- It is a confronting thought to recognise that classrooms of today look and feel very much the same as they have for decades, whereas how we live, work and play has changed dramatically. Has education become “stagnant” (Garcia, 2014, p.6)? How relevant are current educational practises in preparing students for their future? This is the context in which we consider the issues around connected learning and digital literacy.
retrieved from http://redefineschool.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/connected-learning-graphic.png?w=590&h=532
CONNECTED LEARNING is best summed up in the graphic above, but in summary it essentially is a model of learning that fuses a young person’s interests, friendships and academic achievement through hands-on, interest based learning experiences, supported by encouraging adults, and enhanced by technology. The graphic above is messy and busy and interwoven – as connected learning should be.
DIGITAL LITERACY, as defined by Paul Gilster (1997, in Bawden, 2008, p.6), is NOT defined by a list of skills or competencies, but is rather “…an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources…” It is more about having the right “mindset” about the use and potential of digital resources, rather than the right set of skills needed to be digitally literate. While digital literacy is built on traditional literacy skills, it goes further to encompass an understanding of and a fluency in a variety of technological tools and systems. Crocket, Jukes and Churches (2011) maintain that being literate is not enough – we need to aim for FLUENCY in the 21st century. They argue that being literate means being able to communicate, but still having to consciously think about the processes needed to communicate; whereas fluency is when these processes become internalised and so automatic that we no longer need to be aware of them, so then THINKING can become the focus (rather than the reading, writing or talking etc). To them, digital literacy is about five different fluencies – solution fluency, creativity fluency, information fluency, media fluency and collaboration fluency. Whereas Gilster did allude to a set of skills and areas to be aware of in order to be digitally literate, Crocket et al. dedicate much of their book to a number of suggested teaching programs to help develop the various fluencies in students. So I think it is fair to suggest that digital literacy is two-fold: it assumes a particular mindset, AND competency with a range of skills that allow you to consume and produce digital content. It is VITAL that our students are digitally literate in this age of INFOWHELM (Crocket et al., p.3) where everything either IS or CAN BECOME digitised.
The Connected Learning model draws on the “power of today’s technology” to “re-imagine the experience of education in the information age” (from graphic above), thus creating a learning environment where digital literacy can blossom. Digital literacy competencies are implied both explicitly and implicitly throughout the model:
- Possibilities made available by social media allow students to learn in a socially meaningful and knowledge rich ecology of participation
- Online platforms link learning in school, home and community
- Social media and web based platforms allow for cross-generational learning & community
- Learning is most effective when it is reinforced and practised in multiple settings (both real and virtual)
- Learning is most effective when it is ACTIVE – producing, creating, experimenting, designing
retrieved from http://nbaxter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/cone_of_learning.png
My challenge? I recognise elements of Connected Learning principles in my teaching practise, and also how these are developing digital literacy in my students – I am a strong believer in learning being ACTIVE and INTEREST BASED. I am a strong believer in explicitly measuring ACADEMIC GROWTH (in terms of knowledge AND skills AND attitudes) both formatively and summatively throughout my teaching program, and ensuring children and teaching colleagues PARTICIPATE in this measurement process. We learn in a technology-rich environment and have so for the past few years, so the focus can now be on the use of technology as a LEARNING TOOL, rather than focusing on the technology. My weak link is PEER CULTURE, so I would like to incorporate more of the PEER CULTURE elements into my teaching practise to build that sense of Learning COMMUNITY, using online platforms and social media to support this.
Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=39774960&site=ehost-live
Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. Kelowna, B.C. : 21st Century Fluency Project ; Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Corwin, c2011
Garcia, Antero, ed., 2014. Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub