Sim mentions forinstance how feminists, including Haraway and Plant, have embraced the Internetbecause of a lack of control and hierarchy over the content. Men and women speak onequal terms and ICT has been embraced in the workplace, where the Internet is beingaccessed through the keyboard, the traditional female device (Sim, 2001).2.2.2. The World Wide Web as a NetworkIt should be noted however that research is now available that shows that the Internet andthe WWW do not act as non-hierarchical networks (Barabasi, 2003; Jones, 2004; Mejias,2009; Burke, 2007; Bouchard, 2010 forthcoming). Burke posits that: 13
  25. 25. Control, not freedom has become absolutely distributed and while we enjoy unprecedented access to information and personal communications devices, we are simultaneously smothered by the cloying ubiquity of networks that have no outside, while our media is characterized as “the most highly controlled mass media hitherto known.” (Burke, 2007, p.54)Barabasi looked at the mathematics of the Internet and Web as networks and found thatthey do not perform as “random” networks, but as “scale-free” networks. The differencewould be ruled by two characteristics: “growth” and “preferential attachment”, showingthat this type of network grows “one node at a time” and that a node chooses to whatother node it connects. The more connections a node already has, the more likely it isthat other nodes will connect to it (Barabasi, 2003, P.86), thus creating “hubs”. Thisimplies that there are power-relations on the network and Barabasi’s research shows thatnetworks are not neutral. Bouchard (2010, in press) also questions the possibility ofhierarchy-free peer to peer connections on the Web: However, the notion of supernode predictably emerges when some contributors are recognized by a number of others as having particular relevance to, or knowledge of a problem. There seems to be a natural tendency within the perfectly democratic network to organize itself, over time, in a hierarchical system composed of leaders and followers. We are then left with a social organization that resembles the outside world of government and commerce, with the difference that the currency of exchange in the network is not money or power, but reputation and popularity. (Bouchard, 2010, p. 3)Wellman et al (2003) and Jones et al (2008) highlighted another issue relevant tonetworks on which humans interact; that of the quality of the connection between thenodes. On some networks, such as groups in online class rooms, people have “strong”ties, while on other networks, such as the open online Web, people make connectionsthat are not as strong; they call them “weak” ties. There is a different level ofengagement between strong and weak ties. Dron and Anderson (2007) argue that there isa stronger commitment to activities in “groups’, than on “networks”, where the ties areweaker.Barabasi found that participants on networks are not only selective, but that the nature ofnetworks prevents network “surfers” from having access to all information at the samelevel. 14
  26. 26. The most intriguing result of our Web-mapping project was the complete absence of democracy, fairness, and egalitarian values on the Web. We learned that the topology of the Web prevents us from seeing anything but a mere handful of the billion documents out there. (Barabasi, 2003, p. 56)These were just a few aspects of networks that should be considered when researchinglearning in a network environment. Throughout this thesis reference will be made to thehierarchical nature of the open online Web-based networks, the differences in tiesbetween users, and the level of access that people have to information on onlinenetworks as they might possibly influence the learning taking place on these networks.Open Web-based networks are meant when referring to networks in this thesis. Whenreference is being made to nodes on the network, a node would signify a human being, orhuman beings, as a member of the network who act(s) as filter(s) of information.2.2.3. Information abundanceFischer and Naumer’s research on people’s information habits found that most peoplehave ‘deeply engrained habitual patterns in seeking information’ (Fischer & Naumer,2006, p. 2) Their research shows that people will first and foremost find informationfrom people with whom they have a strong relationship, which are usually found in theircircle of family, close friends and their local communities and in places such as doctors’surgeries and libraries. Pettigrew et al state that the Internet is supplementing these‘information grounds’ and is also creating new options for obtaining information(Pettigrew, 1999). The exponential growth and wide availability of information on theInternet has been seen by some as crucial for the new knowledge industries to performwell and also to offer new opportunities for innovation of old ones. Others see thisdevelopment as problematic (Burkeman & Johnson, 2005; Bruce, 2000; Armstrong,2004; Gandel et al, 2004; McKie, 2000; Sandbothe, 2000).Burkeman and Johnson wonder if we really want all this new information? Theyhighlight that; The end result of a perfect search world is that as fast as answers are generated and consumed, new questions come quicker, with the consequence that ignorance expands. . . What we know that we don’t know expands faster than what we know. . . . there is this sense that the world is out there to be Googled. But linking from one thing to another is not the same as having something to say. A structured thought is more than a link.’ (Burkeman & Johnson, 2005, p. 5) 15
