INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium is the capstone subject for the Master of Education in Knowledge Networks and Digital innovation (MedKNDI) and as I approach the conclusion of the subject, I am also approaching the completion of the course. It has been interesting to look back at the goals I set and the Critical Reflections for each of the subjects studied during the course. A motif that emerges is that it has been my goal in all subjects, including INF537, to consider my professional practice as a teacher-librarian and my responsibility to prepare students to participate and thrive in the constantly evolving landscape of the digital age. The immersion into research, opportunities to collaborate fantionally and globally with peers and education experts, and reflective processes have certainly helped meet this goal. In particular, my confidence as a leader has grown.
An argument that has strongly resonated with me is the need for educators to embed opportunities for participation into our programs, curriculums, pedagogies, and spaces so that our students may “develop the cultural competencies and social skills” for full involvement in society (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison & Weigel, 2006, p.4). The key it is suggested, is to consider how students can learn, participate, create and produce within and beyond the classroom. As a student in Med(KNDI) I have been provided with samples of such participatory experiences. These opportunities have included:
using Web 2.0 platforms including Wikis, Voicethread, Diigo, and forums;
communicating and collaborating with peers in social media environments such as Twitter and Facebook; and
reflective practice through blogging.
Importantly, participation in this community of practice, has resulted in an improvement in my own literacies, including digital, information, media, network and even traditional literacy. I found the experience of building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) so empowering that I have embedded this into classroom teaching and students now have blogs, and use social media. Our school library has also embraced Library 2.0 platforms to connect with our users beyond the traditional spaces of the website and the physical library. This puts me in a better place to achieve my professional goal to enable my students to experience and learn the literacies of a connected world. I have also had opportunities to engage colleagues at school in these communities through invitations to present professional development through our college Profressional Learning Centre.
Both of the assessed research tasks in INF537 extended my thinking about emerging trends and what the future holds for students. This has challenged me to consider how to embrace digital scholarship in a secondary school context. The case study for INF537 provided the opportunity to investigate how myself and the team I work with can move our school library digital spaces from online content repositories to interactive and participatory learning environments. The case study represented the research phase of our project and collecting evidence from our school context and analyzing that along with the academic research on the topic will have real life impact. In fact, our project for new digital spaces now begins the design phase and we meet with both our chosen Library Management System and website provider next week together with the College Leadership Team, which is a direct outcome of the case study.
Finally, at the risk of using a less-than-academic tone, I absolutely loved the chance to engage in the colloquiums with other practitioners and industry experts. An opportunity offered students in INF537 Digital Futures Colloquium, is to moderate one of the sessions with the view to interact with ideas and thought leaders. I teamed up with classmate Patricia Buckley to host Annabel Astbury from ABC Splash. Having the chance to listen to Annabel’s experience with the design and management of the ABC Splash site also linked closely with my case study of investigating and redesigning the digital learning environments in my own professional context.
This draws to a close the last blog post for the course but my reflective practice will continue because through the engagement in KNDI, I have established a strong PLN including an independent blog, and valuable connections via social media, particularly on Twitter. It feels like a long time ago that I wrote my first ever blog post which stated:
” Well, it’s official, back to Uni! The first job on the list is to set up this reflective journaling space and post a link to the group forum.
I guess a good place to start is to list my learning goals for this subject. These are:
To participate in a connected learning environment;
To continue my professional learning;
To broaden my classroom practices in digital environments; &
As a Teacher-Librarian, the delivery of school library services, classroom pedagogy and the impact of technology on learners and learning, has been a key focus of my practice. To this end, INF541 Game based learning has been both relevant and professionally interesting. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote that I was interested in being immersed in game based learning:
for professional growth;
to explore the research on why educators believe it is necessary to incorporate games, game design and programming into contemporary education and investigate how they are going about doing this;
to spend time playing games;
in order to better understand and prepare students for work, study and life in modern society, by learning if and how games can build critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity; and
to mentor, resource and support colleagues to experiment with GBL in their own classrooms.
