“Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people.”      – Paulo Freire

You won’t be surprised to know that “learning” was the most tweeted word at the Plymouth Enhanced Learning Conference (PELeCON) recently. But you might be surprised to know that “love” was in the Top Ten (#9) of over 14,000 #pelc12 tweets. So, yes, PELeCON was about education, the future, learners, learning technologies, pedagogies and literacies. But the outstanding feature of the conference, for me, was the sense of warmth, connection and community amongst the participants, and their “profound love for the world and for people,” to quote Freire.

Glynis Cousin, among others, has spoken about the often unreflected emotional substructure to teaching and learning. Educators who embrace the ideals of authentic, student-centred learning, and who seek to move their practice towards this goal, are engaging in a revolutionary act: acknowledging and supporting students’ control over their own learning. Almost everything about our formal education system — from standardized curricula to grading systems to the architecture of our classrooms and lecture halls — reinforces the power of the educator over the student. Those of us who choose to swim against this tide, even in small ways, must first look within ourselves to uncover our own investment in these systems and traditions. Engaging in real dialogue with students, opening our classrooms and our practice to the world — none of this can be done without respect for, care for, and trust in our students. This was the ethos at PELeCON, and why it was such a powerful experience for many of us who attended.

In the 2+ weeks since returning from Plymouth, I’ve been reflecting on many of the ideas and themes that arose. More than that, though, I’ve been connecting furiously with many who attended the conference. I’m working with Julia Skinner and Linda Castañeda who will engage with Irish educators at the ICT in Education conference on May 19th. Helen Keegan and I have plans to connect our students at Salford and Galway with students in several other countries next autumn, using social media. And there have been countless other connections via Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and email — a rich web of connections as Sharon Flynn describes beautifully in her PELeCON blog post.

I’ve already recorded my summary of the Student Showcase on Day 1 of the conference, in which primary and secondary students shared their work. It was one of my highlights of the conference to hear students describe how they are using YouTube, Google groups, WordPress, Livescribe pens and more to collaborate and create video tutorials, blogs and online school newspapers. I was immensely impressed by the confidence of these students, their pride in their work, and the trust their teachers showed in them to tell their own stories.

The excellent keynote and spotlight talks were diverse and challenging — the PELeCON video library of these presentations is a wonderful resource, well worth bookmarking. Sincere thanks to Alec Couros, Helen Keegan, Simon Finch, Keri Facer, Leigh Graves Wolf, David Mitchell, Julia Skinner and Jane Hart for sharing your work and challenging our thinking.

Thanks to all of the participants at PELeCON, for your openness and your friendship.

And enormous thanks to Steve Wheeler, and the hard-working PELeCON team, for throwing a 3-day party (Steve’s words!) with time to learn and to enjoy, and opportunities to nurture the seeds of future ideas, collaborations, and most importantly, relationships. My head and heart are full. Thank you all.

For more information on the conference check out the PELeCON blog, which includes links to Oliver Quinlan‘s excellent liveblogs. The following blog posts also capture the spirit of the conference especially well:

Postscript: See also PELeCON 2012 (in ALT online newsletter), authored by Matt Lingard, Farzana Latif, Santanu Vasant and me.

Image: CC BY-NC 2.0 bitzi

4 thoughts on “Love and Learning at PELeCON #pelc12”

  1. Hi Catherine.

    We often forget the degree to which learning is a social process. Commodification is a result of the “market” model, and it seems there is nothing that cannot be commodified – or so we are led to believe. We all value meaningful interactions with other people, and we dehumanize ourselves when we attempt to “monetize” social “capital”. Thinking of Bonnie’s (just finished) change11 presentation (http://change.mooc.ca/week35.htm), it seems that learning, identity formation, and social life are interconnected. We love to learn, and we learn to love. The self-transformation that learning enables is as much about connecting with others as it is about discovering who we are.

    Thanks for a very thoughtful and useful blog post.


    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Mark. Quite often the fact that learning is, indeed, a social process is not in the foreground of our discussions about learning, at least in higher education. I think the recent work in connectivist MOOCs — and well designed online learning initiatives — has brought the importance of connection back to the centre. As you say, we now ponder the interconnections between learning, identity formation and social life. I look forward to continuing my own research in this area — so happy to have found Bonnie Stewart and this “digital identity” MOOC community. Thank you!

      1. Hi Catherine

        Last year, I followed eci831 (an open course facilitated by Dr Alec Couros http://eci831.ca/), and I was really touched by the strong sense of community and camaraderie that developed during the few months that it ran. The interactions, especially the weekly live sessions, were very social events. It seemed to put people into a positive, receptive mood. The atmosphere was collaborative, accepting, and encouraging. For me, it demonstrated that keeping a cool, professional distance between teacher and learners is not necessarily a good or useful approach.


  2. I am aware of the amazing work of the eci831 community but have not participated (yet?!). Alec Couros is inspiring — he gave a terrific keynote at #pelc12. I’ve just noticed that the videos are being uploaded today, so his keynote should be available in the ‘PELeCON video library’ link (in post above) very soon. Two upcoming MOOCs also look of interest:

    First Steps into Learning & Teaching in HE (5 weeks, May-June 2012)

    Open Learning Design Studio (8-10 weeks, Autumn 2012)

    Looking forward to continuing to connect with you.

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