Some Recent Reflections

Blog Task 3: Visit three of the blogs of this subject cohort. Browse through the blogs and choose at least one post to leave a considered reflective comment about content, or ideas, or thinking that might have been stimulated by reading the post.

 

I’m slowly working my way through “Module 3: Knowledge Networks”. It’s slow going because I’m really really into it. I’m following links to links to other links and getting washed down a rabbit hole of information. What makes this information meaningful for me is that what I’m learning is shining a stark spotlight on my current practice. I was reasonably confident that I was designing learning experiences which hit on 21st Century skills and competencies. I peppered in what I thought was smart use of Web 2.0 software, a bit of blogging and wiki-learning. It turns out though, I’m probably just engaging students in “low level” learning experiences – a realisation both sweet and sour. I’ve not been utilising these tools to their potential – but now that I can see their potential, backed with the knowledge I’ve been acquiring through the modules and I’m excited about what learning experiences I can design and where my students will take their own learning for the upcoming term.

So with that in mind, I read Margaret Simkin’s recent Module 3.1 Reflection.

Margaret highlights that:

  • Educators should “realize the importance of curriculum design consciously based around C21st skills and objectives

The “consciously” part of this sentence struck me, and linked with some of the other interesting tidbits I ran into while exploring through the course content:

  • The Conole reading, in particular the ‘Mapping of Web 2.0 tools to different pedagogical approaches’ section.
  • An article I read on DML Central about Alan Levine – his title not an Instructional Technologist but a Pedagogical Technologist, reflecting his role as an “architect of open, connected learning systems that enable students to take power over and responsibility for (and joy in!) their own learning.
  • Another point Margaret emphasises, student’s “apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems” … “Digital literacies and information literacies do not go hand in hand
  • The  useful ‘information fluency’ resources and frameworks, such as the ISTE Nets
  • Joyce Valenza’s inspirational Ted Talk about the importance of transliteracy and the evolving learner.
  • The Carrington reading which asks – are we teaching students to thrive in a fluid, wiki world, or actually in a world of stable ‘print’ knowledge (and then that wikis are a great place to start for scaffolding, modelling, into this participatory world)
  • The OER resources, and the learning design tool CompendiumLD Margaret linked.

So, these and other core points have coalesced into certain personal understandings:

Connecting, participating, and openness is of central importance. But it’s not a skill students have innately – no matter how it may seem sometimes – therefore students need to be scaffolded, guided and modelled. Every student is different, so they will all need different levels scaffolding – knowing your students is key. Web 2.0 tools are an effective platform with which to enact these experiences of participating and connecting. Learning within these environments, coupled with a ‘conscious’ attention to the right learning activities, trigger the key skills, attributes and behaviours we know of as “information literacy”.

So I guess if you’re doing all that, you’re will on your way to becoming a “pedagogical technologist”!

Some questions at this stage though:

  • In what ways can blends be formed between information literacy and traditional literacy? This is important as in NZ we are mandated to report on achievement towards literacy standards twice yearly.
  • A further investigation into open and accessible planning
  • How this fits in with a holistic, inquiry based approach to education (I’m sure it does very well, I just want to think about this a bit more)
  • As Margaret says, how to “get others on board”.

 

Thank you to Margaret Simkin for stimulating many of these ideas!

Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

Blog Task 2: Write a 500 word reflective piece with demonstrates your emerging understanding of themes or issues of importance in the topic in relation to education and/or personal professional practice. 

 

 ~ Connectivism ~

A word which I’d never encountered before three weeks ago.

A theory which is beginning to make sense to me.

An area I’m growing my confidence in.

 This is my current understanding of what it means:

Connectivism is the next evolution of the learning “-isms”: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism. It differs from the others in that connectivism strives to make sense of the impact that technology has had on how we connect and communicate, live and learn (Siemens, 2004).

It is a learning theory for the digital age – one which acknowledges we live in a world of multiplicity. Individuals and communities are nodes of knowledge, scattered about, complicatedly connected. Chaos theory, an integral part of connectivism states that while yes, our information networks are multifaceted, unpredictable and diverse, there is meaning distributed across and within this network of connections (Downes, 2012).

It’s the job of the participant in this new information ecology to uncover patterns, make sense of these connections, and make new connections (Siemens, 2004). To make sense of the chaos. How individuals go about doing this, within learning communities and networked environments, is something which connectivism strives to understand.

To participate fully within the diverse ‘knowledgefield’ technology has afforded us today, individuals need to be “confident in their ability to make connections, understand concepts, critique, create and share knowledge” (Starkey, 2011, p37). If these are some of the competencies integral to living well in the future, then we want students leaving our schools to be well versed in their arts.

While it’s clear that the students of today are changing in response to the digital age it’s a myth that they come hard-wired to participate effectively in this world (the digital native argument). Learning design, therefore, needs to focus on providing experiences that will grow these literacies and competencies. A revamped set of literacies – digital literacies – indeed a reimagined pedagogy, is required.

Ford (2008) outlines one way learning can be designed within a connectivist framework. A central theme of Ford’s work is the flow between the concepts of mediation and autonomy.

The web is the source of a massive amount of knowledge. Students may have the autonomy to surf these networks, but the extent to which they are able to source information, critically evaluate and make sense of information may be limited. The goal is to help students along the path to becoming autonomous seekers and users of information, to be flexible and versatile navigating the digital currents. Mediation is required in assisting students to achieve this goal – in particular, fostering meta-cognitive awareness.

Much exploration has also been undertaken in regard to what exactly these new literacies that students require are. It’s a diverse area of research, with many different frameworks, strategies and models.

Bawden (2008) breaks down digital literacy into information literacy (which is actively finding and using information – the “pull”) and media literacy (dealing with and understanding media “pushed” at the individual). Added into this is the necessary elements of digital citizenship – the social and moral components required for effective participation and safety.

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The Digital Literacy Handbook from Future Lab UK highlights creativity, effective communication, collaboration, the ability to find and select information, e-safety, functional skills, critical thinking and evaluation, and cultural and social understanding as core dimensions of digital literacy.

Finding the commonalities between these facets of digital literacy then moulding them into the particular context of your school and community is key.

We are developing our understandings of the world in which we live in and the future the students of today will enter. Connectivism seeks to understand the role of learning in our new, diverse knowledge ecology, while models of digital literacy aim to provide educators with a framework of skills and competencies required for effective participation within them.

 

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