The course work for Game based learning has provided many opportunities in these areas and significantly broadened my thinking about future directions at our school.
Professional growth has certainly been an outcome of completing Game based learning. The environments we were encouraged to participate in, the resources and readings provided and the assessment items all extended my knowledge and have begun to inform my practice as a teacher-librarian. In particular, the reflective blogging and collaboration in Twitter have been a fruitful process for me. I found this kept me on track with the work load of the coarse, encouraged me to think deeply about topics and connecting to the blogs of other students provided insights that have informed and resonated with my own practice.
Exploring the research
One of the opportunities afforded through the course was to read a wide range of literature throughout the modules. In particular, exploring this research highlighted that digital games have the potential to enhance learning, yet adding them to the curriculum in formal settings is no simple matter. On this point, educators interested in games for learning need to consider the games available, classroom and game pedagogy, frameworks for adoption, teacher training, and implementation strategies. It is also essential to consider the need for sound pedagogical practice when using games to teach. While some authors, such as Gee, believe that good games incorporate good learning and identifying the learning inherent in games is of prime importance (2005, p.34), an alternative view is that successful game based learning requires a lot more of a teacher than finding a good game. A valuable point is that teachers seek the sweet spot between game design and educational process for the effective adoption of games for learning (Arnab et al., 2012, p.162). Consequently, teachers interested in games for learning need to be aware that planning this type of learning is a challenging and demanding prospect. Taking these points into consideration will be enormously important for my leadership in school library services as I contemplate how to include games in our school library collection, propose the establishment of a gaming space in the school library and support classroom teachers to include game-based learning into their curriculum.
The course work for Games based learning has also informed my library practice. As a teacher-librarian, information literacy is a primary focus of my work. I decided to focus my compendium chapter on researching why school libraries should be motivated to use and promote game based learning. This work has provided some very practical ways that our school library can move towards becoming a space and a service that offers opportunities into the participatory cultures of digital games.
Spend time playing games
INF541 challenged participants to develop a questing disposition and identify and evaluate a range of games and game environments through direct experience and immersion. In an early blog post, I revealed that “my use of game-based learning and understanding of the potential of games for learning is quite limited. Just as Griffith University professor of education Dr Catherine Beavis identified that schools still have a way to go before they can harness the full educational potential of video games (Jennings, 2012), so too do I”. Further blog posts document the games I experimented with during my learning journey in this subject. In the post titled Playing around, six of these games are discussed. These were a mixture of games produced for educational and entertainment purposes. Later, as part of the research for the compendium chapter, I became curious to play a game called Portal to explore the claims that it could build information seeking skills. My experience is documented in the blog post titled A Gen X and Millennial conversation about Portal.
As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. In particular, I believe these understandings need to be translated to practice so that digital games will improve the opportunities of the students we work with. I have not only had the privilege to read about digital games for learning but have also experienced the possibilities of learning through games and look forward to extending this to students so they are better equipped to solve problems creatively in a future that will require it.
When considering how to shape digital citizenship development among students, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) considers it paramount for teachers to possess the skills and behaviours necessary for participation in the digital age and to model these for students (2008). It is argued that understanding both digital competencies and new ways of learning in order to model digital citizenship become possible when educators take on the responsibility of developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.10).
Sometimes, the idea of beginning a PLN may sound daunting for teachers. The following two-part guide aims to introduce the basics of building a PLN specifically for educators, including the terminology, tools, and methods necessary to get started.
Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). The power of networked learning. In Personal Learning Networks: Using the power of connections to transform education (pp. 1-14). Moorabbin, Cictoria: Solution Tree Press.
The iCentre at Mt Alvernia is a very popular space among students and is extremely busy, particularly outside class times. However, there is one small space that is rarely used. It was set up as a casual lounging or reading area for students to relax, use their mobile devices, read, or meet in groups. Despite other similar spaces being very popular for these reasons, students did not use this space. I decided that I would use this area as my experimental space for Module 1.1.
