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Conole dehub paper_april

  1. 1. Social exclusion or inclusion - the implications of social and participatory media on education Gráinne Conole, Introduction In the last five years we have seen the emergence of a range of new social and participa- tory media. These include blogs, wikis, social networks like facebook, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing repositories such as Flckr and YouTube. Many of these tools are free and clearly they offer new and exciting ways to support learning and to enable learners and teachers to communicate and share. In parallel we have seen the emergence of the Open Educational Resource movement and there are now many high- quality digital resource repositories in a range of languages. Coupled to this there has also been a growth in user-generated content, enabling more learner-centred pedagogies. This paper will focus on the implications of this changing digital landscape for education and in particular the implications for learners, teachers and institutions. It will begin by providing an overview of these new technologies and their associated characteristics. It will then provide some examples of the ways in which these technologies are being harnessed to foster different pedagogical approaches. It is evident that these technologies have im- mense potential to support more innovative approaches to learning, enabling more per- sonalised and learner-centred approaches. However there is also a number of downsides to using these technologies, the paper will outline these and suggest that a new digital di- vide is being created, between those who are able to be part of this new participatory cul- ture and those who are excluded. It will argue that we need to change the ways in which we design, support and assess learning, to take better account of the affordances of these new technologies. It will provide two case studies that are attempting to do this: the cre- ation and use of Open Educational Resources and associated practices and Cloudworks, a social networking site for sharing and discussing learning and teaching ideas. Social and participatory media The range of social and participatory media now available is truly daunting. Conole and Alevizou (2010) categorised these into ten types of tools: media sharing, media manipula- tion, chat, online games and virtual worlds, social networking, blogs, social bookmarks, recommender systems, wikis and syndication/RSS feeds. Reviewing the ways in which they are being used a number of common characteristics emerge. Firstly, they enable new forms of interaction and communication. Secondly, many provide functionality to enable users to peer critique each others’ content or dialogue. Thirdly, it is possible to have col- lective aggregation of resources, Fourthly, there are many tools to enable user-generated content, that can be shared with others in a variety of ways. Fifthly, they are participatory, enabling users to produce and share their own content and interact with others. Sixthly, they are open and exploratory, users can undertake inquiry-based queries getting access to rich resources and often near instant feedback from the social collective. Finally, there is an evident networked effect, possible through the connection of millions worldwide shar- ing, discussing, aggregating and co-constructing knowledge. Within this context we are seeing a number of trends:•A shift from the web as a content repository and information mechanism to a web that en-ables more social mediation and user generation of content.•New practices of sharing (see for example: images: flckr; video: YouTube and presentation:slideshare), and mechanisms for content production, communication and collaboration(through blogs, wikis and micro-blogging services such as Twitter). There are also socialnetworking sites for connecting people and supporting different communities of practice(such as Facebook, Elgg and Ning).•A network effect is emerging as a result of the quantity of information available on the web,the multiplicity of connectivity and the scale of user participation. 1
  2. 2. Much has been written about the characteristics of these new technologies and in particu- lar so called web 2.0 practices (OReilly, 2005; Alexander; 2006; Anderson, 2007) but for the purposes of this paper I want to focus in particular on the following:•Peer critiquing – the ability to openingly comment on other people’s work. This has becomestandard practice within the blogosphere for instance and is being used in general society(for example many journalists are now active bloggers, traditional book writing is being sup-plemented by writers using blogs to invite potential readers to comment on the evolvingplot), by academics (through self-reflective blogs on digital scholarship and research ideas)and in a teaching context (with students keeping their own reflective blogs or contributing toa collective cohort blog).•User generated content – there are now many different tools (many free) for creating con-tent (ranging from those which are primarily text-based, through to rich multimedia and inter-active tools), meaning that the web is no longer a passive media for consumption but an act-ive, participatory, production media. Sites such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare facilitatesimple sharing of user-generated content and embedded code functionality means this con-tent can be simultaneously distributed via a range of communication channels.