Week 7 – Issues, tensions and reflections

The Aim

At this stage, it appears that people are starting to move beyond the early struggles with operating in NGL and are starting to exhibit signs of “getting it”. The aim of this week is to encourage you not to “drink the kool-aid” entirely. The aim is to understand that “All models are wrong, but some are useful”, including NGL. This week you will be asked to give some thought to questions of

How and what is wrong with NGL? What are the issues and tensions you could face when using NGL to design an intervention “as teacher”?

Thirsty? by CarbonNYC, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  CarbonNYC 

To achieve that goal this week has a few readings for you to skim and engage with as much as you’d like. As with any topic in this course (or perhaps any topic) there are more perspectives on this topic than we could possibly look at in the time available. So pick and choose which you’ll engage with, and even better, be sure to provide pointers to other resources that complement or are better than the following.

Some suggestions on questions for you to be considering

  1. What does it mean to be critical about the use of technology in learning and teaching?
  2. How will you balance the need to be critical and the requirement in this course for you to use NGL to transform your teaching?
  3. How do distinguish between the poor implementation of this course and any potential short-comings of NGL principles?
  4. What about between your own entrained patterns and conceptions and any potential short-comings of NGL principles?
  5. What are the burning/unresolved issues around NGL for you?
  6. How is all of this going to impact your work on Assignment 2?
    Important: For assignment 2 you will be asked to design an intervention that draws on NGL principles to make a difference in your practice “as teacher”. Hopefully the issues and tensions you start identifying this week will help inform and improve that intervention.

Design-based research – the approach being used in Assignment 2 – has been called an inherently optimistic enterprise since it’s based on the assumption that you can make a positive change. For me it’s always been more inherently pessimistic because it starts by identifying shortcomings in the current situation and then being optimistic enough that you can fix those problems. Which is perhaps why I like this quote from Antonio Gramsci

I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.

Optional exercise/blog post: Having a concrete context in which to “be critical” about NGL is useful. Especially if that concrete context is your “as teacher” intervention for Assignment 2. If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to give a little more thought to what your “as teacher” intervention for Assignment 2 will be. It is probably also a good time to write a blog post sharing your ideas. (Whatever you share now, doesn’t constraint what you eventually consider for Assignment 2).

Being critical

For those of you someway into your studies, hopefully the idea of being critical is nothing new. The following reading is intended to give a taste of this and encourage you to question some of what you’ve learned about NGL.

Read: “Technology and education – why it’s crucial to be critical”. The sections on “The need to be critical…” and “Ways to be critical” are of most interest.

Consider the following questions (drawn from the above), if possible in the context of any initial ideas you might have for your “as teacher” intervention for Assignment 2.

  • What are the “basic but challenging questions” that should be asked of NGL?
  • What is actually new in NGL?
  • What are the unintended consequences or second-order effects?
  • What are the potential gains … what are the potential losses?
  • What underlying values and agendas are implicit?
  • In whose interests is this working?
  • Who benefits in what ways?
  • What are the social problems that digital technology is being presented as a solution to?
  • How responsive to a ‘technical fix’ are these problems likely to be?

If you are particular interested in critical theory (this is optional) then take a look at this article that gives an explanation and then applies to the use of ICT in education. It identifies the following four steps, and is quick to suggest that these are “taken as merely a starting point for research utilizing critical theory”

  1. Identifying ideas or claims that are presented as obvious, inevitable, or matter-of-fact in dominant bodies or sources of knowledge;
  2. Scrutinizing these ideas or claims in the context provided in other more marginal knowledge forms or sources;
  3. Revealing through this scrutiny that behind dominant claims and ideas lay one or more politically-charged and often contradictory ways of understanding the issue or phenomenon in question; and
  4. Using this underlying conflict as the basis for developing alternative forms of understanding and point to concrete possibilities for action.

This web page gives a summary of some of the related literature (including the article above) and might be useful for some.

Issues with NGL

What issues or tensions have you found with your use of NGL in this course? What issues and tensions do you think you might face with your “as teacher” intervention?

The following is a short list of some of the resources that have been shared to the course Diigo group using the tag issues. It’s suggested that you engage with two tasks

  1. Read about the issues.The following list of resources is one place to start..

NGL is about much more than connectivism. Connectivism is just one particular view of some of what fits under NGL. Please don’t limit yourself to these resources and connectivism.

A sample of the “issues” resources include


Which brings us to the end of the provided material on NGL for this course. Next week (week 8) is essentially an extension of reflections on questions such as

  • What do need to still learn about NGL?
  • How will learn it?
  • How did you learn it?

And many more. It’s time to reflect on the course, NGL and figure out how it worked (or didn’t) and what more you need to know in order to complete the assignments.

The following week (Week 9) we’ll take a look at design-based research, which is what you will use in Assignment 2.


3 thoughts on “Week 7 – Issues, tensions and reflections

  1. Pingback: Drinking the Kool-Aid: Desire, models and metaphors | Student Reflections

  2. Pingback: The Writing Hub – Critical of on-line and networked learning

  3. Pingback: Don’t Panic! | BeeLearning Blog

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