TIDE Podcast – Education, Technology and Everything In-between


flickr photo shared by Ken Whytock under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I really enjoy engaging with different ideas via Podcasts. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read posts, books and watch videos. However, Podcasts are both easy to dip in and out of, as well as consume in everyday situations. Some of my regulars are 2 Regular Teachers, Radio National’s Big Ideas, Teachers Education Review, Radio National’s Future Tense, Guardian Tech Weekly and BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. I have written about some of these before, comparing each to a particular refreshment. However, since that time, Today in Digital Education (TIDE) Podcast has arrived.

TIDE is a weekly podcast created by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw discussing everything from education, technology, and everything in between. I think that ‘everything in between’ is an understatement. Although there is a lot of talk about technology and education, a field which both are a part of, what makes the podcast is at its margins. Discussions bounce around between parenthood, politics and productivity. To me this is something of an embodiment of Belshaw’s own particular exploration of digital literacies,  something that goes beyond just the constructive and communicative use of a tool, but a confident, creative and critical engagement with culture. For those who fear the echo chamber, the wide mix of thoughts and ideas shared each week quickly dissolves that.

Coming back to the analogy of refreshments, I think that TIDE is akin to turning up to a shabby pub on a Sunday afternoon, thinking that you are just going to have a causal conversation about this and that, only to discover a session of drinking craft beer. The session seems to drag on into the night and somehow evolves into finishing things off with a glass of top-shelf single-malt whiskey.

For me, TIDE has filled in the void left by Ed Tech Crew and taken it to a new level. Even if you do not have the time (on average, an hour and a half each week) to listen, the links alone are worth skimming through. So if you haven’t already, go check it out. You will not be disappointed.


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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies (TER Podcast Review)


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

Something that has really influenced my thinking lately has been Doug Belshaw’s book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. The book stems from Belshaw’s thesis exploring the topic. One of the key insights that he provides is that there is no one ‘all defining’ definition of literacy, let alone digital literacy. Rather, it is something that we co-construct based on our community and context. It is for that reason, that he uses the plural and talks about ‘literacies’.

Instead of providing an overarching definition which soon becomes hollow and meaningless, he provides eight elements to make sense of the different incidences of digital literacies. The elements are:

  • 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

One way of thinking about at these elements is in regards to ‘mindset’ and ‘skillset’, the is a way of thinking and a way of doing. While another way is as a set of questions:

  • What are the cultural expectations and behaviours associated with different environments and contexts, both online and off?
  • What are the steps/workflow involved in properly understanding the problem at hand?
  • How is the use of these digital tools leading to and enabling social action?
  • What are the norms for sharing and engaging within this context?
  • How confident are you at connecting the dots and using different digital tools?
  • How are you doing new things and what value are you adding back?
  • What assumptions are behind the literacy practices?
  • What is the something we are actually doing and creating?

 

Although each of these elements are interrelated, they are not all necessarily at play in every instance of digital literacy. It is for this reason that they are ‘elements’ not a definition. What the book provides is a starting point for how to talk about digital literacies.

One take-away was that literacies have always had a close affinity with technology. Too often we associate ‘technology’ with computers or other such devices. However, as Belshaw points out, whether it be the printing press or using a pen to write, technology has always had an integral part to play in regards to composing and consuming texts.

Another take away was that digital literacies are not merely about what we do or how we do it, instead it is about why we do it. It is about going beyond what Mitchell Baker describes as ‘elegant consumption‘. Although the focus in schools is on ‘authentic’ assessment, whether it be creating a blog or producing a book, if this is not attached to a clearly defined why then we are missing the point. This is often one of the issues with incorporating technology in the classroom. Students create digital products with little reason as to why. This is where referring back to the elements can help highlight areas of improvement, a constant reminder as to ‘why’ digital literacies are important.


Here is a recording of TER Podcast Episode #42 with my review starting at 36 minutes:

I have also written a more creative ‘final chapter‘, which seems to be more me I think than Belshaw.


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What’s So Creative About Commons Anyway – An Introduction to Creative Commons


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs

Creative Commons is one of those topics which everyone knows about and when question say that they understand, but can’t really explain what it is and how it works with very much clarity. For some it is seen as a nuisance, while others see little point or purpose to it, but in regards to working within the world wide web, it matters a lot.

Basically, Creative Commons is a set of licenses that allows you to give permissions for others to use and modify your content. As is explained on the main website:

The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web.

