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  • Mark 11:55 am on April 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Education, educational research, , neil selwyn,   

    Social media and education… now the dust has settled 

    My notes on Selwyn, N., & Stirling, E. (2016). Social media and education… now the dust has settled. Learning, media and technology, 41(1), 1-5.

    This special issue of Learning, Media and Technology is a sequel to a 2009 issue which began to inquire into the emergence of ‘social software’ and what it meant for teaching. Seven years later with social media platforms ubiquitous, the online/offline distinction having collapsed and a ‘social’ element being a standard feature of new technology, it asks how social media platforms are actually being used in educational setting, what the implications of this use, their interaction with their institutional context and how they are transforming it in the process.

    The main difference they see between 2009 and 2015 is “the extent to which social media have become part of mainstream digital practices and everyday life in general” (2). They make the interesting point that this means the term itself now lacks resonance outside of the academy, as platforms have faded into the background of everyday life:

    “The pervasiveness of social media is illustrated neatly by the lack of resonance that the term now has with the general population. The characteristics and qualities that made social media such a distinct and exciting ‘thing’ in 2009 are now normalized to the point of not being an obvious topic of conversation, let alone meriting a specific label” (2)

    Yet their uptake is far from uniform. Many people don’t have internet access, many are subject to a ‘device divide’ in which they are only able to access platforms through phones and/or non-broadband connections. These divides are profoundly regionalised. They also note how significant it is that the study of social media has grown in the way that it has, with approaches as different as platform studies and computational social sciences illustrating how wide this field is if indeed it constitutes a feed at all.

    Social media has been an increasingly prominent topic in education journals. However, as the put it, “many of the most interesting (and, we would argue, most important) questions about social media and education remain largely ignored by education researchers” who tend “to look primarily for good news, ‘best practice’ and examples of ‘what works’”. There is much hope still that social media will be “the ‘Killer App’ capable of initiating significant shifts in how people learn and engage with education”. However the social media research outside of education has shown us that its use by young people is complex, contradictory and contested. We need educational research that confronts this multifaceted character head on. There are exception to this but these studies “remain overshadowed by broad-brush accounts of social media use in the classroom” (4).

     
  • Mark 1:52 pm on April 20, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , digital capacities, digital competence, , , Education, huw davies   

    Is digital upskilling the next generation our ‘pipeline to prosperity’? 

    My notes on Davies, H. C., & Eynon, R. (2018). Is digital upskilling the next generation our ‘pipeline to prosperity’?. New Media & Society, 20(11), 3961-3979.

    It’s so rare for a paper to have such a wonderfully informative title. Huw Davies and Rebecca Eynon interrogate this assumption that “teaching young people digital skills and literacies will help advanced market economies compete with their rivals and deliver prosperity” (3961-3962). Computer Science is now part of the Natural Curriculum for all children in England aged 5-14 after a campaign by a range of actors, underscoring the creative dimension of computing alongside its importance to the economy and status as a life skill. Through doing so, “the creative use of technology was assimilated into a ‘set of capacities’ or skills that professionals acquire in order to participate in the labour market” (3962). Digital skills are framed as the “primary antidote to economic decline” and coming disruptive shocks, with the pipeline becoming “the default metaphor in policy discourse to suggest the economy is a machine that feeds on a fixed, constant supply of digitally up-skilled youngsters” (3692). These skills are presented as a way to enhance social mobility, incorporating digital skills into a particularly narrow and nationalistic  understanding of economic need. In the process, caution Davies and Eynon we see a “highly problematic co-option of important intrinsic or civic benefits of digital engagement into economic discourse” (3963).

    Their study was undertaken in two deprived areas of Wales, withe fieldwork in two schools effected by similar inequalities, one in a former mining town and the other in a deprived area of Cardiff. Their questionnaire was administered to one year 9 and one year 10 class each school and one year 12 class in the Cardiff school (the other school had no sixth form). 15% of respondents reported parents who had been to unviersity and around 70% of these parents worked, typically in the manual or service sector. These questionnaires were then supplemented by workshops undertaking as ICT classes in a year 9 and a year 10 group at each school. These activities focused on gaming practice, marketing games and asking students to draw mind maps to represent their digital ecospheres. I thought this was a particularly interesting method and I’ve been thinking recently about how to use creative methods like this to explore people’s platform imaginaries. For the year 9s ICT was compulsory whereas it had been deliberately chosen for the year 10s. The third method was semi structured interviews with 10 students from each year group at each school (n=50) with questions about digital practice, motivations, ambitions and skills. These were used to build a typology of the ways in which young people talk about their technology practice, drawing on the interview and workshop data initially supplemented by additional data from the survey.

