Young people’s learning in digital worlds: the alienation and re-imagining of education

Being educated is a particular cultural narrative central to growing up in our societies whilst only a part of the learning that we do is explicitly valued and conceptualized as such. We tend to think of learning as an activity that takes place within schools. Yet a returning issue with these institutionalized forms of learning is its failure to grab young people’s interest. Simultaneously, these young people spend their time (and money) voluntarily on actively engaging with digital media.To research the way in which learning is re-conceptualized in online communities, we will, through ethnographic research, attempt to capture young people’s own experiences as well as reflect on the workings of specific digital media platforms. This research project hence asks the question: how are young people through their engagement with online communities, re-imagining contemporary cultural narratives of learning?

This project is undertaken in conjunction with the University of Utrecht through a PhD scholarship. The project website can be found here.

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Towards a cultural history of digital autodidacticism: changing cultural narratives of education

This essay just published in the Brazilian journal, Perspectiva, here argues that the various new imaginaries of the connected, creative, autonomous, coding, motivated and making digital learner have their roots in diverse and older visions of a different kind education system (especially the craft learner working in communities of practice) than that promulgated by the human-capital inspired neoliberal governmentalised States in the world today. Tracing the histories of the older imaginaries in a cultural history of autodidacticism I examine how they become incorporated by, and thus recalibrate competing visions of the “new learner of tomorrow”.s

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Defining the limits and possibilities of progressive literacy education: lessons from schooled and out -of-school music-making in “The Class”

In this talk at the SIG ” Writing and Literacies at the April, 2019, AERA , Toronto conference, In this presentation I reflected on what’s involved in understanding learning from such a lifewide/lifelong perspective and described 4 cases of young people’s formal and informal music education from the middle class graded piano examinations through to self-taught use of Youtube videos. I examined these cases of music learning as “literacy events” showing how they can be understood in terms of tensions between both vernacular and high culture as well as progressive and traditional modes of teaching. The challenges of progressive literacy education – validating a whole range of out-of-school multi-literate social practices are brought into sharp relief through the stories of very different kinds of meaning making in music. 

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The non-formal arts learning sector, youth provision, and paradox in the learning city

The ‘learning city’ contains a range of non-formal learning economies. In recent years researchers have focused on, what has been termed, the non-formal arts learning sector, to document best practices, the emergence of new literacies and/or cultural practices, and to highlight interventions that support otherwise marginalised and underserved communities. Yet, for all of this attention, the non-formal learning sector has remained an opaque object, defined by hazy boundaries, diverse programme structures, and a presence in cities that is difficult to grasp. In this paper we develop an account of the non-formal arts learning sector for socially disadvantaged youth by treating it as a ‘socio-technical assemblage’ of the learning city. We draw on data from the Youthsites research project and examine the history, priorities, and tensions in the sector between 1995 and 2015, a period when the youth arts sector has become a significant feature of urban space. We trace the emergence of the sector in three global cities, analyse a series of paradoxes linked to income and property, the labelling of youth, and organisation aims, and show how these paradoxes shape the sector’s broader relationship with the state, labour and consumer markets, and related institutions that allocate support for young people.

This article comes out of the YouthSites project and can be found here.

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Crossing boundaries between home and school: teachers and the challenge of digital connectivity

In November, 2018, I was invited to visit South Korea and to give a talk at a conference jointly organised by the Reading Association of Korea and the Association of Korean language education at the National University in Seoul. A video of my presentation can be found here.

My talk described research examining the lives of secondary school students at home, at school, with their peers, in out-of-school activities and with families and friends showing how digital technologies are recalibrating personal social and civic relationships. It then reported on a project called “the everyday digital” which helps teachers learn about the lives that their students are now living on screen and online and how to transform that knowledge into appropriate and relevant knowledge, pedagogy and school policy.

I also visited ?#?opencampus_?????? a school for creative arts in the alternative school sector as well as the Geongyyi Research Institute for education at Suwon meeting colleagues and sharing experiences.

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Changing family cultures: the politics of learning with digital media

In October, I spoke at the YCC network ( young, creative, connected) in Madison Wisconsin. The aim of the symposium was to focus broadly on the ways that digital media may or may not be “changing” the nature of learning in the home. I co-authored a provocation paper for the event which you can find here.

My presentation was entitled “What counts as learning in the home?” And can be found on YouTube here.

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This changes everything! What “the digital” means for the purposes and practices of education (2)

I gave a more detailed version this talk recently at the University of Sydney as part of the Media@Sydney series. This version can be found online here.

It a more elaborate argument about how schools and education systems are caught in the headlights of the digital era. Just as John Dewey formulated the principles of education for democracy in the context of violent industrialisation, rapid urbanisation and unprecedented social change in a new and emerging nation, so the global effects of computerisation and the digital are going to transform the wider purposes of education in both liberal democratic and authoritarian societies. This talk aimed to open up debates around: the changing function and practices of school itself; the wider purposes of digital literacy; changing nature of civic participation in an increasingly digitalised and datafied society; and the limits of the discipline of Education as principles and practices buckle and strain in an increasingly competitive and unfair world.

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This changes everything! What ‘the digital’ means for the purposes and practices of education

I recently gave a talk on this topic which can be found on YouTube, here.

The argument is that schools and education systems are caught in the headlights of the digital era.

Educational reformer, John Dewey, created the principles of education for democracy as America was emerging as a new nation during a time of violent industrialisation, rapid urbanisation and unprecedented social change. Now, the global effect of computers and the digital era are going to transform education systems in liberal democratic societies.

This webinar aimed to inspire debate about the changing function and practices of schools, the wider purposes of digital literacy, and the limits of Education as principles and practices strain in an increasingly competitive and unfair world. Il also discussed the changing nature of civic changing nature of civic participation in an increasingly digitalised and datafied society.

This webinar will draw on recent research projects and offer principles to build a critical approach to digital media and culture, structured around principles of social justice.

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Learning beyond the School

Following a seminar in Oslo in 2016 this book is now out. It explores the argument whilst whilst learning is central to most understandings of what it is to be human, we now live in a knowledge society where being educated defines life chances more than ever before.

Learning Beyond the School brings together accounts of learning from around the world in organisations, spaces and places that are schooled, but not school. Exploring examples of learning organisation, pedagogisation, informal learning and social education, the book shows not only how understandings of education are framed in terms of local versions of schooling, but what being educated could and should mean in very different social and political contexts.

With contributions from scholars based in Australia, Europe, the USA, Latin America and Asia, the book brings together accounts of learning outside of school. Chapters contain rich and detailed case studies of innovative projects, new kinds of learning institutions, youth, peer-driven and community-based activities and public pedagogies, as well as engaging with the dimensions of an argument about the place and nature of learning outside of the school. It challenges dominant versions of school around the world, whilst also critically discussing the value and place of non-institutionalised learning.

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Researching the Everyday Digital in Children’s Lives

This new project based at Deakin University offers a structure and a process to support teachers to learn about their students’ every day digital experiences with the aim of developing appropriate curriculum and school based policy responses. We want to develop a genuinely critical future oriented way of doing school – that builds on the extraordinary knowledge and social practices that young people and their families are already developing at speed.

The project website is here.

An interview about the project can be heard here and here.

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