•Collective aggregation - hierarchy and controlled structures make little sense in an environ-ment that consists of a constantly expanding body of content that can be connected in amultitude of ways. Collective aggregation refers both to the ways in which individuals cancollate and order content to suit their individual needs and personal preferences, as well asthe ways individual content can be enriched collectively (via tagging, multiple distribution,etc.). Social bookmarking, tag clouds and associated visualisation tools, tagging, RSS feedsand embedding code all enable collective aggregation to occur.•Community formation – clearly the connectivity and rich communicative channels now avail-able on the web provide an environment for supporting a rich diversity of digital communit-ies. Boundaries of professional and personal identity are eroding and the notion of tightlyknit Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998) are giving way to a spectrum of communitiesfrom individualistic spaces through loosely bound and often transitory collectives through tomore established and clearly defined communities (See Dron and Anderson, 2007) for amore specific discussion of collectives, networks and groups in social networking for e-learn-ing).•Digital personas – each of us is having to define our own digital identity and how wepresent ourselves across these spaces. The avatars we choose to represent ourselves, thestyle of language we use and the degree to which we are open (both professionally and per-sonally) within these spaces, give a collective picture of how we are viewed by others. Key questions In this paper I want to consider the following questions in relation to the impact of social and participatory media on learning and teaching practices:•How are new open, social and participatory media changing educational practice•What are the implications for formal and informal learning?•How are learner and teacher roles changing?•How should institutional structures and systems be adapted to accommodate these newtechnologies?•What new digital literacies will learners and teachers need to make effective use of thesenew technologies?•How can we design effective learning interventions and environments to harness the affor-dances that these new technologies provide?•What social exclusion issues arise and how can we minimise these? Technology trends In terms of extrapolating the changing digital landscape I draw on a number of reviews of technologies and in particular their impact on both society generally and education in par- ticular. These include the NSF cyber-structure report (Borgeman, et. al., 2008), the IPTS 2
  3. 3. review of e-learning 2.0 (Redecker et al., 2008), a recent review of Web 2.0 tools andpractice in Higher Education (Conole and Alevizou, 2010) and the Horizon reports on newtechnologies (NMC, 2011).The laster Horizon report (NMC, 2011) predicts six new technologies that are likely tohave the most impact in one, three and five years time. E-Books and mobiles are cited asbeing likely to have the most impact in the next year. Augmented learning and game-based learning are listed as being most important within a three-year timeframe. Finally,gesture-based learning and learning analytics are predicted as having the most impactwithin five year’s time.The report observes a number of trends on how technologies arebeing used and their impact on practice. Firstly, it is increasingly the case (certainly in thedeveloped world) that people expect to be able to work and learn, anywhere and anytime.This is a consequence of near ubiquitous access to the Internet and the increasing sophis-tication of mobile devices with the emergence of smart phones, e-books and hybrid de-vices like the iPad. Secondly, the world of work is increasingly collaborative. People nolonger work in isolation, team work is becoming more common and interdisciplinarity1 is in-creasingly seen as a means of addressing today’s complex and ‘wicker’ problems. Thirdly,technologies are increasingly cloud-based and many institutions are now outsourcing coretechnology services to third parties. Fourthly, to harness the potential of these new tech-nologies, individuals need to develop new digital literacies (Jenkins et al, 2006, Jenkins,2009). Fifthly, the nature of academic discourse, scholarship and mechanisms for sharingknowledge are being transformed by new publication channels such as blogs and wikis(Weller, forthcoming). This is challenging traditional metrics for evaluating academic worthand value and traditional mechanisms for publishing via journals and books. New evalua-tion metrics need to be developed to take account of this paradigm shift. Sixthly, the in-creased prevalence of free tools and resources is challenging current educational busi-ness models and new models will be needed to address this. Finally, both learners andteachers are finding it increasingly challenging to keep abreast of the range of new tech-nologies that are emerging. It is likely that we