New article on online learning ecologies with Susan Carter

Download here.

E-learning is not just a learning and teaching innovation; it also signals a shift in human cognition and communication. The lexicon of e-learning borrows from the barren lexicon of information science: of users, usage and usability, or of information-seeking and affordances. Deep e-learning requires a more fecund idiom, a new myth: of the digital agora, an e-learning ‘trading zone’. Here we reflect on the process of shaping an electronic version of our generic doctoral skills sessions, during which it occurred to us that, to match the benefits of interactivity in face-to-face teaching and learning and to be transformative of academic subjectivity, e-learning must be truly performative, rather than merely informative; e-learners (and e-teachers too) must enact the skills they hope to learn (or teach).

New article by Stephen and me rereading NZ creative educationalist Elwyn Richardson

Sturm, S., & Turner, S.F. (2015). The tyre-child in the early world. Educational Philosophy and Theory: Incorporating ACCESS.

In the Early World

The abstract:

This article considers the ‘creative education’ of influential Aotearoa/New Zealand art educator Elwyn Richardson, which is based on what he calls the ‘discovery method’: the ‘concentrated study of material from [students’] own surroundings’. Through a game that his students play with tyres, we explore the role that tools play in Richardson’s classroom and in the imaginary ‘worlding’ of his students’ play. By taking the ‘early world’ of the children’s development to be a product of the tools through which they describe it, we reveal Richardson’s educative process to be essentially technological. His idea of the whole child who emerges through a process of experience and observation – of ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, in the well-known phrase of Wordsworth cited by Richardson – conflates the nature of the child and nature of the ‘natural’ world. By this act of ‘natural settlement’ not untypical of settler narratives in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the child’s – and, by implication, other settlers’ – relation to the world of nature is naturalized. Instead, we would argue that the child’s relation to nature is altogether unnatural: it is imprinted by the technological means through which she explores the world and makes it her own – and by which she is made over. The ‘tyre-child’ is no child of nature, but a child of technology (as every settler is a technological settler), for whom creative errors – acts of ‘mis-taking’ like the ones Richardson’s children make in playing with tyres – reveal an imaginary capacity at once theoretical and unsettling.

First fifty reads free for non-subscribers apparently at

What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research by Coe et al. (A summary)

Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S., & Elliot Major, L. (2014). What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research. London: Sutton Trust. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from

  1. What makes “great teaching”?
  2. What kinds of frameworks or tools could help us to capture it?
  3. How could this promote better learning?

Q1. What makes “great teaching”?

Effective teaching is that which leads to improved student achievement using outcomes that matter to their future success; student progress is the yardstick by which teacher quality should be assessed. [This statement makes several assumptions: that “achievement,” or grades, indicate learning; that so-called relevance – “outcomes that matter to … future success” – is the goal of learning (with what counts as success being undefined and “outcomes” of learning assumed to be what we should value) — Sean]

Strong evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. content knowledge
  2. quality of instruction

Moderate evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. classroom climate
  2. classroom management

Some evidence of impact on student learning:

  1. teacher beliefs
  2. professional behaviours

Q2: “What kinds of frameworks/tools could help us to capture great teaching?”

A formative teacher evaluation system (based on continuous assessment and feedback rather than a high-stakes test) must triangulate a range of measures, from different sources, using a variety of methods.

Moderate validity in evaluation:

  1. classroom observations by peers, “superiors” or external evaluators
  2. “value-added” models (assessing gains in student achievement)
  3. student evaluations

Limited validity:

  1. the judgement of superiors
  2. teacher self-reports
  3. analysis of classroom artifacts and teacher portfolios

Q3: “How could this promote better learning?”

Teacher learning can have a sizeable impact on student outcomes, especially when structured explicitly as a continuous professional learning opportunity in which

  1. the focus is kept clearly on improving student outcomes
  2. feedback is related to clear, specific and challenging goals for the recipient
  3. attention is on the learning rather than to the person or comparisons with
  4. teachers are encouraged to be continual independent learners
  5. feedback is mediated by a mentor in an environment of trust and support
  6. an environment of professional learning and support is promoted by the institution

And …

What doesn’t work?

