by Pauline Mak
by Pauline Mak
I remember hearing someone, somewhere, that when we are researching for our assessment tasks then we should only be choosing from educational databases or databases that have to do with our profession. When I heard this I agreed to a certain extent but there was something that did not sit comfortably after all the reading we have been doing about connected learners, connectivism, the convergence of media, networked knowledge. Also, being a teacher librarian, perhaps it was because while that is my professional identity, my personal learning does not restrict me in going beyond the boundaries to open my eyes to new concepts and ideas that could keep me at the cutting edge of my professional learning, knowing and ability to share with others.
For example, in my GBL Chapter, I was able to draw links and make connections between digital literacy and how GBL allows the learner to practise those skills. To get to this space, I needed to read a little bit from psychology, a little bit from cultural studies, a little bit from media and well, I think it can be seen that this is what learning looks like for everyone. It is “lifelong and lifewide” (O’Connell, 2014, p. 13; Erstad, 2013) Mimi Ito outlines this fact of learning beyond the formal space of learning in the following YouTube clip.
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuV7zcXigAI
While the changes needed to participate in a digitally, networked information ecology are challenging, I am now seeing them as positively challenging. By this I mean, how lucky we are that we can move beyond our pigeon-holed identities and be recognised as learners. I am so privileged to be able to ‘connect’ to my learning, even though my hardware breaks and some frustrations do happen as a result, ultimately, I always have an option to connect. I don’t have to enrol in a Uni degree but I choose to so that I can be accountable for my learning and my knowledge sharing. I want to add to the conversation from my experience and my learning and whether that be media, psychology, cultural studies, game-based learning, I want to know my learning has meant something. Is this not giving education the value it deserves in our global context? This is what formal education settings need to realise that learning happens beyond their formal settings but it is the social space of schools and Uni that refine our learning through the ability to dialogue with others who are pursuing the same commonality of learning. Hmmm…Dialogic learning in fact!?! (Note to self, go back and read Anna Craft and Rupert Wegerif.)
When we allow students the same permission we allow ourselves to learn in informal spaces as well as formal settings we open up the possibilities. We are learning beyond limits. Leander, Phillips and Taylor (2010) use the idea of ‘classroom-as-container’ as a metaphor that limits the potential of learning and research. I like this metaphor as it is the packaging learning as happening only in the classroom that is one of the biggest challenges I face in my role as teacher librarian, which still remains a very misunderstood role. In the following clip, John Seely Brown explains the boundaries of learning has moved and compares GBL mentality as the way of learning in all areas of life.
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGdpbba1i9c
They are bringing it from the context of the game to the real world. Wouldn’t it be great if this transference of learning happened across all areas of curriculum. This is where I think 21st Century libraries and teacher librarians are even more important as we have always moved learning beyond the classroom – we need to connect this fact for our students though by providing relevance and purpose to their learning (without limits!)
Welcome to the 21st Century???We are 15 years into this phenomenon called the 21st Century. Let’s embrace what it has to offer and instead of limiting our students learning…….let the learning move beyond. Embrace ITand all the affordances it brings. (How you read this might be a reflection of where you are at, it was a typo but when I reread, there was something crucial in there for me! What about you?)
Erstad, O. (2013). New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies, Volume 52 : Digital Learning Lives : Trajectories, Literacies, and Schooling. New York, NY, USA: Peter Lang AG. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Leander, K. M., Phillips, N. C., & Taylor, K. H. (2010). The changing social spaces of learning: Mapping new mobilities. Review of Research in Education, 34, 329-394. doi: 10.3102/0091732X09358129
O’Connell, J. (2014). Researcher’s Perspective: Is Teacher Librarianship in Crisis in Digital Environments? An Australian Perspective. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 1-19. doi: 10.14265.20.1.002
I have been pondering this question for a couple of weeks now and at first was shocked I didn’t have an immediate opinion or thought about this. As I have pushed on in the learning, I have realised that despite digital literacy skills in their multifaceted ways being important for learning for NOW and in the future. Yes, an understanding of the multimodal landscape where information is conveyed in what we know as the Internet is definitely important now but the one thought I have had is the nature of citizenship. Not citizenship in the sense of belonging to a community but the sense of citizenship and interconnectedness with our fellow human beings.