will need to develop new learning pathwaysto guide learners through this complex digital landscape and new guidance to supportteachers in designing and supporting effective learning interventions and environmentsthat make effective use of these new tools.Harnessing new technologies and mapping to good peda-gogyThe previous section, looked at technological trends and associated characteristics gener-ally. This section will focus in on how these technologies can be harnessed to support dif-ferent approaches to learning. In their conclusion to the review of Web 2.0 tools and prac-tices, Conole and Alevizou (2010) reflect on the implications of how these tools are beingused in Higher Education as follows: Effective use of new technologies requires a radical rethink of the core learning and teach- ing processes; a shift from design as an internal, implicit and individually crafter process to one that is externalised and shareable with others. Change in practice may indeed involve the use of revised materials, new teaching strategies and beliefs - all in relation to educa- tional innovation.Table 1 considers a number of commonly used pedagogical approaches and shows howthese can be supported through use of a range of social and participatory media. What isnotable is the way in which the affordances of these technologies can be used to promotewhat are considered to be good pedagogical approaches; such as constructivist and so-cially situative pedagogies. However to achieve these effective practices, as Conole andAlevizou (2010) observe, will require a rethinking of the ways in which learning interven-tions are designed and supported.Table 1: Mapping of different pedagogical approaches to tools1 See Conole et al. (2010) for a review of the nature of interdisciplinarity in Technology-Enhanced Learning. 3
  4. 4. Pedagogical approach ToolsPersonalised learning Ability to customise tools to create a personal digital learning environment, use of RSS feedsSituated, experiential and problem-based Location aware devices, 3D-worlds like SecondLifelearningRole play and inquiry-based learning Search engines, online resources, social network- ing and micro-blogging sitesResource-based learning User-generated content tools, media repositories, Open Educational ResourcesReflective, dialogic and peer-based learning Blogs, wikis and e-portfoliosPositive and negative aspectsTable 2 looks at five common effects associated with new technologies and suggestssome of the consequences or paradoxes that arise as a result.The first is the fact that there are now an increasing range of free tools, resource and ser-vices; leading to an ever expanding body of knowledge. Digital technologies amplify thisbody of knowledge, by providing easy access to information, new ways of aggregating re-sources and multiple ways of disassembling and recombining information. In a world of in-creasing complexity and knowledge, it is no longer possible to know everything about adomain. Whereas a century ago a professional Chemist could have a pretty good graspacross all the main sub-domains of Chemistry; today’s Chemist struggles to keep up withtheir own area. Some celebrate this expansion, arguing that it means everyone had thepotential to be an expert and to be able to access and use knowledge for different pur-poses. Why seek the advice of a doctor, when information on any particular set of symp-toms is available in abundance on the net, from multiple sources, described in a variety ofways? Or at the very least, use the information available online as background informationbefore seeking professional medical advice. Surowiecki coined the term ‘wisdom of thecrowds’ (Surowiecki 2004) arguing that collective aggregation of information can lead tobetter decisions than those any individual might make. Others caution against this, lament-ing the death of expertise. Keen in particular cautions against the ‘cult of the amateur’(Keen 2007), arguing that the Web 2.0 revolution is not providing more depth ofinformation, rather it is leading to superficial observations and judgement. He talks of the‘sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers; simultaneously talking about themselves’ andargues that we are decimating our ‘cultural gatekeepers’ (critics, journalists, editors, etc.).On the positive side, these tools mean that leaners have access to a rich set of resources,which they can adapt and personalise. The abundance of tools and resources also meansit is possible to support niche specialist disciplines, the so called long-tail effect (Anderson,2004). On the negative side, in a world where tools, resources and services are increas-ingly free, what is the role of formal educational institutions? What should be the balanceof institutionally supported services verses free ones? Institutions are increasingly seeinglearners picking and mixing the tools they use and they are no longer solely reliant on in-stitutional systems. Change Positive impact Negative impactFree tools, resources and ser- Access and personalisation, Raises questions about the rolevices ability to support niche speciali- of institutions and increasing evi- sations - the so called ‘long tail’ dence of a lack of institutional phenomenon controlUbiquitous access Technologies as core tools for A narrower, but deeper digital di- learning and teaching vide 4
