For the past twenty years I have been learning outside of the classroom by following my passions and interests. My passions for travel and photography have resulted in new experiences, skills and a deeper appreciation of the natural world and of cultural differences and similarities. I was learning by doing and by connecting with like-minded people. Experts were mentoring me and I was mentoring others. Blogs, podcasts and social networking gave me access to instructional material and allowed me to connect with people who shared my interests all over the world. One of the reasons I love my job as a teacher librarian is that I am exposed to every subject at the school and have to continually stretch myself to assist my students and teachers. Learning is a lifelong process. (Thomas & Brown, 2011)
Despite this love of learning it was with some trepidation that I made the decision to return to formal study. Would I enjoy formal learning as much as informal learning? (Downes & Bishop, 2012)
I think this is why the principles of connected learning resonated so strongly with me. On viewing the videos Rethinking Learning: the 21st Century Learner and Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito on connected learning, children, and digital media, I realised that my experiences were no different to the young people I work with. I am concerned that implementing this type of learning is problematic within the constraints of most schools currently. I work in a senior school library in an academic school, so this hurdle is very noticeable because most students are working towards a score for university entrance.
I am very aware that the library is no longer the first place students look for information. Ubiquitous access to mobile phones means students carry information around in their pockets. My observations of students made me sceptical of the digital native moniker. I was relieved to read numerous articles disputing Prensky’s generational perspective (Stoerger, 2009). Students may be using technology in a variety of ways but they are not always “net-savvy”. This is evident when students use search engines at a very basic level and when they get into difficult situations using social media. Students need to learn multi-modal skills and competencies so that they are able to adapt to new situations and technologies throughout their lives (O’Connell, 2012). Open, social and participatory media must be embraced for school libraries to remain relevant to our students.
Nichole Pinkard made me realise that children are born consuming media but are not necessarily creating or producing media (MacArthur Foundation, 2010). My scholarly book review of It’s complicated: the social lives of networked teens (Boyd, 2014) gave me the opportunity to delve further into the area of teenagers and their use of technology and social networking.
The concept of privacy and how it is changing in a networked world was a theme of the book and it piqued my interest along with algorithms and analytics. The video Generation Like (2014) had me questioning my own activities on Facebook and Twitter. I had never been too concerned about personalisation of advertising by Google but now I am troubled that it may be limiting my search results. Big Data has positive and negative applications and will produce ethical dilemmas. “There are some significant and insightful studies currently being done that involve Big Data, but it is still necessary to ask critical questions about what all this data means, who gets access to what data, how data analysis is deployed, and to what ends” (Boyd & Crawford, 2012, p. 664).
When I started Concepts and practices for a digital age my aim was to broaden my knowledge of theory and to examine practical applications of it in my workplace. I have a solid foundation to build on as I embark on more subjects and so much to think about and investigate further for my professional practice.
Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technology. Middle School Journal, 43(5), 6-15. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=74649853&site=ehost-live
O’Connell, J. (2012). Learning without frontiers: school libraries and meta-literacy in action. Access, 26(1), 4-7. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=038168567341804;res=IELAPA
Stoerger, S. (2009). The digital melting pot: Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide. First Monday, 14(7). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2474
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). Arc-of-life learning. In A new culture of change. (pp. 17-33). Lexington: CreateSpace.