  27. 27. Furthermore, Hagel explains that there are other problems with the informationabundance and introduces the notion of the “attention economy”. In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate the attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. (Hagel, 2006, p. 1)Hagel argues that the more information is available, the less time we have available to gointo any depth when analysing the information. In addition, Goldhaber (1997) posits that,by using new technologies, we might end up chatting, but not necessarily about anythingof substance. The abundance of information and the poverty of attention could be thecause of changes in thinking processes. If we compare the information behaviour ofpeople in antiquity with current scholars, the former were able to spend their timecontemplating minute details and perhaps discuss findings with a small number ofpeople, while contemporary thinkers, if they make use of the Web, might be engagingwith gigabytes of information and possibly communicate with a wide variety of peopledispersed all over the globe simultaneously. Suggestions have been made that these newways of working might influence our thought processes (Bauerlein, 2008; Armstrong,2004). Dennis and Al-Obaidi (2010) for instance compare changes in modes of thinkingand concepts through the new technologies with an “epistemic rupture”, whileGreenfield problematizes Internet use as opposed to the book. When we read a book usually authors take you by the hand and you travel from the beginning to the middle to the end in a continuous narrative series of interconnected steps. It may not be a journey with which you agree or that you enjoy, but none the less as you turn the pages one train of thought succeeds the last in a logical fashion. (Greenfield, 2006, p. 1)She argues how in traditional education teachers and tutors compare and contrastnarratives with one another and help people with the building of a conceptual frameworkin doing so (Greenfield, 2006, p. 1; Greenfield, 2004). The Web is changing this linearprocess and of course not everyone uses books in the linear fashion she describes. NewInternet-based ways of obtaining information, such as following hyperlinks, which are anintegral part of the Internet experience, and the creation of knowledge by participation ininformal, interactive online phenomena, in which people take part at their leisure offer 16
  28. 28. opportunities for engagement in a wide range of subject choices according to one’s owninterests. This offers learners the chance to follow their own learning journey in amanner suited to actively constructing knowledge and linking it to their own experiencesin an autonomous fashion, while collaborating with others. Greenfield is concernedhowever, that if people do not have access to a robust conceptual framework developedover time with the help of knowledgeable others, they might have problems constructingknowledge (Greenfield, 2004).The abundance of information on the Internet and other information sources have raisedconcerns about the feasibility for individuals to critically analyse all that is available toensure reliability and validity and to manage the vast streams of information nowavailable. Bauerlein (2008) even goes as far as arguing that the lack of attention spanbecause of this overload of information and the different resources used today havecreated the “dumbest generation of Americans” to date. CIBER (2008) researched howpeople acquire information and how information behaviour has changed over time. Theysurveyed literature from the 1980s and 1990s and carried out primary research oninternet based behaviour themselves and they found that “power-browsing”, the clickingof hyperlinks and the skimming of web pages, replaced traditional chronological readingand longer term critical thinking. Advanced information searching was lacking and thelevel of information literacy, in the form of validating information and sources, was at alow level (CIBER, 2008).Sandbothe argues that the ‘comprehensive and systematic development of reflectivejudgement at all levels of the population and on a global scale is the central task for ademocratic educational system in the twenty-first century’ (Sandbothe, 2000, p. 67). Thismight not be promoted by the new ways of accessing information. Moreover, McKieemphasised that people, when they start an information search, will take into account theamount of time required for the search, where they expect to find the information and theroute to take to get there. Not everyone uses the same route as people are different andhave different learning preferences, cultural backgrounds and personalities. She arguesthat to give too much guidance would be a mistake as it would constrict the experienceand the possibilities of finding the relevant information (McKie, 2000). 17
