An aside… I have just commenced a MOOC about teaching in online environments, as it is something that I am not only interested in, but consider every day in my workplace.
A fellow participant posed the following question on the discussion forum and the posts came through thick and fast: Do online learning spaces accommodate for developing more effective digital literacy skills and what do digitally literate learners look like?
Naturally, I read through each and every post offered in the last two days since this question was raised… a noteworthy feat, considering this MOOC is reaching the 20 000 mark for its number of participants! As I read, I noticed resistance from some, curiosity from others, fear, anxiety, encouragement, comfort, a real gamut of reactions. All focused on the pedagogies of teaching and learning, which, for the most part, were leaning towards more traditional origins and methods. Here’s what I inundated them with…
As a qualified librarian, now moving into the field of Instructional Design and e-learning, I have witnessed some interesting events pertinent to this discussion. As a Gen X’er, I bridge both sides of this debate in some ways. I didn’t have access to this technology in-vitro, so to speak, however, happily adopted it when I was entering my 20s. By that stage, I had already acquired information literacy skills, which translated well into the wondrous and astounding digital realm I was entering.
Having given Information Literacy classes to students from the Higher Ed and Vocational Ed sectors, I see a lack of these skills when the majority of the students I have encountered trust most of the information they find, or is pushed to them, without deep and critical analysis. So, in order to pass on these much-needed skills to them, I have found that taking a different approach to the traditional ways I learned as a child quite helpful and fascinating to observe.
I have gone where they are… rather than speaking of electronic databases and referencing in the first instance, I start with Google. Everyone has used Google at least once in their lifetime, surely? The noun that became a verb… it is a force to be reckoned with. I have evolved to becoming the “guide on the side”, rather than “the sage on the stage”. I ask them to play… we conduct searches and talk about why certain results come up, and why some that we may or may not have expected to, don’t. I get them to think about where their information is coming from and why. I personalise the searching experience and use metaphors and anecdotes throughout, compelling them to speak of their own encounters.
I tweet them, Scoop with them, Facebook them, Google+ them, slideshare them, Linkin with them, tumblr and weebly with them, diigo stuff for them, spotify them, share popplets with them, watch their feedly streams as much as they watch mine… I’m always seek out new ways to engage with them. I do so, because these “natives” learn this way. It has been mentioned in a few places in this thread… WE are behind THEM in terms of embracing the technology as fast as they do. In order to remain effective and relevant, we must maintain pace with them. We don’t necessarily have to be ahead of them – the classroom has definitely flipped – we can learn as much from them as they can learn from us. We just need to be able to communicate that to them on their terms… not ours.
So, digital natives? Some categorise them as being able to use the devices and the technology that surrounds us today… without reading the manual! Yes, there are many of these natives entering and studying in our educational environments. But, all the technology in the world won’t help them with finding and locating the right or best information for their needs, unless they have some information literacy skills behind them.
I try to illustrate that these skills are imperative, even in a digital world, where we are conveniently fed all the information that others think we need. Or, what we tell others we need by personalising our online experiences, by agreeing to all ‘Terms of Service’ blindly and happily, just so we can obtain the latest free version of something or other. I introduce the concept of their digital footprints and the price they may be paying when signing up for “cool” services. I also show them that despite “trying hard not to be evil“, Google entices us more and more with all of its free services.
There are a few persons of note I must make mention of here that helped me understand what kind of a world we’re living in and how to navigate through it in our respective educational landscapes: Sir Ken Robinson, Eli Pariser, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Henry Jenkins, Jeff Jarvis, Nicholas Carr, Jane McGonigal, Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow, James Surowiecki, Howard Rheingold, Karl Kapp, Kevin Kelly, Axel Bruns, Sherry Turkle, Curtis Bonk, Seth Godin, Gabe Zichermann, danah boyd, Lawrence Lessig, Steve Levy, Ray Kurzweil… to name a few. (All of these people have spoken publicly and written papers and books – I recommend them all in professional development contexts.)
Despite embracing all of these innovative and marvellous technologies, thinking about and experimenting with their uses in education, through gamification, digital storytelling, or other ways of engagement, I fear an Orwellian 1984 environment… the beginnings of which are becoming more and more apparent. When will the digital natives we discuss here be controlled by the thought police and newspeak? How will the digital divide affect our rights to education in the not-too-distant future? Or will some of us be ostracised if we don’t fit into a prescribed strata as depicted by Huxley in Brave New World? And what of our desires for augmented experiences, as depicted by Philip K. Dick in The Minority Report, where we are continuously retina-scanned and experiencing personalised environments as we pass through a world where we can be caught and convicted of a crime we are contemplating? We are already experiencing a new era of wearable technology.
I suppose this all depends on whether one sees the glass half-empty or full… either way, we have to cease resisting and accept that this is the way of the world, disruptive as it is. If we cannot and do not guide them, who will?