Beyond Walls

I have been reflecting on Amy Ludlow and Ruth Armstrong’s Learning Together presentation at the University of Canberra.
Their co-production of their presentation struck me forcefully. I related very strongly to their epistemological and ontological approach. Much of my reflection since the presentation has been about how different, edgeless pedagogical contexts might nourish socially emergent personhood (with lashings of presupposing potential).
Whereas Amy and Ruth talked about ineractive edges in their presentation, I am keen to pursue the edgeless possibilities of open sharing … and the advocacy and practice these might take.
As I was luxuriating in these reflections, I came across Chris Arnade’s discussion of two isolated Americas. His depiction of the old man tables that gather each morning in McDonald’s stopped me in my tracks. He points out the physical an ideological segregation of these groups (“Most are segregated because the neighborhoods they are in are already segregated. Because we live largely segregated lives”).
I wondered if this might be the case with pedagogy conversations too, Chris concludes his post with this observation:

Countries fail when citizens stop believing they have a shared responsibility to each other. When they forget we are in it together.

How do we forge a shared responsibility when in education we do have different epistemological and ontological commitments?
After leaving McDonald’s tables, I found myself contemplating Michael Feldstein’s discussion of PEARSONalized Learning. Michael compares Pearson’s approach to learning with a personalized approach to the students in the back row. Teachers and learners at the centre of Michael’s conversation are an antithesis to a Netflix for education approach (“delivered through this single, quality user experience, but available to all ages and stages of learners”).
News of Ignatia de Waard’s PhD thesis completion took me further in the consideration of personal and personalised learning explored in Michael’s post. Ignatia’s work with 56 experienced adult online learners engaged in Future Learn course raises some fascinating issues about informal learning, learning experience design and the contextualisation (personalisation) of course content to encourage learner engagement.
In their presentation, Amy and Ruth discussed the physical and metaphorical walls that surround universities and prisons. Their work has taken me further in my thinking about what Beyond Walls teaching and learning might look and feel like. Audrey Watters has added to my thinking too in her two recent discussions of undisciplining educational technology.
I am not sure what radical blasphemy might do at the McDonald’s tables but after this week I am emboldened to think that these are conversations we can have about education.

Photo Credit

Pole Vaulter (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)


  1. Thank you Keith for this reflection.
    The funny thing is that of course this reflection is a reflection on a reflection by Amy and Ruth on the learning together program that is – in turn – evaluated using the reflections of the students that come from both sides of the (metaphorical) walls that were visible and less visible (yet) in the narratives that were shared and assessed using the PNI StoryForm and subsequent evaluation of the narratives and data.
    All this makes on wonder how many mirrors reality can bear until it gets puzzled by all the biassed and distorted images :-). That is exactly on of the main strengths of PNI: to connect experts and professionals to the raw narratives of the system-of-interest, whether it is a commercial, public or criminal organisation or even a product or a service. It does cross-boundary insight-transfer, bias shattering and “surprises” very well.

    • Hello, Harold
      Thank you for finding this post and leaving your comment.
      I listened with great interest as Amy and Ruth described their move to participatory narrative inquiry (PNI) in their work. At the time I was sitting next to an indigenous scholar who uses story at the centre of his work, Story-sharing is at the heart of my work too.
      Your point about reflection on reflection prompted me to think about Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. Amy and Ruth held up a mirror for me and I am excited where their PNI insights might take them.
      Best wishes

      • Hi Keith, I have fond memories of the FlashConnect PNI project we did with Amy and Ruth early this summer. We took small but good steps towards applying PNI to the learning together process. So it is early days. I think we are at around 10% of its potential now so lots of work needs to be done. The initial results are encouraging though.
        There were some PNI projects projects done in the past with indigenous people by one of our partners and last year I ran into various people in Canada that said the method would be very useful and work quite well with Inuit and First Nation.


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