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 of empirical studies and explores how this notion can be applied to understand the technical and social conditions of activities that are aimed at learning (education and training). Drawing on Star & Ruhleder’s (1996) conceptualisation of infrastructure as ecological and relational I examine both some of the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the notion infrastructures for learning and some methodological challenges related to studying such infrastructures. In order to investigate infrastructures for learning, ethnographic inquiries have been made into three different settings in which technology was introduced to support activities aimed at learning. The first case looks at an intervention in an educational setting where students were presented with a new pedagogical model (collaborative learning) and a set of computerised tools to support their collaboration. The study focuses on the realisation of the infrastructural tools and the pedagogical model in relation to the students’ work. I identified three interactional processes that constitute the students’ efforts in relation to the infrastructure for learning: understanding the conditions of collaboration, coordinating collaborative efforts and commenting on products and events. In the second case study I analyse how a collaborative tool (an online discussion forum) was introduced into an inter-organisational network for supporting informal learning between the members of a subject group that already had certain arrangements to support their work/learning. The system was not successfully adopted into the existing infrastructure for learning, and this is analysed in relation to the participation structures and the participants’ knowledge interests. In the last case I studied a large corporation that introduced a Learning Management System and a set of online tutorials to deliver training to more than 6000 employees that were moving into a new headquarter. The study focuses on the organisation of the training activities and identifies three different rationalities that were critical to the introduction and use of the new infrastructure for learning: a pedagogical rationality, a logistic rationality and a control rationality. The final discussion elaborates on how the technical and social arrangements in the different situations that have been put under empirical scrutiny are constituted as infrastructures for learning in relation to organised practices. The discussion further highlights the relation between infrastructures for learning and pedagogical models. I also explore how the notion of infrastructures for learning can be used to capture the networked dimension of activities aimed at learning. Finally, the inherent tension between design and use of technologies for learning is discussed. I address how the notion of infrastructures for learning can be used as normative framework that encourages a focus on technologies as part of a set of social and technical arrangements when introducing technologies to support learning practices.