    The cyber kid discourse seen as the start “tacitly assumes young people’s motivations and the class of conditions that influence these motivations are (or should be) universal” (3966). it goes hand-in-hand with a tendency to homogenise digital technology seeing it in more or less uniform terms. This is belied by their finding that “Digital technology’s multifunctionality is mobilised by young people who have different personalities and socially shaped motivations, incentives and constraints guiding them” (3966). These are the categories they developed for the taxonomy:

    • Non-conformists: mostly young women, experienced a sense of estrangement from the school’s prevailing culture yet were able to find interlocutors online. The majority were in the 15 years old group and were “using social media as a resource to develop their identity” (3967). Their orientation to digital opportunities was entirely on their own terms, including the possibility of entrepreneurial activity through these means.
    • PC gamers: mostly young men, with a passion for gaming and the technical skills that went with it. This included hands on experience building PCs, with CPUs adequate for the intense graphical demands of modern games. Their interest in PCs came from their experience of the limitations of consoles. Interestingly, many reported that it had initially been a way to spend time with their fathers but as they progressed it became a peer-to-peer activity, suggesting game as male sociality. Furthermore, their fathers were more likely to be technical or professional than other children’s, suggesting a vector of class reproduction. The coding they had been presented to them at school was largely unappealing, yet they engaged in highly technical pursuits ranging from the aforementioned PC building through to YouTube channels, writing games in C++ and some minor consulting.
    • Academic conservatives: mostly female, with a shared commitment to formal education which they saw as more important than digital technology. They framed it as a distraction from these much more important ends. They used social media but were measured and controlled in their digital practice, not having friends who they didn’t also know online. Their aspirations lay in what partisans of the digital future would see it as quintessentially 20th cnetury jobs.
    • Pragmatists: their use of technology was restricted to specific purposes, tending to see it as a means to an end rather than end in itself. For example social media would be used to arrange meet ups or reminisce about those that had taken place in the past. They had often experienced digital exclusion (e.g. “limited money for games their friends played, lack of home access to the Internet, feeling behind in terms of digital skills, or having constrained access to the Internet for safe- guarding purposes” 3972) and their pragmatism could be framed as a response to this.
    • Leisurists: the largest group, tending to see the internet primarily for entertainment and cultural consumption. For them technology is a way of pursuing their interests, often happily leaving them within walled gardens and synchronising devices with parents and family. These activities “tended not to translate into pursuing a passion or developing skills that could be monetised in the digital economy” (3973).

    The digital skills discourse suggests (a) a convergence between the needs of the economy and the needs of young people which can be met through digital skills (b) a denial of alternative motivations for young people that may not feed into this (c) the lack of structural constraints upon where digital skills can take them in the labour market. Their paper is a challenge to “the deterministic discourses that tell young people learning to code would be an act of economic self-interest that will, in turn, defibrillate the economy” (3976). The fact of having coding skills won’t lead to some magical capacity to transcend structural conditions, particularly for young women in a overwhelmingly male dominated industry.

     

     
  • Mark 9:52 am on April 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cyberkid, digital childhood, , digital native, Education, school, ,   

    Beyond the myth of the ‘cyberkid’ 

    My notes on Facer, K., & Furlong, R. (2001). Beyond the myth of the’cyberkid’: Young people at the margins of the information revolution. Journal of youth studies, 4(4), 451-469.

    In this paper from 2011, Facer and Furlong consider how the assumed digital competence of young people has led them to figure much less heavily in concerns about digital inequality. Schemes were emerging to ensure internet access through public terminals and subsidise computers for those who can’t afford them but these were aimed primarily at at an adult population that was underskilled and deprived of access. Even if the term ‘cyber kid’ they analyse may have passed from use, the series of associations expressed within it feel extremely familiar. From pg 452:

