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Keynote: Wenger and Engström - An open dialogue of keynotes' theoretical perspectives

Opening session at the Networked Learning Conference

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Gráinne Conole
3 May 2010

An open dialogue of keynotes' theoretical perspectives and how these contribute to our understandings of networked learning.

Etienne Wenger and Yrjö Engström

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Expansive learning – challenge in research and practice

A quadrant for maping multiple fields of learning:

  • For existing activities ….. new activities H
  • Exploitation of existing knowledge …. Exploitation of new knowledge V

Four areas of the quadrant

LLH Apprenticeship learning

LRH Traditional school learning

ULH Problem-based and project-based learnng

URH Expansive learning

  • Learning embedded in transformations in activity systems
  • Learning orientated at the object of activity
  • Leanring as collaborative creation of new patterns of activity
  • Learning driven by contradictions in present actiivyt
  • Initaitve by mundate disturbances and deviations
  • As longitudinal journeuy through a collectie ZPD
  • Realised by means of expansive learning actions
  • Interventional methodology – the change laboratory

This leads to the following:

  • i.e learning is what is not yet there – object of activity is qualitative transformed so as to open up a horizon of wider possibilities and new actions
  • Collaborative creation of new concepts and patterns of activity – driven by contradiction in present activity
  • Lengthy journey through a collective one of ZPD
  • Socio-spatial dimension – the object becomes bigger in size and encomparsses more actors
  • Temporal dimension – object becomes more durable and spans a longer period of time
  • Ethical-political dimension – the possible consequences of the new object ….

Leads to a simplified cycle of expansive learning starting with questioning, analysis, modelling new solution, examining and testing, implementing, reflecting, consolidation and generalisation to new practice

Gráinne Conole
07:00 on 3 May 2010

Etienne Wenger

Knowledgeability in landscapes of practice – towards a social discipline of learning

What theories of learning should you use? It depends on what story you are want to tell.

As part of some work with the OUUK CPBPL, Etienne produced the following diagram to describe the complex landscape of professional practices

A complex landscape of practice – a body of knowledge, includes: teaching, research disciplines 1…n, regulatory body, workplace a…x, service recipient a… x, professional body,

Boundary projects, boundary practices, peripheral access, boundary objects

Tweet pic:

Distinct carriers of knowledgeability – practice and identity

Each of us are travelling this space, crossing boundaries, your trajectory through becomes a distinct traceability through the landscape and hence is important in its own right.

Knowledgeability of the modulation of identification – accountability and exressibility

Network, activity, community of practice – ways of seeing social structure

  • Activity: object, subject, wildfireds, tools, contradition, ivisio of labour
  • Community of practice: identity participation, meaning, negotiation, reification, competences, boundaries, and identification
  • Network: flows, weak ties, strong ties, translation, enlistment, intermediators, mediators, enlistment

@netcrit #nlc2010 - Wenger puts his finger on it - accountability is the key word in understanding the politics of the CoP

It’s also about how and where you position yourself in your network, your identity, your position, your connections

Latour – translation, enlistment etc.

Activity theory talks about tools

CoP reification, an artefact is a point of negotiation, whereas an object in a network is more of a node, for example a door is a node in a network of flows of intentionality.

We are all jist nodes in a network of flows, how do you become a person in this multiplicity of learning

Gráinne Conole
07:17 on 3 May 2010

Some discussions from the fishbowl session

Project-based learning has a different origin to Problem-Based learning, linked to Dewey, who idolized the crafts. Issue is how are practiced transformed.

Expansive learning was about being radically collective, a deliberate move away from the focus on the individual. It was a radical critique of the then cognitive perspectives, which were very Cartesian in nature. The importance of the collective also in terms of individual learning.  

Wenger/Engestrom - argue that Engestrom's work comes from the socio-cultural, structural, maxist perspective whereas Wenger's is anthropologically in origin.

Wenger's slide maps the three perspective: 

  • Activity - Engestrom
  • CoP - Wenger
  • Networks - Latour

What is the role of Mediating Artefacts in CoP?

Each of the theories have subtle but different views on tools and their role:

  • In AT a tool mediates activity
  • Whereas in Latour whereas a tool mediates tools of intention. Latour talks of an infra-language for the social, to develop a science of the social.
  • For Wenger tool is a reification and from different perspectives it means different things (for the people who designed it or who uses it). For Wenger space and location is very important.

Engestrom references - Ed Hutchins work Cognition in the Wold (1995)

Picture a cube with microgensis as the horizontal axes and sociogensis as the vertical `axez and ontogensis as the route through the cub.

A moment in the flow of activity (sociogensisis – development of the activity system) vs. (microgensis: development of he actions) leads to (ontogensis: development of the person)

Engestrom cautions against too narrow a focus on mediation, on tools, on Mediating Artefacts. It is crucial to remember the OBJECT. Tools in of themselves is meaningless unless you view them in relation to the object and the context.

What are the big challenging objects we need to deal with in today's society?

Gráinne Conole
08:09 on 3 May 2010 (Edited 08:37 on 3 May 2010)

Embedded Content


Giota Alevizou
8:40am 3 May 2010

Engestrom: tool mediation and social mediation hand in hand – if you forget the object, mediation becomes a technologically determinist apparatus…What would Foucault say about this?

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