Having read about the many affordances of technology throughout this session, Mike Wesch and his description of how things change when technologies are introduced, including cultures was really quite confronting. When you reflect o this though, you just have to look around when you sit at a coffee shop and see the changing nature of relationships and connection as people constantly check their phones when meeting up with friends or take their laptops to lunch to keep working.
Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/DwyCAtyNYHw
When I consider citizenship as important for learning now, I consider it in a sense of connecting with other people offline so that our values are developed through the meeting and connecting face to face. It is too easy to hide behind technology.
Then I am reminded of the reading by Philip & Garcia (2013) who considered the very human element that the teacher brings to the classroom. The fact that our students while being immersed in these knowledge networks still need to be guided and to an extent protected. We need to teach our students that we are ‘feeding the machine/s’ that are digital technologies. We are the machine. Everything we write represents and forms our identity. Every search we make can be traced back to us, stored as data for big name companies and then the machine/s feed it back to us through images, advertising, anything that creates a rapport between us and the machine.
The following clip, also by Michael Wesch, interestingly enough, demonstrates this idea.
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyvjMBXoGXg
So to be a participatory learner in this digital age, we need to not only include digital literacy skills, in their plethora of guises, we need to develop critical thinking that allows empathy, respect and responsibility towards not only ourselves but to others.
What an exciting time to be involved in education! What a challenging time to be in education! What a busy time to be involved in education! Anybody who is involved in education is feeling all of these things – fight and flight is present in most staff meetings when it comes to working out the best way to address all of the implications of living in this digital age. The digital divide isn’t just a concept of socioeconomics or geography or generational it is present within each and every school and teachers are feeling the pressure.
The concept of connected learning is more than just having the hardware and the apps. The tension for education is how do we integrate these tools of learning to enhance learning for all students in our care. We cannot assume that our students know how to use these tools effectively for their learning just because they have been born into an era where digital technologies are as much a part of everyday life as eating and sleeping. They have been immersed in a world of connection through digital technologies but just as we have to teach our students to be citizens in the face to face world, we also need to help them understand that values and ethics are just as important in the online world. We cannot assume they know the best information sources or the best way of communicating their resources. They demand more of us as teachers in that they expect to be connected, they expect to be collaborative. How do we meet their expectations by placing our own learning expectations for them upon them?
The answer would seem to rest with the concept of digital literacy. So what is it to be digitally literate? Trilling & Fadel (2009) define digital literacy as a combination of information, media and ICT literacy skills (Chapter 4). Rheingold in his book, “NetSmart: How to Thrive Online” describes it as a combination of 5 literacies – “attention”, “crap detector”, “participation”, “collaboration”, and “network smarts.” Chase and Laufenberg (2011) view it as “a genre, a format and tool to be found within the domain of standard literacy, rather than a concept standing at odds” (p.535). So many definitions! No wonder teachers feel like they are like the hamster running on that wheel, they need clarity.
The definition I have found most useful is that of Gilster (1997) cited by Bawden (2008), digital literacy is “an ability to understand and use information from a variety of digital sources and regard it as literacy in the digital age” (p.18). Chase and Laufenberg (2011) then would seem to agree with this more broad definition. I would agree with all of the definitions I have read and suggest that digital literacy is an umbrella term used to describe a combination of literacies that represent a variety of skills needed to be successful not just in the context of a classroom but in all areas of life both now in the present time and in the future.
We use our digital literacy when we are participating in the online environment but as it is part of standard literacy practices and not separate, our students need to know that sometimes the information available digitally may not compare with the information available in printed formats. Our students still live in privileged times where both forms of information are accessible. This is where information seeking skills are required rather than information searching as they need to learn the difference between and to filter quality over quantity of information.
Connectivism is also an important component of digital literacy as it doesn’t just refer to the physical connecting to the network known as the Internet. It is the ability our students have to connect with like-minded people, to access information quickly to build upon their already established knowledge base. This idea of connectivism has so many strengths for education and it is fraught with so many ‘dangers’ as well. by ‘dangers’ I mean students need to have the critical thinking skills of digital literacy that will enable them to evaluate credibility and validity of information. This is a vital role of teacher librarians within schools as well because some teachers allow students to research without any guidance or feedback to the students’ processes used in gaining information. Connectivism is not just about student learning it is also about teachers’ depth of understanding of the information environment using digital technologies. The challenge is helping our students know their purpose and placing it in context and ensuring that the context is credible and relevant to their learning.