    Young people, it is popularly assumed, are part of the new ‘digital generation of cyberkids’, ‘children are at the epicenter of the information revolution, ground zero of the digital world’ (Katz, 1996). The ‘cyberkid’ myth derives from diverse sources: in science ction, notably Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’, the term ‘cyborg’ was originated to suggest the fusion between human and machine; more recently, commentators have argued that the ‘cyber’ derives from the Greek ‘kubernan’ or navigator, suggesting that the cyborg signi es full human mastery of technology (Oehlert, 2000). The term ‘cyberkid’, rather than cyborg, however, emphasizes the element of youth in the equation and derives from a long-stand- ing association between ‘youth’ and ‘the future’. Young people, like technolo- gies, are constructed within current popular discourse as the natural inheritors of future societies, and young people’s mastery of technologies is read off as inevitable through a process of con ation of these two ‘future trajectories’ (see Sefton-Green (1998) for a further discussion of this association). The cyberkid myth, then, derives both from future visions of technology–human relations and from long-standing discursive constructions of the role of children in society, generating a ‘shorthand’ for the relationship between children and technology. While the term ‘cyberkid’ is used predominantly within academic discourse, the associations between children, mastery of technology and the future in popular discussions of the ‘information revolution’ can be named the ‘cyberkid myth’.

    These are reinforced through the contrast between young people’s assumed enthusiasm for computers and old people’s assumed fear. But this is orientated towards compelling adults to learn and engage, with computers otherwise being framed as a threat to young people. To appropriate computing technology easily is seen as a potent means to accumulate cultural capital. But conversely there is a prevalent fear that to appropriate it too readily undermines the quarantine of childhood from adult life, exposing young people to all manner of threats. The spectre of the ‘cyber kid’ is “a double-edged sword, both the promise of the future and a threat to the security of young people” (pg 453). This is reinforced by academics trends preoccupied on the one hand with the confident adoption of digital technology by young people and their creative uses of it, on the other hand forms of addition, compulsion and harm which young people come to through their use of computing technology. This reflects a broader tendency for youth culture to be banished from public consciousness, described on pg 453:

    Namely, that youth cultures are rarely represented within wider popular culture, that their emergence into popular consciousness occurs only when their presence ‘erupts’ into visibility through events such as riots, raves, criminality or other challenges to the stability of everyday life, or when the wider culture is undergoing a significant period of transformation and accordingly invests its hopes and aspirations into the promise of future stability, a future heavily dependent on the role of the children now growing up in its midst.

    Unfortunately, researchers ask questions which entail “an engagement only with those children who are thought to be spearheading a spectacular information revolution” (pg 453). In this paper, the young people who are actively dissociating and/or struggling with digital technology are brought to the fore, as figures who tend to be rendered invisible in academic research and popular culture due to the trends described above. They describe this tendency in terms of a deficit or essentialist model, relating young people to a grand narrative of the digital revolution and erasing the meaning which digital technology has for them in their lives and the uses to which they seek to put it or don’t.

    Defining a lack of access is more complex than it might seem to be. Having equipment at home doesn’t mean children meaningfully have access to it. It says nothing about the conditions in which confidence with technology can be acquired. Furthermore, competition within the family means what access and expertise is available may be unevenly distributed. The project their findings are from is described on pg 455:

    The project included a large-scale survey of the computer use of 855 children in southwest England and South Wales in eight schools (all children were aged between 9 and 14 years at the start of the project), and 18 case studies over an 18-month period of children who were using computers on a regular basis at home [….] On the basis of analysis of 855 questionnaire responses, 46 children were asked to participate in group interviews lasting approximately 1 hour in school. Within this sample, children reporting that they ‘disliked’ computers formed 50 per cent of the interviewees (of whom one-half had access to a computer at home); children reporting that they ‘loved’ computers but did not have access at home formed the remaining 50 per cent of the interviewees.

    Three themes emerged from the surveys and interviews: “issues of access”, “issues of relevance to day to day activities” and “the potential of formal educational contexts for reproducing anxieties and inequalities of access”. They found that while income was a significant factor in the likelihood of owning a computer, it was far from the sole determinant. The decision to buy a computer reflects a process of prioritisation which reflects a range of concerns of both adults and children, as well as past experiences and familiarity with computers e.g. if the primary focus was on entertaining the children, games consoles could do this more cheaply. Furthermore, those with access at home are more likely to take advantage of access elsewhere (e.g. at friends houses) while those without are less likely to do so.

