Education and Brexit

From the day of the Brexit poll

I have been a professor of education for 21 years. Like a lot of people in my line of work, I’m committed to the eradication of ignorance and I’m becoming more optimistic about us finding a cure for stupidity. In fact, I’m hoping that 2016 will be the year of ‘peak stupid’ – the year when the tide finally turns.

We have made a significant contribution in Australia. Tony Abbott is no longer our prime minister. Canada has picked Trudeau. Now the baton is with the Brits – you have just a few more hours to get out to the polls and vote to stay in the EU. The ‘leave’ campaign has played to the lowest of human instincts. It’s the day to tell Gove, Farage and Johnson that their time is over.

Next month, we’ll see if Australian Labor can replace the Coalition and clear the way for serious, long overdue, work on inequality and climate change.

And then … it’s back to America for the big one.

Abbot, Gove, Farage, Johnson, Joyce, Bernadi, Christensen, Brandis – and Trump.

Stupidity is expensive, it’s unsustainable and it’s so last year.

After the poll closed

Watching the BBC live map of Brexit votes on Friday, I saw that the last result had come in from Scotland: every constituency had voted ‘Remain’. That’s a country that takes Education seriously.


More recently, The Guardian has published some correlations between demographic variables and Leave/Remain votes – the single strongest correlate for ‘Remain’ votes is with the % of residents who have a university degree.


Source: Guardian

Activity centred analysis and design in the evolution of learning networks

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A talk at the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning at Lancaster University in the UK (May 2016).


This paper provides an overview of, and rationale for, an approach to analysing complex learning networks. The approach involves a strong commitment to providing knowledge which is useful for design and it gives a prime place to the activity of those involved in networked learning. Hence the framework that we are offering is known as “Activity Centred Analysis and Design” or ACAD for short. We have used the ACAD framework in the analysis of 20 or so learning networks. These networks have varied in purpose, scale and complexity and the experience we have gained in trying to understand how these networks function has helped us improve the ACAD framework. This paper shares some of the outcomes of that experience and describes some significant new refinements to how we understand the framework. While the framework is able to deal with a very wide range of learning situations, in this paper we look more closely at some issues which are of particular importance in networked learning. For example, we discuss the distributed nature of design in networked learning – acknowledging the fact that learning networks are almost invariably co-configured by everyone who participates in them, and that this aspect of participation is often explicitly valued and encouraged. We see participation in (re)design as a challenging activity: one that benefits from some structured methods and ways of representing and unpicking the tangles of tasks, activities, tools, places and people

Here’s a pdf of the paper, which is also freely available online as part of the conference proceedings. Cite as: Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2016). Activity centred analysis and design in the evolution of learning networks. Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Networked Learning, Edited by: Cranmer S, Dohn NB, de Laat M, Ryberg T & Sime, JA. Pp218-225. (ISBN 978-1-86220-324-2)

And a copy of the slides, though not all were used in the presentation.


Roberto presents our Design studio paper at CHI

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May 2016: Roberto Martinez-Maldonado presented our work at the CHI conference in San Jose.

Abstract: There is a steadily growing interest in the design of spaces in which multiple interactive surfaces are present and, in turn, in understanding their role in group activity. However, authentic activities in these multi-surface spaces can be complex. Groups commonly use digital and non-digital artefacts, tools and resources, in varied ways depending on their specific social and epistemic goals. Thus, designing for collaboration in such spaces can be very challenging. Importantly, there is still a lack of agreement on how to approach the analysis of groups’ experiences in these heterogeneous spaces. This paper presents an actionable approach that aims to address the complexity of understanding multi-user multi-surface systems. We provide a structure for applying different analytical tools in terms of four closely related dimensions of user activity: the setting, the tasks, the people and the runtime co-configuration. The applicability of our approach is illustrated with six types of analysis of group activity in a multi-surface design studio.

Further information and video on the CHAI website.

