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2013 Beyond Social Networking in Oxford

Rob Ellis

2013 Beyond Social Networking in Oxford

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In September 2012  Dr Christina Preston, Professor of Educational Innovation at the Institute for Research in Education (IREd), University of Bedfordshire,  spoke at the Gaudy Celebration for St Hilda’s College, Oxford, England. Founded in 1893 this was the last women’s college to admit men in 2008. Two speakers were asked to give a symposium about womens’ issues past and present to the alumnae, some of whom were over 90 years of age.

In her presentation based on her tv series, Divine Women, Bettany Hughes, the historian spoke about the strength of women’s roles in history, politics and faith, particularly in medieval times. Dr Preston spoke about the potential role of women in in cyberspace in Beyond Social Networking: the impact of digital innovation on learning.


Beyond social networking: the impact of innovation on learning

Dr Christina Preston founded the MirandaNet Fellowship in 1992,  now a growing international community of educators. Her subject, Beyond Social Networking, was about innovations in digital technologies that have great potential to give women better access to information, communication and publication in the near future. She based her argument on the MirandaNet knowledge exchange activities on the web that transverse national, cultural, social and faith boundaries.

The talk  began with Jung’s twentieth century description of ‘liminal space’ that has been applied to traditional modes of learning where the solitary learner encounters difficulties and misunderstandings that are resolved as established knowledge is mastered.  Since 1992 , MirandaNet members have been investigating the ways in which collaborative professional learning takes place in liminal spaces that are enriched by remotely authored digital environments. In these spaces MirandaNet members are investigating how the  building of new knowledge, theory and practice might be supported by scaffolding the use of social networking, microblogging, digital mind mapping, distributed video and other innovative technologies. From these shared liminal spaces beyond the screen provocative questions emerge about the relationship between learning, collaboration and innovation.

Many of the alumni are now grandmothers and a key question was over concerns that their grandhildren are using computers too much rather than interacting with people and Nature. Dr Preston shared those concerns,  but suggested that solutions were in better training for parents and teachers about the appropriate use of computers. Indeed,  she suggested that learning can be enhanced by the use of computers and talked about her 87 year old mother who has just  published her autobiography on the web. Nevertheless she did not think that young people would benefit by being unsupervised on the web as long as the supervisors understood the exciting developments were emerging improving knowledge and increasing publication opportunities for all. Her view was also that negative views about banning computers are as likely to succeed as a movement to ban the pencil! So best to embrace the positive and, meanwhile, install NetNanny style software on the computer to make it safe.

Presentation in .pdf   Beyond Social networking