    Their findings were particularly interesting when it came to mismatches between the perceived functions of the computer and children’s own self conception e.g. it was perceived as indoor and sedentary in a way off putting for those who prioritised outdoor pursuits, or as a ‘friendship supplement’ necessary for those who had an active social life. This could even manifest as social sanction, with one girl describing being seen to voluntary use the library computer as ‘social suicide’. Competing discourses mean young people have to negotiate between their own pleasures, acceptable attitudes and adult interventions when it comes to computers.

    Unstructured access to computers at lunchtime and in breaks seems to be taken up unevenly, with children who own computers being more likely to use them. This suggests computer access at school may be reflecting and amplifying inequalities, rather than mitigating them. The authors suggest that the ‘cyber kid’ myth may be reinforcing this by leaving teachers assuming that children’s natural enthusiasm will be sufficient to take advantage of unstructured time with the computer. It means those without access will feel excluded from the authoritative culture, those with inadequacies will feel they are not catered for within school and those who feel they are seen as outside the mainstream will construct themselves as such. The authors link these questions to the issue of what it means to be successfully young in an environment where digital technologies are increasingly ubiquitous. From pg 463:

    Embedded at the heart of this debate is a debate on what it means to be ‘successfully young’ in the digital age. In exploring how low computer users express their attitudes towards computer use, it becomes clear that these competing constructions of the ‘cyberkid’ become a battleground on which they construct their de nitions of being ‘successfully young’.

    This linkage of computing competence and suggests leaves some young people engage in face saving activity, distancing themselves from computing through the deployment of negative stereotypes towards those who are confident and familiar with the technology. This might include appropriate adult discourses of eye strain, internet addiction and social fragmentation to legitimate their distance. If you assume that giving access is sufficient to ensure engagement then you completely obscure the complexity of who is interested, confident, competent and willing to use computers amongst young people.  They stress the importance of the banal in getting to grips with the complex reality of how young people orientate themselves towards technology. From pg 466:

    The term ‘banality’ is used here to generate an engagement with the creative, productive, subversive and conformist day-to-day lives of young people, and to pre-empt a reactive and equally deterministic engagement only with young people who are seen to ‘reject’ the dominant values of digital youth cultures

    This focus helps move beyond a focus on the creative achievements of early adopters on the one hand and the problems of the struggling and pathological on the other. It raises the question of how to conduct research with those who lack the spectacular aspects of technological use without merely assuming a deficit as a consequence. It also highlights how other modes of access to technologies (e.g. mobile consoles which those who avoided computers were often familiar with) might become important as points of access to the internet which should not be excluded from the classroom. This seems like a remarkably prescient point when read 18 years from publication when mobile phones have become ubiquitous. They argue that “debates on technological solutions to the digital divide need, therefore, to move away from generalizing statements about ‘access to technologies’ and towards more detailed engagement with the patterns of use of specified software environments” (pg 467) with the potential implications of the aforementioned desktop/mobile divide for capacity to produce and engage as well as to consume content being one such example.

     
  • Mark 9:48 pm on December 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, ,   

    Debates about the nature of education 

    From Margaret Archer’s Social Origins of Educational Systems pg 4:

    There is nothing more pointless than the debates which have now lasted for centuries about the ideal nature of education. The only function they serve is in helping individuals and groups to clarify their educational goals, to recognize the implications of their chosen aims, and sometimes to get others to share them. They remain sterile unless and until they are harnessed to an understanding of the processes by which present education can be changed to conform to the ideal.

     
    • Patrick Ainley 6:03 pm on December 8, 2018 Permalink

      can’t agree with this, Mark. Education also contributes to creating the ideal, whether this is a good or bad ideal. P.

    • Mark 4:55 pm on December 9, 2018 Permalink

      That’s exactly what I think the second line is saying! Only difference is he is saying that the ideal will always be bad in practice if not informed by an analysis of process and that’s what debates in this register chronically get in the way of

  • Mark 5:24 pm on November 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, frustration, , Paulo Freire, , tolerance   

    Social media and the (im)possibility of tolerance as an epistemic virtue 

    In the last public interview with Paulo Freire, he talks about tolerance as the means through which we realise the “the rich possibility of doing things and learning different things with different people”. Social media can provoke the curiosity Freire talks about, exposing us to a universe of difference but it also often generates irritation in the face of that difference, inclining us to dismiss rather than understand.

