BYOD4L: Social Media for Learning Narratives

How often is it said that learning is a journey! It is remarkable then that we, in educational development, do not talk more often about learning narratives. Today Bring Your Own Devices for Learning focuses on the topic of Communicating and, with that in mind, I have organised a ‘smart walk’ at Sheffield Hallam University. The connection between a walk and the idea of communication may appear tenuous, but the notion of narrative explains how one relates to the other.

A walk is a time-based activity; or rather a process. A process is a purposeful series of activities. Each activity provides an opportunity to describe, capture, share, reflect, and receive feedback. On the walk, for example, I have identified a circular route on which we will pause and consider four or five campus landmarks. At each spot we will use a different media to represent the spot on what will become a collective map constructed in another social media; one that is capable of communicating the multimedia narrative ‘map’. The obvious mapping aggregation media are Storify, a blog post or a series of blog posts. But there will be plenty of other ideas for how to represent or communicate a narrative I hope and I will record some of these here tomorrow as the BYOD4L topic moves to Curating.

Where else do we find narratives in learning?

The feedback narrative is something I do not hear people talk about, but is something that in my view, should be the foundation of feedback and assessment design. The learning narrative is fragmented by the administrative functions of a university. Feedback and assessment is too often of a high granularity causing it to lose its connection with teaching, learning and the wider course experience. Ideas and practice have emerged in higher education in recent years to see feedback and assessment as a more formative and integrated experience. However, most academics have responsibility for modules and specific tasks within modules. Smart and social media should consider assessment from a more holistic position given its capability to establish connections and position the learner in more authentic situations. Social media can help both the academic and the learner to put disparate tasks into a bigger picture view of learning.

Feedback narratives, then, suggest personal learning portfolios; ways of curating one’s reflections and feedback.

Course narratives are something else in which we should see episodic activities generating landmark accounts. The use of diverse media including photographs of key activities, videos of important formal or informal events, recordings of peer conversations, assessment products and reflection on these, all suggest how personal or collective social media narratives can be constructed.

Educationalists commenting on the student experience will often refer to student ‘being’ or ‘becoming’. Both concepts describe a meta form of engagement that create a bigger purpose around the learner’s changing identity. Student identity, and it’s management, would seem to go hand in hand with social media. Focusing on the ‘social’ aspect of that, the smart devices and the rich media world we inhabit not only allow us to create and manage our narratives, but allow us to give and receive comments on such learning journeys

About Andrew Middleton

NTF, PFHEA, committed to active learning, co-operative pedagogies, media-enhanced teaching and learning, authentic learning, postdigital learning spaces. Key publication: Middleton, A. (2018). Reimagining Spaces for Learning in Higher Education. Palgrave.
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