27 October 2015

Fragments within Education - A Case for Digital Literacies


As Autumn lingers in settling in my part of the world, I question the existing fragments within education. Because that is how I feel at this moment in time - Digital technology has been a driving change agent in the last years, but how much has actually changed in practices of learning? What will be the price of a fractured world where so many have access to digital education while so many are left behind? How will one's choice of digital tool/platform affect learning and engagement?

And does it matter?

Only an individual can answer that truthfully. 

For me, it does matter.

Nothing quite compares with the smile a student expresses once he/she realises that they can actually use a digital tool/app to create a digital artifact. It doesn't matter whether it was for the purpose of "learning" - they are now able to use the same tool for their own purposes and hopefully, less afraid of learning how to experiment with other digital tools and apps. 

Digital is their world, where my students find their personal spaces. Where too, quite likely, they will also find themselves as young professionals in some years time, in world of work which is changing faster than education. 

While Audrey Watters calls for the need for students to have their own digital domain, I would be satisfied if students could begin by having their own blog - a blog which would always be theirs and serve as a portfolio of their learning and progress. 

A student's blog is also, in my view, a way of humanising the use of digital technology in learning, for it's not only the ability to read the screen and follow instructions - it is the ability to use that tool to create, to have one's voice heard, to collaborate, to share and yes, learning how to respond within a small network (e.g. learners within a specific group). One learns through connections. Sense making rarely comes out from nothing. 

Teaching with technology at higher education myself, I cannot help but point to Jane Andrews and Mark Jones article, on how in regard to students arriving at higher education, they interact with technology:

"As well as spaces for learning becoming increasingly diverse, students are arriving at university with different levels of ‘digital literacy’ based on prior experiences at school/college. This diversity can also result from habits of using digital devices in social contexts: at home, on an individual basis, with friends and peers; the latter being particularly important as a form of ‘horizontal knowledge’ transfer. Being digitally literate involves different levels of technical, affective and cognitive intelligence. By being technically literate, we mean being able to competently use different applications and work between different digital devices and external hardware. Being affectively literate means the ability to understand how digital media and devices can affect individuals emotionally. Cognitive literacy is the ability to ‘learn’ with devices from different media by curating, consuming, collaborating and creating knowledge. The ability to critically engage with media is a key aspect of digital literacy or what has been called ‘digital media literacy’ (Buckingham, 2007). The term ‘digital competence’ is preferred by Ferrari, (2012) who defines it as

‘the set of knowledge, skills, attitudes …. that are required when using … digital media to perform tasks; solve problems; communicate; manage information; collaborate; create and share content; and build knowledge effectively, efficiently, appropriately, critically, creatively, autonomously, flexibly, ethically, reflectively for work, leisure, participation, learning, socialising, consuming, and empowerment’ (pp. 3–4 )."

In my search to make sense of fragments in education, to find a sense of purpose in a world of chaos, these remain as guidelines for me:

Being digitally literate. 

Being technically literate. 

Being affectively literate. 

Being cognitive literate.

Being engaged in learning.

Being engaged in creating.  

These are not literacies which should be tapped into only at higher education. These are literacies which need to be embedded at all levels of education. Only then will moving from one level of education to another will become more seamless, instead of the jolts of push and pull that is often the case.

In a world where tools, platforms and apps stream forever forward competing for our attention, where change happens yet remains to be effectively implemented, more widely and more humanely implemented, my mind turns towards collaboration.

ScribblePost is yet another space for networking and collaborating. Still open to early subscriptions, it may be worth the time for educators to look into and connect.

Because connections create meanings in a fragmented world. 

Our Fractal Brains from Julius Horsthuis on Vimeo.

References and Further Suggestions:

Another Dimension of Digital Literacies

Analysing Digital Media Literacies

Bridging Fluencies and Footprints

Developing students' digital literacy

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