Stewarding and Power in Networked Learning

Part of the Research in Networked Learning book series (RINL)


This chapter reports on a study of two cohorts on a postgraduate course in educational technology. Networked learners work in groups of 5–6 to complete a series of complex learning tasks that require them to build and steward a ‘digital habitat’ (Wenger et al.: Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities. Portland, CPSquare, 2009): a configuration of informational, technological and social resources that help group members meet their shared learning needs. The records of the groups’ online discussions are analysed to reveal how learners make a series of ongoing judgements and validations to negotiate and collectively construct the digital habitat and the practices they need to effectively use it. These practices emerge from a nexus of practice in which various flows of information and power intersect, and practices emerge as a consequence of both the power asserted by the institution and tutor, and also from student resistance to this power, in the sense proposed by Michel Foucault. The power inherent in the assessment regime gives the emerging practices a visibility that is essential to learning in this setting. While these small groups should not be idealised as decision-making fora, they remain social sites in which students can learn to build and steward a digital habitat.


Communities of practice Stewarding Digital habitat Groups Online discussions Learning 



Thanks also to Professor Helen Gunter for her input to this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Manchester Institute of EducationUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  2. 2.Alliance Manchester Business SchoolUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

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