My first transformation was to remove the coffee table and add a working table. I did this during a morning tea break and in the very next period, a student used it to work at during her study lesson. During the lunchtime that followed, two students used the table to work together on a homework task.
This was a very simple but interesting experiment and I think it is an example of engaging in design thinking described by Tim Brown who advocates “observing what people actually do, [and] noting what people don’t do” (2009, p. 3)
Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: Harper Business.
Having reached the end of Week 2 of INF536, I feel rather “at sea” in this subject and as such am using the metaphor of “taking the plunge” as the title for my first reflection. I feel that I simply must get started despite my apprehension.
I have found it very difficult to put any thoughts on paper for this subject. I feel quite out of my depth with the subject matter, intimidated even, and very nervous to pen anything on the topic. The readings have confused, rather than clarified, my thinking so far as I keep reading … there are no straightforward answers, there are guidelines but no guidelines, it is important to have ideas but keep your mind completely open, …..
So, needing to start somewhere, I am focusing on the quote from Module 1.2 that design thinking may be described as “an analytic and creative process that engages a person in opportunities to experiment, create and prototype models, gather feedback, and redesign” (Ruzzouk & Shute 2012).
The three areas I am interested in are the design of school libraries for learning, classroom design for learning and digital learning spaces. As a starting point, I am curating some design ideas, examples and models on Pinterest boards and hope this generates momentum if not some confidence!
As a Teacher-Librarian, the information landscape and the impact of technology on learners and learning, has been a key focus of my practice. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote:
“the concepts and practices for a digital age of particular interest to me are:
· for professional growth,
· to better understand and prepare students for work, study and life, &
· to mentor and support colleagues”.
The course work for Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age has provided many opportunities in these areas, and significantly broadened my thinking about future directions at our school. For the purposes of this reflection, I would like to address each of these points.
Professional growth has certainly been an outcome of completing The Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age. The environments we were encouraged to participate in, the resources and readings provided, and the assessment items all extended my knowledge, and have began to inform my practice as a teacher-librarian. In particular, the reflective blogging has been a fruitful process for me. I found this kept me on track with the work load of the coarse, and encouraged me to think deeply about topics. Connecting to the blogs of other students provided insights and feedback that have informed and resonated with my own practice. Another conversation that has stayed with me was during a Google hangout when a discussion led to the importance of creativity in the classroom. This together, with reflections on the learning throughout the course, and the process of completing a digital essay, remind me that creativity really is the key to innovation and absolutely essential in educating students for success in the digital age.
One of the opportunities afforded through the course was to write an academic book review. The book from the list of choices available for review and criticism that gained my attention was The app Generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy and imagination in a digital world by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. The book was a great read and together with the research undertaken to critically review it, provided new insights into how the technologies of the digital age are shaping the young people we work with. In particular, a heightened sense of individualism, increased aversion to take risks and the need for constant endorsement are key concerns raised by Gardner and Davis (2013). The idea that there is an increased aversion to taking risks among young people resonates with my experiences of working with students, and concerns of this nature have been raised in my educational setting in both formal meetings, and during informal conversations. Because collaboration has been encouraged and even required in INF530, I was able to extend this conversation beyond the school walls and engage with wide ranging points of view through blogging. I posted a blog entry titled, Narcissistic Teens & Helicopter Parents, and the comments and feedback received have contributed to the professional reflections of the teaching team I work with. As digital citizenship is one of the key priorities of a subject we teach called Research and Technology, we are now thinking about how we can challenge our students to move beyond a position of dependence, requiring constant reinforcement, validation and aversion to risk. We hope to assist them to move to a position of independence that is characterised by a ‘have a go’ attitude and resilience.
