Quote from Doug Belshaw's book on digital literacies

Responding to Holly Clark, I explain why I cringe when the concept of digital literacy is replaced with fluency, subsequently overlooking the plurality of digital literacies.

There has been a lot written about digital literacy of late, much of the conversation stemming from the Engagement in a Time of Polarisation MOOC and danah boyd’s keynote at SXSW. Holly Clark enters this conversation explaining why she chringes when she hears the word ‘digital literacy’.

In Clark’s post, she states that literacy is about the ‘competence of knowledge’. It is that thing required to make meaning. She then goes on to argue that what is at stake is not necessarily the competence to make meaning, but rather the ability:

What students don’t possess most often is a not digital literacy, but rather digital fluency. As educators if we spend our time talking about literacy – and what feels like ONLY literacy – and we leave out the more educationally important idea of fluency we might be doing students an injustice. Fluency is the term that SHOULD be at the heart of everything we are talking about. It is where the transfer of knowledge happens, where kids apply that literacy they developed without our help, and get past the making meaning stage to a place where they are transferring knowledge on their way to becoming effective digital citizens and learners.

I agree with what she is saying, it is not our knowledge of these things that matters, but rather application of such knowledge. Therefore, I can know about two-factor authentication, which by her definition would be a part of being ‘digitally literate’. Tick. However, unless I actually apply two-factor to each of my accounts then it is of little use.

The particular example that Clark gives is that of searching. As she explains, you cannot have an knowledge of a search (or a query) unless you understand the consequences and to do so you would need to be fluent, not literate.

The question we should be asking as educators is – are they fluent in search? Do they know how to craft a search that will deliver to them a page of really meaningful and purposeful results – results that come from mostly credible sources? Do they have the fluency to evaluate the information the search produces. I promise you the answer is no in 98% of cases. There is a fluency to search, to knowing what happens when you add quotes, or the minus symbol, or keywords and how this all affects the end result. This is the digital fluency of understanding the intended message (or query) you are delivering to Google.

As Clark highlights, simply knowing to use quotation marks is not enough, we need to understand why this is the case.

Although I am not as confident as Clark to call out ‘98%’ as the number, I think that this difference between knowing and understanding is a consequence of a tick-box approach to many of these things. There are great programs like eSmart’s Digital License, which help build knowledge. However, like many licenses in life, it can be a means to an end. The question is often what happens once they have their license that matters. Again, if they find out about the importance of two-factor and security, but continue to use their dogs name as their password, then it is to little avail.

My concern with Clark’s argument is that she puts ‘digital literacy’ to the sword, replacing it with ‘fluency’. This is problematic on two fronts. Firstly, the concept of literacy is not fixed. Secondly, we are better considering the plurality of digital literacies.

In The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, Doug Belshaw suggests that literacy involves using a tool for a particular purpose.

Before books went digital, they were created either by
using a pen or by using a printing press. These tools are technologies. Literacy, therefore, is inextricably linked with technology even before we get to ‘digital’ literacies.

This use is always a social process that is contained within a context, for “in isolation, an individual cannot be literate at all.”

Adding the ‘digital’ modifier increases the ambiguity associated with the situation. Instead of providing an overarching definition, Belshaw provides eight elements to make sense of the different incidences of digital literacies.

  • Cultural – the expectations and behaviours associated with different environments, both online and off.
  • Cognitive – the ability to use computational thinking in order to work through problems.
  • Constructive – the appropriate use of digital tools to enable social actions.
  • Communicative – sharing and engaging within the various cultural norms.
  • Confident – the connecting of the dots and capitalising on different possibilities.
  • Creative – this involves doing new things in new ways that somehow add value.
  • Critical – the analysis of assumptions behind literacy practises
  • Civic – the something being analysed.

What is important here is that we cannot meaningfully consider all these elements at once. Each offers the possibility of digging deeper or stepping back.

Take for example searching online. We can confidently search for information. This is what Clark captures with her discussion of ‘fluency’, However, this does not necessarily capture the critical side of search and algorithms. Interestingly, Clark makes mention of the plurality of literacies, but never quite explains what she means.

In the end, what is needed in this area is more conversation. It is complicated. It is contested. As always, comments, criticism and cringing welcome.

