Saturday, March 6, 2021

Automatic translation and bilingualism

Ymddiheuraf am unrhyw drosedd y gallai'r ddelwedd hon ei hachosi.
Some of us are getting used to seeing automatic translation offered in various platforms. Google Translate has helped with communication in many and varied settings, not least the mobile app version. Facebook and Twitter will offer to translate posts. Microsoft have integrated automatic translation into their Office365 email. Simultaneous automatic translation is available to viewers of Office365 PowerPoint Online presentations. This is easier for the 'Tech Giants' with massive development budgets and a global, multilingual, market. For lesser firms, the impetus, funds and rationale may be less substantial to the point that automatic translation will just have to wait.
And why not? I will come back to this. First I must add that I do think of this post and the matters discussed within it in terms of networked learning but I will leave the reasons for that implicit for now.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Promoting connections around the fringes of virtual classes

Who remembers queuing in awkward silence... which eventually led to carefully negotiated acquaintance and possibly lifelong friendships, or at least learning where you were meant to be next? Social Network Analysis takes a look at who interacts with who on the basis of digital activity traces in terms of the data recorded about interactions. I'm wondering how a typical SNA map of a class/lecture would look before and after the COVID flip to online versions. We used to worry about student chatter in lectures. While this is happening less, if at all, in online classes, and we are glad to still bring students to an 'event', they now join with blinkers on: zooming into the session and back out again causes a kind of tunnel vision with respect to peers. In SNA terms, this would look like a particularly tight hub and spoke network. Although a lecture format is sometimes mocked for requiring one-way traffic from the lecturer to the students, in fact there is a lot more latitude for connections in a lecture setting than zoom, unless there are deliberate efforts to break up those hard-wired spoke-to-hub connections. There actually is no-one else in the room to turn to - what chance purple and black will rub virtual shoulders? How can we enable or promote connections between students? Would putting students into breakout rooms at regular intervals be enough to enable the helpful social learning milieu...? Would #togethermode ...?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A Networked Learning Disposition? Round Table at NLC2020

I am looking forward very much to the online/lockdown version of the Networked Learning Conference next week. A lot more people will be able to attend now that it's gone fully online so it will be a very different experience in various ways.
I'm delighted to be hosting a 'round table' discussion on the first day from 13.30-15.45. I'm expecting a lot more people in the room but also, because there's no physical movement required to room-hop, I think people will be far more transient in their attendance - there will be drive-by's.
The topic of 'disposition' is one that has been gnawing at me for a while. The round table format should allow plenty of time for others to also chew back at it. The question I have is whether there is a disposition towards being the ideal networked learner. It relates to a previous question I framed on this blog in 2008, 'what characterises the networked learned'? Are there things about you (apart from sheer privilege!) that make you a good match for networked learning? This is not the same as learning styles although some of the trait words used there may crop up here. I've been working up a mindmap about disposition and I'm looking to my partners in next week's round table discussion to help with developing and refining ideas and implications of this for networked learning practice, design and research. The mindmap for that is embedded below - it's a wikimap so if you want to, go ahead and add some ideas. It makes sense to try and write it all up and I'm keen to acknowledge any contribution. Probably there are whole swathes of knowledge about 'disposition' I'm unaware of so even a tip-off would be appreciated. If you wish to suggest any, please go ahead and add them to the References GoogleDoc:

For a bit more context, Michael Gallagher took up the idea of 'disposition' for his paper at Zagreb's NLC2018. His paper is in the NLC archive and his blog post includes the slides. Among many excellent points, he addressed the critique of 'disposition' being deterministic: post-human perspectives of shared agency should also allow us to avoid that dead-end.
It was great to share the same session with Michael to present my paper on mobilage, originally blogged here in 2017.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


A few weeks ago, a brief exchange on twitter highlighted a difficulty common to many fields: how to enable a way in to the literature.
There are lots of ways of providing an index. Google Scholar does some of it. I don't think any of the databases cover the NL conference archive, and we might want to include other non-NLC sources anyway. We have a saying, 'he who has the vision gets the job'.
Joe used Kumu for his Knowledge Hub. Kumu allows for various ways of presenting the same information, so was preferred over CMAPS, as good as that is. Kumu's free for public maps. Anything that requires effort needs to be reasonably durable and Kumu appears to have that. It also has an CSV import, which, data cleaning notwithstanding, could save a lot of time hand-coding. There may be no way to avoid some of that.
Although in lockdown, Alice kindly sent me 3 exports from the SCHED app used in the previous 3 conferences. So, when I can get to it, this presents a viable way forward. It will still require a fair bit of data cleaning and there are some decisions to make... E.g. whether to re-host the papers, where possible. If anyone is interested to help with this project, do get in touch. There could be some bread pudding in it for you...

