Deliberative/instrumental actions vs phronetic actions in learning digital environments

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Published on March 6, 2014

Author: emabardo


Deliberative/instrumental actions vs phronetic actions in learning digital environments Emanuele Bardone

Overview 1) Distinction first-order/second-order in the study of digital learning environments/learning digital ecosystem 2) Chance-seeking and personal learning environments 3) A discussion about phronetic actions

An ambiguity in the study of learning digital ecosystems/environments First-order & second-order cf. Cowley, 2007; Hodges and Fowler, 2010, Van Orden et al. 2010, Thibault, 2011

First-order First-order refers to the way the learner enacts, exploits, responds to, and attunes to resources and to engage with others. Bodily resources plus situations, environmental affordances, technologies, artifacts exploited in different timescales

Second-order Second-order refers to stabilities and patterns that emerge in some community over time. The aim is to figure out those principles governing the evolution of the digital ecosystem as a whole It is related to longer, slower, cultural historical timescales

First-order and personal learning environment engagement personal resistant to reification not objects but “interactional dominants” partly scalable different timescales, but mostly short ones priority to online cognition over offline cognition ...

chance-seeking The way the learner engages a digital environment/ecosystem can be described in terms of chance-seeking

What is a chance? a chance is an unanticipated and contingent event conveying an opportunity for action, which appears to have some strategic value in pursuing one’s goal but indirectly. What is chance-seeking? Chance-seeking is not about predicting chance events. It’s about recognizing and amplifying the potential positive significance of chance events.

Correct translation

C recognition an action is taken to amplify potentials of positive significance possibilities of unanticipated observations iterative circularity The whole process is not deliberative but phronetic

What does “phronetic” mean? “Phronetic” refers to the Aristotelean concept of “phronesis”. “Phronesis” means practical wisdom/intelligence or the capacity of making practical judgments It deals more with “practice” than “theory” The domain of application is related to complex, variable matters. It’s not subjected to scientific demonstration/precision The body of knowledge it produces is more related to rules of thumbs than general laws or rules Kessels and Korthagen, 1996; Dunne, 1992; Flyvbjerg, 2001; Woodhouse, 2007; Chia and Holt, 2009; Garud, 2010, Flyvbjerg et al, 2012

Phronetic actions & Personal learning environments Phronetic action is a particular way in which the learner as a chance-seeker engages a digital learning environment and builds his or her own personal learning environment Which is then not an application but a process.

A negative definition What phronetic action is not: it’s not deliberative (instrumental) action

Deliberative/instrumental actions in the digital an explicit need

A conceptual characterization of Deliberative action Problem-solving not problem-finding The goal is well-defined There is a plan stating how to achieve the goal directly Strategies addressing overall concerns (bird’s eye point of view) Clear distinction between means and ends, and between processes and outcomes Full purposiveness (purposiveness comes with predictability) The agent is an executor of the plan Focus on capacity of using a feature/application effectively The features of an app/device provide affordances as capabilities (that’s what we can design) Habitual action (no creativity involved)

Phronetic actions

An example: using a blog a student said: I’ve realized quite recently that I can use my study blog to have a better vision of my study load. It’s easier to keep track of my progress and I can see how much time I have dedicated/am dedicating to each course. How did that happen?

How did that happen? The student is a freelance designer and illustrator blogging for promoting and selling her artwork I don’t like blogs that are not alive She decided to post all other assignments that were shared using other applications (email or dropbox). In December all university-related activities wrapped up, so no new assignments. She spent some time on extra-curricular activities. She "pushed blogging even further" and started posting "everything" related to her studies and university life.

By using my blog I have now a better vision of study load, it’s easier to keep track of my progress, I see how much time I have dedicated to each course. That was not the product of deliberative actions, but phronetic ones

deliberative a. Phronetic A. problem-solving problem-finding the goal is well-defined and impersonal No specific goals Planning Tinkering Strategic Priority to overall concerns Strategic Priority to Immediate and marginal concerns clear distinction means and ends No clear distinction between Ms&Es clear distinction processes and outcomes No clear distinction between Ps&Os purposive and predictive Purposive without being predictive The agent is an executor The agent steps in the process along with his/her identity, values, knowledge and ignorance, experience and inexperience Focus on the capacity of using things Focus on the capacity of acting in situation affordances as actual capabilities Affordances as latent opportunities Habitual response Appropriative and re-appropriative response

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