     
  • Mark 7:18 am on January 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bureucracy, , , Education, , , , , , ,   

    The social struggle between collegiality and bureaucracy 

    The network scientist Emmanuel Lazega studies collegiality and bureaucracy as ideal typical forms of social organisation which co-exist in a fluctuating balance within organisations. Collegiality involves actors recognising each other as autonomous, existing in relationship to each other and necessitating consensus as a preliminary for what will always be non-routine action. Bureaucracy merely requires interaction, being organised around hierarchy and impersonal relationships, operating through routine action. 

    As I understand Lazega’s outlook, these modes of organisation always exist in tension because collegiality is a threat to bureaucracy, as the formation of collectivity between autonomous actors intrinsically carries the possibility of solidarity and subversion. What are otherwise bureaucratic organisation rely on residual collegiality, often organised into what Lazega describes as ‘pockets’, in order to perform non-routine tasks which necessitate creativity. However bureaucracy remains suspicious of collegiality, seeking to minimise its overall function and the autonomous character within the collegial  coordination which remains necessary within the organisation.

    The ethnography of Dreamfields academy undertaken by Christy Kulz in her Factories for Learning offers a vivid account of strategies which bureaucracy adopts in its war against collegiality. From loc 1221:

    A staple in most schools, the omission of a staff room was another design decision described by SMT members as a positive move to prevent factionalism and increase productivity. Mr Vine feels staff rooms are places ‘where staff go and hide out and try to avoid students’ and are ‘a breeding ground for negativity … where people get together and talk about others or moan’. Mr Davis thinks the lack of a staff room fits ‘the businesslike nature of the school’. Administrator Mr Fields feels private-sector businesses and Dreamfields share a similar work ethic: 

    “There is no doubt that people at the school work very hard … it’s not a question of, well, you come here and you can relax for the first hour and have a cup of tea and have a long lunch break, which I think is probably still the case in some local authorities, but here people do work really hard. “

    Eradicating the staff room symbolically severs Dreamfields from the perception that local authorities are unproductive spaces in comparison to private businesses, responding to narratives of public-sector failure. Staff taking a break or talking to one another are framed as troublesome activities eliminated by preventing congregation.

    The teachers are only too aware of how this prevents them gathering together. As one describes, it is “very clever that we don’t have a staff room ’cause it means that people work harder then, and they can moan, but they moan less because there are not so many people gathered together, moaning together” (loc 1241) This ‘moaning together’ might otherwise be the coalescence of collectivity from which a challenge to the bureaucratic organisation of the school might ensue. The headteacher describes a similar concern to break up collectivities of children: “We do not have groups of more than six or seven congregating together. If you see large groups of children, you need to break them up so they do not cause silliness and mayhem” (loc 1241). They even breakup such congregations outside the school grounds. Such ‘silliness and mayhem’ is precisely what bureaucracy fears in collegiality and why it seeks to stamp it out.

     
  • Mark 7:11 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Education, , ,   

    Before the culture war on universities, there was a culture war on schools 

    Reading Factories for Learning by Christy Kulz, I was fascinated to learn of the new right’s cultural war on the educational establishment in the 1980s which I had only been dimly aware of. I knew the central place of the local authorities in this but I hadn’t realised how central education was to these attacks. From loc 376:

    These changes intersected with the widely publicised ridicule of some local councils as bastions of ‘loony-left’ policies by New Right Conservative politicians and the popular press. The New Right used numerous fictitious tales targeting white anxiety to attack anti-racist education, presenting it as the cause of British cultural decline (see Gordon, 1990). Concerns over local anti-racist movements were crafted ‘into popular “chains of meaning”’, providing an ‘ideological smokescreen and hence popular support for the Thatcherite onslaught on town hall democracy’ (Butcher et al., 1990: 116). Outlandish tales of political correctness gone awry blurred the lines of causality, with New Right organisations tying left-wing extremists and slumping educational standards to the development of anti-racist education (Tomlinson, 1993: 25–6). Many local authorities adopted less robust approaches to race equality towards the late 1980s owing to negative publicity, while the Labour Party avoided directly identifying with radical urban left authorities. Sally Tomlinson (2008) describes how there was far more commentary on anti-racist, multicultural education than action within schools. Yet the political climate of the late 1980s veered towards framing anti-racists, rather than racist attitudes, as the problem (Ball and Solomos, 1990: 12).

