Steering committee meeting at EARLI 2013 in München

The steering committee for “learning in the 21st century” got together with Lars Vavik, Gavriel Salomon, Thomas Arnesen, Eyvind Elstad, Hege Myklebust and Kristiina Kompulainen for the first time at EARLI2013 in Munich. First on the agenda was a brief presentation of some selected main findings from module one showing how the vast majority of students themselves perceive of school as meaningful, social, helping with their self-regulation and important for their lives outside school. Points that were discussed included; which conception of school formed the basis for the statements presented for students (and what conception of school did they have in mind when answering)? How can we, or why would we, compare school with net? What is the rationale in light of which the findings are interesting? And, how can the findings be useful in efforts to bring education forward?

Second on the agenda was the conceptualization of “bridging between Internet and educational cultures: capitalizing on students’ digital strengths – compensating for desired capabilities”. First, each board member presented their ideas and thoughts about the concept of ‘bridging’, before Kristiina Kompulainen presented her “learning bridges”-project and Hege Myklebust introduced her ideas about using school to bridge quality gaps in teens’ online argumentative writing. The learning bridges-project was designed to increase students’ engagement with and ownership of the content and process of learning core curricula via more project oriented approaches to teaching. Students working on their projects voluntarily in their spare time was for Kristiina a measure of success. Shulman suggested that more work should be oriented towards how engaging experiences turn into habits of mind and become part of students’ identities, instead of just one-off happenings. Myklebust got a lot of positive feedback from both Shulman and Resnick on her research proposal due to the beauty and simplicity of the idea to use school to promote teens’ more intelligent argumentative writing online.


Lee Shulman, Lauren Resnick, Lars Vavik, Kristiina Kompulainen, Gavriel Salomon, Erno Lehtinen, Thomas Arnesen, Per-Olof Erixon, Gert Biesta, and Eyvind Elstad. Hege Myklebust (taking the photo)

Findings from module 1 presented for 300 upper secondary school teachers

Thursday 15. August 2013 I (Thomas Arnesen) presented some main findings from the student survey to 300 upper secondary school teachers, their headmasters, and the headmasters’ superior from the county administration.

Instead of framing students’ perception of the relationship between their new media practices and education in the discourse of digital native versus digital immigrants, I talked about cybernetic styles of thought and the ‘making up’ – and the promotion of – a particular prospective pedagogic digital identity for learning in the 21st century. In their book, Learning identities in the digital age, Loveless & Williamson argue that education is now “the subject of a “cybernetic” mode of thought: a contemporary style of thinking about society and identity that is saturated with metaphors of networks, flexibility, interactivity, and connectedness”. They also try to identify how learning identities have been promoted, and position young people as networked learners, equipped for political, economic and cultural participation in the digital age. I stressed the notions of networked individualism and the lifelong ‘project of the self’ as characteristic of this line of thought and showed how these ideals are reflected in official and unofficial discourses about education. In order for such a prospective pedagogic identity to succeed, however, the ideas contained in it and the kind of thinking it enables must be picked up and acted upon by students themselves, and thus become amenable for empirical research.

Findings from our survey of 3400 teens in the Nordic countries suggest that the promotion of a ‘cybernetic’ pedagogic identity has not made a substantial impact on how the young perceive of themselves as learners and thus how they perceive of the relationship between new media and education. The vast majority of students say that school is a meaningful place for them to be. Only roughly 10 percent could be said to have a more ‘cybernetic’ student identity in the sense that they see school as less important than the net for their future, and that they can learn what they need from the net. However, I argued that elements from this ‘cybernetic’ mode of thinking could be found in official discourses and policies or strategies for education, particularly in the promotion of keeping the net open to students everywhere, all the time. I ascribed this policy to a belief in the benefits of connectivism, a so-called theory of learning which in my view is closely aligned with a ‘cybernetic’ mode of thought.

Furthermore, I argued that we see some negative consequences of this line of thinking as it meets the realities of Norwegian and Swedish upper secondary schools and the students’ schooled’ identities. On the one hand, students are presented with and see/accept the continued relevance of schooling for their lives and futures, while on the other they are met with concrete expressions of a ‘cybernetic’ mode of thinking in the constant freedom they have to choose leisure instead of work in class and at home. As many as 40% of the Norwegian students in our survey report that they have problems concentrating on school work when using PC at home or at school, and that their digital habits and activities hinder them from achieving their academic ambitions. For some of these students, then, open access creates a conflict between the logic of school and that of the net. Our findings suggest that this kind of conflict has a strong negative impact on students ability to work efficiently towards long term objectives, often seen as a prerequisite for succeeding at school.

The presentation was well received by the teachers and headmasters, and concrete plans were made to follow up the findings from the survey at classroom and school level. The stage is thereby set for module 4!

