Posts Tagged ‘digital age’

5 reasons we need an iCentre Website


As we continue to travel along the path of re-visioning our iCentre virtual spaces, we have been investigating what a website, Library Management System (LMS) and social media can offer school library services.  Our research has been interesting and we easily agreed that the LMS and social media are vital virtual spaces for our services.  The Library Management Systems we have investigated are web-based, learner-centred, sophisticated and interactive and as such, we have been challenged to consider the question: is an iCentre Website necessary?  Our conclusion is a resounding YES and here are the reasons why:

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-43-26-pmWe model the literacy of participation

Jenkins et al. argue that the digital divide between those who will succeed in twenty-first (21st) century futures and those that will be left behind is determined not by access to technology but by access to opportunities to participate and develop the cultural competencies and social skills necessary in new media landscapes (2006, p.3).  Crockett, Jukes and Chruches (2011, p.14), O’Leary (2012, para.18), and Seely Brown (2012, p.15) are also among those advocating the necessity of educating for participation because individuals who find themselves lacking such skills are at risk of being on the wrong side of the divide and left behind in academia and the workplace. Many of the skills and mindsets outlined by these authors, require schools to transition from a scholarship practice that uses technology as a tool to enhance research to a social scholarship practice “in which the use of social tools is an integral part of the research and publishing process and is characterized by openness, conversation, collaboration, access, sharing and transparent revision” (Pearce et al. & Cohen as cited in Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012, p.767).  The iCentre website models this literacy of participation through publishing blogs, connecting with social media, and the open sharing of learning.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-43-39-pmWe serve a community not just students & teachers

The college community served by the iCentre is broader than the students and teachers on campus.  In particular, parents, as the primary educators, are an important part of our community.  One of the roles of the iCentre is to provide leadership in digital citizenship.  The website regularly curates and publishes information on how parents can assist their children to develop the capacity to build a positive digital footprint that showcases their learning interests, talents, and successes, and enables them to build social skills and cultural competencies.  This content also includes resources that will assist the community to use information and technology safely, legally and ethically.  To this end, the iCentre website is a valuable tool because it provides learning experiences that enable the community to engage in positive digital practices that are relevant and timely.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-43-50-pmWe value networks

Technological shifts have changed the culture of learning to one in which the classroom is now global and provides learners with access to “nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time” (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011, loc.55).  In this new culture, learning resides in the ability to form networks and learning how to learn, what to learn, who to learn with and when to learn is more important than the mastery of content (Olsen, 2011, p.22).  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).  The iCentre website is one of the tools we use to connect with our colleagues in education – it is part of our learning network.  We have had many instances of professionals from other school libraries making suggestions for our website, contributing content to our website, and contacting us through the website in order to visit and share knowledge.  Such connections have been invaluable to the service we offer our community.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-43-59-pmWe value Open Scholarship

A trend that has been identified in 21st Century scholarship is an “openness” resultant from developing digital communication and networked technologies (Pearce et al., 2010, p.37).  According to Katz, this trend towards open content, knowledge and learning will offer great opportunities for scholars (2010, p.6).  The Creative Commons movement, which has opened up access to licensed creative content and also allows individuals to license work for others to share, is one example of how openness can lower barriers and democratize learning.  By sharing resources and learning through the iCentre website, we too are participating in a form of open scholarship.

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-12-44-09-pmWe want to share our story

At this year’s Edutech Conference in Brisbane, both Kate Tormey, CEO of the State Library of Victoria and Dr Ross J. Todd, associate professor at Rutgers University, Department of Library and Information Sciences, stressed to delegates of the Future Libraries stream that if libraries are to thrive, then they must share their story.  The capacity of the Teacher-Librarians to share their story both within the college and beyond has valuable outcomes and the iCentre website has proved a powerful way to share our story.


Crockett, L.,Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. [Epub]. Kelowna, B:C: 21st Century Fluency Project.

Jenkins, H.,Clinton, K., Purushotoma, R., Robinson, A., J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Paper presented at MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from

O’Leary, T. (2012, October 10). Making connections to end digital divide. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from

Olsen, R. (2011). Understanding virtual pedagogies for contemporary teaching & learning (pp. 1-32, Rep.). Victoria: IdeasLAB.