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In an act of reading out loud, Mike Caulfield models how how he challenges ideas and assumptions while reading. To demonstrate this, he uses the lead-crime hypothesis which argues that the crime-wave in USA during the 1990’s was caused by lead poisoning in the 70’s. After finding an article from 1971 discussing lead poisoning in Manchester, he progressively unpacks it, opening up tab after tab, asking questions and testing different hypothesises.

For Caulfield, this is what web literate reading looks like:

You read things, and slide smoothly into multi-tab investigations of issues, pulling in statistical databases, unit converters, old and new magazine articles, published research.

The problem though is that much of this is either unavailable or difficult to do on a mobile device. Being an advocate of online reading, I was challenged by this. It had me thinking about what else I do on the desktop that is not possible on my phone or tablet. One aspect that came to mind was bookmarklets.

Although it would be easy to list all the extensions and applications that I use my laptop for, it is the bookmarklets that I have come to rely upon and that I miss when mobile:

  • CC Attribution Helper: This application built by Alan Levine allows you to both attribute and embed images posted under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. I have used it for a few years when inserting images into my blog posts. Even when I have to add an image through the media library (such as featured images), I still use it to capture the appropriate attribution.
  • Wikity: Earlier this year I spun up my own instance of Wikity, Mike Caulfield’s WordPress theme designed to help the creation of knowledge. One of the features is the bookmarklet that allows you to quickly capture a quote and add some text. Although it is possible to create a post on mobile, the ability to provide additional content and links is limited.
  • Radio3: Recently, I started exploring Dave Winer’s Radio3 Linkblog, which allows you to push links out to various platforms, whilst also maintaining your own RSS. Like Wikity, it involves selecting a post or quote and clicking on the bookmarklet. Although I had started dabbling with the idea of pushing links out via WordPress, the creation of a separate feed means that I can do a number of things with it, such as push links to Diigo via IFTTT.

These are just some of the bookmarklets that I use, with others including Quozio, Responsive Design and Mozilla X-Ray Googles. Although I agree that mobile devices are becoming more and more dominant, I think that they have their limit. There are still many activities which I depend on a laptop for, such as finishing my posts or creating visual quotes. I also feel that there are solutions that will always be beyond the realm of the mobile device, especially as I move further and further into the #Indieweb world. So to answer Caulfield’s question as to how we get more students onto laptops, it starts with addressing why it matters today more than ever.

So what about you? What do you still depend upon the desktop for or is a mobile screen enough? As always, comments welcome.

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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
“The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Often when supporting teachers with the integration of technology, it is easy to start with a notion that people are beginners. This leads to a process of unpacking applications bit by bit. I wonder if rather than knowledge, the challenge associated with so called ‘beginners’ is confidence. This challenge though takes many guises. For some it is the confidence with the mechanics, while for others it comes back to purpose and intent. A useful framework for working through some of these idiosyncrasies is Doug Belshaw’s essential elements of digital literacies.

Rather than one singularly unifying notion of digital literacy, Belshaw argues that there are eight interlinked elements, each informing our understanding and application of digital literacies.

The 8 Essential Elements of Digital Literacies #digilit
“The 8 Essential Elements of Digital Literacies #digilit” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Thinking about an application like Hapara is interesting. It provides an added layer on top of GSuite, which allows teachers to organise and manage learning in the classroom. Using digital literacies as a lens provides an insight into a number of aspects to which a teacher may lack ‘confidence’.

  • From a cultural perspective, Hapara posits that teachers are largely in responsible for creating the conditions for learning. Some teachers may have different pedagogical beliefs.
  • Cognitively, it involves new ways of working. Although it may be more efficient, these are still habits to unlearn and relearn.
  • Constructively, there is a blur between empowering students with the power to participate in actions and the dangers in excessively moderating learning using Highlights. Finding a balance can be challenging.
  • From a communicative point of view, GSuite allows a number of ways to engage, Hapara provides the means to manage and moderate this within different cultural norms.
  • Connecting with GSuite through the use of APIs, Hapara has the ability to both hinder and help the creative process, for on the one hand applications like Workspaces can be used to scaffold learning to support originality or to structure it in such a way that it could  a construed as no more than a digital worksheet.
  • From a critical and civic point of view, it is important to consider the why there is a need to manage learning and the consequences associated with such actions.

There is no one element that captures confidence and confidence in itself does not capture the full picture. Doug Belshaw’s elements provide a means of representing the assemblage of connections associated with technology. Something that Ben Williamson attempts in his own way in his work on Class Dojo. That being said, the answer is not to cover all elements each and every time in a checklist fashion. Instead, they provide useful provocation to go further in defining how we engage with technology.

