Semantics. Semantics always seem to be a common theme in the discussion of education. New terms, acronyms, old terms, and of course old terms redefined… no matter how you slice it educators love to wield multisyllabic language and terminology to describe, define and refine educational practice. There are even websites (The Glossary of Education Reform) dedicated to clearing any confusion surrounding terms that might arise during PD, or show up in school district communication. Of course the advent of technology as a powerful tool in the classroom, has opened up a whole new frontier in which teachers can debate dissect and define terminology specific to this ‘new’ learning environment.
Literacy has taken an interesting role in the understanding, execution and education of digital behaviours. Of course there are many people proposing terminology and language that will, direct and ultimately define how we teach students to interact with digital resources. Of course the need for ‘awareness’ is ovious, when one looks to the requirements of the future workplace. In the document “Future Work Skills 2020” requisite skills are identified, that students currently in the middle years groups will need to have to be competitive in the work place. This document outlines the drivers of future skill requirements, and while some have been requirements in workplaces prior to the accelerated rise of technology in the workplace, there are three that seem unique to the upcoming generation:
#6 – New media Literacy
#8 – Design Mindset
#10 – Virtual Collaboration (IMO #4 – Cross Cultural Competencies could also fall into this category)
These three are very indicative of where we as a society are headed in the coming years. These are not necessarily all categorized into literacies, however they do lead to digital competencies.
New Media – Undoubtedly there are a plethora of new types of media appearing everyday, and each one offers a different medium. The communication that occurs on snapchat or Instagram is really no different, other than the medium, than those of Twitter and Facebook. They are a means to communicate in today’s connected environment. While this is true, being able to use these types of ‘mediums’ does not imply an ‘effective’ use. As new mediums arise there needs to be a level of awareness of how these may serve an individual in both personal and professional spheres. When approached for this perspective the tools current generations see as strictly entertainment of social will move closer to aspects of society.
Design Mindset – While the article looks specifically at the design of physical environments I think it is important for educators to see a long term plan for the digital education they provide. In Larry Lessig’s TED Talk he identified the fusion of material to create new ideas. Also discussed by Belshaw, this idea of remixing is crucial to future generations. Building upon what has come before, however, in this current era of ‘ownership’ and copyright that is going to be a more challenging proposition than it has in the past. Identify something new from seemingly disconnected ideas is not only something that works backwards, but also forwards. Looking for and identifying connections allows our students the opportunity to look for connections and future benefits that technology they use today may have for them in the future. This also applies to the very nature of what technology will be when speaking of Web 2.0 and beyond.
Virtual Collaboration – “A place for all things and all things in their place”. I remember my grade three teacher saying this every time we did something in the classroom, that didn’t belong there. This seems to apply equally in the realm of technology. There are different ways to interact in different formats. Honestly, I always thought that Twitter was simply a place to dump fleeting ideas and fickle comments. The reality is actually quite the opposite…unless you have never actually been shown the options that are possible. This collaboration is more than simply working together it is the sharing of both ideas and abilities. It is the movement from knowledge to something more organic.
Competencies – These are simply three of the ten skills outlined that fall under the umbrella of digital literacy, The actions that fall under these skills can be measured as a component of a ‘competent’ digital citizen. It is not a list of behaviours that we can check off that we should seek to explore with our students, but rather a flexible and adaptable approach to learning and engaging with and through technology. Students will be successful if they actualize the principles of a good digital citizenship.
These competencies are, in many cases today, absent from our students toolbox. For example: our school has desks on which you can use a whiteboard marker to write notes, comments or solve problems. Students love this twist as it is a much larger working space and to some degree it is novel. The notes they take in this manner are often more detailed colourful, and well…all round better than those taken traditionally on paper. The problem arises however in the saving of these notes. Obviously there is only one way to preserve these and that is through the use of a camera. Most students have phones in our class and this is a great solution. Students could share their notes, post them for discussion…the possibilities are really quite exciting. However, the possibility reaches an untimely demise when it comes to organizing and sharing. What are the expectations for sharing? What platform is most user friendly? How should the images be organized so they are easily accessible? Finally, how does the device fit into the room when not being used for academic purposes?
I appreciate the While we work towards definitions, terms and language to uniformly identify what or students will need in the coming years to successfully navigate emerging digital environments, we should remember that the ‘ground’ of a digital future, shifts fast, and if we are to be successful as educators we need to take a page from our lesson plans and remain flexible and aware of the current situation of our ‘brave new world’.
Connections and further discussion:
- Quick guide – Developing students’ digital literacy – Great graphic for defining digital literacy, and an interpretation of what digital literacy incorporates.
- Online Consultation on Experts’ Views on Digital Competence – Interesting discussion on the importance of competencies.
- What Digital Literacy Looks Like in a Classroom – mostly for the comments…
Content Specialist links
New Literacies – The 6 new emerging literacies. ( The New Literacies – E. Baker )
Digital Literacy Test – interesting assessment of individual digital literacies
Coherence of the Incohate: Digital Literacy – Digital literacy as social and necessary for future competencies.
From Literacies to Competencies – great graphics to identify the building blocks and competencies that link to or enable literacies.