Knowledge in the digital age

The future of learning is such a BIG topic that’s central to our work in higher education and K-12 education. The type of future thinking we need to engage in is NOT the hyperbole around  the demise  of the industrial age (it never was the right way to frame future planning!) but rather a deep analysis of who we are, what we want, and how we can best achieve knowledge developments as a result of engagement with ideas, actions and content.

Now I know that statement sounds prosaic in itself – but stay  with me a moment longer.  January 3 sees me well and truly launched into work preparing for a 2014 year of deep diving into ideas with students, colleagues and friends alike.Yes, back at work!

In a sense the deep dive began with a hilarious afternoon/evening watching University Challenge on the big screen internet enabled TV with my family. We got quite attached to some of the competition teams, and completely fell head-over-heals for the Corpus Christi Colleage Oxford team.

What struck us was the range of knowledge that these young competitors exhibited (we scored very poorly as we kept our own record).  As author Anthony Beevor, presenting the trophy to the winners of the 2011 challenge,  stated that if we believe that there has been a dumbing down of education in the last number of decades, listening to these students deal  promptly with the diverse quiz questions certainly proves the opposite.

The fact that knowledge is relevant and central to the ongoing advancement of the human endeavour is not in question in the digital age – but rather how information is utilised to grow knowledge is. What is happening in social media, popular culture, online, in your connected spaces?  As my colleague Tara Brabazon outlines in Time for Timbits: Fast Food, Slow Food, Class and Culinary Communication:

The internet … entered popular culture and became a powerful channel of ideas – rather than the hobby of a few – as the bandwidth increased, enabling a much more rapid movement of increasingly larger files. Therefore, the speed between diverse sites increased the range and the adaptability of media. Speed transforms minor media into popular culture. Speed is therefore a characteristic of modernity.

Knowing how to ‘think’ and ‘work’ in a digital age is more than just dealing with the information flow and ‘drinking from the firehose’ of global information. Speed is central to a new method of productivity, only when it is utilised in a manner to continue deep thinking and knowledge creation. I’m not a digital immigrant any more than my 16-year-old-niece is a digital native.  I’m a product of the education and professional opportunities that the social and cultural environments of my life allowed.

Knowing about technology does not make you knowledgeable – but knowing how to maximize working with information in and for knowledge development may help to make you more knowledgeable.

According to the recent MacArthur Foundation Report “The Future of the Curriculum: School Knowledge in the Digital Age” new learning in a digital age encompasses a move away from seeing curriculum as a core canon or central body of content to seeing curriculum as hyperlinked with networked digital media, popular cultures, and everyday interactions. The questions, then, are what knowledge is to be included in the curriculum of the future, what are its origins in the past and the cultural legacies it represents, what future does it envision, and what authorizes its inclusion?

The report clearly explains how the knowledge economy has become the dominant political style of thought in education reform worldwide. For my money, the extent we subscribe to the newest wave of reform (forget the hackneyed references to factory schooling) is not so much the issue. Rather it’s about recognising the influences and potential at play in changing the ways we can engage in the knowledge construction processes with our students.  Mind you, the MacArthur Report is a bit prone to hyperbole too:

we are witnessing the rise of a flat learning system as the science of learning and building brain-power is applied right across the full range of formal and informal situated contexts, both in the real and virtual worlds.

Having said that, 2014 and change are synonymous – but probably no less than they were in a 100 years ago in 1914 – it’s just that we are living an exciting transition and perhaps overly excited by it.

Like everyone I very much enjoyed reading my favourite SciFi Isaac Asimov’s predictions of what the world will look like in 2014 from way back in 1964. Try this for an example:

Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.

I was pleased to catch up with the The Downes Prize for 2013. Of course, Stephen Downes choice is insightful, as is his ongoing scanning of the horizon for the shifts and sometimes seismic changes in how we manage education and knowledge outputs. Check out his OLDaily E-Learning News, Opinion, Technology commentary.

I’m excited by the many challenges (and a few too many hurdles) that 2014 will offer me.  I hope for a good year, a productive year, and an opportunity to learn more interesting things with you.

Welcome to 2014 my friend.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Trey Ratcliff

Our everyday tools for success

REDToday I was genuinely honoured to head up a keynote session for the Rural and Distance Education Symposium NSW, being held in Sydney for two days. Over 100 fantastic teachers gather to share, learn, and re-energize so they can continue to meet the exceptional needs of students who are isolated by geography, health, disability, or other social reasons.

More than any single group I know, these teachers can really benefit from building a strong global PLN to help support their professional needs to grow in digital learning strategies in challenging circumstances.  Let me tell you, these teachers are a complete inspiration. You can visit the website for Rural and Distance Education, as there are some very useful resources availbale there. 

It’s particularly worth checking the ICT tab – there is some gold buried there, particularly if you are passionate about accessibility.

My focus was the teachers themselves. I was on a crusade!

The digital revolution has created a world of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, giving teachers the opportunity to hone their professional practice through their networked learning community. What do you do to make it so?

Check out the supporting slide-set for Our Everyday Tools for Success.

