Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

The world is moving at such a rapid pace and new, significant advances to technology and digital environments are happening exponentially. As educators, it is vital that we keep up with these changes and advancements in order to best prepare our students for the future. We need to ensure that our students are equipped with the information, knowledge and skills needed for them to participate in a technology driven, evolving world where the only constant we know is change. The concept of connected learning and digital literacy is an area where teachers need to develop their knowledge and practice in order to provide the most adequate opportunities for our students to be successful in this digital age.

Digital literacy involves a number of key facets as described by Bawden (2008):

  • “knowledge assembly,” building a “reliable information hoard” from diverse sources
  • retrieval skills, plus “critical thinking” for making informed judgements about retrieved information, with wariness about the validity and completeness of internet sources
  • reading and understanding non-sequential and dynamic material
  • awareness of the value of traditional tools in conjunction with networked media
  • awareness of “people networks” as sources of advice and help
  • using filters and agents to manage incoming information
  • being comfortable with publishing and communicating information as well as accessing it

But what does this mean for teachers? In order for teachers to truly understand and assess digital literacy they must first accept digital literacy as a ‘genre’ within what they already know and understand as formal literacy. Digital literacy should not be perceived as an extra concept or ‘add on’ (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011).

When considering the Literacy General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum it is already evident, even if not explicitly, that digital literacies should become an integral and important component of any school curriculum.

“The Literacy strand aims to develop students’ ability to interpret and create texts with appropriateness, accuracy, confidence, fluency and efficacy for learning in and out of school, and for participating in Australian life more generally. Texts chosen include media texts, everyday texts and workplace texts from increasingly complex and unfamiliar settings, ranging from the everyday language of personal experience to more abstract, specialised and technical language, including the language of schooling and academic study. Students learn to adapt language to meet the demands of more general or more specialised purposes, audiences and contexts. They learn about the different ways in which knowledge and opinion are represented and developed in texts, and about how more or less abstraction and complexity can be shown through language and through multimodal representations. This means that print and digital contexts are included, and that listening, viewing, reading, speaking, writing and creating are all developed systematically and concurrently.”
Retrieved from:  http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/english/literacy

An important observation to question is what exactly is meant by “every day texts and workplace texts”? An everyday text to me is digital, online and not linear, they are the texts that I choose to read and view. Or is it more general, is this defined as texts such as  signs students may see everyday? I think the concept of ‘everyday texts’ is something that needs more consideration and definition depending on the context of students we teach. Digital literacies is however, far more than just about being able to read and write in digital form. Reading digitally involves being able to read beyond a static page. To be digitally literate, students and teachers alike must be able to critically engage with technology, communicating and representing their knowledge in different formats, contexts and for different audiences (Future Lab, n.d.). Chase and Laufenberg (2011) support this idea by describing that the ‘digital’ aspect of literacy provides students and teachers with a variety of learning opportunities, creation formats and spaces for expression that were not previously available. Closed, ‘in-class’ lessons or assignments can become multimodal, digital productions that provide students with authenticity and a larger audience.

Retrieved from: http://instagram.com/p/l7EipVJ5vQ/

One idea for fostering digital literacy in the classroom can be done effectively through finding something teachers are already familiar with doing in the classroom, but using digital technologies to transform and redefine how this could look. In a recent post on my blog, I wrote about transforming a writing lesson using Book Creator on an iPad and publishing student made books to the iBooks store, this kind of activity enables subject learning to become more relevant to students in a society where technology is changing the way both children and adults communicate and represent information (Future Lab, n.d.)

A key component of becoming a digitally literate citizen is being able to connect and communicate with a wider audience. Digitally literate citizens are aware of ‘people networks’, networked media (Bawden, 2008) and use digital tools effectively collaborate in online communities (Ng, 2011). With this in mind, it could be advantageous to infer that without connected learning, one can not truly be digitally literate.

Connected learning allows both teachers and students to leverage their use of digital tools in order to involve themselves in interest based, hands-on, active, production driven learning. Connected learning has the ability to transform classroom environments, moving away from content driven, teacher-led experiences, shifting to an environment where teachers too are valued as learners (Connected Learning Principles, n.d.). Connected learning aims to create adaptive learners who will thrive in our rapidly technologically changing world (Connected Learning For Educators, n.d.). In order for our students to become digitally literate, connected learners we need to provide our students with interactive, networked media that allows them to connect, engage, collaborate, participate and share effectively in a digital environment.

So what are my goals for my current role and educational context? What am I going to do about it?

  • I need to model and share how the digital literacy ‘genre’ can be incorporated into our current curriculum.
  • I need to demonstrate to teachers at my school the affordances of this type of education can develop students who are skilled in consumption, evaluation and creation of content (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011).
  • I need to focus more on the underlying learning, rather than on the tools being used.
  • I need to create opportunities for demonstrating how connecting students personal passions, expected curriculum standards and the wider community and world can revitalise the learning process and engage learners in a more purposeful, authentic learning experience (Challenge Based Learning anyone?)

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.

Connected Learning Principles | Connected Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles

Connected Learning For Educators | Connected Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://connectedlearning.tv/educators

Future Lab. (n.d.). Digital Literacy across the Curriculum handbook. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/digital-literacy-across-curriculum-handbook

Ng, Wan. (2011). Why digital literacy is important for science teaching and learning. Teaching Science. Australian Science Teachers Association. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/why_digital_literacy_is_important_for_science_teac,34913.html?issueID=12610

4 Comments


  1. Thanks for your professional and comprehensive thoughts Bec.
    I would challenge educators to think of Digital Literacy as more than a genre. It is now a life skill that we all need to develop.

    Happy teaching.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for the comment Simon, I definitely agree- maybe I need to think about that more. I suppose the idea is that it isn’t considered an add on…

      Reply

  2. We are all thinking here and what I am liking about blogging is that I can go in and rehash some of my words. ..and spelling mistakes. Ideas can be mulled over and rethought.

    Reply

  3. I’ve actually read your post a couple of times in the last few weeks, and never put finger to keyboard to reply. I should have – but what I really liked and responded to was the strong connections you made between research writing on digital literacy, and the place and way it’s articulated in school curriculum settings. Being aware of the directions that curriculum pulls us, and then setting the core skills and competencies, like information literacy, both within and beyond the curriculum allows that flexibility to keep evolving our teaching practice. After all, it’s all about the learning opportunities for the kids. You students must be getting buckets of Bec wisdom every day!

    Reply

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