Networks as predictive tools

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Networks play a key role when there is no objective way to determine performance, claims Barabasi in his new book called: “The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success.” Barabasi examined the career paths of scientists and artists both successful and less successful ones by tracing their networks.  While performance is about each individual, their success is about the people they connect to, therefore for Barabasi, success is a collective measure.

However appealing this research may be I resist the predictive character the author implies. I’d love to read the book eventually, but still, this bothers me. Networks are the very representation of complexity and it is inconsistent to consider them as normative tools where quantitative/statistical data can lead to predetermined results. Networks are all about emergence; thus the inability to predict how and when they will evolve. Sure, sometimes it could be that some patterns reappear, but just like the author says, networks are bigger than us or our ability to control them.

I also fail to see the relevance of the term success in this context. It looks so arbitrary and shallow. As much as I would love to see some professionals’ networks and the way they penetrate society, I’d rather the research focused on their ability to change the world for the better. If success is a collective measure, then it should be evaluated in regard to α collective benefit.

 

For more on this book and image, click here

Critical Pedagogy, new book by Sean Michael Morris & Jesse Stommel

URGENCY OF TEACHERS

Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

  • Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
  • Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
  • Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
  • Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
  • Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Our work, the writers say, has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to re-imagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

 

Preface by Audrey Watters. Book available for online reading here

Education Related Research

CALFEE

The three themes that address this connection are:

  • research as complex learning: In educational research, the goals are to understand and influence significant social practices that are inherently complicated, dynamic, and changeable (…) The generalizability of educational research is obviously challenged by differences among people and contexts, but time and space also matter.
  • research valid for applied outcomes:  To meet the considerable challenges of practical applications, educational research must meet high standards of scientific inquiry (…) Our first point under this theme is the importance of establishing a conceptual framework as a foundation (…) A second point about quality centers on methodological adequacy (…) A third point that has emerged from our experiences centers around generalizability methods  to extend the concept of test reliability
  • research on the application of research to practice: The third theme centers around the possibilities and problems of applying “what we know,” realizing that knowledge is always imperfect. Given the research base of the highest quality, engineering is required to fit the results to new and different settings. Primary among the challenges to this task in education is the disconnect between the worlds of research and practice.

 

Reference

Calfee, R. C., Miller, R.G., Norman, K., Wilson K., Trainin, G., 2006. Learning to Do Educational Research. In Translating Theory and Research Into Educational Practice: Developments in Content Domains, Large-Scale Reform, and Intellectual Capacity, edited by Mark A. Constas and Robert J. Sternberg, Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 77-104

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Illich’s 1971 proposal for deschooling society. Rings a bell?

ILLICH

The most radical alternative to school would be a network or a service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.

Let me give, as an example of what I mean, a description of how an intellectual match might work in New York City. Each man, at any given moment and at a minimum price, could identify himself to a computer with his address and telephone number, indicating the book, article, film, or recording on which he seeks a partner for discussion. Within days he could receive by mail the list of others who recently had taken the same initiative. This list would enable him by telephone to arrange for a meeting with persons who initially would be known exclusively by the fact that they requested a dialogue about the same subject.

References

Illich, I., 1971. Deschooling Society. London; New York: Marion Boyars Publications ltd.

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Activity Theory and Expansive Learning

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Cultural-historical activity theory was initiated by Lev Vygotsky (1978) in the 1920s and early 1930s. It was further developed by Vygotsky’s colleague and disciple Alexei Leont’ev (1978, 1981). In my reading, activity theory has evolved through three generations of research (Engeström, 1996).

  • The first generation, centered around Vygotsky, created the idea of mediation (…) Vygotsky’s idea of cultural mediation of actions is commonly expressed as the triad of subject, object, and mediating artifact (…) Objects became cultural entities and the object-orientedness of action became the key to understanding human psyche (…) The limitation of the first generation was that the unit of analysis remained individually focused.
  • The second generation, centered around Leont’ev (…) Leont’ev explicated the crucial difference between an individual action and a collective activity (…) object-oriented actions are always, explicitly or implicitly, characterized by ambiguity, surprise, interpretation, sense-making, and potential for change. The concept of activity took the paradigm a huge step forward in that it turned the focus on complex interrelations between the individual subject and his or her community.
  • The third generation of activity theory needs to develop conceptual tools to understand dialogue, multiple perspectives, and networks of interacting activity systems (…) Wertsch (1991) introduced Bakhtin’s (1981) ideas on dialogicality as a way to expand the Vygotskian framework. Ritva Engeström (1995) went a step further by pulling together Bakhtin’s ideas and Leont’ev’s concept of activity, and others have developed notions of activity networks, discussed Latour’s actor-network theory, and elaborated the concept of boundary crossing within activity theory.