  29. 29. Walters and Kop (2009) argue that information literacy is acquired at a young age andhighlight that “information behaviour” is a developmental process at a deep level andthat this sort of behaviour will be very difficult to advance substantially later in life, eg.on a course at university. Bass, on the other hand, highlighted that there is a great deal ofevidence to show that electronic environments encourage analytical and reflectivepractice. In addition, ‘there are clear indications that the electronic era will provide anunprecedented opportunity for immersion in archival and primary materials, andconsequently the making of meaning in cultural and historical analysis for all kinds oflearners, from novice to expert’ (Bass, 1999, p1.).Bruce saw the information abundance as an advantage over earlier media in ‘the way itcan open up our questions. We ask one thing, but the Web leads us to ask more questionsand to become aware of how much we do not know’ (Bruce, 2000, p. 107). He wouldlike us to use the Internet not to “pick and choose” what fits in with our own points ofview, but also to take on board what discomfits, and to look for alternatives that make usthink. It should perhaps be questioned if people will do this of their own accord or thatthey will need the guidance of an educator. He saw the greatest challenge as a change ofour search strategies from looking something up, to incorporating web-searching intothinking and reflection processes in order to enable a fruitful investigation. Newemerging collaborative tools that facilitate networking and communication with othersmight aid in developing such a referencing strategy.2.2.4. Information Communication Technology and CommunicationFrom its inception claims have been made about the exciting opportunities for interactionon the WWW (Standish, 2000), ranging from clicking a mouse to engaging in in-depthonline communication. Tim Berners-Lee saw the development of the Web as follows: The basic idea of the Web was that of an information space through which people can communicate, but communicate in a special way: communicate by sharing their knowledge in a pool. The idea was not just that it should be a big browsing medium. The idea was that everybody would be putting their ideas in, as well as taking them out. This [the Internet] is not supposed to be a glorified television channel. (Berners-Lee, 1999, p. 1) 18
  30. 30. His vision was that people would not only use the WWW for consumption, but also toexchange knowledge by communication. Some, however, argue that there are numerousreasons that inhibit people from expressing themselves online. The scale and anonymity of the potential audience discourages the kind of personal engagement that might be found in a conversation. The predominantly passive experience of the Web may have reduced in users the capacity for a dialogical response, in spite of the constant emphasis in the ostensible interactivity of Web use. (Standish, 2000, p. 166)Initially people have to overcome the fear of failure and gain confidence before realisingthat the internet-experience can be quite pleasant: ‘The absence of the more rigidconventions of letter writing may release a kind of spontaneity. Attentive and with thefreedom to innovate, you become absorbed in the writing, which elaborates, becomesdiscursive and picks up speed’ (Standish, 2000, p. 166). During the past ten years andthrough the inception of Web 2.0 technologies a different form of communication mightbe possible online. Since antiquity communication and dialogue have been seen as thecrucial components in the creation of knowledge, but communication technology seemsto be changing its nature. Dewey saw communication as the most important aspect inmaking people what they are: mind, consciousness, thinking, subjectivity, meaning, intelligence, language, rationality, logic, inference and truth – all of these things that philosophers over the centuries have considered to be part of the natural ‘make-up’ of human beings – only come into existence through and as result of communication. Dewey (1958, p. 17)Dewey argued that ‘the world of inner experience is dependent upon an extension oflanguage which is a social product and operation’. By communication with others ourinner thoughts become clear. In addition, meaning making in communication does nothappen for only one participant of the activity. ‘It is because people share in a commonactivity, that their ideas and emotions are transformed as a result of and in function of theactivity in which they participate’. It is not one or the other participant that changes, bothparticipants will be influenced by communication (Biesta, 2006, p. 17-19).Online communication is quite different from that in a face-to-face environment. It is afast connection between systems and networks, conveying messages produced by people.Online messages are not necessarily the same as communications between people face- 19
