Critical Reflection Assignment 7B

This high school librarian is on a quest to transform our library to be an enabling learning environment – where learning can be active, self-directed and social. My journey has brought me to this course, INF530, the start of a long-awaited Masters’ study.

Here then, are the big lessons learnt:

Knowledge is a vector (I heard it here), is changeable, and probably (like facts) only has a half-life (Coulter, 2014; The Economist, 2012).  Learning should not be viewed as “internal, individualistic activities” (see my contribution to discussion forum THREAD 2.4:  Thinking in Networks), as I learnt in cognitivism, or  constructivism but can be created in a connected network. Viewing knowledge creation as social and connected, is the KEY: knowledge is “distributed across a network of connections” and really is the connections between entities.  Learning is “the ability to traverse those networks”, or the creation/adjustment/deletion of these connections between entities (Downes, 2010).  This was the first big lesson learnt: My understanding of knowledge, and how we learn, needs updateding in our connected world.  Knowledge Networks (INF532) is next on my journey!

Because of the networked and connected environment of our digital age, learning should not be as teacher-directed and classroom-based, but student-centred and –directed and social.  It is happening more often informally, through communities of practice, moocs and other forms of social or e-learning, than in formal educational institutions – at least in the adult world (Siemens (2004); Downes (2010)).  I knew that teaching content to students sitting in rows is not 21st century best practice, and Wenger made me realise that learning IS social, but Seely Brown (2000) convinced me that our digital learners have all the tools (web 2.0 based – see my blogpost here) needed, for learning to become situated in action.  Learning-to-learn happens naturally when participating in a community of practice (Seely Brown, 2000).  Learners need to learn in their natural habitats – learning ecologies; educators need to support students to construct personal learning networks (says Downes (2017), as I tweeted here) and enable them to learn where they are already interested.  How? Enters: connected learning.

Connected learning is a framework loosely based on connectivism (as formulated by Siemens(2004) and Downes(2010)) and concerned with reimagining a more valid and relevant educational experience for those growing up in the digital age (see my blogpost here).  Connected learning is “socially embedded, interest-driven and oriented towards educational, economic or global opportunity” (Ito, et al., 2013, p.6).  It advocates employing open, social and participatory web 2.0 media (namely online platforms, digital tools for creating, publishing and collaborating, social media and web-based communities) in employing technology to augment learning.  It reasons that connected, peer- and mentor-supported learning that is interest-powered is the most effective. The connected learning approach resonates with my instinctive understanding of what learning can be in the digital age.  This new framework has been accepted well, but not yet implemented widely.  Can connected learning principles be implemented in a high school library?

 

There are valid links between the principles of connected learning and the work being done in school libraries to adapt to the 21st century (see YALSA; ASLA; Future Ready Librarians and the Alliance for Excellent Education):

  • Creating flexible learning spaces in libraries where students gather to learn collaboratively, to make and create and to “play” at learning in a social environment.
  • Librarians provide access to information sources to pursue not only academic goals, but personal interests. They can (and do) facilitate connections with communities of practice where those with similar interest can share and learn.
  • Libraries are no longer restricted to physical places, but should develop their online spaces to meet learners when and where they learn.
  • Librarians are valuable in helping students and teachers acquire trans-literacy, and information fluency skills and other digital proficiencies needed to be successful critical consumers and creative producers of information sources.
  • Students need mentors to help develop their digital identifies and to become engaged, ethically behaving digital citizens.

Before this course I was (at best) a critical consumer of media.  I am now convinced that knowledge can be collectively and collaboratively generated by engaged members contributing valuable insights to their communities of learning.  I am actively expanding my personal learning network, working on social participation and media production skills. 

The journey has started, there remains much to be learnt.