QUT HERN Symposium 17 November 2015

I’m really looking forward to being back in Brisbane for a few days – giving a keynote on networked learning at the HERN Symposium: Future Higher Education Research for Future Learning

Slides are here.

The abstract:

In this talk, I will use some of our recent research on networked learning and learning networks to illustrate an approach to researching complex learning situations – an approach which gains power and focus from a commitment to informing real-world design activity. This commitment to serving the needs of (re)design provides a valuable source of constraints on what counts as useful knowledge. In the case of learning networks, periodic redesign can be undertaken by small teams entrusted with the role, or it may be distributed more broadly across many or all involved in the network. Either way, there is a need for methods of analyzing and representing how the network functions, such that those participating in the evolution of the network can co-ordinate their activities.

Some suggestions for follow up reading:

Books on networked learning

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

Carvalho, L., Goodyear, P., & de Laat, M. (Eds.). (2016). Place-based spaces for networked learning. New York: Routledge.

Jandric, P., & Boras, D. (2015). Critical learning in digital networks. Dordrecht: Springer.

Jones, C. R. (2015). Networked Learning: An educational paradigm for the age of digital networks. Dordrecht: Springer.

Design for learning in HE

Ellis, R., & Goodyear, P. (2010). Students’ experiences of e-learning in higher education: the ecology of sustainable innovation. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Goodyear, P. (2015). Teaching as design. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 2.

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a design science: building pedagogical patterns for learning and technology. Abingdon: Routledge.

Background on socio-material; grounded, embodied & distributed cognition

Clark, A. (2003). Natural-born cyborgs: minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the mind: embodiment, action, and cognitive extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor network theory in education. London: Routledge.

Fenwick, T., & Nerland, M. (Eds.). (2014). Reconceptualising professional learning: sociomateral knowledges, practices and responsibilities. London: Routledge.

Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging approaches to educational research: tracing the sociomaterial. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gatt, C., & Ingold, T. (2013). From description to correspondence: Anthropology in real time. In W. Gunn, T. Otto, & R. Smith (Eds.), Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice (pp. 139-158). London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Hodder, I. (2012). Entangled: an archaeology of the relationships between humans and things. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge Mass: MIT Press.

Hutchins, E. (2010). Cognitive ecology. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2, 705-715.

Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment: essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ingold, T. (2011). Being alive: essays on movement, knowledge and description. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ingold, T. (2012). Toward an Ecology of Materials. Annual Review of Anthropology, 41, 427-442.

Ingold, T. (2013). Making: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. Abingdon: Routledge.

Knappett, C. (2011). Networks of objects, meshworks of things. In T. Ingold (Ed.), Redrawing Anthropology: Materials, Movements, Lines (pp. 45-63): Ashgate.

Knappett, C. (Ed.) (2013). Network analysis in Archaeology: new approaches to regional interaction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Malafouris, L. (2013). How things shape the mind: a theory of material engagement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Malafouris, L., & Renfrew, C. (Eds.). (2010). The cognitive life of things: recasting the boundaries of the mind. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of Cambridge.

Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (forthcoming, 2016). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer.

Online learning doesn’t happen online …

Jo McKenzie tweeted a nicely tidied up comment from me at the ISSOTL conference recently.

Jo tweet

One of the reasons I wanted to mention this at the conference is that good empirical research into the study practices of “online” learning is surprisingly scarce. We have a couple of nice examples of research on people configuring their learning spaces in the next book to come from the Laureate project. The book is called “Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning” and should be published by Routledge in 2016. Two chapters that are right on the topic:


Chapter 7: THE SONIC SPACES OF ONLINE, DISTANCE LEARNERS  (Michael Sean Gallagher, James Lamb and Sian Bayne)

If you are interested in this area, see also: Kahu, E. R., Stephens, C., Zepke, N. and Leach, L., 2014. Space and time to engage: Mature-aged distance students learn to fit study into their lives. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(4), 523–540 ( )