  31. 31. to-face: they are one-way, the receiver might not know the sender, nor her intentions or ifshe can be trusted (Kop, 2006). Meyerson (2001, pg.36) highlighted that intechnologically mediated communication we might replace a dialogue between people,’the human pursuit of common understanding’, with an exchange of messages. Heanalysed Habermas’ ideas of communication who questioned if it would at all bepossible to reach a shared understanding of the world through an exchange of messages.Meyerson perceived a message to be a one-dimensional version of meaning and a‘narrowed-down model of meaning’ (Meyerson, 2001, pg.40).It might be possible to convey more meaning in online communication in the Web 2.0era than was possible in the Web 1.0 era with the tools available today. Bass expects thatthe distributive effect, namely ‘the shift from one-to-many to a many-to-many model ofcommunication is one of the most important features of new media, and provides afundamental groundwork for a great many changes in social structure and subjectformation’ (Bass, 2000, p. 6). Siemens agrees with this and argued that the moreconnections with other people we can make, and the more networks we are connected to,the better we will communicate, as long as we have effective structures in place to accessand syndicate the messages (Siemens, 2006a, 2008). If this is compared with Dewey’sideas of communication, it seems that the emphasis has changed from “communicatingwith others and both learning and changing through the interaction”, to a much “looser”form of communication. Wellman (2003) compared these differences forms ofcommunication as the differences between “strong” and “weak” ties” between people.The intensity in the level of communication is different.2.2.5. New developments in Information and Communication Technology2.2.5.1. Emergence of Web 2.0 technologyOver the past five years, the WWW has moved on from being a resource of information(web 1.0) to emerge as an instrument of communication and networking (web 2.0.). Dronand Anderson posit that the main dissimilarity between Web2.0 and Web 1.0 ischaracterised by ‘a distinctive cultural shift in emphasis from total control of websiteauthorship by the technorati to a gentle relinquishing of control to the masses – the user-generated Web’ (Dron & Anderson, 2009, p.2). The ease with which it is now possible toproduce and make changes to web pages, in addition to the ease with which it is possible 20
  32. 32. to communicate and collaborate in a many-to-many format rather than a one-to-manyformat, have created a shift in the development of the Web. People can use informalsocial software tools, such as blogs (web-logs), instant messaging, wikis (collaborativewebsites), networked social spaces, including MySpace, Flickr (images) YouTube(videos), social book-marking sites (such as and social searching, whereinformation streams can be shared and connected to those of others, thus creatingnetworked information. The key to social software is that it brings people in contact withlikeminded people, thus creating a community. McLuhan in his classic UnderstandingMedia suggested ‘The medium is the message’ (McLuhan, 1964, p.1), which isespecially appropriate in the new wave of Web 2.0 Internet developments. He arguedthat ‘the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension ofourselves, results from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extensionof ourselves, or by any new technology’ (McLuhan, 1964, p. 1). In other words, it is notonly the medium that is important, but the changes that the media cause. Through ourextended reach, our range of opportunities changes, which will have an impact on otherareas of our lives.The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies seems to be something that has such an effect,as for a number of years we have been using the Web to find information, much likebooks in the past, but on a larger scale. The new social tools have changed ourrelationship with the medium and made it possible for humans to move the Web on froma one-directional broadcasting model into a many-to-many form of interaction. The newdevelopments have ensured that we are no longer solely consumers of onlineinformation, but can also be online contributors. People in our local communities canhave a voice that can be heard all over the world (Shearman, 2000) using words, images,film and music. It is very much a mix of consuming and creating: people might “mashup” text, music or video produced by others and reshape it into their own image anddistribute it worldwide or within their online community.A blog is one example of a Web 2.0 technology and is a variation of an interactive onlinediary, usually written by one person, who would publish a number of date-stampedpieces of writing, videos, sound or images. The most current will appear at the top, andwill offer the opportunity for people to post comments to which reactions are invited. Ablog reflects personal opinions and areas of interest of the “blogger” and can be a very 21
  33. 33. personal diary, although numerous academic, journalistic, subject specific andeducational blogs have emerged. Generally the aim is not only to publish individualideas and views, but to link these to friends’ views and other people’s ideas withdifferent visions, and comment on these, usually by providing hyperlinked evidence. Anargument and communication with others are important components of the blog, whichmakes it more than a personal diary. ‘It reveals something about how we think thatwould not be explicit in another medium’ (Mortensen & Walker, 2002, p. 249) accordingto Mortensen and Walker, two academics working on blogs. They explain that our blogs became tools with which to think about our research, its values, connections and links to other aspects of the world. They altered the way in which we approached online communication, and have influenced the writing of both our dissertations. (Mortensen & Walker, 2002, p. 249-251)Most bloggers have a “blog-roll” showing a list of links to favourite blogs, which makesthat communities of interest are formed quite easily. In fact, blogs can be produced byfree, user-friendly