In its current shape, activity theory may be summarized with the help of five principles:

  • a collective, artifact-mediated and object-oriented activity system, seen in its network relations to other activity systems, is taken as the prime unit of analysis
  • the multi-voicedness of activity systems
  • historicity as activity systems take shape and get transformed over lengthy periods of time
  • central role of contradictions as sources of change and development
  • possibility of expansive transformations in activity systems

Expansion is a form of learning that transcends linear and socio-spatial dimensions of individual and short-lived actions (…) learning is understood in the broader and temporally much longer perspective of a third dimension, that is, the dimension of the development of the activity (…) Expansion is the result of a transition process from actions currently performed by individuals to a new collective activity (…) A transition from action to activity is considered expansive when it involves the objective transformation of the actions themselves and when subjects become aware of the contradictions in their current activity in the perspective of a new form of activity.

 

References

Cambridge University Press. Learning and Expanding with Activity Theory. Edited by Annalisa Sannino, Harry Daniels and Kris D. Gutierrez Frontmatter, 978-0-521-76075-1.

Yrjö Engeström. Expansive learning: Toward an activity-theoretical reconceptualization.

Image available here (Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of education and work, 14(1), 133–156. Taylor & Francis)

Jane Gilbert’s, ‘Catching the Knowledge Wave’

GILBERT

Knowledge society: the social, economic and political changes that are taking place as countries move from the industrial to the post-industrial age

  • based on developing and exploiting new forms of knowledge
  • shows increase in the creative, technology or service based industries
  • linked with developments in information and communications technologies while people’s understanding of time, space and place are changing
  • new forms of info, new ways of presenting info and new forms of money emerge
  • more complex forms of personal identity
  • in economic terms new work order based on fast capitalism and new forms of production and new management systems. this changes the meaning of knowledge, innovation and learning. knowledge is now innovation, innovation is quality and quality control is knowledge management. knowledge, in the Knowledge Society, has a different meaning from the one it has in educational contexts.

Castells: knowledge is not a thing; it is energy; it is defined by its effectiveness in action and the results it achieves; it’s what causes things to happen; it is sth produced collaboratively by teams of people; it is constantly changing. [The Network Society]

Lyotard: he too advocated for knowledge as energy or ability to do things (performativity); used in an as-and-when-needed basis; many reasons, many truths, many knowledges are possible and desirable; traditional disciplinary boundaries will dissolve; new conceptions of learning will develop; people will develop and understanding of an organized stock of public and professional knowledge to pursue performativity, to apply it to new situations. [The Postmodern Condition]

Knowledge:

  • process, not a thing
  • does things
  • happens in teams
  • can’t be divided into disciplines
  • develops in an as-and-when-needed basis
  • develops to be replaced, not stored

Learning:

  • involves generating new knowledge, not storing
  • is a group activity
  • happens is real-world
  • should be just-in-time not just-in-case
  • needs to be a la carte

Minds are not containers, but resources that can be connected to other resources for the purpose of generating new knowledge

To summarize then, developing a Knowledge Society education system involves approaches that can:
Develop new knowledge – through real research, not teacher-initiated projects. Knowledge Age schools need to be producers – not consumers – of knowledge;
Develop multi-modal literacy (understanding and using non-print modes of making meaning – images, sounds, gestures/body language and so on);
Foreground the relationships, connections and interactions between different knowledge systems and different modes of representation;
Emphasize difference and diversity, not sameness and/or one-size-fits-all approaches;
Foreground process not product;
Help learners build a sense of themselves as active knowledge- builders – as having a unique niche, role and/or point of difference/contribution to make.

 

References

Jane Gilbert, 2010. Catching the Knowledge Wave. In Education Canada Vol 47 (3) www.cea-ace.ca,  ISSN 0013-1253

Image available here

information v informational society

INFO GRAPH

  • information society: focuses on the role of info in society, communication of knowledge as it has always existed
  • informational society: indicates the attribute of a specific form of social organization in which information generation, processing and transmission become the fundamental sources of productivity and power because of new technological conditions emerging in this historical period /in parallel to industry and industrial where industrial stands for a society whose ind organization permeate all spheres of activity/ one of its key features is the networking logic of its basic structure which explains the basic concept ‘network society’, however, the rem doesn’t exhaust all the meaning of informational society

 

References

Castells, Manuel (1996, second edition, 2009). The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I. Malden, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-22140-1, pp.21-24

Image available here