The course work for Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age has also informed my professional practice. As a teacher-librarian and curriculum leader, one of the responsibilities in my role description is, “planning, teaching and evaluating collaboratively with teachers to ensure the effective integration of information resources and technologies into student learning” (Staff Handbook, 2014). Professional conversations with mentors are required of all staff at our college as part of our ongoing professional learning. During a recent professional conversation with my mentor, a deputy principal at the college, we identified staff induction programs as requiring more specific input in the area of digital literacies. After showing him some of the key concepts from INF530 and the final assessment task, I decided to focus my digital essay on researching for this purpose. Consequently, my essay aims to answer the question: What concepts and practices should high-school teachers embed in their curriculums to foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age? Another example of how this subject is informing my professional practice was that after reading Module 3.2, Information Fluencies, I decided to conduct a survey into the use of the college’s information services website to gain feedback about its effectiveness in connecting learners to the skills, tools and information necessary for success in the digital age. It was identified through this survey that professional development is necessary among existing staff in digital literacies and digital citizenship and we need to work towards tessellation of how staff, students and the website interact. The research for my digital essay will be initially shared with Curriculum Leaders at our college with the aim of developing opportunities for professional learning so that digital literacies are embedded into our curriculums and pedagogies.
As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. In particular, I believe these understandings need to be translated to classroom practice to prepare students for futures in connected and participatory environments.
Re-imagining education in a digital age – Reflecting on my learning in INF530
What Have I Accomplished?
Looking back at my first blog post for this subject, one of my aims in undertaking this course was to experience being a learner in the 21st Century. This has certainly been true, both of the course materials and the experiences offered. The multimodal nature of the readings which include podcasts, videos and infographics as well as traditional academic journal articles, blogging for critical reflection and interacting in forums, Tweet chats, Adobe connect meetings and Google hangouts, and posting and receiving updates from the class Diigo Group and Twitter hashtag are all examples of these. These practices are examples of the changing digital landscape of education discussed by Conole (2013, p. 48). The image below contains links to some of my interactions in these environments.
What have I discovered about myself as a learner?
I have learned that I find it really hard to study as a 40-something-year-old student. Compared to when I studied at a younger age, my fear of getting it wrong slows down every sentence I write. I also really enjoy the content, and the multimodal delivery of that content, far more than I enjoyed subjects previously studied but this means I want to read, view or listen to each and every resource in every module. Adding this new, studious disposition to work and family commitments has made time a very precious commodity and I need to advance my skills in prioritising.
The Book Review & understanding today’s learners
For the academic book review task, I read The App Generation by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis in an attempt to broaden my insight into today’s learners. I found it really interesting that the evidence-based, American research presented in the book certainly reflects the many conversations I have here in Australia with other teachers and parents of similar socio-economic status to those teens researched in the book. When discussing the effect technology is having on today’s youth, a heightened sense of individualism, increased aversion to take risks and the need for constant endorsement are key concerns raised by Gardner and Davis (2013). This, they say, is the result of broad societal trends and modern parenting and is facilitated by mobile devices, apps and social media.
Collaboration is King
A key concept emphasized throughout the learning in INF530 is that scholarship in the digital age is connected and global and these two factors require collaboration. Mimi Ito (2012) suggests that effective education in the digital age is about matchmaking. It involves designing methods of using connections to bring people together who want to learn together. In this paradigm, building relationships is more important than the actual piece of knowledge being cultivated. Collaboration throughout this course has also resulted in beneficial learning opportunities. Listening to other students discuss the importance of pedagogy and creativity in the Google Hangout provided real focus for my thinking about the digital essay topic I wished to investigate.
The digital essay
In addition to the experience of being a 21st Century learner, I have also sought to ascertain the concepts and practices that high-school teachers should embed in their curriculums to foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age. To this end, my digital essay aims to investigate the question about knowledge and the curriculum strategies that teachers can employ to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for lifelong learning in the 21st Century.