     
  • Mark 8:10 pm on March 19, 2016 Permalink
    Tags: , Education, , , , , ,   

    Notes on the Uberisation of Doctoral Education 

    Notes for a panel I’m doing in April with Claire Aitchison, Inger Mewburn & Pat Thomson. The idea for the panel was partly provoked by this Discover Society piece.

    I’m an enthusiast about social media for academics. But for all the examples I see around me of social media enriching and enhancing scholarly practice, it’s hard not to be concerned by the broader context within which this is taking place. These problems are hugely worrying in their own right: the casualization of academic labour, the ceaseless ratcheting up of the expectations placed upon academics and the replacement of professional self-regulation by hierarchical audit all contribute to an environment I’ve talked about elsewhere, with my collaborator Filip Vostal, as the ‘accelerated academy’. But what I’m increasingly preoccupied by is how social media for academics doesn’t just take place within this context but rather influence how academics, individually and collectively, shape this context through resisting or reinforcing these pernicious tendencies.

    It’s easy to see how social media for academics might fit into the ‘gig economy’ which we’re seeking to explore through this panel. It’s straight forward to imagine how rootless and nomadic academics would make themselves available through their online presence and mobile technology. What was once loftily conceived of as a vocation, though in reality more often simply a career, instead finds itself reduced to an endless iteration of ‘gigs’. In a way, the only thing I find implausible about this Doonesbury cartoon is the lack of digital technology in the world of employment it represents:

    Picture1

    Digital technology further fragmenting the academic workforce, scattering overly earnest scholars who seek only to teach and research across the international system, measuring and scrutinising their activity as they are ranked hierarchically to determine who gets first access to gigs that are ever shrinking in number as MOOCs replace the bulk of university teaching. Is this the future we face?

    There’s something dystopically intoxicating about this narrative. In fact that’s what makes me suspicious of it. The polarisation of the academic labour market was not something caused by digital technology and there’s no reason to assume it will be intensified by it. In fact, if we look at how doctoral students and early career researchers are using social media, we can see lots of examples of social media being used to enhance the autonomy of younger academics: raising their visibility, helping them create networks and sustain a sense of professional identity when their working lives are split across many institutions.

    My point is not to counterpoise a ‘good news story’ to a ‘bad news story’. For what it’s worth, I do think the picture is pretty bleak. But if we reduce the uptake of social media by academics to an extension of managerial power then we’ll struggle to understand exactly what influence it is having. If we impute too much to the technology then we fail to do justice to the social processes through which any technological influence is necessarily mediated.

    Much depends on how social media is taken up by academics. The potential outgrowths of it are diverse: everything from what I’ve elsewhere described as ‘networked solidarity’ (including, though not limited to, satire) to displays of academic incivility which can only fairly be described as ‘trolling’. The key question for me concerns which of these uses become more likely under present circumstances and how these influence might, in turn, feed back into changing that context or reinforcing its existing characteristics.

    I wonder if the key issue might simply be why people are turning to social media. My fear is that we are seeing a growing sense in which people feel they have to use social media. There are many potential reasons why this perception might be becoming widespread:

    – how central social media is becoming to debates about impact and public engagement
    – the growing frequency with which training is offered in universities
    – the message this implies about the desirability of engagement
    – people seeking contributions for things like collective blogs
    – universities, departments and research centres seeking contributions for such projects obviously has an additional dimension to it
    – stories about career success founded on an online presence: a sense that this stuff is crucial for career opportunities, without anyone being able to specify quite why this is the case, perhaps propped up by a few mythical cases
    – the anxiety about not missing out on opportunities which inevitably abounds within an unhealthy job market.

    My fear is that if ‘social media is the new black’, something which everyone is expected to do, instrumental concerns will come to squeeze out the more nebulous joys and satisfactions which can be found at present.

    Social media for academics might provide a framework within which the ‘Uberisation of Higher Education’ becomes entrenched. But it might also provide a bulwark against it, facilitating solidarity and collective action between those who are nonetheless dispersed across many workplaces. We simply don’t know yet. But that’s why we have to be careful about how we conceptualise these platforms, the tools they offer for academics and what it means for them to be taken up within a changing landscape of higher education.