To make an impact – Research Council Seminar

Lars Vavik, Thomas Arnesen and Hege Myklebust represented “Learning in the 21st century” at the Norwegian Research Council’s seminar, “To make an impact”, Thursday and Friday (13-14.June) and met with the PIs, researchers and PhDs from the other projects which are part of the Council’s PRAKUT-programme. The seminar focus was on how and in what ways do the projects hope to make an impact on classroom practices – decidedly a worthy topic to consider! The first day was spent listening to the experiences of researchers and teachers who participated in the previous research programme. The Lade project headed by Prof. Postholm NTNU received much attention both because of the successful manner in which it was carried out, but also because of the difficulties involved in sustaining the positive impact after the end of the project period. The teachers at Lade expressed the need to initiate a new project dedicated to how to develop quality lessons in technology-rich environments. Perhaps a future research partner for “Learning in the 21st century”?

Prof. Ingrid Carlgren (University of Stockholm) initiated the proceedings day 2 with a lecture on the gap between research and practice in education, and how this gap is seen as either a problem of implementing research findings or as a problem of lack of relevant research. As a response to this problem she called for more ‘clinical’ research in education in which research questions emerge in the classroom as a consequence of experienced knowledge gaps, and are pursued according to the rigorous demands of research. She proposed the Japanese ‘lesson’ or ‘learning studies’ as a possible way forward (see more at Afterwards, there were group discussions among members of different projects about plans and visions pertaining to making an impact.


Students’ voices in the Nordic countries

The large-scale student survey was primarily designed to collect data which could help us answer the question: What are students own thoughts and perceptions about the relationship between their new media practices and education? Focus group interviews with students and teachers were carried out to provide a basis for the construction of the questionnaire, and further refinement was needed after each of the three pilot tests. We ended up with a questionnaire consisting of 120 items divided between 10 “constructs” in addition to background variables. Some of the constructs were drawn from established batteries (PISA study in particular).

The construction of the student survey and its translation into Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish was carried out autumn 2012, and the distribution of questionnaires, and collection and punching of data took place January-May 2013. So far 3400 students from the Finnish, Swedish-Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian populations have answered, and the first tentative data analyses are carried out as we speak (12.June 2013). The invaluable help of our Swedish and Finnish partners need special mention. The distribution and collection of questionnaires was primarily carried out by Kati Lindèn (Swedish-Finnish students), Kari Kosonen (Finnish students) and Erika Gillblad (Swedish students). We could not have managed without the close cooperation with our steering committee members professor Erno Lethinen (University of Turku) and professor Per-Olof Erixon (University of Umeå), and our partner professor Liisa Illomäki (University of Helsinki). To aid us in the more advanced data analyses, head of module 1, professor Eyvind Elstad (University of Oslo) has acquired the help of his colleague, professor Knut-Andreas Christophersen (University of Oslo). The first findings from the survey will be presented for a full Steering Committee at the meeting in Munich 28.August 2013.

Professor Eyvind Elstad - Head of module 1

Professor Eyvind Elstad – Head of module 1

Co-PI, PhD-candidate and coordinator Thomas Arnesen

Co-PI, PhD-candidate and coordinator Thomas Arnesen



London meeting continued

Important work was also carried out in relation to module 3 when Gavriel Salomon (PI) ( met with Sigurd Sandvold and Martin Sjoen. Their starting point is to use facebook to connect groups of students with different national backgrounds to discuss topics such as prejudice and tolerance in relation to e.g. the issue of immigration. Classes from schools with large immigrant populations will be set in contact with classes from schools deemed stereotypically “Norwegian”, and an established survey from peace studies in Israel will be used to tap the 10.graders attitudes towards each other, before, and twice after, the intervention. The main objective is to try out and evaluate one way to use social media as a means to authenticate work with value based educational objectives and expand its reach beyond the confines of the classroom. The intervention will take place in September-November 2013.

professor Gavriel Salomon

Professor Gavriel Salomon


Productive London meeting

The meeting which took place in London the 27.-30.May 2013 saw the further development of the Position Paper as Gert Biesta, Gavriel Salomon, Lars Vavik and Thomas Arnesen discussed the conceptual basis for “Learning in the 21st century”. The main issue was how to conceptualize the relationship between in and out-of-school learning in such a way that it can be used to identify educationally beneficial combinations/interactions on the basis of which a more generic typology could be developed. The empirical examples are primarily drawn from the “Learning bridges” project headed by professor Kristiina Kumpulainen at the University of Helsinki, the “Connected learning” project ( headed by professor Ito (, and professor B. Barron’s research on “Learning ecologies” (, as well as new empirical studies such as Hege Myklebust’s work on the need for argumentative writing in the digital age. Some main developments include the exclusion of the ‘bridge’ metaphor to conceptualize the relationship between in- and out-of-school learning since it carries with it too many assumptions as to the desirability of bridging in the first place.

Gert Biesta at London meeting

Gert Biesta at London meeting