  5. 5. Change Positive impact Negative impactMultiple communication and dis- Increasing opportunities for Fragmentation and no centraltribution channels peer, tutor and expert dialogue, repository or sole learning path- beyond the confines of the for- ways mal course boundariesRich media representation New forms of sense making Learners and teachers not equipped with the necessary new digital literacy skillsUser-generated content Increasing variety and forms of Quality assurance issues in knowledge and more opportuni- terms of the validity and worth of ties for leaner control these materials, issues in terms of whether learners and teach- ers have the right skills to make effective evaluation judgments about these materialsSocial profiling and networking Increased opportunities for Inappropriate digital voices and knowledge sharing and commu- potential fragmentation of identi- nity build, a network of distribut- ty ed communities possibleTable 2: The positive and negative aspects of new technologiesSecondly, ubiquitous access is becoming the norm, learners and teachers are expecting tobe able to access tools and resources from anywhere, and hence be able to learn andteach anywhere anytime. In particular mobile devices make it easier to access informationand communicate online. Users are using a range of communication channels to connectwith others all over the world. Learners are able to access expertise beyond the confinesof their formal courses. The downside of this is that those that either choose not to connector are unable to connect are becoming increasingly isolated; the digital divide is narrowerbut deeper (Norris, 2001; Warschauer, 2004).Thirdly, there are now a plethora of communication and distribution channels. Content canbe accessed, shared and discussed through a variety of mechanisms. Users are postingacross inter-related sites such as blogs, Twitter and facebook. Users are using a range ofcommunication channels to connect with others all over the world. Learners are able to ac-cess expertise beyond the confines of their formal courses. However this is also leading tolearner confusion and to fragmentation of voice.Fourthly, there are a rich range of multimedia and ways of representing content. This canbe harnessed by learners to view ideas and concepts in different ways. There are alsonow a range of interactive sensemaking tools - such as concept mapping and argumenta-tion tools that learners can use to make sense of their understanding and to connect andrepresent ideas (Okada et al., 2008). But to effectively use these representations and toolslearners and teachers need appropriate new digital literacies skills, which arguably manydo not have at the moment.Fifthly, there is now a critical mass of Open Educational Resources, as well as tools for thecreation of user-generated content. This means that learners can augment their coursematerials with related materials developed elsewhere. They can compare and contrastthese resources to triangulate their understanding of new concepts. But finding and mak-ing effective judgements on the worth of materials is non trivial. Furthermore there can be 5
  6. 6. quality assurance issues as many of these resources are not quality assessed for accur-acy and relevance.Sixthly, there are opportunities for social networking and profiling. This means it is possiblefor learners and teachers to be part of global, distributed communities and to actively parti-cipate and co-construct knowledge and understanding. A key feature of social and parti-cipatory media is the power of the collective; the potential to tap into a collective mass.This suggests ‘expertise at one’s fingertips’ as well as a collective endeavour to tackleproblems, where the ‘sum will be greater than the individual parts’ – why tackle an issuewith one mind, when one can use hundreds or thousands, with different perspectives anddifferent types of expertise? This gives rise to the concept of ‘collective intelligence’ i.e. ashared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of manyindividuals. Although this is a well-established field of enquiry, the sheer capacity of the In-ternet means that huge numbers of people can now work together on a shared problem,as the same time utilising the vast quantity of information and tools available on the Inter-net. Lévy for example, predicted as far back as 1997 that new communications technolo-gies could profoundly effect the range of social bonds (Levy, 1997: 40).However this social collective co-exists with what Wellman and Gulia termed ‘networkedindividualism’ (Wellman and Gulia, 2001), i.e. the notion that there is a shift away fromtightly bound groups to loosely knit networks of individuals. Nonetheless these networksare also complex and can lead to confusion in terms of digital identities.The general increasingly complex digital landscape is challenging our existing vocabular-ies and means of description. The very terms digital spaces and landscapes hark back toa time when the digital was considered as a mere extension of the real. Terms such as‘virtual universities’ and ‘virtual cafés’ give the impression of the digital as a ‘boundedplace’. Whereas the kinds