software, containing search facilities, while possibilities to subscribeto blogger news-feeds have contributed to the increased speed with which a steadilygrowing web of interrelated searchable sites, has emerged. Downes argued that blogs arerevolutionising publishing on the Internet (Downes, 2004) while Johnson stated thatblogging has moved on from being a pastime of amateurs to a grassroots movementresulting in a “network of interesting voices”. Blogs are created by individuals operatingoutside institutional constraints who do not always “play by the rules” exposinginaccuracies in traditional media publishing (Johnson, 2005, p. 1). Blogging has becomeincreasingly popular. Technorati (2008) have tracked 133 million weblog records since2002 and have found that 1.5 million blogs are posted in an average week. Communityblogs have also materialized, where like-minded people work together on thedevelopment of an interactive website. ‘Many-to-many’ communication features arebuilt into these sites to enable communication between large numbers of people.Wikis are quite different. They do not have a diary format but are websites, which offerpeople the opportunity to add text, images, video, possibly whole books. Moreover,individuals are encouraged to edit entries from other people if they think they have anyknowledge to add. One or more people are responsible for the venture, but the aim is todevelop a project collaboratively. The best-known wiki is the Wikipedia 22
  34. 34. (, which has grown into a huge online encyclopedia in 80languages in which people can find information about numerous topics.One of the differences to blogs is that the form of communication in wikis is based ondocuments rather than messages, which are much easier to edit and re-edit by a numberof people until they become coherent pieces of writing that are useful to anybody. Itsstrength is its ease of use: it uses a simplified hypertext language – as with blogs,technology does not have to stand in the way of the medium. A site can have multiplecontributors who can stay anonymous. There is a wide spectrum of wikis and ways inwhich wikis are being used: on the one side Cunningham’s first system ‘TheWikiWikiWeb’ excels through its openness and simplicity, while on the other end of thespectrum corporate wikis are being used as intricate knowledge management tools(Lamb, B. 2004).When discussing wikis, most commentators see their strength in offering a frameworkfor collaboration. Some even see them as the ultimate in democratic creation thatencourages participation by providing opportunities for anybody to add anything,anywhere at any time. At the same time this is seen as their downfall as what has beencreated today can be destroyed tomorrow. If we look at the best-known open contentwiki, the Wikipedia, surprisingly, ‘what seems to create chaos, has actually producedincreasingly respected content which has been evaluated and revised by the thousands tovisit the site over time’ (Lih, 2004, p. 3).Social bookmarking and tagging gained in importance in 2003 when waslaunched. Social bookmarking applications are web-based rather than desk-based andenable users to store links to web-addresses online and “tag” their bookmarks with key-words that have a relevance to them and make them available online to others. Thistagging is what makes them social and special. Instead of searches being led byinstitutions or commercial search engines, the searching by keywords that were providedby other members of a group, makes the searching social.‘This form of organising information through user-generated tags has become known as“folksonomy”. It implies a bottom-up mode of organising information as opposed to ahierarchical and top-down taxonomy’ (Owen et al, 2006, p. 17). There is a range in theformality of different bookmarking sites. Academic sites such as Connotea and 23
  35. 35. CiteULike have a planned style of tagging with a clear audience in mind, others such asFlickr, a photo-sharing site, promote a more light-hearted and personal style of tagging.Discussions amongst the user groups of tagging sites on the desirability of more controlon the tags used are extensive: e.g. a blog could be tagged as weblog, blog, blogs, orblogging, making searching more difficult than a more regulated system, but so far thechoice has been to maintain flexibility and openness. Shirky (2005) argues that, if thesystem would be turned into a normal search engine, the strength of the organicorganisation that emerges from user-generated tagging would be lost.Other Internet based innovations are social networking spaces. Currently most popularare personal spaces such as MySpace and Facebook, photo sharing sites such as Flickrand video sharing sites such as YouTube, where people can share information, photosand videos. Instant Messaging or “chat” sites such as MSN might be seen by some asmere text chat sites, that are not much different from the chat sites that were used in the80s and 90s for synchronous communication (Mason and Bacsich, 1998), but where thecurrent wave of chat sites differ is that people can communicate in groups, they canincorporate multimedia files and use VOIP for sound and video communication and thechat facilities can be integrated themselves on other applications such as socialnetworking sites. Further, the popularity of iPods has instigated the development ofdownloadable music