ISSOTL – employability and learning spaces

I had the opportunity to speak at a very enjoyable panel session at the ISSOTL conference last week. The panel members focussed on the question: How will universities contribute to students’ employability in 2020? Other panel members were

  • Professor Vijay Kumar, Associate Dean of Digital Learning, Office of Digital Learning, MIT
  • Professor Dawn Bennett, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University
  • Mr Bennett Merriman, Founder and Director, Business Operations, Event Workforce (Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Sport Science, Deakin University)
  • Professor Beverley Oliver, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deakin University, panel chair
  • Ms Siobhan Lenihan, Adviser to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deakin University, moderator

My specific brief was to talk about how universities can reinvent their learning places and spaces – traditional and emerging physical spaces, in the cloud, and in the spaces between – with the question of employability in mind. I made four main points:

  1. The capacity to design and manage learning spaces depends heavily on an ability to articulate the logic connecting specific properties of spaces (physical, virtual, hybrid) to significant educational affordances of various kinds – cognitive, perceptual, epistemic, social, etc.
  2. It’s a mistake to see the physical and the digital/virtual as alternatives to one another: they are best thought of as interwoven. We need to get better at connecting appropriate mixtures of digital and physical artefacts, tools, infrastructures etc to support specific kinds of valued activity
  3. When the future is uncertain, valued activities include: acquiring deep knowledge of a domain; authentic participation in the working practices of a discipline/profession; learning how to be a self-directing lifelong learner. These are familiar enough. But also, learning for an uncertain future ought to involve opportunities to participate in processes of innovation – a chance to engage in collaborative knowledge creation and to design new methods, tools and environments for inquiry.
  4. We shouldn’t think of this as just an institutional responsibility – i.e. to provide spaces appropriately furnished for these classes of valued activity. We should also be helping students to learn how to configure the spaces they’ll need for innovation and work (etc) in the future. Knowing how to construct the right environment for innovative knowledge work, and how to bring together the right mix of talents to analyse and solve a complex problem – these are key meta-level skills for success in an uncertain future.



Learning: Research and Practice

It’s not often I get excited by the arrival of a new journal, but this one is making a terrific start and the papers in the first issue are currently on open access. In issue 1 we have: Mitchell Nathan on gesturing in mental model construction (drawing on research in embodied cognition); Wolff-Michael Roth on a post-constructivist theory of learning; Manu Kapur on productive failure; Deanna Kuhn on argumentation as core curriculum and Alexander Renkl on principles-based cognitive skills.

Learning: Research and Practice is an initiative of the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The journal has been under development for quite some while – great to see the first issue now.

Learning research & practice cover

The Art and Science of Learning Design

There’s a chapter from the work of our ARC Laureate team featuring in this new book. Really pleased with it.

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (In press, 2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Here’s the Overview


A good repertoire of methods for analysing and sharing ideas about existing designs can make a useful contribution to improving the quality and efficiency of educational design work. Just as architects can improve their practice by studying historic and contemporary buildings, so people who design to help people learn can get better at what they do by understanding the designs of others. Moreover, new design work often has to complement existing provision, so the sensitive analysis of what already exists is an essential part of enhancing, rather than undermining, prior work (Goodyear & Dimitridis, 2013). Since many factors can affect what and how people learn, the scope of analysis for design is broad. In fact, it has to go beyond what has been explicitly designed for learning, to take into account the various configurations of things, places, tasks, activities and people that influence learning. Part of the skill of analysis is knowing how to put a boundary on what one studies (Hutchins, 2010). We believe that analysis of this kind can help improve the design of all kinds of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) systems. But to focus our argument, this chapter draws on our recent collaborative analyses of learning networks (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). Our thinking has been influenced quite strongly by the writings of Christopher Alexander on the properties that ‘give life’ to places and artefacts. The first part of the chapter has an ontological function – since analysis involves some decisions about the nature of the existence of its objects of inquiry. The second part illustrates the application of some of Alexander’s ideas to the analysis of the structural properties of learning networks, where the goal of analysis is to inform design.