Bread pudding

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Venn Diagrams, digital scholarship

Since I read it, I have admired Robin Goodfellow's (2013) chapter, The literacies of ’digital scholarship’—Truth and use values.' For me it contains a two things of note. One, a succinct definition of scholarly values worth serious reflection in these neoliberal days (see Appendix below). Two, a critique of 'the digital' which contrasts two books, one by Christine Borgman and another by Martin Weller: 'Borgman is trying to make digital scholarship more scholarly, Weller is trying to make it more digital.' (ibid. p75)
In my experience and, not least because of my incredible life privileges, I find it is relatively easy to 'do digital', and I have a disposition so to do. I find that others do not have this disposition, but still 'get the job done'. Through earnest scholarship, they develop their own practices which may be more or less digital, even if vicariously digital (e.g. getting someone else to type things up), but they cannot avoid having to use a computer occasionally.
Recently, I have been teaching the concepts of searching for literature using Boolean operators and I love a Venn diagram to make the point. I think they also help to make a point about 'the digital' and what different people take up in the context of academic work.
In the first diagram, we have Scholarly OR Digital practices. In some ways, this reflects the reality that we all swim around in bits of both.

There are still people, you might know some, you know, the kind that own 'brick' phones, if they have a mobile at all. These are the 'NOT' people. If they 'do' social media, they do it because someone else is handling it for them. Perhaps they are self-confessed draconian Luddites but their scholarship and contribution would be generally deemed successful.

Then there are the 'AND' people, who scarcely do anything without it in some way 'being digital'. Are they any more successful at scholarship for this than the NOT's? What mattered? 

[Apology - this is an 'early version' of the AND diagram - it should be shaded in the middle/overlap but that's a bit tricky in google drawings so I will/may attend to that at another time.]

Appendix: Robin Goodfellow defines the scholarship orientation
This orientation [scholarship] values critical reflection, the cumulative aggregation of knowledge and understanding, distinct modes of operation relating to evidence and the war- ranting of its reliability, and the ethic of enquiry as a primary motivation (Andresen 2000; Cowan et al. 2008; Courant 2008). The combination of these characteristics is what distinguishes the construction of academic scholarly knowledge from other kinds of knowledge production (factual knowledge, practical knowledge, common-sense, morality, the wisdom of crowds, etc.). The existence of communities dedicated to these values in a general sense also distinguishes the sites of production of academic scholarly knowledge (universities, research institutes, museums) from most other arenas of social knowledge practice. (Goodfellow 2013 , p. 69)

Goodfellow, R. (2013). The literacies of ’digital scholarship’—Truth and use values. In R. Goodfellow & M. R. Lea (Eds.), Literacy in the Digital University: Critical Perspectives on learning, scholarship, and technology (pp. 67–78).

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NL conference does NL

Ben Kehrwald presents on Cognitive Load Theory and NL
Who is doing 'Networked Learning' here?

It was such an honour to chair this morning's parallel session. We had some of that famous networked learning concept creep between Nina and Jens, David and Vivian's papers. To my mind, the conference has always permissively allowed even the likes of me (Johnson, 2008) to play with the standing conference definition of networked learning. In this post I draw attention back to the ancient csalt definition of NL quoted in full here:
Networked Learning
We define 'networked learning' as:
learning in which C&IT is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources.
Some of the richest examples of networked learning involve interaction with on-line materials and with other people. But use of on-line materials is not a sufficient characteristic to define networked learning.
The interactions between people in networked learning environments can be synchronous, asynchronous or both. The interactions can be through text, voice, graphics, video, shared workspaces or combinations of these forms. Consequently the space of possibilities for networked learning, and the space of potential student experiences, is vast. 
This definition makes it plain that the authors, for obvious reasons, stated that, for them, networked learning with 'on-line materials' was insufficient to be considered networked learning. They required 'interaction... with other people in networked learning environments'.
But this morning some are saying that this is also missing something.
The point was made, with approval, that the networked learning conference does networked learning. Further to the seminar, I want to play back Nina's thesis (today, and in 2012) that, to qualify, and even succeed for any amount of time worth the effort, NL depends, not just on interaction between people, but on the 'concrete' practice of what is being learnt via NL, i.e. to be deployed/practiced in actual contexts (like Nina's example of 'teachers in front of 5th Grade', or like us every 2nd year @NLConf for David and Vivian's paper). 
In other words, and with an eye to the neoliberalism killing off the very idea of a university, networked learning conference delegates, by definition, have to regularly meet up in person, physically co-located, to achieve networked learning worthy of the name.
This leads to another related point, and that is, that the original definition also asserts a focus on (digital) information technology.
As at least a sop to the csalt definition, we can run with the idea that the technology, especially digital information technology use, can be tacit, or remain understated... Partly because it makes a refreshing change to downplay tech. Of course IT is implicated - someone in the room will be tweeting or whatever, regardless of how that affects their ability to concentrate on what's really going on in the room.
If we put the definition up for an arguably timely refresh, what would we end up with if IT was dropped altogether from the definition, left implicit, and instead of it there was a requirement to 'meet up in person'...? How would such a definition read? What are the implications for the future of the nascent field as it moves towards life without the presence of its first generation scholars? 
Given the above, how does the networked learning conference, community and delegates, 'do' networked learning?
Put Denmark, May 2020 in your diary to find out because it seems like 'being at the conference' is important.