     
  • Mark 7:59 am on April 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, , radical education,   

    Dear academic hive mind, please help me identify radical education projects in the UK 

    A few years ago I produced a list of all the radical education projects that sprang up in the wake of the government’s agenda for higher education ‘reform’. I didn’t really have a clear definition of ‘radical education projects’ beyond people “trying to explore different, freer and more autonomous ways of learning”. Looking back at the list now, I’m struck that I’ve forgotten what half of these projects actually were or how I came across them:

    1. Left Overs (podcast)
    2. The Social Science Centre
    3. The Really Open University
    4. The Really Free School
    5. The University for Strategic Optimism
    6. The Third University
    7. The University of Utopia
    8. Campaign for the Public University (podcast)
    9. The Free University of Liverpool
    10. Birmingham Social Centre and Free School
    11. WikiQuals
    12. Student as producer
    13. The University of Incidental Knowledge
    14. The University Project

    It seems I saw a family resemblance between a lot of different projects I encountered in a very specific period of change within higher education. However a conversation with Nick Mahoney yesterday has left me wondering if my focus on responses to government policy was overly restrictive: it left me ignoring things that were more recent (the post-occupy education projects) and things that were much more long standing (the Workers Education Association). So I’d like to compile a new list of projects that represent different, freer and more autonomous ways of learning. Any suggestions? Here’s my attempt:

    1. The Social Science Centre
    2. The Ragged University
    3. The Workers Education Association
    4. WikiQuals
    5. New Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies

    It’s interesting to look through the previous list and see how many of the projects lapsed within a few months and how many continued for a few years. I’d love to interview people involved in both, as well as those that are still ongoing, in order to understand how these developed over time and how they changed the people involved.

     
  • Mark 5:37 pm on March 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Education, , , , ,   

    Heating up the floor to see who can keep hopping the longest 

    This expression by Will Davies has stuck with me since I read it a few months ago. Teaching is a disturbing example of the process Will is alluding to: ratcheting up demands on staff to the point where many are unwilling to continue. In fact increasing numbers seem unable to continue:

    The BBC has also seen a survey of 3,500 members of the Nasuwt teaching union which shows more than two-thirds of respondents considered quitting the profession in the past year.

    Workload was the top concern, with 89% citing this as a problem, followed by pay (45%), inspection (44%), curriculum reform (42%) and pupil behaviour (40%). In addition:

    • 83% had reported workplace stress
    • 67% said their job has adversely impacted their mental or physical health
    • Almost half of the three thousand respondents reported they had seen a doctor because of work-related mental or physical health problems
    • 5% had been hospitalised, and
    • 2% said they had self-harmed.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-31921457

    Much of the issue here stems from the demand for ‘excellence’: as David Cameron recently put it, “if you’re not good or outstanding, you have to change. If you can’t do it yourself, you have to let experts come in and help you”. For head teachers a bad Ofsted report can mean the end of their career and this tyranny of excellence mutates into something ever more brutal as it works its way down the hierarchy.

    Replace ‘heads’ with ‘HoDs’ and ‘Ofsted’ with ‘REF’ and we can see the same trend at work in higher education. Meanwhile the VCs fly around the world, creating strategic partnerships to actualise latent synergies. Here on the ground, one in six universities refuse to answer freedom of information requests about their expenses.

    Across both spheres, we can see people breaking the professions, one personal tragedy at a time, while rewarding themselves extravagantly for doing so.

     
  • Mark 4:22 pm on October 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, ,   

    CfP: Ethics and Education Research 

    ETHICS AND EDUCATION RESEARCH 

    Friday, 30th January 2015

    Lecture Theatre J, Lecture Theatre Block,

    University of Surrey

    CALL FOR PAPERS

    This seminar, supported by the British Sociological Association’s Education Study Group, aims to bring together researchers, from all career stages, who are interested in exploring further the ethics of education research. We welcome papers that focus on any ethical issue(s) relating to conducting education research, including, but not limited to:

    ·         Ethical principles

    ·         The role of ethics committees

    ·         Regulatory frameworks

    ·         The ethics of research design

    ·         Ethical dilemmas in data collection

    ·         Working with funders and sponsors

    ·         Informed consent

    ·         The role of participants in research

    ·         Positionality and the role of the researcher

    ·         Dissemination

    ·         Variation in ethical principles and practices across place and space

    The seminar will end with a wine reception, sponsored by Sage, to publicise the book ‘Ethics and Education Research’ which has been published recently.

    Abstract Submission: Please send abstracts of up to 250 words by 30th November 2014 to Rachel Brooks at the University of Surrey:r.brooks@surrey.ac.uk.

