constructivism to constructionism

Or from Luddite to Learner; considering the relationship between the learner and knowing, compared to the relationship between the learner and the material, the product of learning and the systems of learning.

I love it when previously discrete areas suddenly connect, intersect and become layered with additional meaning; the learning takes on a deeper level. Which is exactly what happened in one of the courses I’m studying, in distance education. We are looking at Equity Diversity and Inclusion and WCAG 3.0 in order to have more of a universal design for learning approach.

With this we’ve gone back to the roots, studying the ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ developed by Paulo Freire and the critical digital pedagogies that have resulted from this work. I had a ‘ping’ moment when I was listening to some of Paulo Freire’s interviews and remembered back to my student-teacher days to some situations where I could see how this was acted out. I also reflected on Nelson Mandela’s writing and his views towards education and ideas for segregating the oppressor from the oppressed. I imagined Nelson Mandela may have read a copy of this book during his lifetime.

In a chapter in ‘An Urgency of Teachers,’ entitled ‘Is it okay to be a Luddite?,’ I saw an interesting contrast to the call to action at the beginning of the book. The author references an essay by Thomas Pynchon, written in 1984. “Luddites flourished In Britain from about 1811 to 1816. They were bands of men, organized, masked, anonymous, whose object was to destroy machinery used mostly in the textile industry.”

When we look at the speed at which technology and online spaces and modes of communication have flourished in the last twenty years, we can see the 21st century has produced its own version of luddites. Those members of our community who refuse to have social media accounts and are reluctant to get online. Or perhaps they are online in very certain situations or media and are discrediting all other ideas out there. And perhaps in some ways they are right, we know that our dependence on the Internet is starting to change the way that we think and hold items in our memory.

However even as the luddites refuse to be seduced by the glossy graphic interfaces, I feel overall that they are missing out, as they are not looking past the 2D reflections. For surely, in engaging in learning online, it is not only the fact that the spaces are inhabited by multiple learners all contributing to the learning space but also the process of and engagement with the materials. Learning is not such a vacuumed experience as suggested right at the beginning; so where can we find middle ground?

Papert says that computers are “carriers of powerful ideas and of the seeds of cultural change … they can help people form new relationships with knowledge that cut across traditional lines.”

By adopting Critical Digital Pedagogy and it’s principles the gap can be bridged by focussing on the collaborative and community-building aspects. It stops just being a tool and a carrier and becomes the product by which meaningful conversations and connections can be had. In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to reimagine 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.

By looking at what comes our way and taking some time to pause, ask some questions and reflect, we can do a better job of our own learning? And if we’re educators or instructional designers, can we do a better job of creating open and inclusive learning spaces?

Instead of going full Luddite and refusing it altogether, only imagining technology as a one-sided human created super-power of evil? Can we harness the best aspects of technology for learning, and yet still be aware of its pitfalls?

Illustration: Tara Jacoby

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Quinten Sheriff

Quinten Sheriff

global citizen, educator with experience on 4 continents & 6 countries — instructional technology — human performance design — curriculum development — etc