of patterns of behaviour we are now seeing in the digital realm,the distribution of content and tools, the multi-faceted and inter-connected nature of the di-gital means that the vocabulary of ‘time’ and ‘space’ is no longer adequate. We need newvocabularies and metaphors to describe what is happening. I have argued previously that: There is a need for new approaches to help navigate through the digital environment and also to help make sense of it and the impact it is having on our lives. Simplistic descriptions of the digital environment replicating physical spaces are no longer appropriate, it is neces- sary to take a more holistic view and describe technologies and users together emphas- ising the connections between them (Conole, 2008).Finally the apparent utopian drive towards an Internet where tools and content are free,and where open source principles, Application Profile Initiatives (APIs) and mash ups ap-pear to offer an evolving, collectively improved set of content and tools, which can be usedin a multitude of ways, may not be all that clear cut. Such practices challenge existingideas around quality and ownership and do not fit in with current business models for com-moditising knowledge. This suggests there is far more to do in terms of understandingthese and redefining our ideas around ownership, quality and business models.Social inclusion and exclusionThe previous section highlighted some of the paradoxes which can arise as a result of newsocial and participatory media. This section will focus in on how these relate specifically tonotions of social inclusion and exclusion. It provides a definition of the terms social inclu-sion and exclusion and considers the ways in which new social and participatory mediacan result in certain groups being excluded but also how these technologies can be usedto enable inclusion. It will provide some case study examples of how this is beingachieved. One definition of social exclusion is that it is a multidimensional process of progressive social rupture, detaching groups and individuals from social relations and institutions and preventing them from full participation in the nor- mal, normatively prescribed activities of the society in which they live’.2 This can include lack of access to earnings, education, technology, community or simply basic human rights.2 6
  7. 7. Cullen et al. (2009) define it as the: process whereby individuals are pushed to the edge of society and prevented from partici- pating fully by virtue of their poverty of lack of competences and lifelong learning opportu- nities or by discrimination. They go on the define social inclusion as the: process that ensures that those at risk of poverty and social exclusion gain the opportuni- ties and resources to participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life. Clearly social and participatory media can result in social exclusion in a number of re- spects; individuals may not have access to the technologies, they may lack the necessary digital literacy skills to use them or they may be prevented in some way from accessing them. However, Cullen et al. (2009) also suggest that there are two ways in which web 2.0 technologies can be used to promote social inclusion, namely by: i) preventing digital ex- clusion and ii) by exploiting new technologies for better inclusion. They describe eight case studies which have attempted to exploit the technologies in dif- ferent ways (Table 3). It is interesting to see the ways in which each of the case studies harnessed new technologies in particular contexts; utilising blogs, wikis, e-portfolios and virtual worlds to meet the needs of particular excluded groups, coupled with implementa- tion of different pedagogical approaches, such as story telling, peer coaching and open, collaborative pedagogies. The examples are drawn from across both formal and informal learning contexts and demonstrate how technologies can be used to support learners of different learning levels, needs and in different contexts.← Case study Description Notschool Online school for drop outs Constructivist pedagogy, peer buddy system Assistive technology wiki Supports knowledge creation around assistive ‘Routes of desire’ pedagogy model Mundi de Estrellas Aimed at young people in hospital, shared stories ALPEUNED Students with disabilities at the Open University in Spain Conecta Joven eSkills for at risk and excluded groups MOSEP Self-esteemed through e-Portfolios, learning companions 7