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References

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2016, March). Future ready librarians. Retrieved from http://1gu04j2l2i9n1b0wor2zmgua.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/FR_Librarians_Factsheet.pdf

Australian School Library Association. (2013, April). Future learning and school libraries. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/2013-ASLA-futures-paper.pdf

Braun, L. W., Hartman, M. L., Hughes-Hassell, S., & Kumasi, K. (2014, January). The future of library services for and with teens: A call to action. Retrieved from Young Adult Library Services Association website: http://www.ala.org/yaforum/sites/ala.org.yaforum/files/content/YALSA_nationalforum_final.pdf

Cognitivism. (2015, June 19). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website: https://www.learning-theories.com/cognitivism.html

Connectivism (Siemens, Downes). (2015, June 1). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website: https://www.learning-theories.com/connectivism-siemens-downes.html

Constructivism. (2015, June 20). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Learning Theories website: https://www.learning-theories.com/constructivism.html

Coulter, P. (Producer). (2014, January 15). The great book of knowledge: Part 1. Ideas. Podcast retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2430203081

DMLReseachHub. (2012, October 31). Connected learning: Everyone, everywhere, anytime [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=viHbdTC8a90

Downes, S. (2010). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-Learning 2.0 (pp. 1-26). https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-60566-729-4

Downes, S. (2017, May 16). A model of personal learning. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/presentation/469

The Economist. (2012, November 28). The half life of facts [Blog post]. Retrieved from Babbage website: http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/11/qa-samuel-arbesman

Itu, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., . . . Watkins, S. C. W. (2013). Connected learning: An agenda for research and design. Retrieved from https://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/teaching-in-the-CL-classroom.pdf

Massive open online course. (2017, May 11). Retrieved May 27, 2017, from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course

Seely Brown, J. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the way people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091380009601719

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Internationl Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, (Jan). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm

Tierney, J. (2014, July 16). Connected learning infographic [Video file]. Retrieved from http://prezi.com/9kuoj3x7o8rc/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

Wenger, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from http://wenger-trayner.com/introduction-to-communities-of-practice/

Wenger, E., & Wenger-Trayner, B. (2015). Social learning – a framework. Retrieved May 27, 2017, from http://wenger-trayner.com/tag/social-learning-spaces/

Wolf, M. A., Jones, R., & Gilbert, D. (2014, January). Leading in and beyond the library. Retrieved from http://www.boces.com/cms/lib3/NY26000031/Centricity/Domain/15/BeyondTheLibrary.pdf

 

 

 

 

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.

Understanding the nature and scope of education informatics

Levy (et al) define the domain of educational informatics as:

“The study of the application of digital technologies and techniques to the use and communication of information in learning and education.”

This well-crafted definition clarifies the domain of study to be at the intersection of:
• computer science – application of digital technologies and techniques
• information science – the use and communication of information
• education – learning and education

My understanding of the nature and scope of education(al) informatics was clarified through the discussion of:

1. The ‘networked learner support’ required of the librarian in the computer-supported collaborative learning environment and the new perspectives needed by the profession to be proactive in establishing its place in the changing educational arena (Levy, 2003, p.303).

2. The design of online learning environments (educational systems design), requiring detailed specifications of learning needs, materials (including a body of core information and reference materials), activities and delivery methods (Levy, 2003, p. 305).

3. The examination of information literacy or “learners’ ICT-based information-seeking behaviour and skills” and the associated attempts to develop educational materials and methods to enhance students’ ability to find and use information from a range of online sources (Levy, 2003, p.300).

Reference

Levy, P., Ford, N., Foster, J., Madden, A., & Miller, D. (2003).
Educational informatics: An emerging research agenda.
Journal of Information Science, 29(4), 298-310.

Skills needed in a changing workplace

It was interesting to compare the view of the Institute for the Future’s (University of Phoenix Research Institute) view on what will reshape the workplace of the future with that of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Both institutions identified the key drivers of change and then reflected on the skills that would be required in the workplace.

The WEF took a generalised approach, including more demographic and social factors with technological factors. The Forum took changes in emerging markets, geopolitical volatility and climate changes and natural resources into consideration. Both institutions identified changes in the demographics of the workforce of the future as a major challenge (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011, pp. 3-5). They agree that the aging population in developed countries will impact the workforce through the fact that they will stay economically active longer, and will have different needs in terms of services. The WEF goes further and adds that in the emerging markets there is a different challenge, namely to educate the upcoming young people entering the workforce. The WEF also notes that the changing role of women, both as workers and consumers will be a stronger power in driving change. The WEF also regards rapid urbanization and unpredictable geo-political situations as factors to keep in mind (The World Economic Forum, 2016).

