Saturday, May 12, 2012

The being-with role in learning

 Being-with is the relationship between entities.

The Self is a being-with creature. 

We are how we be-with the world. 

Our identities are bound up with the way we be-with the world, how we interact with Others. 

Our interchanging identities are our Selves changing between relationships. 

We are not atomised Beings that form and aggregate separate from the world, we reflect our relationship to the world. 

Every millisecond of experience reforms and reshapes our neural pathways to form a shape of the world around us. Our identity is this continuously reformed understanding of the world. 

Without this reformed view we would trip over as we walk upon uneven ground, we would be unable to catch sight of falling leaves. 

We are where we are. We are the relationships we have with things, both living and non-living, around us. 

In the free-flowing world of the internet it is hard to fully grasp our own identity because of the fast changing relationships. The picture in our minds of the world change so fast on the internet that we become disjointed. We find it hard to pin down a recurring image of the place that we sit in in the online world. We sit in multiple places at once. Each tab on the browser represents a different aspect of oneself interacting with others. In any one day we sit as broadcasters, friends, intimates, eavesdroppers and audience, oftentimes switching between modes of being-with within seconds.

In the past the roles in education were fairly distinct between learner and the learning - the student was the audience, the teacher was the broadcaster. But these roles aren't as clear cut any more. The learning process is a lot more fluid on the Internet with learner(s) and teacher(s) (inter)acting as broadcasters, audience, eavesdroppers and even friends simultaneously. Everyone is privy to the discussions and sense-making taking place both inside and outside the learning space, with participants never fully aware of their audience. Without knowing who is in the room it is hard to know which stance to take.

Traditionally, educators set a path to knowledge where we would say, "Here is a body of knowledge. Memorise it, analyse it and then build upon it." Now we have bodies of knowledges and we place the student in the middle of it all and expect them to create their own pathways. We are in danger of abandoning our children in a forest of knowledge and expecting them to find their way home. Part of the reason for the abandonment is because the elders aren't in the forest, they're afraid of it because they don't understand it. Another reason is because pathways haven't been properly developed yet, significant landmarks are yet to be built, creation stories are yet to be told. Relationships with the knowledge and between the knowledge-holders are yet to be established.

As being-with creatures learners build relationships with the subject and the learning process. How often do we hear students say, "I hate Maths" or "I love group work"? It often took an inspirational teacher to turn the negative learning relationship around to a positive one. (Example) These relationships inform students about their identity: "I'm not a Maths person", "I'm more right brained", "I'm good at essays". At the moment it is unclear what relationships are to be formed with this new learning and hence what identities are to be taken up by learners in the process. "I'm a good blogger", "I'm a good commenter", "I like to lurk" and many more identities and roles are yet to be formalised amongst online learners. And amongst all this we are yet to place relative values on these roles in learning.

Big thanks to Bonnie Stewart and her Six Online Identities sessions during the #change11 MOOC this week. Check out her blog for more background.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Allan, for the overview and the ideas: I think you're right that identity conversations can be a way of opening up learning and openness TO learning, online and off. Understanding the kinds of behaviours and identity practices that networks afford and encourage may help us as educators to scaffold interest and engagement among students.