In total, there are six different licenses made up of three different variables: attribution, modification and commercialisation. These are best summed up by the poster designed by Piotrek Chuchla, graphic designer and poster artist which can be found here. While for a more detailed explanation, watch the following video:

The question that so often remains unanswered is how does it work in practise and why is it important?


Often when we consider Creative Commons it is automatically linked with copyright and the legality of using someone else’s work. A prime example of this is outlined in Chris Betcher’s experience of using Creative Commons music on Youtube. In a series of posts he describes his battle with an artist about using a piece of music in a video he made. Even though he had seemingly sort the music out fairly through Jamendo with the best intentions, the algorithms in Youtube flagged his work and marked it as a breach of copyright. After much digging around, Betcher discovered that ‘no derivatives’ does not have to include cutting up an item, it can also mean combining it or mashing it up with something else.

This view of Creative Commons relates to appropriate use of content. This is contrast to discussion around copyright. Everything has copyright – at least in Australia – from the time that it is written down or recorded. Often conversations though end up in debates about fair use, educational purposes and substantial parts. In contrast, Creative Commons adds to this predefined right by applying to your work a license which allows you to clearly permit how you wish your work to be used. For example, if you are wanting to remix an image, then you would search for something that does not have ‘ND’ attached to it. Betcher makes the pertinent point that Creative Commons “removes the barrier created by traditional copyright.” However, to see Creative Commons only for its legal benefits misses out on its real benefit to support a community of sharing.

In an interesting post, Alan Levine laments how so much of our conversation around copyright stems from the argument “don’t break the rules.” He suggests that it is not much different to all those piracy fear campaigns. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘what’ of it all, Levine wonders where the conversations about the positive reasons as to why we do it, that is, feeding content back into the community, paying it forward and attributing where things comes from. Paul Klimpel sums it up best when he states that the main purpose behind Creative Commons is about making content more shareable. It is at its heart about creating culutre.

The next step then is how do we actually create an open culture of sharing and collaboration which allows for a greater flow of ideas and expression. For as Doug Belshaw states, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” Maybe it all starts with modelling the change through our own practise. This could include not retweeting images without attribution as Chris Wejr suggests or developing a school wide policy as Richard Wells has done. One thing is guaranteed, ignorance and naivety will no longer good enough, especially as algorithms become more and more complicated.

So what are you doing? What have I missed? I would love to know. Feel free to share.


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To Comment or Not to Comment, Is that the Question?

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16693027205

It has been interesting following the #28daysofwriting initiative organised by Tom Barrett. The premise behind it is that committing to a month of regular posts will hopefully help develop a sustainable habit of writing and reflection. I have not participated as I feel it best to commit time when I have it and also write based on need, rather than time. Sometimes this may mean going beyond the rudimentary four paragraphs every now and then, but so be it. Anyway, I digress.

One of the observations that has arisen is the lack of comments occurring amongst the various posts. A lot of people are writing a lot of things, but not many people are actually responding. The proposal that has been put forward is a return to commenting with #28daysofcommenting. Now I am not against comments, as demonstrated by my recent post. As I have said for a long time, responding is an integral role to reading. The challenge is making this visible to others. I have issues though with the argument that ‘micro engagement has killed off the edublogging community‘. I do admit that things have changed, but I wonder if blaming this change on micro engagement is missing something more?

In a post looking at issues with education today, Peter Skillen puts forward a range of arguments. One is that there can be no wisdom and development gained in one-line. Although I think that there is plenty of drivel out there full of excessive branding, self-promotion and back-slapping, as well as enough people engaging in what Doug Belshaw describes as ‘elegant consumption‘, I argued then and I would argue now, there there is still a potential to such interactions. Going beyond being a representation of our digital identity, Twitter offers a means for sharing the main idea, writing aphorisms and generating new ideas. It provides new beginnings if we are willing to take them.

To look at this from a different perspective, Corinne Campbell made the observation that, “creativity requires design constraints”. What is often overlooked with a medium like Twitter are the constraints at play. I think that it is easy to get lost in the flow of things and forget that Twitter can just as easily be seen as a form of creativity. A point that Dean Shareski makes so well. The issue then is how to make the most of such constraints?

As I have discussed before, there are different ways to share and respond. The easiest and quickest thing to do is to simply post a title and link. Something that Barrett puts in the red zone. However, in order to develop richer communities and smarter rooms, it is wise to include handles and hashtags. For me this includes both the author and anyone who I know the topic maybe applicable to. Going beyond this, I also try and post quotes rather than titles. For one it demonstrates a higher level of engagement with the text, but it also offers a different entry point for readers.