Pearce, N.,Weller, M., Scanlon, E., & Ashleigh, M. (2010). Digital scholarship considered: How new technologies could transform academic work. In Education, 16(1), 33-44.

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.

Seely Brown, J. (2012, November 21-22). CJ Koh Professorial Lecture Series No. 4 in Singapore: Learning in and for the 21st Century Singapore. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked Participatory Scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks.  Computers & Education, 58,, 766-774. Retrieved from http://10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.001


Learning in the Digital Age = Participation


One of the key themes that have been impressed upon students engaged in the Master of Education Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation course (MedKNDI) is that learning in the digital age involves understanding and participating in digital cultures.

Throughout these studies, I have also been introduced to some expert educators and researchers discussing the idea of participatory digital cultures.  Some researchers that appear regularly in my reference lists include Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito, Danah Boyd, John Seely Brown, Doug Johnson, Howard Rheingold, Christine Greenhow, Mike Ribble, Helen Haste, Will Richardson, Selen Turkay and James Paul Gee.

The challenge these thought provokers pose to those of us teaching in schools is:

How can we embed opportunities for participation into our programmes, 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 we complete the course and engage in the colloquiums on offer, it is my goal 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.

A useful guide for this reflective investigation is the 2016 standards for students recently produced by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  I have used this publication to develop goals for enhancing my professional practice during and beyond the studies undertaken in INF537: Digital Futures Colloquium.

Learning goals for digital futures


Jenkins, H.,Clinton, K., Purushotoma, R., Robison, A., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st Century. Paper presented at MacArthur Foundation, Chicago. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). THE 2016 ISTE standards for students. Retrieved from

Teaching digital citizenship = leading by example

Leading by example = being online + social networking + publishing & creating + connecting & facilitating

Teaching in a world characterised by networked information, mobile devices, social media and an omnipresent participation in online environments necessitates embedding digital citizenship into classrooms across the curriculum. In particular, the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) stipulate the embedding of digital competencies into learning areas across the curriculum through the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability (ACARA, 2014, ICT capability across the curriculum, Para 1).

The question, is how do we teach digital citizenship? A starting point is for teachers to practice what they need to teach. 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). Clark (in Hollandsworth, Dowdy & Donovan, 2011, p.38), Ribble (2011, loc.1901) and Lindsay & Davis (2013, p.98) are also among those advocating the necessity for teachers to lead by example in the arena of digital citizenship.

This following slideshow contains four slides that will present methods for teachers to model effective attitudes and practices in digital environments. It seems obvious, that to model digital citizenship, the first step teachers need to take is to participate online.  Once online, teachers need to belong and contribute to networks, go beyond consuming information and start publishing and creating and facilitate student connections.


Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (downloaded from the Australian Curriculum website on 5 May, 2014). Information and communication technology (ICT) capability [PDF]. Australian Curriculum Assesment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. (2011). Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends, 55(4), 37-48. Retrieved March 28, 2015.

International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). ISTE Standards: Teachers [PDF]. Arlington: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved March 27, 2015, from

Lindsay, J., & davis, V.A. (2013). Citizenship.  In Flattening classrooms. engaging minds:  move to global collaboration one step at a time (pp. 97-125).  Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Becon Publishers.

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital citizenship in schools. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Digital Lifestyle = Public = Digital Citizenship = Digital Learning Environment


A digital lifestyle

The Students I work with live digital lifestyles. They attend a BYOT school that requires them to own a laptop. Additionally, the majority of them also own personal mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Some of them also have wearable computers such a smart watches and fitbits. They use social media and belong to online communities. They are often texting, downloading, updating and searching and they are always looking for Wi-Fi and chargers. Come to think of it, this same lifestyle is lived by their teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches and employers. It’s just the way life is for many in modern society.

Public roles as media makers & community participants

Modern society requires people to take on “increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants” (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Weigel, 2006, p.3). Preparing students for the modern workplace and academia requires adding non-traditional skills, knowledge and cultural competencies to our curriculums. To be best prepared for their futures, students will need to:

  • understand right behaviours and build the practical skills required to use technology in healthy, responsible and safe ways;
  • be able to learn from and build knowledge with peers and teams of people, often whom they may never meet face-to-face;
  • value intellectual property in order to use the work of others legally and ethically and also to license their own work appropriately;
  • be critical users of information so that they choose authoritative sources and are aware of the ways that media shape perceptions of the world; and
  • understand how to contribute to the collective in order to develop meaningful solutions.