So what about you? What strategies have you used to take the conversation around tech beyond the tool? As always, comments welcome.

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Templated Self

“Templated Self” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

The #edublogsclub prompt this week is to reflect on a challenge in education.

In a recent post on personal identity, George Couros made the following comment:

We can no longer say we are preparing students for “the real world”, when what mean is ”the real world” that we grew up in, not recognizing current needs of today.

For Couros students should leave high school with:

  • A PLN
  • A digital portfolio
  • An About.me page

This left me thinking about the challenge of digital identify in school. For many this debate quickly deteriorates into a battle between supposed traditional literacy and the more modern digital literacies. In this context, students having a blog and a member of a Facebook group is seen as a win. This problem is not discussed enough, especially what we mean by ‘real world’ and what we even mean by digital literacies? This includes where students set up their presence and the templated identities that are permitted in such spaces as Twitter and Facebook. Here then is my thinking on Couros’ leaving list.

Continue reading

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In a recent post, Ross Cooper reflected on his journey in regards to reading comprehension. He shared the phases that he has gone through and the texts that have supported these changes. At the end of the post, he posed the challenge to share your own journey. So here is my attempt to represent my somewhat fractured journey that I have followed:

Honours and Post-Structuralism: If my journey is to have a beginning, it is in my Honours year at University. I started out writing about the historical connections between Virginia Woolf and psychoanalysis, but ended up down a rabbit hole exploring what it means when we talk about psychoanalysis. Building on the ideas of Stanley Fish and J. Hillis Miller, I explored the influence of personal and collective context associated with interpretation. I am not sure how many ‘strategies’ I take from this time, but it did leave me with a deep appreciation for the subjective nature of reading and perspective.

CAFE Menu and Comprehension Strategies: I spent my formative years facilitating the teaching of novels, films and media texts by providing students with long lists of questions. I would work for hours scrolling over texts to come up with the best questions. This changed when Di Snowball was hired by the region to improve literacy results. A part of this change was the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies via the work of Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, as well as the introduction of the CAFE Menu to support reading conferences.

Reading Textbooks: Along with the introduction of various strategies, one text that had a considerable impact was The Comprehension Toolkit. The particular book that stood out was the one on reading textbooks. What was significant about it was the change in how I saw textbooks. Rather than depending on predefined tasks and questions, I started using chapters as provocations for student-led questioning and inquiry. The book provided a range of simple strategies to support this process.

Digital Literacies: The integrated approach of incorporating instruction and use of comprehension strategies into every subject within a secondary setting helped develop the capacity in a more consistent manner. The problem that I found was that strategies and supports were primarily focused on the printed text. This bias become obvious when I started teaching ICT and Digital Publishing. Spaces such as the Ultranet, Edmodo, Google Apps (G Suite) and other social media forms provided different ways of working and demonstrating understanding. For example, one of my initial questions when starting out on Twitter was how this could be used to share key ideas and quotes. The reality is that digital learning technologies allows a level of social interaction and sharing that just is not possible in person. The text that brought this all this to the fore was Doug Belshaw’s The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, in which he identified eight elements which work together to inform our (digital) literacy practice.

Disciplined Collaboration: Another change which had a considerable impact on my teaching of comprehension was Disciplined Collaboration. The basic premise behind Disciplined Collaboration is a cycle involving the identification of a problem, initiating some form of intervention and then measure the impact of the various actions. For some this is no different to a PLC. However, Alma Harris states that where it is different is that it is disciplined. In regards to comprehension, this is a more responsive approach. It provides a means of developing of specific response to the problem at hand.

Visible Thinking: The latest step in my comprehension journey was reading Making Thinking VisibleBuilding on the learning started in regards to making sense of textbooks, this book simply focuses on making sense. Unlike the comprehension strategies, the thinking protocols provide the means for developing understanding. I think that it is only now that I have truly linked my theoretical thoughts captured within my Honours work, as well as my actual practice.

So there is my journey, what about you? What have been your influences in regards to your understanding of comprehension? As always, comments welcome.

