Connecting the dots – digital literacy and connected learning.

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What an exciting time to be involved in education!  What a challenging time to be in education!  What a busy time to be involved in education!  Anybody who is involved in education is feeling all of these things – fight and flight is present in most staff meetings when it comes to working out the best way to address all of the implications of living in this digital age.  The digital divide isn’t just a concept of socioeconomics or geography or generational it is present within each and every school and teachers are feeling the pressure.

The concept of connected learning is more than just having the hardware and the apps.  The tension for education is how do we integrate these tools of learning to enhance learning for all students in our care.  We cannot assume that our students know how to use these tools effectively for their learning just because they have been born into an era where digital technologies are as much a part of everyday life as eating and sleeping.  They have been immersed in a world of connection through digital technologies but just as we have to teach our students to be citizens in the face to face world, we also need to help them understand that values and ethics are just as important in the online world.  We cannot assume they know the best information sources or the best way of communicating their resources.  They demand more of us as teachers in that they expect to be connected, they expect to be collaborative.  How do we meet their expectations by placing our own learning expectations for them upon them?

The answer would seem to rest with the concept of digital literacy.  So what is it to be digitally literate?  Trilling & Fadel (2009) define digital literacy as a combination of information, media and ICT literacy skills (Chapter 4).  Rheingold in his book, “NetSmart: How to Thrive Online” describes it as a combination of 5 literacies – “attention”, “crap detector”, “participation”, “collaboration”, and “network smarts.”  Chase and Laufenberg (2011) view it as “a genre, a format and tool to be found within the domain of standard literacy, rather than a concept standing at odds” (p.535).  So many definitions!  No wonder teachers feel like they are like the hamster running on that wheel, they need clarity.

The definition I have found most useful is that of Gilster (1997) cited by Bawden (2008), digital  literacy is “an ability to understand and use information from a variety of digital sources and regard it as literacy in the digital age” (p.18).  Chase and Laufenberg (2011) then would seem to agree with this more broad definition.  I would agree with all of the definitions I have read and suggest that digital literacy is an umbrella term used to describe a combination of literacies that represent a variety of skills needed to be successful not just in the context of a classroom but in all areas of life both now in the present time and in the future.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 12.27.40 pm

 

We use our digital literacy when we are participating in the online environment but as it is part of standard literacy practices and not separate, our students need to know that sometimes the information available digitally may not compare with the information available in printed formats.  Our students still live in privileged times where both forms of information are accessible.  This is where information seeking skills are required rather than information searching as they need to learn the difference between and to filter quality over quantity of information.

Connectivism is also an important component of digital literacy as it doesn’t just refer to the physical connecting to the network known as the Internet.  It is the ability our students have to connect with like-minded people, to access information quickly to build upon their already established knowledge base.  This idea of connectivism has so many strengths for education and it is fraught with so many ‘dangers’ as well.  by ‘dangers’ I mean students need to have the critical thinking skills of digital literacy that will enable them to evaluate credibility and validity of information.  This is a vital role of teacher librarians within schools as well because some teachers allow students to research without any guidance or feedback to the students’ processes used in gaining information.  Connectivism is not just about student learning it is also about teachers’ depth of understanding of the information environment using digital technologies.  The challenge is helping our students know their purpose and placing it in context and ensuring that the context is credible and relevant to their learning.

Knowledge is information-in-context -- c by planeta, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  planeta 

Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx5VHpaW8sQ

Siemens (2004) describes the theory of connectivism as the way “people, organisations and/or technology can collaboratively construct knowledge” through “the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories”(Starkey, 2011, p.21).  Connectivism is the building of knowledge in a social and collaborative way.  This highlights the importance of teachers needing to immerse themselves within the chaos of the knowledge network to increase their own digital literacy skills and to form their own connections with other ‘experts’.  Teachers are no longer the only experts in their students lives and the students know this.  Formulating Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) online as well as offline is a necessary part of every teacher’s professional development and we also need to assist our students in creating their own learning networks.  Our students current learning networks are social media and gaming sites.  We need to guide our students to using their critical thinking skills to filter and seek people that truly represent valid and credible learning within their PLN’s.  We need to try to find the way to harness these platforms to engage our students in learning.