Digital citizenship education

In Australia, the Digital Education Revolution saw laptops put into the hands of students. As this initiative has reached its conclusion, schools across the country are implementing BYOD policies (Smith, 2014, Para.2). Given this, it is time for education to shift the focus from the equitable provision of digital access to the equitable provision of opportunities to use technology to develop the social, academic and cultural literacies required for digital participation. Furthermore, teachers who simply use devices as electronic notepads or textbooks will fail to provide opportunities for students to build digital citizenship competencies and attitudes such as those outlined by Mike Ribble (2011, p.11):


Digital learning environments

Authentic digital citizenship education requires digital learning environments. By enabling students to communicate, create, collaborate, disseminate, store and manage information in these environments digital citizenship knowledge and skills are not a choice for students and teachers to adopt, they are a necessity. Schools that are preparing young people for 21st century pathways understand the need for such environments and their responsibility to “develop the skills needed for critical evaluation, online collaboration and communication and behaviours which support safe, responsible and ethical use of digital technology” (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2010, p.8).

What does this mean for my students?

That brings me back to my students and what I need to consider for their learning. One of the things that I think is important for authentic digital citizenship education is for students to engage in environments beyond the Content Management System (CMS). This means we need to use Web 2.0 tools and social media in our classrooms. By doing so, we can lead our students towards positive digital footprints. Furthermore, if we don’t guide students to participate in authentic online environments and communities, we risk the proliferation of ignorance about the consequences and permanence of their online interactions.


Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. (2010). Digital learning statement. Innovation and Next Practice Division, Melbourne. Digital Learning Statement [Fact sheet].Retrieved from

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation website

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools : Nine Elements All Students Should Know (2nd Edition). Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from

Smith, A. (2014, February 21). End of free laptop program means it’s BYO device now for many high school students. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 14, 2015.

Image attribution

Stokpic, Person Abstract Ipad No Face Sky Clouds Man, CC0 Public Domain



Applying the Learning: Reflections of #INF530


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.

 Image Attribution

Learning To Read At School,Woodcut 1870. [Photo]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.


Assessment Task #7 – Reflection

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.

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.

Ito, M. (2013, October 31). Connected Learning: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from – t=26

Blog Task #3 Reflection on Bec Spink’s ‘Digital Citizenship for Students’


The post Digital Citizenship for Students by (Bec Spink) @MissB6_2 asks two important questions that I’d like to reflect upon:

  • 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.

The video from Common Sense media provides excellent advice for young students about strategies for making good choices online. For educators, their blog post, It’s never too early to teach kids online skills is also a useful resource.

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, in which 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 second question raised in this post is about how research supports the teaching of digital citizenship and Bec provides an excellent report, Digital Citizens Guide – community and stakeholder research, as a useful resource.  Although it is now three years old, another piece of research that provides interesting insight into the teaching of digital citizenship is the 2011 study by Gfk bluemoon for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) entitled, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media.   Finally, indicators for teaching digital citizenship can also be found in the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum.  In particular, the Learning Continuum in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capability provides explicit examples of how this should be taught across year levels.

Bec concludes her article by identifying the three principals three principals that responsible digital citizens should Practise:

Engage positively
Know your online world
Choose consciously

I agree Bec, and I believe these are principals we should live by in life, both online and off.

Image Attribution

Geralt, Blog Blogging Leave Share With Communication, CC0


ACARA. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

ACMA. (2011). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media (Rep.). Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

ACMA. (2013). Digital citzens guide (pp. 1-5, Rep.). Canberra, ACT: Australian Government.

ACMA. (2014). Connected parents in the cybersafety age, June 2013 snapshot (pp. 1-28, Rep.). Canberra, ACT: Australian Government.

