Don’t Panic!


It’s already supplanted the Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for two important reasons. First, it’s slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC printed in large friendly letters on its cover. (Adams, 1979: p.7)

Sunday is my day to catch up on all the thinking and reading that I have been doing all week and put it all into words for our Networked and Global Learning course. Not an easy task as Miranda quite rightly points that we can speak more easily than write (I have re-written this sentence several times and it has taken me a lot longer than had I said it). I have taken solace from the words of my fellow students as they also battle with online learning (networked learning?) and the effects that this is having on us as students, learners and teachers. Angela’s post highlights that teachers are spending more time teaching students socialisation skills, is this because children spend less time in the company of other children? Playing on the street, negotiating, constructing knowledge with others? David asks:

From Angela’s post I would be more inclined to ask:

  • What social problems are being created by the use of digital technologies?

Week 7 of our course is aptly titled Issues, tensions and reflections and confirms the undercurrent of PANIC! in my thoughts. If only I could meet up with my teacher, fellow students to allay some of my fears, collaborate and construct my knowledge. I have been reading that knowledge is built (constructed) through our thinking and interaction with information. Two elements have come to light that do not occur in online learning (my emphasis):

  1. …a social practice account that ignores the nature and development of the complex skills involved in listening and speaking will not properly explain what is observed when capable professionals collaborate (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014: p.7).
  2. Touch and movement are deeply connected with the process of constructing knowledge (Cabrera & Colosi, 2012: p.120)

The first point is probably the most obvious, in the online networked environments we have people speaking via videos and the learners listening but there is no connection or relationship between the two. If I record myself speaking, I will not know whether you have understood when you are listening (asynchronously). I cannot react to your expressions, gestures or tone of voice and vice versa. This is a huge loss to being able to construct knowledge for both the listener and the speaker.

The second point focuses on haptics. Haptics is “the study of touch and the human interaction with the external environment through touch” (Minogue & Jones, 2006: p.318). Referencing Seymour Papert, Cabrera & Colosi note:

…that people learn most easily when they put things together. He [Papert] concluded that better learning did not come from finding better ways for the teacher to instruct, but from giving the learner better opportunities to construct (2012: p.120).

One could say that we, the students of NGL, are constructing our knowledge by the creation of our blogs, that can include speaking but is mostly about writing and reading and certainly least about touch (unless you count my touch typing).

Random side note: this might be why Apple computers are so popular they are so nice to touch 😉 … this was not written on a Mac 😦

Thus for me, and others in the course such as Angela, Miranda and Natalie, our lack of opportunity to listen and speak is strongly felt. And if you are also a tactile, spatial, kinesthetic learner then knowledge construction is vastly more difficult in an online networked environment.

Adams, D. (1979). The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Sydney: Pan Books.

Cabrera, D., & Colosi, L. (2012). Thinking at every desk: Four simple skills to transform your classroom. WW Norton & Company.

Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Minogue, J., & Jones, M. G. (2006). Haptics in education: Exploring an untapped sensory modality. Review of Educational Research, 76(3), 317-348.

One thought on “Don’t Panic!

  1. All good points about what is missing in online/NGL. However, I wonder how much of this due to our existing frames of reference and how much of it is due to not thinking through how this can be catered for in NGL.

    In terms of frames of reference, for many people the social, face-to-face situation is how we live and learn. It is the experience that underpins our frames of reference. It’s what we look for and miss. online learning does do away with much of that, hence it’s not surprising that it is missed and the worse for it.

    But does that mean that the social, face-to-face situation is the best way to learn, or simply the way we’ve learned until now?

    As an introvert/computer nerd – with a somewhat different frame of reference – I don’t feel the same sense of loss from a move into online/NGL. In fact, I find most face-to-face learning environments less than compelling, but then of course most of those are reasonably large groups. A one-on-one or very small group f-t-f situation is a different kettle of fish.

    I wonder whether an NGL approach can be tweaked to better compensate for what’s missing?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s