and videofiles called podcasts. These might be seen as an extensionof a radio or a television show. The difference lies in the easy opportunities forresponding by using online tools. With the press of a button and through fairly user-friendly applications people can be in direct contact with the producer and can produceand send sound and video files themselves in response, whereas this would have been amuch more elaborate process using traditional media. The latest development aremicroblogging sites such as Twitter, which offer the opportunity for the fast passing ofshort messages around a network, and, as with other social networking, following themessages, or “tweets”, of particular interesting people. Networks – Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and The Semantic WebThe emergence of these sites and applications has meant that vast numbers of peopleshare files and communicate over the Internet, which has created huge informationnetworks. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and other software have been developed thatallow people to organise web sites in searchable patterns through the use of tags. The use 24
  36. 36. of this filtering software to manage the load of information on the Internet is increasing.Readers and environments to display the results of these aggregators are also in use andhave been developed. Also, in particular communities of interest, people have come tothe fore who do the filtering for other people and send out newsletters on a regular basis.Tim Berners-Lee and a team of researchers are currently working on an even wider-reaching organisation of the Web. He started the Semantic Web initiative, which is ledby the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C, 2009). His vision was to ensure that routinetasks related to the Internet no longer have to be carried out by humans, but that the Webitself will take charge of them. The search engine is one example of this. Matthewsquotes Berners-Lee et al: ‘The semantic Web will bring structure to the meaningfulcontent on the Web pages, creating an environment where software agents roaming frompage to page can readily carry out sophisticated tasks for users’ (Matthews, 2005, p. 3).In an interview with The Times Online, Tim Berners-Lee thought a new type of Google,a big mash-up of applications, might be developed in the future: Imagine if two completely separate things — your bank statements and your calendar — spoke the same language and could share information with one another. You could drag one on top of the other and a whole bunch of dots would appear showing you when you spent your money. If you still werent sure of where you were when you made a particular transaction, you could then drag your photo album on top of the calendar, and be reminded that you used your credit card at the same time you were taking pictures of your kids at a theme park. So you would know not to claim it as a tax deduction. Its about creating a seamless web of all the data in your life. (Richards, 2008, p. 1.)A large research team is working on the development and it is not quite clear what theimpact on education will be. The most likely implications are that there will be morerefined information management and discovery tools, better search facilities forcatalogues of online libraries, better interaction between groups of people, andapplications for e-learning, including sharing learning objects, photos, videos, sound fileswill be available over peer to peer networks. Some learning technologists, researchersand educators (Siemens, 2008b; Downes, 2006; Arina, 2006) advocate that Web 2.0 andsemantic web technologies could be useful in the educational arena as they could fosterinformal learning through communication and collaboration with others on onlinenetworks in combination with intelligent recommender systems. 25
  37. 37. ConvergenceThe convergence of computers, telecommunications, broadcasting, music distribution,and other media is expected to aid with network-forming, and, according to some, willchange our society forever (NetworkWorld, 2006). We can use mobile phones andwireless technologies with cameras and state of the art music players “on the hoof”, andour televisions, computers and telephones are all merging into one system.Rapid developments in the mobile world means that the applications available only a fewyears ago now seem almost prehistoric. The “brick”-size mobile phone that could just beused to make a crackly phone call has been replaced in today’s era of convergence withone small pocket size device containing a photo-camera, film camera, music player,television, office organiser and computer. Palmtop size computers and laptops are alsowidely used. The wireless network coverage and convergence of wired-up telephone-lines, wireless broadband Internet access and wireless phone connections have opened upa world of developments and innovative opportunities for commerce, consumers, andeducationalists alike. Wagner states: Whether we like it or not, whether we are ready for it or not, mobile learning represents the next step in a long tradition of technology-mediated learning. . . . It responds to the on-demand learning interests of connected citizens in an information-centric world. It also connects formal educational experiences with informal, situated learning experience. (Wagner, 2005, p. 44)In Australia, Barbaux