REFERENCES:

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=39774960&site=ehost-live

Chase, Z., & Laufenberg, D. (2011). Digital literacies: Embracing the squishiness of digital literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535–537.

Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technology. Middle School Journal, 43(5), 6–15.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart : How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Trilling, B.  Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills : Learning for Life in Our Times. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com

 


Towards a more socially inclusive classroom using Gee’s viewpoint.

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Hain, J. (2014) Image retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/goodness-value-worth-trust-440313/

Hain, J. (2014) Image retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/goodness-value-worth-trust-440313/

A saying that we have all heard and possibly used is “I don’t play the game,” “he doesn’t play the game so he won’t go very far,” “she doesn’t play the game very well.”  When I thought about the school I work in, I began thinking about those students who don’t seem to participate or engage in appropriate ways are those who won’t and don’t play the game of school, it’s just too hard.  These students are identified quickly by other students and can often be isolated for their behaviour.  Then there are those students who don’t participate or engage as the game of learning seems too easy.  Learning in a classroom makes demands not only on our academic abilities but also our social and emotional abilities.

Gee (2005) identifies 16 principles that good video games possess:

1. Identity

2.  Interaction

3.  Production

4.  Risk taking

5.  Customisation

6.  Agency

7.  Well-ordered problems

8.  Challenge and consolidation

9.  “Just in Time” and “On demand”

10.  Situated meanings

11.  Pleasantly frustrating

12.  System thinking

13.  Explore, Think Laterally, Rethink goals

14.  Smart Tools and Distributed Knowledge

15.  Cross-functional teams

16.  Performance before competence

If teachers consciously used these 16 principles, would they achieve a more socially inclusive classroom where every student is able to participate and engage in their learning?  Do games then offer a lifeline for teachers struggling to differentiate an overcrowded, content-filled curriculum?

Games can be used to develop a more socially inclusive classroom when teachers can choose games that are open-ended, encourage collaboration and communication.  The idea of a game encouraging students to take ownership of their learning and each other’s learning would definitely encourage social inclusion.  By this I mean, games definitely need interaction but in order to interact with a digital game and other players students need to have an awareness of their rights and responsibilities but also know that others have rights and responsibilities.  Students can be immersed in a game and ‘forget’ there are others there.  In Minecraft, when playing survival mode I have heard students discussing how much fun they had burning down someone’s bridge or house, whilst the person who created these elements can become quite distraught. A sense of ‘agency’, ‘customisation’ and ‘interaction’ then is required.

Games can build a more socially inclusive classroom through creating “cross-functional teams” (Gee, 2005, p.36)  Each student in the classroom has certain skills that they bring into the classroom.  In order for these teams to work, teachers need to be aware of individual student learning styles and skill set.  Who are the students who have great spatial awareness?  Who are the students that have the analytical skills when faced with challenges and problems within games?  Who are the students that possess creativity in design? Who are the students that have the leadership skills to collaborate and negotiate the best decision to make at various points of the game?

In order to succeed in building a socially inclusive classroom though the teacher needs to do some planning and almost a ‘risk assessment’ before putting the students to play.  The teacher needs to have some knowledge of the game and how it could fit into the learning for the students.  Are there any skills that need to be demonstrated to any students?  The learning could be within academic intelligence, social intelligence or emotional intelligence.  There needs to be an awareness on the part of the teacher how a game encourages the social inclusion of all students.  How is the baggage from the face to face playground going to be put aside for the interaction within a serious educational game?  How will any competitiveness be received by all the students? Any learning is affected when relationships within a classroom are less than favourable so planning and knowledge before the game are crucial to developing a more socially inclusive classroom.  It is not meaning the teacher dictate but rather allow students to know that there are still expectations and social responsibilities (etiquette) that need to be recognised even in games.

Another very important aspect that Gee’s principles made me reflect upon is the idea of feeling safe enough to fail so that the student continues to take risks.  The idea of feedback and further instruction being given, “just in time” is so important to creating a socially inclusive classroom because each student is indeed an individual and each student will need the teacher (or another student) to provide the necessary feedback to keep going to reach the required goal.

Perhaps when we as educators look beyond what we see on the screen and begin to see, as Gee (2005) does, some games offer an opportunity towards deeper learning and more inclusive social practices then our schools can really become communities of learning practice.