Here are seven common teaching practices that are not backed up by evidence:

  1. Using lavish praise

Use praise that is valued by the learner

  1. Allowing learners to discover key ideas for themselves

Teach new ideas, knowledge or skills directly

  1. Grouping learners by ability
  2. Re-reading and highlighting

Teach students to test themselves at intervals to allow for productive forgetting

  1. Addressing issues of confidence and low aspirations

Enable students to succeed and their motivation and confidence should increase

  1. Teaching to a learner’s preferred learning style
  2. Active learners remember more than passive learners

Get students to think about what you want them to learn – “actively” or “passively”

Digital Caricature

A new article by Stephen Turner and me about the digitas published in DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly (link):

For Vilém Flusser, philosopher of technology, the advent of photography heralded the return of the image from its subjection to the linearity of written language. Here we extend his concept of the “techno-image” (successor of the pre-historical hand-drawn image and the historical printed word), to consider the digital image-text that today dominates reading and writing. Our question: Can we reader-writers think the digitas, or are we doomed to perform its functions in an “automati[c]” or “robotiz[ed]” fashion, as Flusser put it, so that, if anything, the digitas now “thinks” us? The short answer to our question is as follows: we can think the digitas, but only if we consider it, firstly, as a kind of writing (“digital orthography”) and, secondly, as a caricature of thinking, both impoverished and, dare we say it, funny (“digital caricature”).

Sommer, E. "Portrait Vilém Flusser". Vilém Flusser Archive. 2012. Reproduced by permission of Ed Sommer.

Sommer, E. “Portrait Vilém Flusser”. Vilém Flusser Archive. 2012. Reproduced by permission of Ed Sommer.

John Cage on the demilitarization of language

John Cage in a radio interview, August 8, 1974 (link):

I let it be known to my friends, and even strangers, as I was wandering around the country, … that what was interesting me was making English less understandable. Because when it’s understandable, well, people control one another, and poetry disappears — and as I was talking with my friend Norman O. Brown, and he said, “Syntax [which is what makes things understandable] is the army, is the arrangement of the army.”

So what we’re doing when we make language un-understandable is we’re demilitarizing it, so that we can do our living….

James Joyce by CageI found this via Kenneth Goldsmith in Rhizome:”Displacement Is the New Translation” (link).

Argos Aotearoa

The Argos Aotearoa hypertext site is up and running at

Argos aims to circulate writing about topical matters of public and political import that is local, critical and accessible. We believe critical intellectual conversation should be heard here in Aotearoa-New Zealand, not simply published for credit in international fora for more limited and specialised audiences. Of particular interest to us is writing that grounds its concern with the public or political good of place-making in theory or philosophy.

Navigate. Contribute.

And …

Argos Aotearoa #1 - The University Beside Itself

Argos Aotearoa #1 – The University Beside Itself

The first issue of the Argos print journal is available to read and share at Argos #1. Hard copies will be available soon.

The University Beside Itself

Out now, a new essay by Stephen and I, “The University Beside Itself,” from Re-imagining the Creative University for the 21st Century, ed. T. Besley and M. Peters (London: Routledge, 2013) 49-59:

[I]n and through seismotic construction, which is to say through attention to the unstable ground of the university, the nature of the class and classroom is reconstructed to form a new disposition. Such a practice, we suggest, places teaching – education, in fact – at the centre of the university, rather than research or management. Construction is not just a matter of learning learning; it makes the ability to ask after grounds the basis of being educated, and it makes being able to question a key social value of education. Without it, we think that a society lacks the wherewithal for self-transformation. The experience of transformation, or being transported, is to be beside oneself. And to be beside someone, as one is in a classroom, is to find one’s thinking transposed through a dialogic doubling. This is why classrooms matter, and cannot simply be replaced by downloaded notes or lectures. The “live” classroom, animated by open-ended dialogue rather than end- stopped programming, offers a creative and collaborative capacity that is chancy and risky, or, in any case, uninflected by the discursive consistency of the university template – how it is that you are supposed to meet the aims, objectives and outcomes of a course, or at higher levels, the mission statement and strategic plan of the university. (53-54)

It’s available through SpringerLink: