Blogging the Self in Complex Networks

Jen Ross wrote: “My hypothesis is that working online, and the rise of compulsory reflection in the form of assessed reflective practices, may complicate humanist notions of the ‘true self’ in educational contexts.”

“Online reflective practices occupy the territory of experience and selfhood in especially volatile and shifting ways. The notion of an authentic, choosing, reflecting self is further undermined by the complexities of digital representations, which are like liquid – always in motion (editable, non‐material), but often leaving permanent traces (archives).”

Hargreaves wrote: “In constructing a narrative for the purposes of assessment the successful student understands which kinds of stories are legitimate, and shapes her words accordingly. What is the relationship of these narratives to a true or authentic self?”

As learners, we need to make the emotional shift from showing and acting upon our reluctance over voicing our opinions, to possessing what can be only described as impervious optimism, to be courageous enough to “connect-for-oneself” despite the real possibilities of ridicule and indifference, from oneself and from others.

As learners, we need to make the emotional shift from reticence and fear over voicing our views, and bolster our resolve and strengthen ourselves, so that we can confidently write for ourselves even in the absence of any guarantees of reciprocity, of feedback, or of acknowledgement from others.

This is not what I am seeing- I observe reports from learners at university of frustration of being required to use more than one virtual system such as a learning management system such as Moodle, and a social networking platform, for example. There is great resistance and lack of “buy-in” among both faculty and students, uninterested in doing more than what is required of them, and even, I would hazard, a sense of hostility and resentment. The decision to participate or not is highly dependent on the pay-off anticipated. Time constraints make it a challenge for online learners; requiring them to learn more than what is required to pass their courses is met with resistance.

And all I have to say to this stance is: one is missing the point of using more than one virtual system if one reduces it to a costs/benefit analysis couched entirely in pragmatic terms. We need to instead utilize the supports within the practice network to become more comfortable shifting between learning systems, as this is an implied expectation any significant learning in future.

Researchers are investigating the connection between epistemological beliefs and self-regulated learning skills. There is evidence to suggest that these beliefs pay a pivotal role by setting the standards and driving the individual learner towards intentional learning, regardless of what is externally validated and accredited by degree-issuing institutions.

Academic achievement is just one measure of excellence, as is excellence in the workplace. Lifelong learning skills derived from a strong conative foundation (involving deepening emotional ties to outcomes of connecting) is more lasting, more enduring, and more significant for learners than any of the skills mastered for work, or any of the ideas learned in academia. Conative strengthening is the foundation for intentional liminality, a stance that enables a learner to remain in a state of flux and ambiguity while taking on the tasks of modifying conditions and negotiating circumstances as an autonomous learner.

How to manage our own learning in complex networks?

I am a firm supporter of a pedagogy of practice that cultivates authentic, choosing, reflecting selves of individual learners. This requirement for compulsory reflection is part of the inevitable exchange of information between our own self-system and other systems, an inevitable part of the learning transaction. We become apprentices, investing in the learning activity to commit to a molding process.

There are several different competing narratives. Up till now, technology has been limiting the scope of these narratives. Now, with a wider variety of technologies for creating and re-creating our virtual selves, learners continue to adapt to a cohort within just one system – but it is just one system of potentially dozens that learners routinely enter into and participate in. Most learners, in the view of engaging in multiple online environments daily, make choices to restrict and rationalize their movements, and limit their activities within some systems, expanding their activity in others.

These adjusting, coordinating and monitoring systems are critical for personal learning management. They tend to be covered by the development of both knowledge construction and network construction processes. However, learners are mostly unprepared for the onslaught of shifting priorities required while participating in multiple online learning environments. Using a blogging tool to track one’s own identity construction processes is absolutely crucial, and formal education is not yet setting up the tools to aid learners to become lifelong learners.

Allenna Leonard’s Personal Viable Systems Model (2010) is a significant model for explaining individual learners’ choices to maintain their identity (system integrity), and has a potentially significant role in explaining individuals’ attempts to maintain self-identity as a learner within multiple online learning environments.

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