Nina in 2012: 

PS. I foolishly determined to write this blog post on my phone. This went ok in evernote, even if the hyperlinks were not automatically being picked up so that gets a real faff to sort out on a phone. Then I copy/pasted the text into the blogger app which went ok apart from losing the links again - should have known better. The next gotcha was when I dared to add a picture to the post. This was possibly too high resolution for the app to cope with at some level so it failed to publish and I had to copy the text into another new post but by that time had lost the will to try and tidy up the hyperlinks etc. This morning, I have revised the text, added the hyperlinks, added a photo, tweaked formatting - so much easier than on my phone.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Hot on the heels of mobilage, you could be forgiven for thinking I actually like making up new words for the sake of it but sometimes it does help my thinking... keeping it on track... So, here's another one... mobent... as in, to 'have a mobent'. This word attempts to describe the familiar experience of that moment when you are entangled, perhaps just staring, into your phone because it's not working as expected. I suppose a colloquial example would be 'buffer face', as in the celebrated adverts for a mobile network featuring Kevin Bacon. I'll save you any attempt to link networked learning and 'six degrees of separation'... Here's the back-story to mobent which I have been writing up today:
"Heidegger refers to two modes of relation between dasein and the tools at their disposal. His classic example is of a shoemaker’s hammer in use. Most of the time, the shoemaker is unaware of the hammer, it is ‘ready-to-hand’, zuhanden. If the hammer breaks, the ‘spell’ is also broken and the shoemaker becomes aware of the hammer in a different way, reflecting on it as an object ‘present-at-hand’, vorhanden. This dichotomy is sharply challenged when applied to a phone:
  • "The extensive and extending range of uses to which the phone may be put and ongoing innovation in mobile technologies and app development together with a society-wide growing awareness of the significance of mobile means that the phone can increasingly be incurred in almost any activity, regardless of whether that activity is shared on social media using the phone.
  • "The extended stack of technologies upon which use relies for its fulmination. For example, mobile phones are designed to accommodate variations in Internet connectivity. This is dependent on many factors, such access to effective infrastructure which is itself in constant need of maintenance, subject to ‘legacy effects’ (additional work required to sustain aging technologies, borrowed from ecology (Cuddington, 2011)), and the pressures of responding to industry-wide innovation.
  • "Industry has a commercial interest in encouraging greater uptake and use of their products and Internet connectivity enables smartphone companies to gather user data and use this to inform and target marketing communications into every handset.
  • "Phone notification systems are complex, with many apps offering reasons and means to alert users and thence hold their attention.
"At the least, we should note the phone’s greater propensity for oscillation, albeit of varying severity, between zuhanden and vorhanden. In another reference to Actor Network Theory, dasein can easily become entangled in this oscillation, to the extent that vorhanden becomes the ‘ordinary everyday’, as if the hammer were continually asserting itself into consciousness. To capture this idea of mobile entanglement, I have coined the blend word mobent which also chimes with the experience of hiatus such moments incur. I want to also make a cultural reference in the sense that ‘having a moment’ is a private affair between two individuals characterised by a raised, likely piqued, emotion. "
I'll get around to explaining myself at a better sound level now I've got a USB-C OTG cable for my phone. My next appearance is at the SOCSI education seminar 1pm 17/1/2018.

Cuddington, Kim. ‘Legacy Effects: The Persistent Impact of Ecological Interactions’. Biological Theory 6, no. 3 (1 September 2011): 203–10.