Lurking as valid learning

Lurking can be a valid form of learning. During @openeducationweek the #creativeHE team have been busy. As well as facilitate the #creativeHE google community I wanted to do all the activities. I took the ideas away to ponder on but that was as far as it went. I’m not sure if I’m a creative failure but I learned a lot from just being there.

Creativity uses all the senses. It can be cognitive like poetry and music or kinaesthetic like making and modelling. The C Word is often associated with producing something tangible. #creativeHE used jam jars and shared activities like ‘paperclips and rubber bands’. A simple idea with great results and non-messy so minimal clearing up was required afterwards!

A conversation developed around the role of messiness as an integral part of the creative process. Many crafts are messy occupations. Painting, potting, sculpting, cookery all involve splashes and spills. I don’t like mess and hate tidying up. One of the lessons I learned this week was how goal orientated I am. The concept of play with a specific output is fine. I’d be the first to advocate a different approach, to experiment and try something different – but am less likely to take on a free style activity myself.

Digital creativity is ok though!  For example Pic-collage  (App) and Photo-collage (Desktop) make it easy to be creative with photographs. Bitstrips is a cartoon strip maker  with enough options to make a recognisable avatar for yourself. Toondoo and Pixton also offer free cartoon constructions. It’s worth adding Powtoon to the list as well. I could play for hours with these (theory v practice!) and have recently been exploring the concept of Lego Serious Play, in particular the transfer of problem solving from head to hands. Thinking with your fingers is a lateral approach which appeals to me. I need to learn more.

I’ve taken a lot from the #creativeHE week. As a facilitator I read and commented but as a creative activity maker I lurked. The definition of lurk is two-fold; to wait, hidden, in order to ambush or as a ‘profitable stratagem’. With regard to online discussion forums, the word has developed negative connotations yet lurking can be a valuable on many levels.

The invisibility of online participation is something to accept as a valid learning mechanism, like the quiet student at the back of the class who produces 1st class assignments. Not everyone is comfortable with being centre stage. It’s no different online, where the permanence of digital contributions can be a deterrent stronger than the advantages of taking time to craft a thoughtful and meaningful response. Like face to face seminars, participation needs to be encouraged but reluctance can be justified.

Like the late laggard in Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Model, the lurker has been unfairly maligned. Learning should not be defined by presence and there may be many good reasons motivating lurking and laggarding behaviours.

It may be  better to be there quietly or arrive late than not be involved at all.

6 thoughts on “Lurking as valid learning

  1. Hi Sue
    I saw your post via Twitter and I really agreed with the points you make. I’m writing up some research on Twitter for learning among professionals and I found that out of my sample many of them ‘lurk’ rather that participate in a social network online, At first, I thought the lurkers were not using Twitter for learning, but having interviewed them they expressed how reading new info from Twitter and observing other people’s conversation was useful to their learning needs. So according to them, learning from the peripheries was important and useful to them. The interviews also discussed the barriers they had to participate at the centre- interesting stuff 🙂 Thanks for posting as it is good to see others with similar experiences and opinions
    This has triggered other things for me too – I teach some modules online and assessment marks are given for explicit participation on forums. Is the notion of LPP ignored in formal online learning and should we be allowing for LPP within these situations? and if so how can we do this?
    Many thanks for your insightful post


    1. Often we assess online participation as a way of encouraging interaction without considering this might be an exclusive practice. Are there other ways to persuade students to join in the online conversations? I’m aiming to replace traditional ‘technology-training’ workshops with more experiential online approaches to staff development – I want participants to be active and reflect on how their online experience might be applied to their own teaching practice – but without accreditation it can be a challenge to foster digital communication and collaboration. I do like your blog title – Opening Digital Doors 🙂


      1. from helen beetham on dig well-being

        good stuff on literacy too

        On Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 6:51 PM, digital academic wrote:

        > Sue Watling commented: “Often we assess online participation as a way of > encouraging interaction without considering this might be an exclusive > practice. Are there other ways to persuade students to join in the online > conversations? I’m aiming to replace traditional ‘technol” >


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