Both Barrett and Ewan McIntosh have reflected on the halcyon days when posts would get long streams of comments, where the initial idea acted as a start for a deeper debate. (See debate over Design Thinking for a good example.) Whereas now it is more common to get a retweet, a like or a +1, with little if any actual engagement. McIntosh wonders if “anyone cares about many blog posts any more.”

This move away from commenting was brought home to me by Steve Wheeler’s reflection on his most read posts of 2014. His most read post was Learning First, Technology Second. It received over 8000 hits, yet only twenty three comments, half of which were his own responses. When quizzed on the matter of hits to comments ratio, Wheeler suggested that it is often the more emotive posts which usually gain the most interaction. I wonder if this has always been the case?

A problem I have with comments is that with a move to mobile, they just aren’t as easy as they used to be. A majority of my digestion comes via Feedly. I then save posts for commenting later. Sadly, this does not always happen.

In addition to this, commenting does not always seem as interactive as other mediums. I write a comment and it is between myself, the author and anyone else who may come upon the response. When I write using a medium like Twitter, my response is shared with whoever is viewing and is more visible, meaning the conversation has more potential. For example, I was recently wondering about iPads in Prep and put it out on Twitter:

Fifty posts later and I was left with an array of thoughts and ideas. I wonder if a blog would provide such engagement?

This is where I feel that Blogger wins out over WordPress. I like the fact that comments are connected between Blogger and Google+. Lately, I have taken to sharing comments I receive just as a way of spreading great ideas.

As an alternative, although I may not comment, I do connect. What I do is remix other people’s ideas into my own writing. They will often lay dormant, waiting, then something happens, they connect and spur on a new idea in a new context with a different perspective. What is different about remixes as opposed to connects is that it allows for multiple interactions. Pingbacks then connect back, something missing with Blogger.

At the end of the day, there are many ways of continuing the conversation, whether it be Diigo, Facebook, Google+, Voxer, the list goes on. Although there may have been a reduction in direct comments, I wonder if there has been an increase in engagement overall? I love Robert Schultz’ endeavour to comment on at least one post a day, but I think if we are to move forward then maybe we need to look more closely at the problem? Is there a new idea that needs to be unearthed? What is your take?

I encourage you to continue the conversation here.


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Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?

cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs:
http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13713874174
 
Alan Thwaites posted the following tweet and it got me thinking.
Not just what you Tweet Aaron, but watching how you use Twitter has been very clarifying for me. I appreciate it mate.
— Alan Thwaites (@athwaites) April 6, 2014
How is it that I use social media anyway and more importantly, what does it mean to be a connected educator anyway?
 
In a recent post about the benefits of blogging and being a connected educator, +Tom Whitby outlines some of the many benefits associated with sharing online. He states:

The difference between writing a blog post and writing a magazine or journal article is the immediate feedback in the form of comments or responses. Before a blogger puts words to the computer screen the audience and its reaction are a consideration. The blogger will strive for clarity in thought. The blogger will strive for clarity in the writing. The blogger will attempt to anticipate objections.

What stands out to me in Whitby’s post is that the whole process revolves around its reciprocal nature, that is, as a reader you not only take in various ideas, but also respond and add back. One of the big problems though with being ‘connected’ is that for some it simply means lurking in the background. Although they may draw on the dearth of ideas and information out there, there is no impetus to give back in anyway, shape or form. My question then is whether this is really connecting at all?
 
Whilst perusing the net a few weeks back, I got involved in a twitter chat with +Bianca Hewes about the matter of sharing. Hewes was ruminating about the one way flow of information that too often occurs online. Those situations where others ask for resources, but fail to offer anything in return. She tweeted:
It kinda irritates me when I’m a member of a fb group for teachers and people only ever post to ask for stuff… rarely offering stuff 🙁
— Bianca ‘Jim’ Hewes (@BiancaH80) March 12, 2014
If you read the ensuing chat involving Hewes, myself, Dick Faber, Audrey Nay, Teacher from Mars and Katelyn Fraser, there were a breadth of responses provided. Some of the concerns raised included the apprehension associated with looking like a dill and some people’s fear of sharing. A topic that +Chris Wejr has elaborated on elsewhere in his post ‘Not Everyone is Able to Tweet and Post Who They Are‘. On the flip side though, there were some really good suggestions provided, such as lurking for a time until comfortable, sharing something small or even simply re-tweeting something to add to the flow of information.
 