Conole, G. (2012). Designing for learning in an open world (Vol. 4). Springer. Available as ebook from CSU library. http://www.eblib.com
Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.
What are the challenges of introducing digital citizenship to young people (students)?
How can digital citizenship awareness be supported by current research? Which research is the most useful to a digital learning environment?
In this post, Bec first raises the issues of a digital footprint and Internet safety. She is correct in saying that safety is paramount and it is important for students to understand this, however, it is equally important to focus on building a positive digital footprint and give students strategies for doing this. Even young students can discuss how our reputations can be damaged by poor etiquette and silly behaviour in public and brainstorm ideas for avoiding this mistake in both the physical and digital worlds. Bec focuses on the dangers of being online. By contrast, others such as Brett Lee, cyber safety expert, tell us that the Internet is “a great and safe world, it’s how people use it that creates issues” (2012). In his guide for parents, he stresses that children need life skills and these include digital skills (2012). Furthermore, digital citizenship encompasses so much more than Internet safety as outlined in the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship and placing too much focus on safety limits the students’ learning and development in these other areas.
Secondly, Bec outlines her concerns about students’ safety and protection online from her observations during a class investigation into ‘online identities’. As a mother of a thirteen year-old boy and a ten year-old girl, these observations ring true with my own experiences and observations of my children, their friends and my nieces and nephews. I regularly reflect on my children’s digital footprint and how this is evolving as they grow and as technology changes. When thinking about the importance of my daughter’s digital footprint, I concluded that it is essential we teach our children to be aware of the information they are putting out there, to control that information and to leave a footprint that is positive and safe. This goes beyond having a good online reputation. When future employers Google her name, our daughter needs them to see a clever girl who has a sophisticated presence through what she publishes online, is well connected and makes astute decisions about who she associates with. When she applies for that job, she will need an impressive digital résumé that proves her skills and qualifications. She must also possess a digital footprint that enhances rather than betrays all the hard work she has done to get to this point.
Another challenge Bec raises is parents’ awareness and understanding of digital footprints and digital citizenship. A study conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2013, titled Connected parents in the cybersafety age, found that parents are very concerned about the online risks their children may be subjected to. A second key finding of the study is that young people are most likely to turn to their parents for advice about online issues. Thus, they conclude, it is essential that parents are educated about digital citizenship. As a parent and a teacher, I am very interested in this topic and recently blogged an article titled, Parenting Digital Teens: the differing priorities of kids, parents and teachers, inwhich I discuss these issues. The conclusion reached is that parenting adolescents has always been tricky and the digital age adds another layer of complication to this. Open dialogue and education for all the parties involved in raising connected kids is necessary and important.
A challenge that Bec does not discuss is that provided by our own peers in education. It is disappointing that there are some teachers in our schools who do not understand digital footprints and the protocols of digital citizenship. Who do not embed digital literacies into their curriculums and who put up barriers to up-skilling in this area.
The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has a new incarnation among some educators of the digital age. The view held by these educators is that the connections we make are the most powerful contributor to our learning. Central to this view is the belief that due to technology and the explosion of information, the lifespan of knowledge is diminishing and the way we learn is changing.
Theories of learning such as behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism were developed prior to the digital age and do not take into account the impact digital technology has had on society and consequently, learning environments. The theory of connectivism developed by Stephen Downes and George Siemens attempts to do this.
Some of the key points from theory of Connectivism include:
Technology is altering our brains and the way we learn. Know-how and know-what is being supplemented by know-where. If I can google it, I don’t need to know it. The ability to talk about things is more important than the ability to name things.
The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital as is the ability to recognise when new information changes the way we think about issues and the decisions we make.
As knowledge grows, access is essential to learning – our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today and to get this information, learners need to access networks which are crucial sources of up-to-date knowledge.
