As we fast approach one-fifth of the twenty-first century, ‘connected learning’ and ‘digital literacy’ are two terms linked with the advent of the 21st-century learner. These two terms are dynamic in character and aim to provide a more ‘intune’ educational experience that caters to the exponential changes in technology and the impacts these technologies have on our culture.
“What happens to learning when we move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century, where technology is constantly creating and responding to change?” (Thomas & Brown 2011)
Thomas & Brown (2011) believe that we need to shift from previous assumptions in that for learning to take place there needs to be teaching. When I reflect upon the twentieth-century models that were founded from the industrial revolution, the role of a teacher was linear in that the focus was on a transferal of information from the authoritative figure (teacher) to the subordinate (student). But as society continues to evolve this transferal model will not meet the needs of current and forecasted workplaces.
Connected learning is about drawing on resources and using tools critically to build knowledge, create products, acquire skills and share knowledge or products to contribute to a community of learners. It draws on what Thomas & Brown (2011) would call the ‘collective’ to access knowledge networks and absorb knowledge through participatory modes. The teacher within this model is seen as the ‘orchestrator’ of learning. Connected learning acknowledges that learning is a collaborative task that can take place within or beyond the school context on various mediums at any state of the day. These mediums could involve searching a community forum, following an academic on Twitter, subscribing to a youtube channel or a blog to name a few. The connected learning model also acknowledges the learner’s passions. This element is key, especially when taking into account Wilson’s (1999) information seeking behaviour model because all learning begins by acknowledging a lack of understanding. When this pursuit of knowledge is driven by passion not only is learning relevant, it becomes fun.
Figure 1. The Components of Digital Literacy. From ‘3.1 Components
Of Digital Literacy’ Hague, C. & Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum (Futurelab Handbook). Bristol: Futurelab. p19.
Digital Literacy is a multifaceted concept that takes a variety of components into account (see Figure 1). When viewing digital literacy within the context of connected learning, some potential issues and skills need to be addressed. For example, online safety, critical selection of tools, collaborating online need to be addressed. There is also a need for the student to think critically about the technology tools and approaches. If students were to engage in the online ‘collective’, there is a need to ensure this approach is safe – in both environment and engagement. For a composer of digital content, a digitally literate student requires a developed disposition that allows technology to be viewed as instruments of creativity, communication and community. For a viewer of digital content, a digitally literate student will critically select and consume based on the identified value of information. Critical thinking skills are necessary to acquire considering the current nature of information within the economic, occupational, technological, political, socio-cultural, theoretical and open societies as outlined by Bawden & Robinson (2012).
Within my current role, two frameworks have guided the successful implementation of technology; The SAMR (Puentedura, 2009) model and TPACK (Mishra & Koehler 2006) model. Both of these models are valuable from a teacher’s perspective when identifying technology integration into a classroom. I still wonder how well this incorporates the digital literacy competencies or the collective resource that can support students who seek information autonomously? As an educator and implementer of such models, I am learning that is my role to accept the ecosystem of frameworks and studies that guide our educational landscape. So as we fast approach the completion of two-fifths of the twentieth century and remind myself that education is to prepare students for a world where change is the norm, learning takes place whenever and wherever and digital literacy competencies will best prepare students for change but also embrace change.
Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science. London: Facet.
Hague, C. & Payton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum (Futurelab Handbook). Bristol: Futurelab.
Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108, 6, pp 1017-1054
Puentedura, R.R. (2009) As We May Teach: Educational Technology, From Theory Into Practice.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace.
Seely Brown, J. (2011). By Design with Fenella Kernebone: Conversation – The power of tinkering. Phone Interview retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bydesign/conversation-the-power-of-tinkering/3002560
Wilson, T.D. (1999). Models in information behaviour research. Journal of Documentation, 55(3) 249-270