Infrastructures for Learning. Ethnographic Inquiries Into The Social And Technical Conditions Of Education And Training
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The dissertation focuses on the notion of infrastructures for learning through a set ofempirical studies and explores how this notion can be applied to understand thetechnical and social conditions of activities that are aimed at learning (education andtraining). Drawing on Star & Ruhleder’s (1996) conceptualisation of infrastructure asecological and relational I examine both some of the theoretical and empiricalunderpinnings of the notion infrastructures for learning and some methodologicalchallenges related to studying such infrastructures.In order to investigate infrastructures for learning, ethnographic inquiries have beenmade into three different settings in which technology was introduced to supportactivities aimed at learning. The first case looks at an intervention in an educationalsetting where students were presented with a new pedagogical model (collaborativelearning) and a set of computerised tools to support their collaboration. The studyfocuses on the realisation of the infrastructural tools and the pedagogical model inrelation to the students’ work. I identified three interactional processes that constitutethe students’ efforts in relation to the infrastructure for learning: understanding theconditions of collaboration, coordinating collaborative efforts and commenting onproducts and events. In the second case study I analyse how a collaborative tool (anonline discussion forum) was introduced into an inter-organisational network forsupporting informal learning between the members of a subject group that already hadcertain arrangements to support their work/learning. The system was not successfullyadopted into the existing infrastructure for learning, and this is analysed in relation tothe participation structures and the participants’ knowledge interests. In the last case Istudied a large corporation that introduced a Learning Management System and a setof online tutorials to deliver training to more than 6000 employees that were movinginto a new headquarter. The study focuses on the organisation of the training activitiesand identifies three different rationalities that were critical to the introduction and useof the new infrastructure for learning: a pedagogical rationality, a logistic rationalityand a control rationality.The final discussion elaborates on how the technical and social arrangements in thedifferent situations that have been put under empirical scrutiny are constituted asinfrastructures for learning in relation to organised practices. The discussion furtherhighlights the relation between infrastructures for learning and pedagogical models. Ialso explore how the notion of infrastructures for learning can be used to capture thenetworked dimension of activities aimed at learning. Finally, the inherent tensionbetween design and use of technologies for learning is discussed. I address how thenotion of infrastructures for learning can be used as normative framework thatencourages a focus on technologies as part of a set of social and technicalarrangements when introducing technologies to support learning practices.