I am in the process of reading through and editing an assignment that is due for my Master of Education course about issues in digital scholarship, while my son signs off on a chat that he has just had with a person in Korea he has connected with via conversation exchange, with the aim of improving his conversational Korean. It is a perfect scenario to use as a context for a description of the possibilities that digital technologies are offering to learning and scholarship.
I am learning within the confines of a formal course in a formal institution and my learning will be formally accredited with a degree once I complete my studies. My moderately gifted son could not wait to break free from formal educational institutions once he finished high school in 2014, and has spent the past two years learning informally in areas that are of interest to him. One of his learning journeys at the moment is learning Korean, because he likes the sound of the language, and enjoys K-pop (in fact he is attending a K-pop “meet and greet” in Sydney as I write this.)
Both of us are reliant on digital technologies to facilitate our learning.
I choose to study via distance education as it suits my lifestyle. Gone are the days when huge reams of readings would arrive in my mailbox, and I would need to go to the post office to post off assignments. Nowadays, distance education = online education. I access subject outlines and content via a LMS, access digital and print resources through the university library, and read and view additional, open resources via the web. I interact with my teachers and colleagues in digital spaces facilitated by the university such as forums, blogs, adobe connect sessions, wikispaces, Diigo groups and Goodreads groups. I also connect and collaborate with colleagues in other digital spaces such as Facebook and Google apps. I am both an institutional and outstitutional scholar. Only a small part of my learning in these digital spaces is credited towards my results in my subjects (eg. contributions to my own and colleagues blog posts; a reflective blog post submitted at the end of each subject).
My son is currently an outstitutional learner. He is pursuing learning in areas that he is interested in. He has a burning desire to be a global citizen, and wants to expand and enrich his worldview by learning about and immersing himself in other cultures so that he can appreciate how there are different ways to live in the world. Last year, he enrolled in a Saturday class to learn Korean at UNSW, a course he discovered through an online search. Unfortunately, due to a lack of numbers, the course was discontinued, however, he was keen to continue learning on his own. He sourced and purchased online a book about learning Korean, and has been accessing various websites to support his learning. He saw joining conversation exchange as an opportunity to practice what he is learning in theory with native Korean speakers, and has made connections with 3 or 4 different people living in Korea who he is currently communicating with. He is also communicating with a person living in Ukraine who is keen to learn to speak English with an Australian accent. My son has applied to enrol in a course at UNSW next year in International Studies. I wonder if any of the informal learning he has done in the past few years will be acknowledged and credited in that course?
Neither my son’s or my scholarship could have progressed as it has without digital technologies. We have both been able to bring our preference for collaborating and communicating in online spaces to our scholarship; we have used digital technologies to more easily access resources needed for our learning; we are fostering open and social scholarship in our formal and informal practices of blogging and conversing across time and space as we make use of online social networks to share, reflect on, improve and validate our scholarship.
We are digital, social, networked participatory, open, generative scholars. Both of us; within and without formal educational institutions.