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Dynamic literacies and agentive learners in static systems

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Agency in learning settings is a key issue for educational systems around the world, particularly where performative measures threaten to inhibit children’s ability to learn and their teachers’ abilities to respond creatively to their needs. In the context of the wider use of digital media and technology this issue occupies a contested space between home and school and brings into question wider issues of definitions of both “literacy” and “agency”. What does it mean to be literate in 2016? What does it mean to be agentive in as a learner in 2016? Based on a number of research projects in recent years my talk explores media production and curation as a set of active new literacy practices in which particular strategic dispositions and skills are employed by children of primary and lower secondary age (5 – 14) to represent identity, affiliation and cultural capital. It will consider the nature of the pedagogical response to these paradigm shifts in formal and informal educational settings. It will introduce the concept of the semi-permeable membrane between home and school as a third space and location of a “porous expertise” which potentially promotes a more agentive engagement in learning. There will be time to show examples of work and hopefully to discuss and debate them in the context of the theories outlined.

Profile: Dr John Potter is Senior Lecturer in Education and New Media in the Department of Curriculum, Culture and Media at the London Knowledge Lab. in the Department of Culture, Communication and Media at the UCL Institute of Education, where he is also Academic Head of learning and Teaching. He is a founder member of the DARE Collaborative (Digital Arts Research in Education) and his research and publications are in the fields of: digital video production by young learners (the focus of his doctoral research); the use of social software and online networks for publication and learning; media education, new literacies, creative activity and learner agency; the changing nature of teaching and learning in response to the pervasive use in wider culture of media technologies in formal and informal settings. Before moving into Higher Education, John worked as primary school teacher in East London and an LEA advisory teacher. He has previously held teacher education posts at both the University of East London and Goldsmiths College. He is the author (for Palgrave US) of Digital Media and Learner Identity: The new curatorship, published in 2012. He is currently collaborating with Professor Julian McDougall of Bournemouth University’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice on a new book for Palgrave entitled Digital Media, Culture and Education: Theorising third space learning. For research group info and blogs see Further details on publications and research are at

This talk is part of the Psychology & Education series.

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