  8. 8. Schome Park Gifted kids and those with autism, in SecondLife, open pedagogy on collaborationBREAKOUT Offending and drug prevention, a life-swapping modelwww.breakoutproject.odl.orgOpen Educational Resources and PracticesHaving defined social inclusion and exclusion, this section will consider ways in which theOpen Educational Resource movement (Atkins et al., 2007) is fostering more open andsocially inclusive practices. I draw in particular on the work being undertaken by the Olnet3and OPAL4 initiatives, but also broaden this to discuss how this work sits within a widercontext of adopting more open practices.The Olnet initiative is being funded by the Hewlett foundation and is a partnership betweenthe Open University, UK and Carnegie Melon in the states. It aims to provide a global so-cial-technical infrastructure to promote the use and reuse of OER. The focus is on ensur-ing that OER research findings are translated into practice through fostering a dialogueand exchange between researchers and users or OER. The rationale behind the initiativeis the realisation that despite the plethora of high-quality resources now available, evalua-tion studies show that they are not being used as extensively as might have been hopedby teachers and learners and they are being repurposed even less (McAndrew et al.,2008). The hypothesis is that if we can better understand how OER are currently beingcreated, used and reused then we are likely to be able to develop strategies to help teach-ers and learners use them more effectively. A central argument around the promotion ofOER is that education should be viewed as a fundamental human right and that thereforeresources should be made freely available. However the focus to date has primarily beenon the creation of OER repositories with the na ï ve assumption that if resources are madefreely available learners and teachers will use and repurpose them.In trying to tackle the issue of why this is not the case, some recent work as part of Olnetran a series of workshop with teachers to get them to explore and discuss OER and in par-ticular to consider how they can be designed for use in a new context, namely to supportcollaborative learning (Conole, et al., 2011). Evaluation of the workshop discussions identi-fied a number of issues. Firstly, an OER has an associated inherent design, which is notnormally made explicit. Therefore a teacher looking at whether or not an OER is relevantfor their context of use has to first attempt to make this design explicit and then redesignfor use in a new context. It was evident that many teachers did not have the necessaryskills to do this and also that the design can be represented in a range of ways, to fore-ground different aspects of the resource and its associated pedagogical design. Partici-pants reported that they had a lot of difficulty understanding the OER in their raw state andfelt they were missing important information. They were also unsure of the quality andprovenance of the OER. It was therefore evident that deconstruction and subsequent recon-struction of OER is complex. Conole et al. (2011) identified four layers that need to be consideredto make most effective repurposing of an OER: 1.Visual representation of the design – how can the implicit OER design be made more explicit and hence shareable? 2.Opinion of goodness – how appropriate is the OER for different contexts? 3.Transferability through pedagogical pattern – how can generic patterns be applied to specific contexts?3 http://olnet.org4 8
  9. 9. 4.Layer of discussion, critique and contextualisation – how can social and participatory media act as a supporting structure to foster debate between those using the same OER? In addition to having difficulty in deconstructing OER, participants also had problems in terms of repurposing for a new context. Conole et al. (2011) provided a set of collaborative pedagogical patterns (Hernández et al., 2005, Hernández et al., 2010) as a means of struc- turing and guiding the redesign process. Participants reported that this was helpful and did help them think about how to repurpose the OER for a new collaborative learning context. Participants cited a number of ways in which the use of these patterns were useful: i) few patterns are needed to get started and gain benefit, ii) the patterns apply in many different situations, iii) they encourage thinking at different levels and iv) they encouraged a fresh view of the resources. Building on the experience of Olnet and in particular the importance of understanding the context of the design and use of OER, I will now go on to consider a related, complemen- tary initiative, OPAL. The OPAL initiatives focus is on the articulation of dimensions of OER practice, with the hope that through this we can better understand how to support the use and reuse of OER. OPAL identified OER practices by analysis of 60 case studies of OER initiatives. Open Educational Practices (OEP) are defined as a set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources (OERs).Through this eight dimensions of practice were identified initially:1.Strategies and policies2.Quality Assurance (QA) models3.Partnership models4.Tools and tool practices5.Innovations6.Skills development and support7.Business models/sustainability strategies8.Barriers and success factors These were then validated with the user community through a series of workshops and an expert panel, leading to the refinement of the dimensions to four: strategies and policies, tools and tool practices, skills development and support, and barriers and success factors. It is evident, that each of these dimensions of practice might either promote social inclu- sion or negate it. For example if policies are in place to provide for funding to support the development of OER this will lead to an increase in the availability of high quality OER. Similarly, staff development activities and support can be put in place to help address the kinds of digital literacy skills described earlier in terms of effect design and repurposing of OER. Articulation of barriers can help to put in place policies and practices to alleviate them. Similarly identified success factors can be replicated in different contexts. Finally, innovative use of social and participatory media can lead to fostering more discussion and engagement amongst practitioners on the use of OER. The dimensions have been used for the creation of a OEP quality model 5 that can be used by organisations and individuals to self assess their level of OEP maturity (Figure 1). 5 This was developed by T. Koskinen for the OPAL project. 9