Global connectivity through mobile and cloud technology is seen by the Institute for Future and WEF as a major disruptive driver of change, both also mention “smart” machines, increased computational processing power and Big Data, the collective knowledge and collective intelligence is also seen as major contributors to change.

While the workplace can only react to the changes in demographics and social structures, it can actively plan for and deal with the technological drivers. Education and training is going to be vital. Both institutions address the changing skill set needed for workers of the future.

Ten future work skills are identified in Future Work Skills 2020. These skills emphasise the fact that machines will take over jobs that can be automated and that humans will have to concentrate on soft skills such as sense-making, social intelligence and adaptive thinking. Other important competences deals with open-mindedness: virtual collaboration, design mindset, transdisciplonarity and a cross-cultural mindset (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011, pp. 8-12).

The WEF identifies basic and cross-functional skills and abilities along more traditional lines (social skills, resource management, technical skills, etc. ) but there is fundamental agreement that collaboration, active learning and listening and critical thinking as well as creativity and cognitive flexibility will be needed to learn and adapt in a fast changing work environment .

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Retrieved
from Institute for the Future, University of Phoenix Research Institute
website: http://www.iftf.org/uploads/media/
SR-1382A_UPRI_future_work_skills_sm.pdf

World Economic forum. (2016, January). The future of jobs. Retrieved from
https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs

The digital age and possibilities for re-imagining our educational system

The convergence of computing, information and communication technologies into one device, affordable and usable by most, has resulted in the development of a transformed information-rich world. With these mobile devices, we became nodes points in a global information ecosystem, socially connected in interactive knowledge environments that transcend the restrictions of our physical world.

Almost every aspect of our personal, professional and societal lives has been transformed by the tools and products of this digital age. Two important examples should be emphasised:

• New participatory media formats use web-based technologies to enable recipients of information messages to be active participants in knowledge creation. Interactive platforms allow experts and voxpop voices to join, in creating, discussing and distributing user-generated information products in many formats.

• Cloud computing makes improved productivity and knowledge building possible through immediate communication channels and tools for collaboration. These improved data storage facilities make digitisation of our collective societal knowledge and cultural heritage possible in online digital repositories.

The new digital age is having a significant impact on the learning environment: on when, where and how we learn. Multi-formatted online resources and participatory media enables self-directed, self-paced, individualised, personal and differentiated authentic learning. The role of teachers is changing from deliverers of content to creators of context (Thomas, 2012). The classroom, where learning was traditionally initiated by teachers, has expanded beyond walls, lectures and textbooks and can become truly learner-centred. Connected learning provides an existing model that makes use of the products of the digital age to re-imagine our traditional education system.

While some educators suggests that the students of today are intuitive and “native” users of new media formats and tools, we need to better understand the competencies and proficiencies that are required of learners to be literate in this digital age.

What now is the role of school libraries in this digital age? Libraries should support learning where and when it takes place. This means a dynamic, physical learning space and an equally well-designed virtual space, where librarians meet the information needs of teachers and students through curation of digital resources and tools and help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. How we will get there… THIS is the challenge that I hope to meet through my studies!


A VERY critical reflection on what I have learnt this far:

I am fascinated by the reading provided for Module 1. While the content was not new, I was challenged by so many of the authors to imagine how this digital world can transform our educational institutions and our thinking about learning. I am inspired, but that is the positive side…

It took far too long to read and grasp the required reading. I hope that as I become more familiar with the concepts and academic writing again, that I will be more efficient.

I have not participating in the online discussions yet, because the reading and setting up of the blog took too much time (I will do so this week). I believe as I find my voice I will be bolder, less worried about seeming ignorant and more comfortable with the tools we have been introduced to. I am very excited and in the right place, but still getting up to speed.

REFERENCES:

Thomas, D. (2012, September 12). A new culture of learning [Video file]. Retrieved from
‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM80GXlyX0U’