 

REFERENCES:

Gee, J.P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum,  85(2), 33-37. http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf

 

 


What is Game-Based Learning?

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My (Evolving) Statement About Game-Based Learning 

Game-based learning is more than can be seen on the screen.(Gee, 2012.)  The combination of design and instruction are equally important in a game-based learning environment (Becker, 2011, p.81). It is the active engagement and collaboration of students and teachers (players),  in an online and offline learning environment to play/work towards a goal so that learning is achieved(Becker, 2011, p.82). The learning is encouraged through a serious game with the provision of transparent data, whether by the achievement of experience points or levelling up (Andersen, 2012). Teachers need to understand the complexities of the game to be able to assist and give feedback to those students who need extra scaffolding. Students need to provide feedback to the teacher about their game-based learning experiences (Andersen, 2012).  Most importantly though, it allows students the opportunity to fail in a fun and rewarding way as they persist to achieve their end goal of learning.

It would seem then, game-based learning is one way to work towards building an educational community of practice. The most appropriate tools for game- based learning are chosen according to the context and learning needs of the students. While there are some rules, either implicit or explicit(Becker, 2011, p.81), there is still an element of choice, the ability to create, problem-solve within the game.

REFERENCES:

Andersen, P. (2012). Classroom Game Design TEDxBozeman  Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qlYGX0H6Ec

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. InGaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Gee, J. (2012).  Learning With Video Games.  Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnEN2Sm4IIQ

 

 

 


Trying to build a Sandcastle – Infowhelm is here!

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Just about to embark on Week 3 of Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovations) and having a momentary reflection about how distracting this digital age can be for learning.  I check Twitter feeds and add interesting articles I find. Then it’s time for Facebook and Flipboard.   I pin to Pinterest.  I explore the CSU Library.  I borrow to Adobe Digital Editions.  I add reflective entries to this blog and I think, there is NO way I would have been doing all of this at the same time 3 weeks ago.

What I am learning for myself?

Thank goodness for purpose to learning.  At least with purpose I am using my inbuilt filter to gauge what I need now?  What I might need later?  I am starting to realise that every information source does not have to be accessed every day.  I am also realising though that it is very easy to become distracted by how much information is really out there.  I am finally understanding what this concept of infowhelm is – it is trying to build a sandcastle and the waves keep washing over it, shifting the original sand as new grains of sand are added.

If I am feeling this way, then it is necessary for me to realise as an educator the importance of my role in assisting our students to be prepared and skilled as they face the tides of learning.

This is I believe what Haste (2009) was talking about when she mentioned the competency of Managing Ambiguity.  I am definitely in the messy and chaotic part of learning now.

Through using Twitter, I have learnt and continue to learn how to tweet/share, how to keep my thoughts to a certain number of characters, there are a lot of teachers out there and there are a lot of people with opinions about teaching without ever having served in an educational institution.

I am learning that some spaces I need to keep for play and some spaces are for learning.  Facebook to me is a space to play with my friends.  Flipboard, Twitter and Diigo are my spaces to read, collect and learn from educators.

I feel affirmed by the knowledge I am gaining.  I am determined to keep building and rebuilding my sandcastle but I don’t know if it will ever be complete.  Feeling pretty accomplished today as I have set up my Feedly RSS reader and I have learnt how to give attribution to flickr photos.  See above.


Teaching Forward In a Roundabout Way

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Altmann, G. (2012) "Traffic Sign"  Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/traffic-sign-road-sign-shield-108779/

Altmann, G. (2012) “Traffic Sign” Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/traffic-sign-road-sign-shield-108779/

 

An awareness exists in our schools that pedagogical change is necessary as digital technologies continue to pervade every aspect of our students lives.  The educational arena is in a state of transition, there is a shift and it is “not optional” (Richardson, 2012). Practices with digital technologies are still inconsistent, some teachers are open to the possibilities, some teachers are still cautious of the possibilities and some are rarely using technologies.

Within the educational system I work, provision has been made for all students and staff to access Google accounts providing opportunity for collaborative and creative practices.  It is all happening in a roundabout way but it is beginning to happen. One of the challenges is access to Professional Development is mainly given to those in leadership positions. Teachers who are not in leadership have played to learn and there are ‘gaps’ in their learning. There are still those teachers who haven’t had the opportunity for PD or choose not to participate in the opportunities offered because it is yet another chunk of time.

