The Information Age, Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

The information age
The advances in, and convergence of, ICT not only changed how we interact with information and how we communicate, but created a digital society that continues to influence and change every aspect of our lives. Ubiquitous mobile digital devices enable members of this digital society to be continuously connected, not only to the digital information environment, but to other individuals and networks that support and foster our information needs and interests.

The information age, schools, learning and literacy
Educating its citizens is an important goal of every society, with literacy a key outcome of education. (Education for All, 2006, p. 135). Most educational institutions in our society were founded in a pre-information society era and are primarily classroom and teacher oriented. Since the development of the digital age more and more significant learning takes place outside of the classroom – the digital information environment has an important influence on how, where, when and from whom we learn. I agree with the view that there seems to be a growing disconnect between what our students learn (what they are interested in and want to learn) and what schools teach (Connected Learning Alliance, n.d.).

Connected learning: A model for the networked society
The connected learning movement is concerned with reimagining a more valid and relevant educational experience for the digital age. This movement believes that effective learning involves personal interest and happens when a personal interest is pursued with the support of peers, experts and other knowledgeable and passionate adults and communities, and can be turned into academic achievement, career success or civic engagement (Itu et al., 2012). Connected learning, a response to learning in the networked society, is interest-powered, openly networked people with shared purposes, (including peer support) but also design and production centered and academically oriented (Connected Learning Alliance, n.d.). School is seen as only one node in learning in this networked society. I agree with Itu, however, when she states that teachers, school and classroom learning still has an important role to play in education: by giving students access to “a baseline set of standards, literacies, expectations about what they need in contemporary society” (DML Research Hub, 2011). What then are these standards and literacies I wonder?

Digital literacy
If our educational institutions, our teachers and schools are to facilitate the learning of our students (by providing such a baseline), the educational world needs to come to a common understanding of what literacy means in this digital society. I agree with the generic definition of literacy as the skills and abilities fundamental to successful citizenship, it follows that digital literacy must at the very least be concerned with the skills associated with consuming and producing information in the media forms of this age (Ohler, 2010, p.206). However, if technology continues to develop at an accelerated pace (as is widely predicted), and our lives continue to develop in this connected fashion, we should include higher order skills, such as systems thinking, information literacy, computational thinking, creativity, adaptability, global awareness and self-regulation and “learning to learn” (Itu et al., 2012).

The debate and lack of consensus consensus over “digital literacy”, indicate that the educational world is developing a better understanding of how to facilitate and support learning in the information age. New Media Consortium’s report on digital literacy is a solid start in this direction. I fully agree with their view that students should be regarded as makers, who learn through content creation (rather than consumers). I am very interested in exploring this topic and developing my own understanding of digital literacy in a connected, networked world.

REFERENCES

Connected Learning Alliance. (n.d.). What is connected learning?
Retrieved from https://clalliance.org/why-connected-learning/

Digital literacy: A NMC Horizon strategic brief.
(2016, October). Retrieved from New Media Consortium website:
http://www.nmc.org/news/nmc-releases-horizon-project-
strategic-brief-on-digital-literacy/

DML Research Hub. (2011). Cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito on
connected learning, Children, and Digital Media
[Video file].
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuV7zcXigAI

Education for all: Global monitoring report. (2006). Retrieved from
UNESCA website:
http://www.unesco.org/education/GMR2006/full/chapt5_eng.pdf

Itu, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., & Rhodes, J.
(2012). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design.
Retrieved from https://dmlhub.net/wp-
content/uploads/files/ConnectedLearning_summary.pdf

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand
Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.

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3 thoughts on “The Information Age, Connected Learning and Digital Literacy

  1. Thanks Gretha. The generic definition of digital literacy does not provide a complete picture. How do you or the teachers at your school view digital literacy? To have a school wide approach to this, there must be common consensus. How important is it to your school?

    Regarding references – be careful there are some inconsistencies for example your reference to the NMC brief should have been as below:
    Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., and Cummins, M. (2016). Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project 🙂
    Strategic Brief. Volume 3.3, October 2016. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium

  2. Gretha, it’s always nice to see a Mimi Ito reference! Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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