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A Response to Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

I recently picked up Jenkins, Ito and boyd’s Participatory Culture in a Networked Era again. I initially started during #DigiWriMo, but as is often the case, I got distracted. However, I picked it up again in part due to my work around online communities. It is a rather unique book, marrying conversational tone with a sense of rigour provided via the addition of references and the removal of any tedious repetition. As danah boyd explains in a post on her blog:

The book is written as a conversation and it was the product of a conversation. Except we removed all of the umms and uhhs and other annoying utterances and edited it in an attempt to make the conversation make sense for someone who is trying to understand the social and cultural contexts of participation through and by media.

This made it quite easy to follow along as a reader, but not necessarily easy to summarise. It would be easy to reduce the book to a few themes, such as equity, control, public good, youth and activism. However, this seems to miss so much.

Participatory Culture is best considered as a collection of thoughts that you could easily pick up in pieces or come back to again and again. So rather than an overview, a better approach is to simply share some of my entry points. To participate in my own way, I have collected some of the more poignant quotes and adapted the Visible Thinking protocol ‘See-Think-Wonder’ to add my own thoughts and wonders.

All young people have agency and voice, but not everyone has the opportunity to connect this agency and voice to a broader public stage and to sites of power. This is where I think participatory and network culture has the potential to address some of this inequity.- Mimi Ito

This response reminds me of Nick Jackson’s argument that it is not student voice which is at stake, rather our focus should be on providing the opportunities for student action. I am left wondering what chances students get to connect beyond the classroom and what opportunities are being left untapped?

Networks are more than simply clusters of individuals; they are enterprises formed around shared goals and values; they require us to learn to work together to help others achieve their ambitions, even as we extract value from the community towards our own ends.- danah boyd

So often the focus of developing networks is where communities are located and the possibilities offered by the technology. I wonder how we go about refocusing attention on the why, rather than the what? The goals and values, rather the specific outcomes and achievements?

The more diverse the contributions, the richer the solutions the community will develop around common problems and concerns.- Henry Jenkins

David Weinberger suggests that, “the smartest person in the room is the room.” While Cathy Davidson talks about collaboration by difference, with a focus on diversity. I wonder how we go about actively fostering such ‘smarter’ spaces which encapsulate differences in a meaningful manner in order to develop richer solutions?

Part of what we collectively struggle with is the need to unpack what people think about youth and technology versus what we are able to see through our research.- danah boyd

There is so much discussion about research at the moment and what this might mean for educators. I have lost count the amount of people I have shared danah boyd’s It’s Complicated with, sadly they often take note, but continue on responding to teens as usual. I wonder then how we open a space for critical dialogue about technology in general?

For some adults, the phrase “digital immigrant” functions as a kind of learned helplessness: “I shouldn’t be expected to learn how to use this new technology because I wasn’t born in the right generation.”- Henry Jenkins

I think that there are dangers to many of the labels that applied when grappling with technology. One of the things that I took away from Doug Belshaw’s book on Digital Literacies was the importance of defining as a community the various terms and concepts which we use. I wonder what other edu-phrases are in desperate need re-evaluation?

Many young people are actively looking to participate in public, but they don’t necessarily want to be public (Marwick and boyd 2014b). That subtle difference is important because it means that they spend a lot of time making content available, even while the meaning is rendered invisible.- danah boyd

This was one of those lingering take-aways that I took from boyd’s other book, It’s Complicated. It can be easy to misconstrue the desire to live life out in the public means that today’s youth do not care for privacy. I wonder if inviting adults into the digital classroom compromises this? Something pointed out to me by Eric Jensen.

How do kids get into deep verticals in communities that reinforce expertise and are challenge- and inquiry-driven? How do they develop technical literacy and skills in social networks, in status and reputation-building?- Mimi Ito

The idea of ‘deep verticals’ really caught my attention. This is often the challenge made to dynamic spaces, such as Twitter, that they are often shallow. I wonder if the focus needs to be the connections and if maybe going ‘deep’ occurs when such inquiry moves across platforms?

Our response at the school level has been to declare certain social media or participatory culture practices off limits, to ban use of Facebook or YouTube, rather than to provide trained adults who can offer guidance in how to use social media safely, creatively, constructively, and ethically.- Henry Jenkins

It feels like we spend so much time talking about the way in which youth use technology, yet when it comes to supporting them in a meaningful way the room goes silent. Alexandra Samuel touches on this in regards to parenting, but I think that it is just as pertinent for teachers. I wonder if, like Annie Hartnett, the answer is giving space, but also being there for support when needs be?