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx5VHpaW8sQ
Siemens (2004) describes the theory of connectivism as the way “people, organisations and/or technology can collaboratively construct knowledge” through “the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories”(Starkey, 2011, p.21). Connectivism is the building of knowledge in a social and collaborative way. This highlights the importance of teachers needing to immerse themselves within the chaos of the knowledge network to increase their own digital literacy skills and to form their own connections with other ‘experts’. Teachers are no longer the only experts in their students lives and the students know this. Formulating Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) online as well as offline is a necessary part of every teacher’s professional development and we also need to assist our students in creating their own learning networks. Our students current learning networks are social media and gaming sites. We need to guide our students to using their critical thinking skills to filter and seek people that truly represent valid and credible learning within their PLN’s. We need to try to find the way to harness these platforms to engage our students in learning.
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
Chase, Z., & Laufenberg, D. (2011). Digital literacies: Embracing the squishiness of digital literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535–537.
Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technology. Middle School Journal, 43(5), 6–15.
Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart : How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Trilling, B. Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills : Learning for Life in Our Times. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.com
An awareness exists in our schools that pedagogical change is necessary as digital technologies continue to pervade every aspect of our students lives. The educational arena is in a state of transition, there is a shift and it is “not optional” (Richardson, 2012). Practices with digital technologies are still inconsistent, some teachers are open to the possibilities, some teachers are still cautious of the possibilities and some are rarely using technologies.
Within the educational system I work, provision has been made for all students and staff to access Google accounts providing opportunity for collaborative and creative practices. It is all happening in a roundabout way but it is beginning to happen. One of the challenges is access to Professional Development is mainly given to those in leadership positions. Teachers who are not in leadership have played to learn and there are ‘gaps’ in their learning. There are still those teachers who haven’t had the opportunity for PD or choose not to participate in the opportunities offered because it is yet another chunk of time.
As a teacher librarian in a large primary school I interact with 550 students across the school for a 50 – 60 minute lesson once a week. There is no time for collaboration between teachers and myself, unless I catch teachers on the run throughout the day. We still need to overcome the challenge that learning happens only in classrooms. Some teachers still prefer to work in the context of their grade and not recognise a whole team of teachers within the school and beyond (Richardson, 2012).
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k
The challenge is bringing value to what is presented to the students in our community. How do we take advantage of the ‘abundance’ of opportunities that are available to us as educators and to our students, to make our students learning authentic in this digital age? He also makes the point that it is the immeasurable that we should be putting our attention to – problem solving, creativity, critical thinking. We need to see our students not as “tool users” but rather collaborators, problem- solvers, critical thinkers (Haste, 2009).
Another of the challenges in this inconsistency in adopting the technologies available is that students are not acquiring the social practices and values needed to be participatory digital citizens. While teachers see the need for developing good digital citizenship practices they tend to only understand it as cyberbullying and netiquette issues.
The following clip below has challenged my thinking and is motivating my practice as I participate in the learning of this course. My aim this year is to expand my knowledge and practice in the use of digital technologies. I am taking more risks and partnering my learning with our students and throwing the need to be ‘expert’ to the wind. John Seely Brown (2012) I believe says it best, “the technology is the easy part, the hard part is what are the social practices around us and also the institutional structures, we gotta ask ourselves what are the institutions of schooling, universities, (research universities) going to look like in 5 – 10 years from now and if they look the same as they do now……we got problems.”
Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be
Another goal is to try to be as paperless as possible with those classes where 1:1 iPads have started. It is still difficult to believe that we can be entirely paper free but it is a goal. The main challenge is my own fear and knowing and understanding the Web tools that are best to drive these lessons. This was also recognised in an article by Edudemic Staff (2014) along with the need to be choosing the most appropriate apps for learning. Having access to 9 computers with with some classes of 32 is another challenge to be overcome. I need to become creative in how to ensure each student has access to a computer during the learning time.
I want to continue to move my teaching forward and not get disheartened or frustrated and to persist when the learning happens in a roundabout way. By teaching forward I am teaching for not what our students need now but for what they need in the future.
Brown, J. S. (2012) “The Global One Room Schoolhouse” Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM
Edudemic Staff (2014) “Ultimate Guide to the Paperless Classroom” Retrieved from: http://www.edudemic.com/ultimate-guide-paperless-classroom/
Haste, H. (2009) “Technology and Youth: Problem Solver Vs. Tool User”, Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/YZRoS5QlJ44
Richardson, W. (2012) “Education Leadership” TEDxMelbourne Retrieved from; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k