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Posted by on Aug 24, 2016

New chapter: Field Activity and the Pedagogy of Simultaneity to Support Mobile Learning in the Open

Pekka Ihanainen and I have a new chapter out on our field activity and pedagogy of simultaneity learning approach for open spaces as part of the Research, Boundaries, and Policy in Networked Learning series, edited by Thomas Ryberg, Christine Sinclair, Sian Bayne, and Maarten de Laat (stellar group of editors, by the way). This emerged from our presentation and paper at the Networked Learning Conference 2014 in Edinburgh. The chapter can be found here:

It is a concept that Pekka and I explore quite a bit, this open learning in open spaces. Field activity is an attempt to provide the activity some systematic structure (akin to the fieldwork of social or natural scientists), but ultimately the learner is defining their own learning objectives, their own discretion in making sense of the materials they encounter, and so forth. Pekka and I define open a bit differently than how it is employed in the open learning literature, steering away (a bit) from open as accessible (open learning, open source, open code) and more towards open as lacking immediate structure (open space). We define it elsewhere:

Open is space without a predefined form, space outside a course, resource, or learning structure. Open  can refer to urban, rural, suburban, or natural spaces; it can refer to physical, digital, or hybrid spaces of both (as is often the case with mobile learning in a physical context). It can refer to a walk down the street, a daily commute, a quiet meditation in the corner of a cafe or a lake shore etc.

A learner in this space must contend with the lack of a predefined learning objective, the lack of a predefined cache of learning materials, or even a full awareness of the learning potential in the space itself. Learners in this open context often respond to these “everyday rhythms” to create “everyday practices”, or methods of making meaning in these open contexts. These everyday practices help us make use of open space; they tend to be informal and can be individual or socialized methods for making meaning in uncertain environments.  These environments tend to be mobile insomuch as they are not geographically predefined; there is no predefined space for learning.

So the chapter is essentially how to make use of the space as presented in situ, simultaneous rhythms and continuums of presence and activity. The abstract follows below and I included the original slides for the conference above (partly as Pekka’s hand-drawn ones are lovely). Ultimately, and I think this is the point of the chapter, there are systematic ways to approach learning in spaces without predefined structure that drawn on the natural character of the place itself (hence the discussions on rhythms and continuums) and the natural character of the learner involved (activity, presence, absence, and so forth). This is a subject I am exploring methodologically as well with James Lamb and Jeremy Knox in our work on urban methodologies, but Pekka and I are all about the learning.

The urban space itself is secondary to Pekka and I, and that is partly what works about our collaboration. He prefers the rhythms of the bucolic rural to the staccato pulses of my urban but the approach is sound across both: we can systematically orient ourselves to the potential of the open space for learning (what we call in another paper an aesthetic literacy). The abstract for this chapter is below:

Field activities are presented in this chapter as a mechanism for enacting learning in the ‘open’, either in response to formal disciplinary learning activities or to support those moored in informal learning practices. Field activity represents a disciplinary model found across the (field) sciences and throughout the humanities. Mobile technology has accelerated the process and potential for “coming to know” in the field by allowing the learner to engage multiple layers of meaning, social presence, time, and place simultaneously. This chapter identifies three continuums in which this simultaneous activity is taking place, continuums that emerged from the learning activities conducted in Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Edinburgh, London, and Seoul: the serendipity-intentionality of learner orientation, the informal-formal activity structure and the initiative-seduction-sense of intervals continuum of human presence. All three speak to the variety of learner engagements that occur as a result of mobile learning and field activity. All three, although not exclusive, need to be considered when developing learning activity situated outside the classroom.

This chapter advances the belief that new pedagogical approaches are needed to account and make use of these continuums of activity. These continuums overlap and are simultaneously engaged in by the learner to generate context and understanding in mobile, open spaces. The Pedagogy of Simultaneity is proposed to account for these layers of overlap and simultaneity. In this pedagogical model, learning in open space is enacted through trust, discussion, and collage. Teachers can generate field activities that emphasize this layered environment for learning. This pedagogy addresses the complexity and simultaneity present in mobile learning, particularly mobile learning in the open spaces of the everyday.

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