Common Sense Media. (2013, September 30). It’s never too early to teach kids online skills [Web log post]. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Common Sense Media. (2013, September 24). Pause & Think Online. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Lee, B. (2012). Parents’ guide to Internet use. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Lee, B. (n.d.). Internet education and safety services. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Ribble, M. (2014). Nine Elements. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Spinks, B. (2014, March 22). Digital citizenship for students [Web log post]. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from


Are apps destroying our future artists?



Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up  PabloPicasso

A sizeable portion of the app ecology is devoted to supporting artistic production.  Among other creative pursuits, there are many apps available for image creation and editing, video production, music composition and creative writing. These apps make creating simpler and cheaper than in the past and social media makes it easier for the creator to find an audience.  In chapter 6 of The App Generation, Gardner and Davis (2013) investigates the impact of apps on creativity and imagination by asking the question “what’s gained and what’s lost by using apps (and other digital media) for the purpose of artistic expression”? (p. 120)

To answer this question, imagination and creativity needs to be measured and this is a difficult thing to do.  Gardner and Davis provide evidence from three studies that have attempted to measure trends in creativity over a period of approximately twenty years.

The Torrance Test of creative Thinking (TTCT)

The most widely used creativity test is the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking and empirical evidence suggest that high scores on the test successfully predict subsequent creative careers and accomplishments (p. 127) In a study of Torrance scores of 300 000 Americans over 20 years (1990 – 2010) the research documents a pronounced decline in scores across all areas of the figural test – elaboration, fluency, originality, creative strengths & resistance to premature closure. (p. 127) Overall, the declines were steepest in more recent years, from 1998 – 2008 (p. 128)

Affect in Play Scale

A second study found a more optimistic view of changes in youth creativity.  This research, covering fourteen studies from 1985 – 2008 used the Affect in Play Scale to measure the pretend play of children.  This research found that imagination and comfort both increased significantly over the period of the study suggesting that young children have become more imaginative in their pretend play and have come to derive greater enjoyment from play. (p. 129)

Investigations of Gardner and Davis:

A.  Analysis of short stories and visual art

The author’s own study analysed short stories and visual art pieces produced by middle and high school students between 1990 and 2011.  the conclusion they reached was a growing sophistication in the art produced by young artists over the twenty-year period however, creative writing over the same period became more conventional.  (p. 132)

B.  Findings from interviews with a focus group of teachers and camp directors

The focus group reported that youth today are more comfortable engaging with with existing ideas and re-creating known works than coming up with their own ideas and inventing new material.(p. 138 – 144) However, focus group participants were conversely impressed by new media technologies and their ability to lower the bar for entry into creative pursuits, the increased sophistication of what youth can create in these apps, and the wider variety of creative opportunities now open to young people. (p. 149)

There emerges in Gardner and Davis’ writing a recurring theme of fear of failure and aversion to risk among the youth of today.  Just as this was found in young people’s formation of identity and ability to develop relationships, it was also found to be true of their creative pursuits.  (p. 144)

In attempting to discover what is both lost and gained by using apps for creative expression, the work or a number of scholars was outlined throughout the chapter.  Some key ideas from these works include:

The limiting nature of apps because they are packaged sources of creativity and while many celebrate the remix culture, others bemoan the lack of invention in this media.  The adversaries of apps, outline the obstacles digital media present to creativity because of the limited range of actions and experiences open to users due to programing and software restrictions (p. 141)

Another concern among scholars concerns the disruptive nature of digital media. This they claim may also have implications for limiting deep reflection that is essential to stimulating imagination and creativity.  Added to this is the predilection of digital youth for multi-tasking which reduces ones opportunity for deeper & abstract thinking (p. 146)

A final concern raised was the highly scheduled extra-curricular activities common among affluent youth.  The worry is that the regimented quality of resume building extra curricular activities leaves little room for these young people to exercise their imaginations and scholars have found that participation in highly structured activities undermines creativity (p. 148)

In answer to their question about what is gained and what is lost by using apps for creative purposes, Gardner and Davis conclude firstly, that for app users, the avenues to artistic expression may be many but they’re often tightly bound – the code determines the creation (p. 152).  Secondly, “digital media may have a freeing effect on those young people who already have a disposition to experiment, to imagine, while having a freezing impact on that proportion of youth who would rather follow the line of least resistance.” (p. 153)

On the educational scene in Australia we are constantly hearing about the importance of creativity for this generation of learners.  Statements like “art is the fourth R”, “creativity is an essential literacy” and “the importance of visual literacy in a digital world” are often made at conferences, on blogs and in professional literature.  If what we are hearing about artistic endeavours and creativity being critical skills for people to succeed in the digital era is correct and if we think about this in connection with the possible decline in creative abilities found in The App Generation then this should be a key concern for educationalists. While our educational institutions seem to be headed on a path of performance accountability, we may be failing our students by not investing enough in building imaginative capacity and creativity.