researched how mobile technology can be used in an educationalcontext: The ubiquitous pocket-sized mobile devices are the first digital technologies that afford a “better fit” between everyday life and learning activities. Like pen and paper and books did before them, they allow learning to take place in locations and at a time chosen by the learner. Barbaux (2006, p. 132)Barbaux sees this element of choice by the learner as the biggest positive effect ofmobile and wireless technology on education, but also its biggest challenge. It not onlyoffers new opportunities for learning and communication on a global scale, but theconvergence of learning with everyday life will put the learner in control of theexperience. Learning will have to compete with other time pressures and perhaps withinteresting applications available on the device, which means that the learning 26
  38. 38. experience will have to be interesting otherwise the learner will choose to do somethingelse with her time. Of course learners have always made choices about where and how tolearn and how to spend their time, but the scale and availability of a vast amount ofinformation and communication channels through a small hand held device with theclick of a button makes this different. This might also bring new pedagogical challenges(Barbaux, 2006). Clearly, the possibilities to customise and personalise learning to anindividual’s needs in combination with the options for communication and networkingon a global scale will challenge the way teachers have taught for centuries.Broadband and Internet access, including VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, onlinetelephone such as Skype), is now accessible on mobile phones, which will push forwardthe boundaries and the further development of applications that are currently onlyavailable on computers onto mobile devices, so they can be accessed at any place at anytime at a reasonable price. It is hard to predict what the implications of futureconvergence will be for education. In the developments so far, the more applications andtechnologies have converged, the lower the access threshold as the technology hasbecome more intertwined with everyday life.2.2.6. AccessGovernments clearly see the advantages of getting citizens engaged with Information andCommunications Technology (Blair, 2000; WAG, 2002). They call for everyone to havethe opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and to get engaged with ICT, but how canthis be done? Although broadband access has penetrated much of the UK apart fromsome black-spots, 30% of the UK population does not have Internet access (NationalStatistics, 2008, 2009). 34% of these say they don’t need Internet as it is not useful or notinteresting, while 24% say they just don’t want the Internet. Some still say that the cost istoo high, although that figure has dropped to 15%, while lack of skills has become moreimportant at 15%. Access has clearly increased compared to the UK figures in 2006,when 47% did not use the Internet at all and 51% of the people who weren’t using theInternet felt that they did not need it or did not want to use it, compared to only 17% whodid not know how to use it and 12% who could not afford it. In 2008 65% of UKhouseholds could access Internet from home and of these 65% households, 80% hadbroadband Internet access, up from 40% of UK households in 2006 (National Statistics,2008). Of all home communications technologies, the Internet has the lowest ownership 27
  39. 39. figures and the highest ‘Voluntarily Excluded’ (no need/do not want) figures (Ofcom,2008), although more and more people are engaging with the technology.If we compare these figures with the Welsh adult participation in learning statistics fromthe National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Aldridge et al, 2007), the peoplewho do not participate in learning, e.g. people from social classes IV and V (partlyskilled manual and unskilled manual backgrounds) are least likely to have access to theInternet at home or to access the Internet at all, while the older generation (those aged55+) are the least predisposed to use the Internet. People over 65 are least likely to accessthe internet of all age categories (70%), while 16-24 year olds have all used it (NationalStatistics, 2008). The reasons why people do not use the Internet are varied as Table 1indicates.Why do people not use the Internet? (National Statistics, 2008)Don’t need Internet as is not useful or interesting 34%Don’t want Internet 24%Don’t have the right equipment 22%Lack of skills 15%The equipment is too expensive 15%Access cost too high 10%Table 1 2.2.6. Reasons why people do not use the InternetPeople with access to the Internet at home are also most likely to access it elsewhere.The reluctance to engage with technology is common across the globe as exemplified inStanley’s study, looking at the obstacles that prevent socio-economically disadvantagedpeople in San Diego achieving basic computer literacy. Although approximately 20% ofthe research respondents cited cost, again the vast majority emphasised psychosocialobstacles, what Stanley refers to as “relevance, comfort zone and self-concept” (Stanley,2003, p. 2). Whilst it is possible to teach people how to use technology or to give themaccess to the technology if they cannot afford it themselves, it will be much harder toconvince the ‘non-believers’ of its potential. If governments are serious about thepotential benefits ICTs can offer to communities they will have a considerable task inconvincing the people that technology has relevance to their lives.One approach could be to use mobile and wireless technologies to which many peoplehave access already, for learning, or to increase opportunities using digital interactive 28