Too often, in today’s schools, a student’s writing ends up on the teacher’s desk and sits there waiting a grade. Rather, we should think about literacy as involving the capacity to engage with networked publics, to share what you write, and to receive feedback from some kind of larger community.- Henry Jenkins

This comes back to the Jackson’s point about action, as well as Belshaw’s essential elements, in particular the constructive use of tools. I wonder with all the focus on feedback why there is not more focus on authentic audiences and spaces?

So we always have to ask who gains and who loses? What’s at stake? What are the risks? What are the benefits?- Henry Jenkins

Jenkins touches on an important point, that everything has its positives and negatives. Marshall McLuhan’s tetrad provides a useful tool for representing these varying points of view. I wonder what is overlooked by continually focusing on supposed gains and overlooking inherent biases?

Just as we don’t want corporate agents making decisions for us about what constitutes valuable participation, we should be cautious about imposing our own outside perspectives on what makes these sites meaningful to their young participants.- Henry Jenkins

I recently got into a conversation with a colleague about the use of spaces, such as Twitter. He wisely questioned whether we, “should really care how online spaces exist? Pluralist view would be that they can exist in any shape or form and that people should be able to gravitate to the place for what ever the purpose may be.” I wonder if the push to conform to someone else’s rules and expectations is any different for adult participants?

We really need everyday folk to step up and take on responsibilities in public life, whether it is by blogging, organizing, or funding.- Mimi Ito

I feel that one of the developmental steps when it comes to blogging is the act of supporting others with their journey. This maybe adding a comment or sharing a post on. Clive Thompson argues that the hardest thing is often the cognitive shift of opening up your writing to just ten readers. A million is easy. I wonder how many people, young and old, are held back by fear of this unknown?

People participate through and within communities: participatory culture requires us to move beyond a focus on individualized personal expression; it is about an ethos of “doing it together” in addition to “doing it yourself.” Many of the cases we often use to illustrate the concept fall short of these ideals.- boyd, Jenkins and Ito

This balance between doing it together and for yourself reminds me of the notion of #ittakesavillage. I wonder what is needed in order to work towards such an ideal?

The technologies do not themselves make culture participatory. People do. And they do so by imagining – and working to achieve – new ways of connecting, coordinating, collaborating, and creating.- boyd, Jenkins and Ito

So often when we talk about participation, we are consumed by the technologies. However, platforms will come and go, it is the people that will remain. As Ben Werdmuller explains, “The supposition that Facebook is its software is completely wrong. Facebook is its network. You could build a new open source platform today that had every single feature on Facebook — although it would be quite an undertaking — but you still wouldn’t have the same effect. The thing that makes Facebook special is that everyone is already on it.” I wonder how we can empower people to utilise their collective power to take back control of the spaces that they exist in.

So there are my thoughts, what about you? How are you engaged in participatory culture? As always, comments welcome.


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So often the debate around digital technology and literacies seems to be framed around whether we should all learn how to code. As if simply learning a few lines would solve all the world’s ills. Although Douglas Rushkoff touches on this in his book, Program or be Programmed, his main focus is on what it actually means to program. For Rushkoff programming is closely linked to the art of writing, just as the creation of the alphabet focused on hearing and the printing press supported on a rise in reading. This programming as writing is not just about programming as an act of engineering, but as a liberal art. As Rushkoff explains,

Even if we don’t all go out and learn to program—something any high school student can do with a decent paperback on the subject and a couple of weeks of effort—we must at least learn and contend with the essential biases of the technologies we will be living and working with from here on.

This is an understanding of the operating system of the world we live in and the inherent biases that are built into the platforms and devices we use each and every day.

Rushkoff’s discussion is broken down into ten modern day commandments:

  • Time and the push to be ever present.
  • Place and the disconnection with the local.
  • Choice and the pressure to forever choose.
  • Complexity and the ignorance of nuance.
  • Scale and the demand of the global spread.
  • Identity and the digital self.
  • Social and contact as king.
  • Facts and the demand to tell the truth.
  • Openness and the importance of sharing.
  • Purpose and the power of programming.

Each bias is unpacked, providing examples and elaborations to support an ongoing dialogue.