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.

Groebi, Munch Scream Alienation Watercolor Felt Tip Pens, Public Domain

How to define a digital generation


In order to critique the hypothesis by Gardner and Davis that today’s youth can be characterised as “The App Generation”, two key concepts need to be explored.  These concepts are the definition of a generation and the effect of media and technologies on societies.

How do we define a generation?

Gardner and Davis examine a number of the different definitions of a generation. They look at the biological generation, defined by child birth; the calendric generation, defined by decades; the political, cultural or social generation defined by ‘big events’; and the technological generation, marked by newly emerging technologies.  They believe that  “in evoking the epithet the App Generation, [they] seek to go beyond the technology, and beyond the media of communication, into the psychology of the users.  … [and] aim to capture the cognitive, social, emotional, and even ethical dimensions of what it is like to be a young person today. (2013, p. 54)

A number of other writers have also labelled generations according to technological changes.  A very prominent example of this is Marc Prensky who said that “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” and as such could be called a generation of “digital natives” (2001).  This view is supported by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in their book titled Born Digital where they claim that the digital generation can be distinguished because they study, work, write and interact with each other in very different ways to previous generations (2008, p. 2).  When making such statement about generations, Gardner and Davis warn,  “almost any generalizations about youth are likely to invite – and deserve – modifications as well as counter examples” (2013, p. 48).  In her article titled The digital melting pot:  Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide, Sharon Stoerger, wary of such generalisations, says that “what is often overlooked is the simplicity of these labels and their inability to address the complexity of the students who enter the physical and the digital classroom” (2009).

How have media and technologies affected the behaviours and consciousness of people throughout history?

“As [Marshall] McLuhan saw it, each medium …. alters the relation of the individual to the surrounding world” (Gardner and Davis, 2013, p. 22).

New technologies and media have significantly affected societies throughout history.  The invention of writing brought about fundamental change in human thought and expression, opening the way for developments in law, literature, science and philosophy.  The invention of the printing press was another technology that changed the world through its contribution to weakening religious authoritarianism and laying the groundwork for mass communication and education.

The digital technologies of the twentieth century have similarly been attributed with affecting significant global change. These include the mass media of the newspaper and publishing empires, radio and television networks and movie studios that influenced political and social thinking on a scale and speed previously unimagined.  The era of mass media was followed by the Digital Age of powerful personal computers, cable television and 24 hour news coverage, mobile phones and the World Wide Web.  This first wave of digital media was quickly followed by a second wave that heralded the introduction and widespread use of social media, hand-held devices and Web 2.0 & 3.0.  This new era changed the participation of the population from being consumers of content-delivery systems to participants and creators in a highly dynamic media environment.

Gardner and Davis examine such contributions of media and technology to behaviours and consciousness throughout history and believe that in contrast to other definitions, a generation can be thought of “in terms of the dominant media and the habits of mind, behavior, presentation of self, and relation to others that they foster – as well as those that they minimise or even expunge”. (2013, p. 53)



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.

Palfrey, J. G., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816

Stoerger, S. (2009, July 6). The digital melting pot: Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide | Stoerger | First Monday. First Monday. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from

Two Generations. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.




