Deliberative/instrumental actions vs phronetic actions in learning digital environments
actions vs phronetic actions in
learning digital environments
1) Distinction first-order/second-order in the study of digital learning
environments/learning digital ecosystem
2) Chance-seeking and personal learning environments
3) A discussion about phronetic actions
An ambiguity in the study of learning digital
First-order & second-order
cf. Cowley, 2007; Hodges and Fowler, 2010, Van
Orden et al. 2010, Thibault, 2011
First-order refers to the way the learner enacts, exploits,
responds to, and attunes to resources and to engage
Bodily resources plus situations, environmental
affordances, technologies, artifacts exploited in different
Second-order refers to stabilities and patterns that emerge in some community over time.
The aim is to figure out those principles governing the evolution of the digital ecosystem as a whole
It is related to longer, slower, cultural historical timescales
First-order and personal learning environment
resistant to reification
not objects but “interactional dominants”
different timescales, but mostly short ones
priority to online cognition over offline cognition
The way the learner engages a digital
environment/ecosystem can be described in terms of
What is a chance?
a chance is an unanticipated and contingent event conveying
an opportunity for action, which appears to have some strategic
value in pursuing one’s goal but indirectly.
What is chance-seeking?
Chance-seeking is not about predicting chance events.
It’s about recognizing and amplifying the potential positive
significance of chance events.
an action is taken to amplify
potentials of positive
The whole process is not deliberative but phronetic
What does “phronetic” mean?
“Phronetic” refers to the Aristotelean concept of “phronesis”.
“Phronesis” means practical wisdom/intelligence or
the capacity of making practical judgments
It deals more with “practice” than “theory”
The domain of application is related to complex,
It’s not subjected to scientific demonstration/precision
The body of knowledge it produces is more related to
rules of thumbs than general laws or rules
Kessels and Korthagen, 1996; Dunne, 1992; Flyvbjerg, 2001; Woodhouse, 2007; Chia and Holt, 2009; Garud, 2010,
Flyvbjerg et al, 2012
Phronetic actions & Personal learning
Phronetic action is a particular way in which the learner as a
chance-seeker engages a digital learning environment and
builds his or her own personal learning environment
Which is then not an application but a process.
A negative definition
What phronetic action is not:
it’s not deliberative (instrumental) action
Deliberative/instrumental actions in the
an explicit need
A conceptual characterization of Deliberative action
Problem-solving not problem-finding
The goal is well-defined
There is a plan stating how to achieve the goal directly
Strategies addressing overall concerns (bird’s eye point of view)
Clear distinction between means and ends, and between processes and outcomes
Full purposiveness (purposiveness comes with predictability)
The agent is an executor of the plan
Focus on capacity of using a feature/application effectively
The features of an app/device provide affordances as capabilities
(that’s what we can design)
Habitual action (no creativity involved)
An example: using a blog
a student said:
I’ve realized quite recently that I can use my study blog to have
a better vision of my study load. It’s easier to keep track of my
progress and I can see how much time I have dedicated/am
dedicating to each course.
How did that happen?
How did that happen?
The student is a freelance designer and illustrator blogging for
promoting and selling her artwork
I don’t like blogs that are not alive
She decided to post all other assignments that were shared
using other applications (email or dropbox).
In December all university-related activities wrapped up, so
no new assignments.
She spent some time on extra-curricular activities. She "pushed
blogging even further" and started posting "everything" related to
her studies and university life.
By using my blog I have now a better vision of study load,
it’s easier to keep track of my progress,
I see how much time I have dedicated to each course.
That was not the product of deliberative actions, but phronetic ones
the goal is well-defined and impersonal
No specific goals
Strategic Priority to overall concerns
Strategic Priority to Immediate and
clear distinction means and ends
No clear distinction between Ms&Es
clear distinction processes and outcomes
No clear distinction between Ps&Os
purposive and predictive
Purposive without being predictive
The agent is an executor
The agent steps in the process along with
his/her identity, values, knowledge and
ignorance, experience and inexperience
Focus on the capacity of using things
Focus on the capacity of acting in situation
affordances as actual capabilities
Affordances as latent opportunities
Appropriative and re-appropriative