PLNs – an example of Connectivism in action
The development of a PLN (Personal Learning Network) has been advocated as an essential component of learning in the Digital Age. Groups such as the State Library of Victoria and the School Library Association of Victoria have been running a Personal Learning Network program throughout recent years. Below are three videos that explain personal learning networks and their benefit for educators.
The development of a PLN fits well with Siemen’s theory of connectivism because the connections made in this network are about our ‘knowing-where’ to get accurate & up-to-date information. A PLN also involves talking about learning, sharing resources and supporting the learning of others in a network. According to Siemen (2013), in the past a course involved a textbook and a teacher and you learned the content and concepts necessary for the exam or assignment – now students also connect with people quoted from the textbook on twitter, join google groups to discuss the concepts and so on – the teacher and the textbook are nodes in the network not the complete picture.
In schools today, there is a lot of talk about digital citizenship, digital literacy and building a positive digital footprint. If we accept there is value in the theory of connectivism, then we must also investigate ways our learners can access networks and use these in their learning. Getting students to build a PLN is one way educators can do all of these things – it involves digital literacy, it will provide connections that extend learning and it will demonstrate positive digital citizenship. Access to digital and social media is essential for building a PLN and it is of much concern that some schools still shut down this avenue of learning which is so critical in contemporary society. It is also of concern that with the diminishing lifespan of knowledge, some teachers are not engaged in networks and still view learning as a teacher and textbook model.
Just being able to learn as individuals is not enough. The real questions revolve around the social practices, institutional structures and skills we need.
What are the challenges you have encountered in these areas, and what have you done to respond to them? I have chosen to respond to just one aspect of this question – social practices for learning in technological environments.
I work on a curriculum team consisting of Teacher Librarians and eLearning teachers & we have a huge focus on the social practices of digital citizenship. We want students to appreciate the importance of being safe, ethical and legal when online but more than that, we want them to be consciously positive. We want students to build a positive digital footprint and to contribute meaningfully to the connected world. In order to achieve this, we invite and encourage students to create an online profile, to participate in online communities such as Goodreads, we have students set up blogs as learning journals and for reflective practice and we invite them to join and network on Twitter. We believe the skills needed in these environments can only be learned by participating in them.
The challenges to these social practices have mostly come from colleagues and parents. We have been incredibly lucky that the school leadership are very supportive of our philosophy and make the technology and timetable structures work so that these practises can be fostered. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues in other departments have not been willing to support and extend these practices across disciplines. We have also been informed of some negative opinions to what we are doing being voiced in staff room discussions. Furthermore, we have had mixed reactions from parents. The two comments below reflect both ends of the spectrum of parental response and feedback has ranged from everything between these two comments. That being said, when we asked for parental consent allowing students to be involved in Twitter last year only 3% of parents refused. We were impressed with this low refusal as we feel Twitter is our most controversial digital citizenship practice in discussions with teachers and parents.
I was impressed with your and the school’s approach to social media, and agree wholeheartedly that it is something they have to learn because like it or not, it will be part of their future.
As a parent, with the media focussed on the negative aspects of social media, it gave me great confidence that Sarah will learn how to use these tools properly under your tutelage. So I just wanted to thank you for an informative and interesting session.
They were well presented with good information but it’s a pity that some students don’t abide by it and staff don’t realise this. If the school did not promote social media, many of the problems … could be avoided.
One of the ways we have responded to these challenges is to invite teaching staff to become digital citizens/learners and to set up a PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network). Those teachers that have taken up this opportunity have found the professional learning in Twitter has been particularly valuable. Along these lines, we also set up some Departments with their own Twitter handle, Pinterest boards and Blogs so that they could realise the benefits of ‘push’ technologies for student learning. We have also showcased staff blogs on our iCentre Website under the heading iLearn2 in the hope that staff and students engage with the idea that we are all learners. A positive result that has come out of this is a heightened awareness of the ethical use of information and images and we are constantly being asked about copyright, creative commons and attribution. Staff have also become more alert to privacy settings on platforms like Facebook and their own digital profiles.