Connected learning and digital literacy



Information and social technologies in the digital age differ from earlier ages because they have moved from stable infrastructure to fluid infrastructure. (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011)  This is a connected and networked environment that amplifies our “ability to access and use nearly unlimited resources and incredible instruments while connecting with one another at the same time.” (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011) Furthermore, according to Moore’s Law, these connections are growing exponentially and doubling every eighteen months. (Verts, 2014)  Douglas Thomas (2012) tells us the connections that characterise the digital age have impacted classrooms, which are now places of context rather than content.  Teachers are no longer the voice of objective truth and students are able to view a piece of knowledge from many different sources from many different contexts. This shift to connected and participatory learning within new information environments will pose challenges and opportunities for learning and teaching.  One such challenge is grasping the way the digital age impacts literacy.  There has been some disagreement over the definition of digital literacies and the skills that belong in this tool kit but Chase and Laufenberg state that, despite this debate, common ground exists in the agreement that, whatever digital literacy is, it is important to the success of our students. (2011)

According to some of the models of digital literacy, how does literacy in the digital age differ from traditional literacy?

A common understanding of traditional literacy is the ability to read, write, listen and speak with enough competence to participate in society. Digital literacy broaches the idea that participation in contemporary society requires a set of skills beyond reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Bawden (2001) comments on a number of approaches to digital literacy since Gilster first introduced the idea in 1997. These include, but are not limited to, the American Library Association who developed a model of information literacy in 1989, Shapiro and Hughes (1996), who envisaged a concept of a computer literacy skills set, Hargittai (2005) who equated digital literacy with network literacy and Burniske (2007) who focused on the concept of critical thinking. A more recent conceptual model of digital literacy is that developed by Eshet-Alkalai (2004) which is based on the integration of five other literacies including photo-visual literacy, reproduction literacy, information literacy, branching literacy and social-emotional literacy. (Bawden, 2001)

Having looked at the different models of digital literacy, Bawden (2001) concludes that a number of generally agreed components emerge. These fall under four categories:

1 Underpinnings

  • literacy per se.
  • Computer / ICT literacy

2. Background knowledge

  • the world of information
  • nature of information resources

3. Central competencies

  • reading and understanding digital and non-digital formats
  • creating and communicating digital information
  • evaluation of information
  • knowledge assembly
  • information literacy
  • media literacy

4. Attitudes and perspectives

  • independent learning
  • moral / social literacy

This list seems quite complete but an addition that might like to be considered are the skills of managing ambiguity and managing technological change which are identified by Helen Haste (2009) as core competencies in a contemporary world.

What does digital literacy mean for learning and teaching?

One of the suggestions that have been prevalent in the digital literacy conversation is the matter of learners possessing generational traits and that those who entered the world after 1980 are “born digital” (Palfrey and Gassner, 2008).  The suggestion is that because these “digital natives” have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using the tools of the digital age, they think and process information in a fundamentally different way to their predecessors and don’t have to translate or learn ICT, but merely experience it. (Prensky, 2001) This however was challenged by a number of people including Nasah, DaCosta, Kinsell & Seok who stated  “empirical findings show that students’ use of ICT is driven by factors such as age, socioeconomic status, living arrangements and locale (Kennedy et al. 2008).  Thus, their use of ICT may be more a matter of digital literacy and digital access than a generational trait” (2010).


Three conclusions can be drawn from the discussion presented:

  • participation in a connected and networked world is driven by digital literacy and access;
  • digital literacy requires a set of skills beyond and inclusive of traditional literacy; and
  • literacy is important for student success.

If then, as educators, we accept these three precepts, we cannot ignore the need for digital literacy in our schools and must establish ways of embedding this into our curriculums and pedagogies.

There are many educators who have accepted this for some time and who have been working on curriculum models & resources that build these literacies. Drawing on the resources produced by groups such as FutureLab and connecting with other passionate educationalists in our PLNs is useful starting point.


Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing.

Chase, Z., & Laufenberg, D. (2011). Embracing the squishiness of digital literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535-537. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.54.7.7

Haste, H. (2009, June 25). Technology and Youth: Problem Solver vs. Tool User (part 1 of 4). Retrieved from

Nasah, A., Dacosta, B., Kinsell, C., & Seok, S. (2010). The digital literacy debate: An investigation of digital propensity and information and communication technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(5), 531-555. doi: 10.1007/s11423-010-9151-8

Palfrey, J. G., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace?

Thomas, D. (2012, September 12). A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas at TEDxUFM. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from

Verts, W. T. (2014). Moore’s Law. In World Book Advanced.  Retrieved March 31, 2014, from

 Image Attribution

Network Structure Internet Social Social Network, Geralt, Public Domain



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