I wanted to study under him: can this be post-technical?

*Originally posted at Learning Exchanges on 11 September 2009

I had a great conversation with a friend this morning about the JISC Greening ICT programme. I was asking him how he got interested in this whole area of work – he works in our important Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development. In explaining his journey he noted that one tutor had inspired him through his dedication to deliberation, and his commitment and action. My friend made the wonderful statement that he “wanted to study for longer under him”.

The notion of studying *under* someone rocked my thinking because it highlights an environment that can be “covering” or “shielding” or “holding”, and that is safe and secure enough to enable a learner to become her/himself. This covering or holding will take different forms at different times. I argue elsewhere that:

Wesch went on to talk about his teaching and learning strategy trying to overcome a “participation gap” between his students and his curriculum, and therefore him. The value I take from this is the power of relationships that enable learners to define themselves. New media are important because they offer the opportunity to build new relationships and ways of working, and thereby, in Barnett’s terms, to become themselves as an agent in the world. This is crucial because it aligns with the work of Winnicott on the value to the individual of an enabling environment where s/he can be held whilst making sense of the world. This act of holding is based on trust and engagement within a secure space, that is engaging and not fragmented. Both the environment and the relationships have to be good-enough to enable the individual to make sense of themselves and what they feel and want to achieve.

I think this is important in light of some thinking around the term post-technical, and how and where we hold learners whilst they develop the emotional, technical and cognitive skills they need to become themselves. Ian Truelove delightfully argues that we need to define an approach that sets the right “tone for learning”, and this is amplified by Ed Summers in his inkdroid blog:

“We make a mistake, I believe, when we fixate on particular forms and technologies, taking them, in and of themselves, to be the carriers of what we want either to embrace or resist.”

This then connects into our current debate over the VLE-PLE. What types of environments do we need to provide in order to hold our learners. Can this be linked to spaces that are free-ranging? I tried to outline some thinking about this linked to participation in learning, but it is time revisit this, in light of the simple statement that “[I] wanted to study for longer under him”.


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