As a teacher librarian in a large primary school I interact with 550 students across the school for a 50 – 60 minute lesson once a week.  There is no time for collaboration between teachers and myself, unless I catch teachers on the run throughout the day.  We still need to overcome the challenge that learning happens only in classrooms.  Some teachers still prefer to work in the context of their grade and not recognise a whole team of teachers within the school and beyond (Richardson, 2012).

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k

The challenge is bringing value to what is presented to the students in our community.  How do we take advantage of the ‘abundance’ of opportunities that are available to us as educators and to our students, to make our students learning authentic in this digital age?  He also makes the point that it is the immeasurable that we should be putting our attention to – problem solving, creativity, critical thinking.  We need to see our students not as “tool users” but rather collaborators, problem- solvers, critical thinkers (Haste, 2009).

Another of the challenges in this inconsistency in adopting the technologies available is that students are not acquiring the social practices and values needed to be participatory digital citizens.  While teachers see the need for developing good digital citizenship practices they tend to only understand it as cyberbullying and netiquette issues.

The following clip below has challenged my thinking  and is motivating my practice as I participate in the learning of this course.  My aim this year is to expand my knowledge and practice in the use of digital technologies.  I am taking more risks and partnering my learning with our students and throwing the need to be ‘expert’ to the wind.  John Seely Brown (2012) I believe says it best, “the technology is the easy part, the hard part is what are the social practices around us and also the institutional structures, we gotta ask ourselves what are the institutions of schooling, universities, (research universities) going to look like in 5 – 10 years from now and if they look the same as they do now……we got problems.”

Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be

Another goal is to try to be as paperless as possible with those classes where 1:1 iPads have started.  It is still difficult to believe that we can be entirely paper free but it is a goal.  The main challenge is my own fear and knowing and understanding the Web tools that are best to drive these lessons. This was also recognised in an article by Edudemic Staff (2014) along with the need to be choosing the most appropriate apps for learning.  Having access to 9 computers with with some classes of 32 is another challenge to be overcome. I need to become creative in how to ensure each student has access to a computer during the learning time.

I want to continue to move my teaching forward and not get disheartened or frustrated and to persist when the learning happens in a roundabout way. By teaching forward I am teaching for not what our students need now but for what they need in the future.

REFERENCES:

Brown, J. S. (2012)  “The Global One Room Schoolhouse” Retrieved from:  http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

Edudemic Staff (2014)  “Ultimate Guide to the Paperless Classroom” Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/ultimate-guide-paperless-classroom/

Haste, H. (2009) “Technology and Youth: Problem Solver Vs. Tool User”, Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/YZRoS5QlJ44

Richardson, W. (2012) “Education Leadership” TEDxMelbourne Retrieved from; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k

 

 

 

 


Are digital games being ‘overlooked’ in ‘digital education’ reform?

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To reflect on the question, “Are digital games being “overlooked” in “digital education reform?” first led me to try and seek some clarity in my mind as to the difference between the terms video games and digital games.  The initial understanding was that video games are those that are played using a game console such as Playstation, Wii or X-Box.  Digital games then would be those that are played using laptops, iPads or other Android devices.  As I read the article, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 30, 2014) it then became apparent that the terms digital and video game seem to be used synonymously.  It would seem to make more sense to call games digital though as they are neither in the format of a video or indeed use the technology of a video player, so for this purpose I will be using the term digital games as those that use the technology of computers and mobile devices.

How do I see digital games fitting into my practice?  What is the context of my learning? What are some challenges?

Within my own practice as Teacher Librarian at a large primary school I would suggest that I am strongly in favour of using digital games in learning and in the library.  I have used Gamestar Mechanic as a way of discussing the importance of narrative, digital citizenship issues such as providing feedback and looking at how games are created and I would agree that there were no issues surrounding motivation or engagement. It led to a “deeper factual and conceptual understanding,” as identified by Dr Catherine Beavis (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I also suggest though it was tricky to ‘fit’ into a timetable where each class visits the library for a 50 minute – 1 hour lesson and not necessarily on the same day. This then means that there needs to be an allowance of time to set up the 7 laptops and 2 desktops, moving to a shared computer, (some classes are 30 students between 9 computers!)  Once the learning/collaboration begins in no time at all the time for packing away is upon us. Also, it needs to be mentioned that the cost can be a factor when adopting digital games in the classroom.

