Many years ago, I worked with Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope on their Social Literacies project. I was based in their rambling Stanmore house writing materials for the new HSC Society and Culture course. They were exciting times with interesting visitors and stimulating discussions.

Over the years I’ve followed their work intermittently, between children and other projects. Recently I decided to spend a couple of weekends delving into their New learning website, and as expected there is much food for the educator’s brain here. The eLearning menu tab is where I started, as that’s been my area of work for a long time now.

The content begins with a refreshing reminder that although we hear much about the transformative power of technology, simply using new technologies doesn’t necessarily disrupt existing relationships of learning.

In this video clip, Bill Cope uses a 1983 Greek classroom to look at the physical, discursive and epistemological architectures of learning. These are the aspects of learning that we may most want to disrupt and refashion, and where technology can indeed have an impact.

Discursive or communications architecture is concerned with the patterns of interaction in a learning space, and in a traditional setting is teacher-centred with limited peer communication opportunities.

Epistemological or knowledge architecture has positioned the teacher and textbook as the sources of authoritative knowledge and learning as comprised largely of knowledge transmission and memory work.

The physical architecture – at its simplest rows of desks facing the teacher – will reflect and help shape the communication and knowledge architectures.

So when we look at the potential of eLearning to disrupt the traditional in these three areas, to facilitate new physical, discursive and epistemological architectures, we can begin to articulate new ways of learning that are designed to meet the needs of modern students and citizens.