Thinking about all of the these great responses, I feel that there are three clear ways that we can respond and give back. They include the ability to share links and ideas, adding to a conversation by writing a response or remixing an idea creating something new in the process.
 

Sharing Ideas

There are many ways to share, whether it be using social bookmarking, such as Diigo, where you might share with a particular community, or using social media, such as Google+, where you might share out into the world. This is something that I have elaborated on elsewhere. One of the easiest ways I find to share ideas though is on Twitter. Most applications offer the potential to post to Twitter with a click of a button, making it quick and easy to read a piece on Zite, Pocket or Feedly and then share it with the others.
 
There are many different perspectives associated with Twitter. For some, it is too much. How could you possibly keep up with each and every tweet posted by those that you follow? However, +Darrel Branson put a different spin on it in Episode 238 of the +Ed Tech Crew Podcast, where he suggested that mediums like Twitter are great to just dip into whenever you have the chance, not necessarily something to be hawked over 24/7. Branson suggested that if an idea is significant enough it will be shared around, re-tweeted and reposted enough that you will pick up on it in the end. What is important then is actually sharing good ideas and keeping the river flowing.
 
In addition to sharing, Bill Ferriter wrote an interesting piece on the importance of not only sharing, but also recognising whose content it is that you are sharing. One of the problems with many applications is that they allow you to quickly share the title and web link. However, they fail to provide any form of attribution to the actual creator. Therefore, I always endeavour to make the effort to give credit whenever I can. This has led me to use applications like Quozio in order to turn quotable pieces of text into an image in order to fit more into a tweet. To me, this means that while perusing something like Twitter, you are able to continue the conversation with creator, not just the curator.
 

Commenting and Continuing the Conversation

In addition to sharing ideas, another great way to give back is add a comment. Whether it be a video, an image, a blog, a post on Google+ or a tweet, writing a response is a really good way to continue the conversation. Too often when we think about commenting, there is an impression that it needs to be well crafted thesis, however it can be as simple as a confirmation thanking someone for what they have shared. Some other possibilities for comments include posing a question about something that you were unsure about, sharing a link that you think made add to the dialogue or providing your own perspective on the topic. The reality is, we often learn best through interaction and dialogue with others, a point clearly made in Whitby’s post.
 

Remix and Creating New Beginnings

A step beyond sharing and commenting on the ideas of others, is the act of remixing. Using someone else’s idea as a starting point, remixing involves adding something and turning it into something new, an idea in its own right. This blog itself can be considered as a remix, bringing together a range of different ideas in the creation of a new beginning. A great exponent of the remix is +Amy Burvall, whether it be using Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker to mash-up text and videos or using the paper app by Fifty-Three to create images to capture her ideas. Remixing ideas not only allows you to continue the conversation, but also start a new one as well.
 
 
Now I know that everyone comes from a different perspective and have their own view of what it is meant by digital literacy. A topic that I have explored elsewhere in my post ‘What’s So Digital About Literacy Anyway?‘ However, I find it hard to believe that there can be any example of being connected that does not include getting involved and giving back. A point clearly reiterated in Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. The question then is how are you giving back? Is there something that you do that I have missed? What are the problems that you have faced along the way? I would love to continue the conversation, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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What’s So Digital About Literacy Anyway?

In a post titled, ‘The Importance of Modeling Positive Use of Social Media‘, +Chris Wejr suggested that schools need to do more to both model the appropriate use of social media, as well as promote more positive stories. Borrowing +George Couros‘ notion of ‘digital leadership‘, Wejr suggests:

Much like leadership offline, students and adults can LEAD others in how they interact and treat each other online. When we put our heads in the sand and ban social media, we miss a huge opportunity to showcase and tap into digital leadership and model a positive online presence.
This got me thinking about some of the other things that we may do personally online , but not necessarily model all the time in school. One such practise is that of reading and responding online. So often students are told to use tracks and be active readers, to write regular journal reflections, but this usually starts and stops at the physical book. When are students getting the same opportunity to read and respond online?
 