Van Eck (2006) suggests that we have overcome the perception that “play” is in fact at the opposite end of the spectrum to “work.” (p.2).  I am unsure if all teachers hold this belief but generally teachers are embracing the idea of games as a learning possibility.The perception from leadership can be that games are frivolous and that they may not have any educational value.  So a challenge here is two-fold: professional development required and budgetary allocations.

Jesse Schell identified one of the “biggest challenges” teachers face is the timetable. Timetables are one of the drivers of a teacher’s and students learning as there is the issue of compliance and ensuring that each subject is allocated the appropriate amount of minutes.  Dr Catherine Beavis identifies that whilst deep understandings can be made using digital games we ““need to find ways to use them that are consistent with the ways teachers teach”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)

 

Minecraft is another game that I have been wanting to include in the library and I can see huge potential for it to be used in so many ways, the only limit being my imagination.  For example, I could easily suggest students create a world that demonstrates the water cycle, create the visualisation of a particular setting that we are escaping to as we read a novel, create a 3-d map of a particular geographical feature and so on.  I question though whether I am forcing the game to fit the learning or am I using the game as it is intended to be a collaborative, creative tool.  In the following clip, some of the questions and challenges are outlined which show that while Minecraft is HUGE at the moment with our students, how can we best fit it into our classrooms?

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI0BN5AWOe8

In the article by Josh Jennings, “Teachers re-evaluate video games,” (SMH, Nov. 30, 2014), Rebecca Martin, a classroom teacher, recognises that schools need to make game choices that are “open-ended and creative, rather than skill and drill or digital worksheets”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  I welcome this attitude as I observe teachers do use games in their classrooms but mainly as drill and practice, group tasks on iPads that keep students busy whilst the teacher is freed up to do other tasks.  I am not judging this as wrong, as there still needs to be a place where basic facts need to be learnt but I believe we are still at the early stages of adopting digital games into our classrooms as a learning medium and we need to find the balance between open-ended and drill and practice.

I see a great space for games such as Minecraft,  and apart from the challenge of time I wonder how to overcome other challenges of parental expectations, what other colleagues perceive as teaching?,  how do I assess the learning – through acquisition of 21st Century skills or content? how do we make students accountable as there can be many distractions along the way in participating in games?  The question could be, do digital games enhance a students learning?

Here is a clip that explains some of the effects that can happen when students participate in gaming.

Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOsqkQytHOs

My personal aims as I continue my professional and personal learning in this area:

*  To become an advocate for digital games and game-based learning throughout our school;

*  To make wise choices in regards to the digital games and to develop a selection criteria just as I would for the choice of printed resources in our school;

*  To ‘have a go’ at some of the ‘popular’ games our students play so they can identify me not as teacher but as a player learning with them – partners in learning.

What challenges am I hoping to meet for myself?

*  To make time to advocate, I need time to collaborate and share the learning that I make.

*  To heed the advice of Dr Catherine Beavis when she says, “there is a tremendous potential for games-based learning, but also the potential for things to go seriously wrong if the current enthusiasm for games-based learning leads to the introduction of games into the classroom without knowing more about how they actually affect learning, values, understandings and how to do this well?”(SMH, Nov. 30, 2014.)  The challenge that I hope to meet here then, is to be discerning, be patient and to avoid being too hasty in applying the learning I hope to make.

To answer the question, are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education reform?”, I would conclude that teachers are interested and aware that games exist and could benefit their classrooms.  I would also suggest that there needs to be more professional development opportunities and challenges to be overcome to ensure that quality games are integrated into the curriculum for quality learning experiences.  They are not being ‘overlooked’ per se but perhaps the issue is ‘how can we do it well?’

 

REFERENCES:

Jennings, J. (2014). “Teachers re-evaluate value of video games.” Sydney Morning Herald, Retrieved from: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20141130-11jw0i.html

Schell, J. (2011). “Playing Games in the Classroom.” Big Think Retrieved from:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA7KuOyH3PQ

Van Eck, R. (2006).  “Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless….” in EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006).  Retrieved from:  http://edergbl.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/47991237/digital%20game%20based%20learning%202006.pdf