  40. 40. television and reach people in their own homes. Most people prefer to access the Internetfrom the comfort of their own home. Another issue preventing access was highlighted bya study commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES). It identifiedproblems with the standard Internet interface for a number of non-users, which inspiredLaurillard to start work with the DfES on the development of ‘Cybrarian’, an interfacethat will tailor the web to the needs of the individual. (Lamb, J., 2004). TheMassachusetts Institute of Technology is also researching the development of a moreintuitive interface between computer content and human beings and demonstrated forinstance how the computer can be projected and used on any surface available (Mistry,2009).Davies states that lack of engagement with technology ‘is a social, economic, andcultural phenomenon, relating to motivation, confidence, assistance and the type ofcontent available on the Internet’ (Davies, 2005, p. 14). Fahy et al apply Bourdieu’sconcept of cultural capital, indicating that those who most need help in accessingeducational opportunities are most likely to be those who lack skills and hardware to usethe technology (Fahy et al, 2001). It is also important to bear in mind that excludedcommunities do not consist solely of groups such as the unemployed and ethnicminorities. They also encompass rural communities, disabled and older people. For thesegroups technology has the potential to offer major benefits for communication andinteraction.2.2.7. Young people and technologyThe new technological developments have been driven by technology, but also by youthculture. Although this thesis is related to Adult Education, it has relevance that youngpeople use technology in the same way as older generations use books, paper and pen.Marc Prensky was one of the first to argue that current institutions were not designed forthe students of today and tomorrow. He used the “native” and “immigrants” metaphor tohighlight possible distinctions between ‘digital natives’, who have been immersed intechnology all their lives, who are used to these immediate forms of communication withpeers, and who use technology in a very different way from ‘digital immigrants’. They are used to the instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging. They’ve been networked most of their lives. They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step logic, and “tell-test” instruction. 29
  41. 41. (Prensky, 2001, p. 3)Greenfield mentioned that findings in a recent survey of 8-18 year olds indicate thatchildren now spend on average 6.5 hours a day using electronic media and be ‘multi-tasking’ (using more than one device at the same time) for up to 8.5 hours a day(Greenfield, 2006). She is concerned that the way young people use technology willcause major changes in the way we learn: ‘The brain is very sensitive to what happens inthe environment, so we are going to be changing quite a lot because of information, bioand nano-technology’ (Greenfield quoted in Keating, 2006, p. 1.; Greenfield, 2004).Greenfield (2004) anticipated major changes and problems in the workplace as thediscrepancy between the young, ‘who speak IT as a first language’, and the older ones,who do not, will cause friction as the young will increasingly feel that the old do not getthe best out of the technology and hold back new development and innovations.However, these ideas are contested and refuted by current research (Bennett, 2008;Bullen, 2009). Selwyn argues that the evidence is not yet available to show that theyoung are engaging in a transformative way with technology but posits instead that theyuse it in a mundane way and that they do not necessarily engage with technology at all(Selwyn, 2006). UK National Statistics show that 96% of 16-24 year olds used theInternet in the first quarter of 2009, while older people have a much lower access level,e.g. 72% for people between the ages of 55 and 65, 30% for people over 65 (NationalStatistics, 2009). This shows that the heaviest use of the Internet is by young people, butdoes not necessarily indicate the level of engagement with any other applications thancontacting friends, looking for information or revealing issues about themselves inpersonal space such as MySpace, or YouTube. Bennett et al (2008, p. 775) carried out acritical review of the literature related to the ‘digital natives’ debate and likened it ‘to anacademic form of a “moral panic”, as they found a profound lack of empirical andtheoretical evidence to indicate that learners have actually changed all that much or forthe need of a changed educational system. They found a high number of position papers,such as the one by Prensky, which had been used to highlight claims of change in youngpeople’s behaviour, but empirical research has been lacking and has only recently beencarried out. Bullen et al (2009) published research in which they showed that there is nogenerational difference in use of the Web. 30