Webinar – 5th December 2012 – Learning in out of school contexts

A recording of this event is available here.

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Revisiting Learning Lives: longitudinal perspectives on literacy in educational research

Jennifer Rowsell from Brock University  and I recently led this SSHRC funded symposium in Toronto, November 7th-9th 2012. Working with participants from Canada, the UK, the US and Australia we explored the theoretical and practical challenges involved in revisiting broadly defined literacy research subjects and /or sites from the past.

Our starting point was that it would be interesting and generative to revisit research subjects who we worked with over the last 10/20 years. We invited about a dozen well-known and early career scholars  in broadly speaking case study accounts of literacy (loosely defined in New Literacy Studies frame)  to participate in the seminar. We suggested that participants needed to be able to locate and meet up with the ‘actors’ who peopled their account(s), or a least one of them and review with them:

-       either the longer term nature of current literacy practices seeking to contextualise your contemporary accounts

-       and/or their current reflections on the kinds of intervention or project you worked with them in the past

-       and/or how lifecourse experiences may have shifted some of their earlier literacy practice orientations – the travel and traversal[1] of their literacy practices

-       and/or how the current digital regime have may have offered new and different opportunities for those earlier literacy practices

-       -and/or how revisiting these research subjects may reveal underlying trends about current literacy practices in general.

We will be publishing and disseminating our work in the near future.

[1] Lemke, J. (2000). Across the scales of time: Artefacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems. Mind, Culture and Activity, 7 (4), 273–290.


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From Creative Learning to Creative Lives: Contextualising the Youth and Community Non-Formal Education Sector

I gave this talk at the Vancouver Digital Media Ecologies Research Symposium. I argued that the place of ‘not-school learning organisations is firmly if unequally established as part of the ‘ecologies’ of educational provision in many cities across the developed world. In many of these initiatives there is an interest in and commitment to a range of creative actives, art , drama and forms of media making. There is a small if problematic research literature describing and characterising learning in such centres and spaces. In this talk I reflected on what it means to talk about learning out side of the school and explored the significance of some ‘creative biographies’ – examining the effect over time on people who participate in such initiatives when young and what difference it might make to them from a life-long perspective.

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Dis/connected Learning: the social worlds of young people in the digital age

This is the title of a talk I recently gave  in Vancouver at the Harbour Centre to a joint audience from Simon Fraser University and University of British Colombia. I explored three aspects of ‘The Class’. (1) learning in the home (2) learning music outside the school and (3) the social and learning capital made visible through social network analysis.

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Identity, Community, and Learning Lives in the Digital Age – New Publication

This book co-edted by myself and Ola Erstad has just been published by Cambridge University Press. You can order it here.

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Learning at ‘not-school’ publication

My study of the research, theory and advocacy for and about learning in out-of-school settings is now available here.

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The class: social networking and the changing practices of learning – Learning outside the school

This was the title of a talk I gave in the Department for Creative and Cultural Arts,   Hong Kong Institute of Education 27th August 2012.

In the talk I reflected  on two linked themes emerging from The Class project.

- I questioned what it means to talk about the home as a site for learning describing the ‘educational bricolage’ that goes on in domestic environments as parents and children negotiate the pressures of commercial interests in opening up these spaces amidst an intensification of the pedagogicization of every-day life.

- I reported on  the processes, patterns and meanings of how some young people learn music outside of formal education.  Music means different things to the young people and they exhibited a range of different modes of learning to play an instrument and become proficient in musicmaking. These modes challenge, complements, supplement and in some cases suborn the practices of musicmaking we observed at the school.

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The Class: reflecting on a year- long multi-method project

I shared ongoing thoughts from the current research project, The Class, part of the Connected Learning Research Network funded by The MacArthur Foundation as part of its Digital Media Learning program at a seminar for the new centre for Children, Youh and Media at QUT, Brisbane on 24th August, 2012.

Working with an ‘ordinary’ London school, I have been following the ‘learning ‘networks within and beyond a single class of 13-14 year olds at home, school and elsewhere over the course of an academic year – observing social interactions in and between lessons; conducting interviews with children, parents, teachers and relevant others; and mapping out-of-school engagements with digital networking technologies to reveal both patterns of use and the quality and meaning of such engagements as they shape the learning opportunities of young people.

In the talk I reflected  the range of methods, methodologies and heuristics we have used to collect and make sense of a project of this nature and at this scale. I will describe the range of data we have collected, the different methods we used to collect and access it and how we are working to code and interpret it.


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I contributed to a keywords seminar at the Centre for Children, Youth and Media and Queensland University of Technology in August 2012. Using The Class project I talked about how the home is now a contested site of learning.

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Cultural Pedagogies

I gave a paper at an invitation seminar at the University of Western Sydney on Cultural Pedagogies in August 2012. The seminar aimed to to explore discussion  about what might constitute ‘cultural pedagogies’, and to open up debate across disciplines, theories and empirical focus to explore both what is pedagogical about culture, and what is cultural about pedagogy.

My paper was called:

The problem of pedagogy and everyday life or when is pedagogy not a pedagogy?

I argued that contemporary Education policy and research is dominated by interest in and studies of the penetration of learning as a life-long, life-wide project of the self. Significantly driven by speculation about ways that digital technology may (or may not) be breaking down traditional structures of educational provision there is enormous interest in the ‘pedagogization of everyday life’ and development and meaning of ‘informal learning’. For example, I am currently engaged in a year long ethnographic study of one class of 13-14 year olds in London exploring: in what ways do social networks, including digitally mediated networks, enable or impede young people’s learning and learner identity; how children’s digital media activities, embedded in daily practices and regimes of learning and leisure in and beyond the classroom, enable new forms of connected (or disconnected) learning; and how the wider opportunity structures of peers, school, family and community enable diverse learning outcomes.

In this paper I want use findings from this project – in particular the different ways that participants frame the idea of ‘learning’ in school and in everyday life -to question casual and generalised uses of pedagogy as an analytic category in studies of ‘not-school’ learning. I want to argue that principles of progression, of change over time, and expertise must be central to the term’s usefulness rather than simple (and empirically problematic) ideas about subjectivity and identity. Whilst there is no doubt that we can describe all sorts of frames and ‘opportunity structures’ that construct (and delimit) opportunities for learning, how useful is it to bracket all of these together as forms of pedagogy?

A draft version of the paper can be found  at seftongreen discussion paper2


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