Concepts and Practises for a Digital Age

What is my current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age; within the context of being an educator and participant in global networks? Good Question … what do I know? Certainly, as the attached word cloud shows, at present I am trying to grapple with many concepts. 🙂

Let me start with a self realisation: My learning has been consistently informed by an exploratory nature. I view myself as an “entrepreneurial learner” as is described by Seely Brown (2012).

Words in my head.

Cloud summary of my thinking and notes.

A maker and tinkerer.

I am inquisitive by nature and look for new ways and new resources to learn new things.   Seely Brown, also states “We tend to underplay how important this is.” I am beginning to realise how this tinkering ability has allowed me to become comfortable in the digital medium and its participatory culture.

A willingness to learn has allowed me to build transferable skills that can be utilised in many  settings. Since leaving my University studies, I have always lived in a digital world where I needed to learn how to manipulate new technologies. (I might ponder that it was not until I left institutionalised learning that I really learnt how to become an independent learner.)  Within the context of working in a University and research environment, on a daily basis I had to tinker with emerging digital technologies. In more informal settings, I also tinkered with chat rooms when they first appeared; clumsy but fun, and lots of laughter. I learnt by playing games online with my children experimenting with games such as Draw Something for hours, weeks, months. These games were collaborative, required imagination and relied on digital networks to work.

More on the tinkering, I first attempted to use VoiP technology in 1999 when I was employed by a technology company in Florida, USA to run a distributorship for them in Australia. We thought VoiP would be a novel but powerful way to communicate with each other across the globe. The software we played with proved to be a disaster but we had fun and learning occurred. In summary, as I entered teaching in 2003, I had the mindset and growing ability to teach with emerging technologies.  I quickly had students tinkering with internet research well before school networks could cope with this reality.

With an interest in technology, and a passion for teaching I found myself in Victoria’s first government school to adopt a 1:1 use of laptop technology (see earlier post) and then moved into the private school system to spend another five years in a “laptop” school. This more formal context of learning in digitally rich classrooms allowed me to develop my own professional philosophy towards teaching and learning with emerging technologies.

In 2009 I first introduced my students to a learning process that involved them collaborating to curate content sourced from the internet and their own collected digital data, so as to create digital artefacts that communicated their learning.

Click the following link to see an example of student generated digital content:

Student produced digital content

A well discussed approach to digital pedagogy is now the three C’s of Create, Curate, Collaborate … in addition to communicate.  As is presented by O’Connell (2012) “acquisition of knowledge has become a deeper process of individual and collaborative learning activities.”

I now realise that I was playing with and contributing to a new culture of learning by calling upon my students to create digital content. They were creators not just consumers. Reflection on this approach allowed me to learn that when my students were called upon to convert one medium into another e.g. text to voice, or text to images, or images to text … they are forced to make decisions and I suspect this deepened their learning experience.

Therefore, I enter this course as an effective user of technology to support learning, but with the aim of developing a deeper understanding  of new information environments.

My knowledge and thinking is being challenged and developed by this course and I must say I am feeling highly engaged and yet overwhelmed by the many new concepts and practices being presented here.

So, I have a few aims:

  • Think more on the repercussions of global social networks and become more conversational about creative cultures and ways of doing, such as design thinking.
  • Work towards deepening my awareness of future work places such as those presented by Davies (2011) and the repercussions this has for education. 
  • Strengthen my ability to critically view, the quickly changing paradigms of education as exemplified by Chen (2014) who discusses enticing students with content.  He also declares “Finally, disruption has come to education.”  This is very exciting to read. The risk  I see is that digital technologies have unfortunately made it easer to throw content at students.
  • Develop a more evidence based approach to my teaching practice.
  • Share my ideas more openly; and learn by doing so.

There is much to learn.

References:

Chen, M., (2014) Future of Learning: From Assigning to Enticing with Content. Retrieved from Institute For The Future. Future Now. The IFTF Blog: http://www.iftf.org/future-now/article-detail/future-of-learning-from-assigning-to-enticing-with-content/

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis. M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California

O’Connell, J. (2014). Trends in technology environments [ETL503 201430 Subject Outline]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website:
http://digital.csu.edu.au/inf530/module-1-the-information-environment/1-3-trends-in-technology-environments/

The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). (2012, September 18). Retrieved March 15, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be

 

 

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3 Comments
  1. An inquiring mind, a collaborative disposition, and a bunch of energy – yep, that’s you in action. Your writing is thoughful and challenging, and worth a read by everyone as we thrash out ideas together. Thanks!

  2. Simon you blog post was thought provoking and very well written and really made me reflect on my own experiences and myself. It made me question myself not only as a teacher but also as a learner, and while I can’t write as good as you…here are my thoughts, reflections and ideas.

    Your comment about how you learnt to become an independent learner after leaving institutionalised learning, made me realise that it was the same for me too. But where you have already become or recognise yourself as an ‘entrepreneurial learner’, I believe I am still on my way. Also the transferable skills you mentioned are essentially the types of skill that our students should be learning. These are the skills that transcend subjects, and allow students to become lifelong learners with skills that can be utilised for any job or career path.

    After re-watching the YouTube clip of John Seely Brown (Digital Media & Learning Research Hub [DMLResearchHub], 2012) I realised the emphasis that he puts on social skills in the network age. Social skills are important in the network age due to the importance of communication and collaboration.

    Brown (DMLResearchHub, 2012) also emphasises the importance of playing. While you called it tinkering in your blog post, I prefer the term play because whenever I discover any new technology I play with it until I understand it and determine its usefulness. But the differences between tinkering and playing are just the words themselves because the meanings are very similar.

    Similarly Martinez and Stager (2013) discuss the importance of making, tinkering and engineering in the classroom. They propose numerous ways to incorporate making into the classroom and even present learning theories to support their case. It is a very good read if you have the time.

    You mentioned reflection in your post with regards to you reflecting on how your students learnt. I think reflection is important in the digital age, not only personal reflection but peer reflections as well. I guess this could come under the terms collaboration and/or communication that you mentioned as part of a digital pedagogy but personally I think it should be separate.

    I really liked the way that you used professional experiences to justify the theoretical knowledge from the subject. Unfortunately my professional knowledge is limited but in the ‘network age’ isn’t your knowledge only as limited as you network? So maybe while building my professional knowledge I need to build my professional network and collaborate and communicate on a more regular basis.

    I would really like to know your thinking on social media and teaching and if you have used it in your teaching and if so how.

    References:
    Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and
    engineering in the classroom. Available from Amazon.

    Digital Media & Learning Research Hub [DMLResearchHub]. (2012, September
    18). The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012). Retrieved April 28, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be

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