  10. 10. Therefore an organisation that had in place effective OER policies might be placed in 2AXat level of maturity defined. Similarly an individual who uses uses social and participatorymedia to organise and share OER might be placed in 1CX level defined. This model hasnow been translated into a set of guidelines for OER stakeholders (learners, teachers, in-stitutional managers/support staff and policy makers).Promoting communication and discussionThe previous section discussed how OER might be used to promote social inclusion. Thissection will consider the ways in which practitioners can share and discuss learning andteaching ideas and hence be part of a global network of scholars. When teachers areasked what would most help them make more effective use of technologies in their teach-ing, the overwhelming answer is ‘show me examples of what others have done and giveme access to others with similar interests that I can talk to’. The social networking site,Cloudworks6, was created to provide such a site. It amalgamates a range of typical web2.0 functionality (such as RSS feeds, favouriting, following, activity streams, aggregation ofresources, and activity streams) to provide a social space where teachers can share andcollectively improve learning and teaching ideas, resources and practices. Conole andCulver (2009) provide background details to the development of the site and the underpin-ning theoretical perspectives and in a related paper they describe some of the initialdesign and evaluation of the site (Conole and Culver, 2010).From our evaluation data we can see that the site is promoting a range of practices,providing practitioners with different ways in which to communicate and interact. It hasbeen used effectively to support real and virtual events (conferences and workshops), vir-tual reading circles, open reviews and expert elicitation, and is also been used in some in-stances to share the design of new courses or by students as a space to share and dis-6 10
  11. 11. cuss their learning. The site appears to provide a niche social space and complements es-tablished sites such as facebook, Twitter and personal blogs. The distinct feature of thesite is that it is based around ‘social objects’ (Engeström, 2005) called ‘Clouds’, which canbe anything to do with learning and teaching (such as a discussion about a tool or re-source, details of a particular learning intervention or discussion about a particular ped-agogical approach and how technologies can be used to foster it). Clouds can be dis-cussed and also can be collective improved by the community, through addition of morecontent (including embedded multimedia) and by inclusion of relevant links or references.Clouds can be grouped into Cloudscapes.The site now has a vibrant self-sustaining community of users from around the world anddemonstrates how such sites can promote social inclusion, not only through the sharing ofideas, but also by breaking down barriers between different educational sectors. Teachersand learners from across the formal and informal educational spectrum are participating.ConclusionThe paper has considered the implications of new social and participatory media to pro-mote social inclusion. It has described two instances; namely the use of OER and associ-ated practices and promotion of communication and interaction through new social media.As stated earlier the digital divide is still evident and as social and participatory media andusers behaviour continue to co-evolve it is only likely that the divide between those whoare able to use social and participatory media and those who cannot will increase. It is im-portant for us to be aware of this and to continue to develop mechanisms to promote so-cial inclusion in learning and teaching.To return to the central question posed at the beginning of this paper: can social and parti-cipatory media support social inclusion?’ The answer is yes in that these media canprovide rich multimedia representations and multiple communication channels, enablelearning opportunities to be accessed from anywhere and provide mechanisms for storingand sharing an abundance of free educational resources. However the answer is also no,in that these media are resulting in a new kind of digital divide, the digital environment isincreasingly complex and many learners and teachers lack the necessary digital literacyskills to navigate and effective use this space. To conclude there are a number of recom-mendations to overcome some of the barriers to using social and participatory media citedin this paper; for learners, teachers, institutions and policy makers.For learners it is important that we provide support and guidance in terms