What makes Program or be Programmed the best introduction that I have read on coding and the impact of digital technologies is that provides a considered point of view. It balances between criticism and praise for the modern world, with a clear hope for tomorrow. Although we may not all build our own social media platform or a search engine to match Google, we have a responsibility to be aware how such programs and platforms are influencing us. For as Gary Stager says, “technology is not neutral.”

For more information, listen to this interview on ABC Future Tense or check out the following clips:

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In a recent post, Diane Kashin shared a series of quotes associated with Reggio-inspired learning. After being inspired and provoked, it got me thinking about technology and provocations that could be used to help dig deeper into digital pedagogies. This lead me back to my collection of links housed in Diigo, as well as various visual quotes kept in Flickr. So here then is a collection of images to get you thinking deeper about technology:

Why Technology Alone Won’t Fix Schools

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In this extract from Geek Heresy published in The Atlantic, Kentaro Toyama makes that point that technology merely amplifes pre-existenting pedagogical capacity and only emphasises differences in wealth and achievement.

Why Coding is the Vanguard for Modern Learning

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In a response to the debate about coding, Richard Olsen makes an attempt reposition the way we see coding and why it truly matters. I wrote a response here.

Invent to Learn

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In their book Invent to Learn, Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager unpack everything from Project Based Learning, to Reggio Emilia, to makerspaces, to coding, all with the focus on learning through the act of making.

Parents: Reject Technology Shame

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In her post in the Atlantic, Alexandra Samuel argues that there are three distinct styles of digital parenting: limiters, mentors and enablers. I wrote a post wondering if the same distinctions could be applied to teachers.

(Digital) Identity in a World that No Longer Forgets

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In this post, Alec Couros and Katia Hilderbrandt ask the wicked question about life when we are no longer able to forget. There answer, empathy.

Visitors and Residents

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In response to Marc Prensky’s notion of native verses immigrant, David White and Alison Le Cornu put forward an alternative with the idea of visitors and residents.

Computers in Education – Great Machines, Wrong Results

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A central figure behind Wolfram Alpha and Wolfram Mathworld, Conrad Wolfram questions the way we use technology.

Delayed Gratification

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A continual inspiration in regards to play and experiential learning, Adrian Camm highlights the importance of developing resilience and moderation, rather simply banning devices like Sydney Grammar.

Creative Learning is Relational

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In this post exploring creativity, Tom Barrett provides an explanation for social bookmarking as a means of resurfacing ideas.

Scaling Creativity and Innovation

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In his book exploring the idea of creativity and innovation, David Culberhouse outlines the challenges associated with being a connected educator. Along with The Changing Face of Modern Leadership, Culberhouse’s books are a useful resource for addressing education in an ever connected world.

Curation as a Tool for Teaching and Learning

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Along with Robin Good’s post, Heather Baille’s essay offers an excellent discussion of all things curation and its place within education.

Too Big To Know

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In the book that produced the saying that the smartest person in the room is the room, David Weinberger provides the warning that being in the room is not enough. It is what you do that actually matters.


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In his book on the modern world, David Price coined the notion of ‘SOFT’. Central to this is the power of sharing.

From Master Teacher to Master Learner

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In his book From Master Teacher to Master Learner, Will Richardson provides an outline for what is required with modern learning.

Why I’m Giving up on Creative Commons on YouTube

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In a post aimed at Youtube’s confusing CC licences, Eddie Kai highlights the purpose of such licences and where this has gone wrong.

How to Get a Job at Google

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In an article exploring modern employability skills, Thomas Friedman explains what you need to do to get a job at Google.

Revolution or Encouragement?

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In a response to Will Richardson’s post, Dean Shareski argues that what is needed is not revolution, but support for those already doing great things.

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

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In the book summarising his work with digital literacies, Doug Belshaw addresses everything from what constitutes technology to how we actually define literacy. I wrote an extended response here.

A Bicycle of the Mind

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Reflecting on the place of iPads in teaching and learning, Chris Betcher makes the call to let students actually utilise technology.

Smarter Than You Think

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In an extract from his book Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson suggests that even the worst bloggers are making us smarter by working openly in the connection of different ideas.

Keeping Teens Private on Facebook Won’t Protect Them

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Like Adrian Camm, danah boyd argues that instead of worrying about locking teens into protected communities, rather our concern should be about integrating them constructively into the wider web. This is a message carried through her book It’s Complicated.

On Best Behaviour- Three Golden Rules for Ethical Cyber Citizenship

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Although there is some dispute about the application of Kant’s transcendental principles, David Tuffley’s post provides an interesting take on digital citizenship.

