Agency

Agency

I’m at a workshop today, and so far all my notes on the first presentation revolve around various concepts of ownership. This something I’ve been chewing over for some time, and trying to find ways to express. My experience thus far in educational technology (and education in general, honestly) is that when the learner is granted a measure of owernship over the site of their learning, they are dramatically more engaged in the material. Owernship seems to be one of the important elements that bridges the gap between working toward a grade and working toward a greater, more personal goal. (And, inevitably, the grades sky-rocket when student engagement is that much higher.)

This is the argument I’ve tried to use in describing the difference between a discussion board and a blog; you get a different kind of content on a blog, at least in part because a blog belongs to the student, while a discussion board belongs to the instructor. On a discussion board, a single person can dominate the dicussion, because while the space is not finite, there is a single, shared location for input; on a blog, you naturally dominate it, because it’s yours. And everyone has their own space to dominate. The sense of space is completely different.

I keep trying to make this argument, but I always feel on shaky ground. It’s just my gut talking. Ownership: why is that so significant? My experience is that it’s true, but I feel like I’m not expressing it well or describing it completely enough. I feel as though I don’t entirely understand it myself.

But other words are coming out of this presentation that address the same issue: the presenter (Clare Brett) talks about the importance of student agency, of student control. Is this all part and parcel of the same niggling thing I’ve been feeing?

I’m also pushed toward thinking about what agency and ownership means very personally, in my own work; since I know that applications can be (and should be!) routinely improved and expanded, I feel very empowered by the introduction of systems like Blackboard to our world. Sure, it has its problems, but we can edit this thing, we can add to it, we can make it what we need. I feel my own agency in relation to it. So I can see what it means to feel your own agency, primarily because when I look around me I see a lot of people feeling oppressed by it, feeling boxed in, constrained by a piece of technology.

0 thoughts on “Agency

  1. Coincidentally (?), I came across a citation to the article “Comparing Weblogs to Threaded Discussion Tools in Online Educational Contexts” by Donna Cameron, Terry Anderson on Stephen Downes’ blog today.

    The article:

    Downes’ link:

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