of the develop-ment of the digital literacy skills they need. We should encourage more learner-centred ap-proaches, which match well with the affordances of new media. We need to encouragenew active and participatory forms of communication and collaboration, both within formalcohorts and beyond. We need to shift from a focus on content to activities.For teachers we need to develop new approaches to the design of learning interventions(Conole, forthcoming). Teachers will need to adopt more explicit and reflective teachingpractices. The best way for teachers to engage with these new technologies is throughtechnology immersion, learning by doing in other words. We should continue to encouragethe creation of a networked educational community of teachers and learners, to enablethem to share and discuss learning and teaching ideas.At an institutional level, we need to ensure that strategies and policies are in place that re-flect the changing context of learning. We need to ensure there are appropriate resourcesand support to facilitate the shift in practice needed. Strong leadership is likely to make allthe difference, institutional leaders who have a clear understanding of the issues (technic-al, pedagogical and organisational) and who have the power to revision structures and in-frastructures.Finally nationally we need to move to the creation and support of high quality Open Educa-tional Resources, along with the description and sharing of case studies of good practice.Appropriate strategies, policies and funding should be introduced to help teachers andlearners make more effective use of these media and resources. Professional networks 11
  12. 12. and communities should be encouraged to promote scholarly discourse, and there needsto be an ongoing horizon scanning of technological changes to feed back into what is hap-pening at both an individual and institutional level.There is no doubt that new social and participatory media enable new forms of communic-ation and collaboration, but communities in these spaces are complex and distributed.Teachers and learners need to develop new digital literacy skills to harness their potentialeffectively and are likely to need support to be able to achieve this. Part of this is that weneed to rethink the ways in which we design, support and assess learning interventions.New social media sites such as Cloudworks can provide mechanisms for teachers toshare and discuss learning and teaching ideas and hence improve their practice. Finallywe are seeing a blurring of boundaries: learners/teachers, learning/teaching, content/activ-ities and real and virtual spaces. This is the reality of the context of modern education.The opportunities are exciting and potentially transformative, the challenges are signific-ant.ReferencesAitkins, R., Seely-Brown, J. and Hammond, A.L. (2007), A review of the open educationalresources (OER) movement: achievements, challenges and opportunities, a report for theWilliam and Flora Hewlett Foundation, available online at, B. (2006), ‘Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?’,Educause review, 41(2): 32-44.Anderson, C. (2004), The long tail, Wired, October 2004.Borgman, C., Abelson, H., Dirks, L., Johnson, R., Koedinger, K., Linn, M., Lynch, C., Ob-linger, D., Pea, R., Salen, K., Smith, M & Szalay, A. (2008), Fostering learning in the net-worked world: The cyberlearning opportunity and challenge. Report of the NSF Task Forceon Cyberlearning.Conole, G. , Scanlon, E., Mundin, P. and Farrow, R. (2010), Technology enhanced learn-ing as a site for interdisciplinary research, report for the TLRP TEL programme, April 2010.Conole, G., McAndrew, P. and Dimitriadis, Y. (2011, ‘The role of CSCL pedagogical pat-terns as mediating artefacts for repurposing Open Educational Resources’, in F. Pozzi andD. Persico (Eds), Techniques for Fostering Collaboration in Online Learning Communities:Theoretical and PracticalConole, G. (2008), Stepping over the edge: the implications of new technologies for edu-cation in M. Lee and C. McLoughin (Eds), Web 2.0-based e-learning: applying social in-formatics for tertiary teaching, Hersey, PA: ICI Global.Cullen, J., Cullen, C., Hayward, D. and Maes, V. (2009), Good practices for learning 2.0:promoting inclusion - an in-depth study of eight learning 2.0 case studies, JRC TechnicalNotes,, J., and Anderson, T. (2007). Collectives, networks and groups in social software fore-Learning, Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government,Healthcare, and Higher Education Quebec. Retrieved Feb (Vol. 16, pp. 2008).Engeström, J. (2005), Why some social network services work and others dont ― Or: thecase for object-centered sociality, blog posting, 13th April 2005, [1/8/08]Hernández, D. Asensio, J.I. & Dimitriadis, Y.A. (2005). Computational Representation of Collabora-tive Learning Flow Patterns using IMS Learning Design. Educational Technology and Society, 8(4),75-89.Hernández, D., Asensio, J.I., Dimitriadis, Y., & Villasclaras, E.D. (2010). Pattern languages for gen-erating CSCL scripts: from a conceptual model to the design of a real situation. In P. Goodyear &S. Retalis (Eds.) E-learning, design patterns and pattern languages (49-64) Sense Publishers. 12
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