    Registration: £35 standard price; £25 for PhD students and unwaged. To register, please follow the link on the conference webpage: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/sociology/news/events/2015/ethics_and_education_research_seminar.htm

    Conference organisers: Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey) and Meg Maguire (King’s College, London)

     
  • Mark 1:53 pm on January 7, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, sociology of education,   

    Popular Education Network Conference 2014 – Malta 

    The 6th International Conference of the Popular Education Network (PEN)

    Thursday 24 – Saturday 26 April 2014

    University of Malta Valletta Campus

    This conference seeks to build on the success of previous PEN conferences held in

    Edinburgh (2000), Barcelona (2002), Braga (2004), Maynooth (2007) and Seville (2011).

    The conference is an opportunity for university-based teachers and researchers, student-activists and others involved in higher education, who share a common interest in popular education – many of whom work in considerable isolation in their own institutions – to meet, exchange ideas, learn from each other and enjoy some much needed solidarity and conviviality.

    The language of the conference will be English.

    For a better understanding of the rationale of the conference and for immediate steps to follow:

    http://www.um.edu.mt/events/pen2014

     
  • Mark 12:36 pm on November 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education,   

    Education, Emotions and the Future Seminar 

    The study of emotions within the field of education has been a growing area of study, which has highlighted how emotions are central to student’s learning and educational experiences both positive and negative and to the practice of education itself by teachers (Zymbylas 2007). Where education is often positioned as a rational and logical practice (Kenway 2011), this seminar will question what happens when emotions are considered in educational processes and projections (both real and imagined) of educational futures.

    We would like to invite you to attend a one day seminar on ‘Education, Emotions and the Future’ taking place on the22nd January 2014 at the University of Leicester. The event is open to all, but is particularly aimed as postgraduate researchers. It will explore the role that emotions play within educational environments, in the creation of educational futures and the perceptions of risk in the education process. We hope the day will develop and form new discussion and debates about the role of emotions in education and will be a relaxed and friendly environment to share ideas and current research projects.  Confirmed keynote speakers include Rachel Brooks (University of Surrey) and Darren Webb (University of Sheffield). Space will be given for Postgraduate Research Students to present their work and we would welcome contributions to present a paper.

    We would welcome papers based broadly on emotions and education including but not exclusively:

    Emotions in the construction of educational futures Emotions in mainstream educational space Governing emotions in education Emotion and risk in Education Hope, emotions and education Affect in the classroom /educational space Parents/carers, emotions, and education Education and the pursuit of happiness Emotions and pedagogy Risk and the future Emotions around the subversion and resistance of education Emotions in non-mainstream education

    The conference is free to attend but spaces are limited so please email gs210@le.ac.uk to reserve a place by Friday 6th December. Please send abstracts to tag10@le.ac.uk by Friday 6th December.

    There are also a limited amount of travel bursaries for unwaged / PhD students.

     
  • Mark 12:01 pm on July 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Education, ,   

    The strange world of educational viral marketing 

    Does anyone else get e-mails like this?

    I went through your blog while surfing in Google, and was very much impressed with your site’s unique information. So, just thought of dropping you a note of appreciation.

    Well, my name is Jenny and I’m from Graduatedegreeprogram.net. We recently published an infographic “13 Unusual Masters Degrees” which I think falls right in line with your blog’s content. You can check it here: http://graduatedegreeprogram.net/unusual-masters-degrees/.

    I hope you would be interested in sharing it with your blog audience. Please let me know if you have any concern.

    The precise content of them varies. Sometimes they’re asking me to share infographics, occasionally articles and often asking if I will accept a ‘guest post’. They’re invariably polite but nonetheless written in a style which makes it obvious that the recognition of my “site’s unique information” served solely to add my name to a very long list. What they do all have in common though is that their websites never explain who is behind them. It’s viral marketing but without any discernable economic aim. The sites have no advertising, rarely any branding beyond that pertaining to the topic and I cannot see how any financial benefit accrues to whoever is doing this. Any insights into this strange world of educational viral marketing would be welcomed, as I’m receiving ever more of these e-mails and I’m utterly baffled by them.

     
    • patlockley (@patlockley) 2:24 pm on July 19, 2013 Permalink

      .ac.uk addresses are SEO gold.
      Anything academic gets bundled into it
      Site sits dormant so you don’t turn it down, then flipped

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