Davide Nicolini, (2011) Practice as the Site of Knowing: Insights from the Field of Telemedicine. Organization Science 22(3):602-620.
What I take from these discussions is the idea of LEARNING as embedded and distributed in and across a wide array of practices, and that knowledge is accomplished or enacted in the contexts of practice rather than as something we transmit from our brains to our eyes, mouths and fingers through language – such as reading an academic article, writing notes, and speaking to the paper in a journal club. Also, knowing, learning and practice are inherently collective endeavours. Knowing as a distributed phenomena is enacted with and through the material objects our human bodies are entangled in and with.
For me, there is something distinct about the way we were coming to KNOW in the context of practice that was the Twitter Journal Club compared to how I understand journal clubs to often run. Different kinds of knowing are constituted, different assemblages of practice cohering around the collective activities, different potential ‘selves’ enacted.
There was a beautiful symmetry in the enactments we were engaged in the other day and the content of the paper we discussed. The paper, ‘Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy‘ dealt with the troubled identifications of a team of scholars in the context of what they call a hybrid MOOC. In the paper they discuss the way they negotiated their presence in the MOOC environment; of experimenting ‘with an ethos of scale, and with a notion of the teacher as present, but radically outnumbered’ (62); of being caught between being positioned as the locus of authority and of being lost in a distributed network of knowledgeable participants. They became aware that the teacher did not suddenly become invisible simply because the educative activity was taken out of the classroom to digital space. Contrary to connectivist theories they saw that learning and knowledge did not simply arise out of the network, but was always and necessarily situated. All participants came with histories, philosophies, dispositions. The ‘network’ was a network in a particular space at a particular time, and involved a specific arrangement of concepts, theories, algorithms, terminology and material objects (that constitute the physical structure and organisation of the digital). The specific positionings of ‘teacher’ or ‘student’ could not be prefigured by a theory but were enacted in the practices of logging in, typing, reading, as well as the keyboards, screens, cables, etc. Our identities are performed and accomplished in the doings and sayings (including text) of the MOOC environment.
For the purpose of my discussion here, though, it is important that the paper discusses the way the practice of teaching was disrupted by the specific context of enactment – a hybrid-MOOC. While the teaching team approached the practical task of running the hybrid-MOOC on the basis of collective knowledge (the inherited knowledge of what to do in this kind of situation – know-how), the hybrid nature of the enterprise and their particular philosophical approach (which inserted them as visible if uncertain actors in the MOOC) disrupted the usual ‘ongoingness’ of their practice. Suddenly the know-how was not so un-thought; they had to think about what they were doing and why.
Similarly, our Twitter Journal Club was disruptive of the collective knowledge we brought to the event. We constituted new or revised practices in-situ, in the actual typing-reading-thinking-scratching- sitting-watching; in the computational power of the algorithms that make tweeting possible. Though each individual would bring different sets of experience of tweeting and ‘reviewing’ academic texts, we brought some collective knowledge of the core tasks. However, the situation was different enough to make the process of doing very evident. We were, I would suggest, making it up as we went along. Our ‘learning’ to DO the task (a Twitter Journal Club) was distributed across a range of concepts, physical actions, and material objects that were brought together in a relatively unique arrangement. And, of course, we will get better at it, because the more we DO it, the more certain tasks become un-thought, become part of the ongoing condition of accomplishing a Twitter Journal Club.
But what about LOVE?
Well, it just so happened that parallel to me engaging with the Twitter Journal Club I was reading a Hybrid Pedagogy article that spoke directly to the practices of ‘normal’ academic reviewing. This led to reading HP’s policy on Collaborative Peer Review. While some of the process, in particular making it up in-situ, was demanding, there was a real sense that all the participants CARED for each other. We weren’t dismantling the paper. Instead we mobilised it to generate discussion and lots of questions about PRACTICE. While we did not make it explicit, there was a sense in which we cared for the authors of the paper, we respected their endeavour and their invitation to think. It was a PEDAGOGICAL activity.
I give the closing words to the authors of the HP article ‘Love in the Time of Peer Review‘:
Just as in pedagogical spaces, where we learn through peering review and peer reviewing — peer review is an opportunity to learn and teach simultaneously. In this way we transform scholarship into pedagogy and pedagogy into a form of love.
(Marisol Brito, Alexander Fink, Chris Friend, Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, Rolin Moe, Kris Shaffer, Valerie Robin and Robin Wharton )