Moving Towards a Digital Literacies

One of the big challenges faced in the move towards 21st century learning is how to best embrace and engage with digital literacy. One of the first challenges though is actually defining what is meant by ‘digital literacy’ in the first place. Often digital literacy is simply assumed as the reading and writing of texts that involve in some shape or form digital technology. Although this may be true in part, it does not capture the whole picture. What this sort of definition misses is the different activities involved in dealing with digital media. For example, it fails to properly account for the ability to search for information, critically engage and evaluate it and subsequently curate it afterwards. As Patricia White suggests in her blog post, ‘Digital Literacy and the Australian Curriculum‘:
Digital literacy enables students to critically engage with technology, forming an awareness of how social and cultural understandings can shape how information and meaning is conveyed. It allows them to communicate and represent information in different contexts and to different audiences by re-contextualising their knowledge.
The reality though is that digital literacy is many different things to many different people and is constantly changing. +Doug Belshaw elaborates on this in his thesis on digital literac(ies). The best way, Belshaw suggests, of understanding digital literacy as an ever evolving set of subjective practises defined by contexts, rather than as some sort of stagnant concept. The most important thing is often the actual “process of coming up with a definition of what constitutes ‘digital literacies’”, rather than the actual definition itself. Associated with this, Belshaw identifies eight interrelated elements which each play their part when it comes to digital literacies.
These are not things in themselves, nor do they all come into play with each example, rather it is all dependant on context. For a more in-depth explanation of the each of the elements, see Belshaw’s slideshare.

Going Beyond the Book

Although, as Belshaw argues, there are many different contexts associated with digital literacies, I would like to focus in particular on the internet and how we consume web content. Continuing on from Patricia White’s extrapolation, I would argue that there are three general steps involved with working with the world wide web:
  1. The identification of content
  2. The critical engagement with this information
  3. The sharing and remixing of new ideas
Although we all may have different ideas as to what each of these steps mean, I will use them to provide a simple framework on which to discuss the whole affair and what it means to read online.

Content

The first place that most people go when searching for information is the search engine. In addition to simply typing in the request as is, there are many ways of emphasing words or using various filters to focus these searches and requests. For a great resource in regards to searching online, see +Richard Lambert‘s ‘Digital Search Progression of Skills‘.

On the flip side, a lot of content we find online, in some way of another, actually finds us. The most obvious place we go to are sites and spaces that we trust. This includes news sites of one kind or another, often news of a specific nature. In addition to this, there are those sites and applications which help find information for us based on our history and preferences. This can include ‘following’ or ‘liking’ other users or pages on such sites as Feedly, Pinterest, Edmodo, Educlipper Youtube, Diigo, Google+ and Twitter, or news aggregation applications, such as Flipboard and Zite, which adjust the content based on your choices and interests. Services such as IFTTT and brower add-ons also make it easier to capture this content.

One of the biggest problems with dealing with digital content is what you do with it once you have found it. One of the catches with mediums like Twitter and Feedly is that they are not always about reading everything in the moment. Applications like Pocket, Dropbox and Google Drive allow users to properly digest content at a later date across any device.

Critical Engagement

Associated with capturing online content is the act of organising it. Sites like Diigo, Educlipper, Youtube, Pinterest, Evernote and Delicious allow for the curation of content. This often involves categorising and tagging, as well as adding annotations and comments. Whether it be commenting on a blog, repinning an image, liking a post, sharing a link, there are many ways to contribute ideas and information to keep the conversation going.

Creating and Remixing

One of the biggest differences between traditional and digital literacies is that we are all now a part of an open dialogue. Unlike in the past when we depended upon others to provide content for us, such as book publishers and media producers, these days we are all a part of the creation of content. There are many ways to creatively engage with content, to add back to the online community. This can include anything from posting a tweet, creating an image, writing a blog post or recording a podcast.

What is interesting about consuming online content is that unlike reading a traditional book, there are many ways of going about engaging with the Internet. For example, some may not use applications like Pocket to store content for later, while others may not necessarily create their own new content, instead continuing the conversation by commenting on blogs rather than writing their own. In the end, everyone has their own way of doing things, their own personal work flow, and that is what makes it all he more so special.
 

Quiet Digital Reading Time

I love reading books, but I also love reading online. In my view, we don’t give enough opportunity for this in schools. As +George Couros suggests, “Whatever you are looking for online, you will find it.” I think that the big challenge is what we do with dearth of information, how we choose it, how we sort it, how we manage it, that matters in the 21st century. Instead of getting students to always close their laptops or put their iPads to sleep during reading time, maybe we need to give more opportunity for them to develop their digital literacy, to stumble upon new ideas and information, to critic it, to share it and to remix it. 

So how do you help students develop their digital literacy skills? Do you allow them to stumble upon information or is their time online more structured? Would love your thoughts in the comments.

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