A Remixing and Reflection on the Distinguished Workshop by Associate Professor Steve Wheeler

Written by Ng Cheng Cheng

Promising “discovery of … new and emerging pedagogies, practices and theories around learning with new technologies” (workshop abstract), the Distinguished Workshop discussed real behaviours on social media that participants could take note of and potentially leverage on.

Postulating that “identification through digital mediation has become the new cultural capital” (Wheeler, 2009), Associate Professor Steve Wheeler pointed out that people are now members of many different “digital tribes” (ibid.), capable of switching rapidly between different tribes with their particular behavioural norms. Easily tapping into the affordances of multiple digital tribes, platforms and modes of behaviour, new learners in particular, are likely to be “more self-directed, better equipped to capture information, more reliant on feedback from peers, more inclined to collaborate, [and] more oriented towards being their own nodes of production”. (Waters, 2011) The following slide captures the kinds of participation they can engage in:

Distinguished Workshop

The challenge for educators would be in devising ways to tap on technology and tools, and the networks of these digital communities of practice, to enable students to learn with the help of knowledgeable others. If students are more likely to “learn by making”, “remixing”, “repurposing” and then “performing”, “what would happen if we could harness [students’] actions for really good pedagogy?”

To craft sound pedagogies where the use of technology serves good purpose (to enhance, enrich or extend learning and/or research), it might be useful to be mindful of the following:

  • Learners of different age groups can have very different understandings of acronyms and language use on social media, which hence necessitates judicious explanation.
  • As individuals derive from different contexts, hold different frames of reference and hence have different purposes (e.g. to tap on communities for curated content, to reach wider audiences, for personal branding, to build networks for collaboration opportunities, to garner reactions to/critique of created content etc.) and even fears underlying their use of social media, some conscious cognizance of these can help educators devise better-informed learning processes and guidelines.
  • When content makers have to share publicly, there is often increased incentive to engage in more reflection, more accurate presentation of data and citations, better proof reading etc.
  • Some students need to be reminded that what is shared publicly will leave digital footprints and can no longer be controlled.
  • There are crowd behaviours such as folksonomy (also known as social tagging, collaborative tagging, social bookmarking etc.) where users classify and highlight to other users electronic data such as websites, pictures etc. -those tagged more become more important to the community. This reflects the wisdom of crowds where the collective group can be much more intelligent than the most intelligent members. However, there are times when such behaviours might unfortunately be mob mentality, or might just simply prevent digital natives from acquiring broad-based understanding of concepts or fields of study. Technological tools such as data analytics can also be used to collect, measure, and analyse data about behaviours and contexts.
  • There may be need to manage the downsides of technology / social media use (such as information overload, anxiety, distraction, boredom and even simple technical issues like setup time.)
  • Assoc Prof Wheeler opined that educators and learners now need digital literacies, and transliteracy (i.e. the ability to communicate/translate between platforms, presenting/expressing self equally well regardless of technology/platform) appears the most important:

Distinguished Workshop

Some theories shared in the workshop for more nuanced understanding of learning in the digital age include:

  • Rhizomatic Learning (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004): which postulates that things digital are all connected under the grid in a convoluted, extensive way, with no centre or boundary, like plant root structures. Oftentimes, people learn through serendipitous discovery, like Baudelaire’s Flâneur (Benjamin, 2006) strolling through the streets.
  • Connectivism (Downes, 2007): the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore … learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks” explained in the workshop as “It’s not what you know, but who you know”.
  • Heutagogy (Hase and Kenyon, 2000; Blasche, 2012): the study of self-determined learning (non-linear and self-directed)
  • Paragogy (Corneli & Danoff, 2012): the theory of peer-to-peer learning and teaching which addresses the challenge of peer-producing a useful and supportive context for self-directed learning.

Besides the above, Assoc Prof Wheeler also took participants through several activities to simulate some of the digital behaviours discussed, invited discussion and reflection about current ways in which learning technologies are used, and shared about tools such as content aggregators and learning activities (e.g. blimage, blideo, twisted pair etc.) incorporating social media. The workshop hence gave participants welcome insights into digital/social media behaviours, and ways of leveraging on them.

List of references:

Benjamin, W. (2006). The writer of modern life: Essays on Charles Baudelaire. Harvard University Press.

Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

Corneli, J., & Danoff, C. J. (2011). Paragogy: Synergizing individual and organizational learning. Published on Wikiversity. Cit, 33.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (2004). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. London: Continuum.

Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is [Web log post]. Retrieved from Half an Hour http://halfanhour.blogspot.sg/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. ultiBASE In-Site.

Slides and quotes from Steve Wheeler from

Wheeler, S. (2017). “Learning in the Digital Age” [Powerpoint presentation slides] Retrieved from National University of Singapore Teaching Academy Distinguished Workshop 2017.

Go top