Inequality and BYOD

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George Couros touches on one of the biggest challenges associated with technology, that is how we use it. This is a

What the Net Did Next

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Taken from danah boyd’s book It’s Complicated, this quote from Vint Cerf sums up much of the challenge with technology, that it is how and why we use the internet that needs to be questioned.

Here then is a collection of quotes that I have come upon. They may not be the most quotable, rather they are those moments that stood out to me as I read. So what about you, what are some of the quotes you draw on to help stretch your understanding of technology. As always, comments welcome.

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I was recently asked by a colleague about my ‘vision’ for eLearning and 21st century learning. Inspired in part by Gary Stager educational philosophy in 100 words, as well as my work with with DET exploring the EDUSTAR planning tool, this is the list of attributes that I came up with:

eLearning …

Is Transformative: More than just redefined, learning is purposeful and involves wider implications.

Is More Doable: Makes things like critical thinking and collaboration more possible.

Enables Student Voice: Technology provides a voice for students to take ownership over their work and ideas.

Involves Modelling Digital Citizenship: More than a sole lesson, eLearning should be about foster competencies throughout the curriculum.

I supported this with a list of readings to clarify where my thoughts had come from. Although as I have stated time and time again, it takes a village and recognising everyone in the village can be a futile act.

My concern with this whole process though is two-fold. Firstly, a vision is not created by one person, however compelling that may be. A point that George Couros makes in his book Innovator’s Mindset. This is a problem I had with the DET EDUSTAR training where a few random representatives were expect to be the voice of a whole school. While secondly, an eLearning vision needs to marry with the school’s wider vision for ‘learning’. The question then remains as to how we make a vision for learning and technology which supports the whole school with a common goal?

So what about you, what is your eLearning vision? How is it integrated within the wider school vision? As always comments are welcome.


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In an attempt to make sense of the divide when it comes to the use of technology, Marc Prensky published two articles in 2001 in which he coined the terms digital native and digital immigrant. He used this to explain the difference between those born after 1980 who have grown up with technology being in every part of their life, compared with those ‘immigrants’ who have had to pick everything up.

The problem with the native/immigrant explanation is that it lacks nuance. Firstly, it assumes that if you were born after a certain time that you represent certain disposition. Secondly, it fails to recognise that our use of technology is forever changing over time. Thirdly, it was developed in a time before the prevalence of social media and its impact on how we use the web. In contrast, David White and Alison Le Cornu offer a more fluid typology with their notion of digital visitor and resident.

White and Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience.

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Unlike Prensky, White and Le Cornu argue that our use of the web is constantly evolving, not only different from one space to the next, but also from changing over time. For example, today I maybe only be a visitor to Twitter, but be a resident of Facebook, whereas tomorrow for whatever reasons this is might be completely flipped around.

Doug Belshaw explains this problem by pointing out that workflows should always be a case of permanent beta. Although this may not be a month to month or even a year to year thing. If we were to reflect our use of the web ten years ago, I would find it hard to believe anyone’s map would be exactly the same.

Another dimension which White and Le Cornu add to this is the question of place. They suggest that our use always moves between the personal and the organisational. For example, some students use spaces banned from them in school, such as Facebook and Youtube, to participate in what can be described as the learning black market. That is, informal collaboration and communication in aid of learning.

What is interesting about the visitor and resident typology is that is that it is not necessarily about the tools, but how we use these tools. As White shares, we can give all the guides we like, but people’s participation within different spaces only changes when they can identify a reason why that is pertinent to them. With this in mind, creating our own map of the web offers a great way to start a conversation about how and why we use technology.

One of the challenges with technology is to move beyond supposed simple solutions. Often terms like visitor and lurker are used with negative connotations. Instead the question should be why are visitors and what would change if we were to take up residency. The same thing can be said of those spaces which we have come to depend upon, what would happen if they were to shut down? What is also interesting is that many social media platforms do not allow visitors. That is, an existence without some sort of sign-up. This alone is a conversation worth having, as to why this might be the case and what the consequence of such restrictions might be.

For more information, have a go at using Google Drawings to create your own map, see White’s post or his short introduction from White:

While here are my slides from a presentation at Teachmeet NGV on 24th October 2015

Visitors and Residents, Lets Talk #TMMelb from Aaron Davis

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