Your information flow might be so last century

It’s Monday morning, and as I sit down for my morning cup of tea and toast, I open my iPhone to see what’s in my email, and what items in my calendar will need my attention. I can take a little time over this, as I don’t have a long commute to work ahead of me, though I will ‘commute’ across the country (online) while I collaborate with my colleagues on curriculum standards and content alignment in the work we are doing for the new degree.

Next, as I flicked through Twitter (because I like to do that, and because it’s an important information tool) I stopped – and sighed at the struggle still before us of convincing teachers in K-12 schooling that they have to keep up! Well, there are lots of things they need to keep up with, and their own knowledge discipline is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about information flow – the stuff of our knowledge networks, and the fabric of our connected lives.

In just a couple of minutes of my twitter feed (never mind all the hours I was asleep) I found:

I suspect that I don’t take my information flow nearly as seriously as I should. But at least I try! You should try too! We know that there is a lot happening, and that there are various ways of responding to the speed of info-change. Putting your head under a rock is not one of them!

As Stacey explains in her post Extreme Curation:

I’ll admit it! Sometimes I’m a bit slack and while I endeavour to manage my information well sometimes I just can’t be bothered. So now I think I have the answer “extreme curation for slackers”.

Our Edublogger guru Sue Waters provides us with the brilliant Flip-aholic’s Ultimate Guide to subscribing and sharing.

Just to add to the mix, Darcey Moore explores his own new workflow in Writing and Worflow: Scrivener and Simplenote, explaining:

Workflow, for a whole range of professional needs and personal pleasures, is constantly being disrupted lately as tools and processes morph daily or my understanding deepens of what is possible.

Enough said!

If you are involved in education in some way and you’ve still got people who believe that email, google searching, and journal subscriptions are ‘the go’, then you’d better scramble into your Tardis and get to a timezone that’s relevant to the needs of students today.

Image: Dr Who cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aussiegall

Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age!

Great title don’t you think?  This very title is the name of a new subject – foundation subject no less – that is in the pipeline for 2014 for the new degree that I have been immersed in developing.  As mentioned in my post a while back, I have had my head down and tail up for the last six weeks working live a navvy on scoping this new and exciting degree for next year.

Still a big secret in terms of the whole course program and content of course, because the final approval isn’t through yet.  We still have the last hurdle to face, but fingers crossed, we’ll make the grade. As it happens, the framework, subjects, electives etc are pretty much sorted, as is the focus of each subject.

It’s been a mammoth undertaking in some ways, and not so much in others. Conceptually it’s easy to pinpoint what is needed to fill the gaps in postgraduate learning opportunities to meet our professional learning needs within our networked learning environments. While there are of course many opportunities for professional development in these areas, there is also a need for academic credentialed programs that leverage deep thinking and research, and provide teachers with evidence of their passion, commitment and reasons for choosing them for innovative and/or promotions positions!

The new Australian national curriculum demands a deep understanding of connected learning, particularly if we consider the digitally connected environments that our students are working in.

So the motivation was strong to develop a degree that captured the power of networked learning, knowledge and information environments, learning spaces design, gaming, e-literature and more, in a powerful combination drawing on the disciplines of education, information technology, and information science. We took it on board to examine the key features and influences of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, aiming to provide the opportunity to reflect on professional practice in just such a networked learning community, and engage in peer dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in a digital environments.

So overall, the intention is to allow questioning, review and reconstruction of understanding, with the new subjects framing the challenges of learning in digital environments and setting the context for innovation and change in professional practice.

Everything will be thought-provoking, and will build on the knowledge that teachers bring to the course, rather than being driven by fixed content. By pushing the boundaries, knowledge networking and digital innovation will be the inspiration for this post-graduate program.

So roll on 21 May…..and if all goes well,  I will share all the details of the new degree.  If we hit any hiccups – well, what can I say?  Back to the drawing boards!

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by jah~

Wisdom in networks

Funny - A Hoot
Last year I spoke to my mobile phone. I wasn’t ringing anyone, but I asked my phone a question.  Guess what? No answer.  Last week I spoke to my phone, and it gave me some answers right there on my screen.  Better.

Soon there will be no need to read a answer, and in another few decades there may not even be a question.  Futurists tell us that we will be our technology, and information will be who we are or what it made us.   As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge is what the game-change is all about, and as such remains the core business of info-nerds.

What is so frantically important is to unravel where we need to go in all this.  No amount of Advanced Searching with Google is going to resolve the major issues confronting us. Just watch people wherever you go – cafes, trains, sidewalks, bars – mobile in hand, people connect, people ask, people investigate, people forage for news and information.   So it’s  more than information discovery,  information filtering or information curation strategies that we need to be thinking/learning about. The “Fourth Revolution,” proposed by Floridi (2012)  describes the current information age, an era in which our understanding of both self and world is significantly altered by sudden changes in the information climate due to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.

So you’re a teacher?  or an information professional of some kind? Either way, you have a significant role to play in how the future shapes up. As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in the fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

In my April foolishness, my mind is totally absorbed by all this.  As I watch MOOCs emerge around the globe, as I note the various professional opportunities that associations and organizations provide, I’m delighted by the range of offerings, and the quality of some of them. But they are niche offerings.   A bit of this, a bit of that.  A full quality credentialed degree program still has HUGE relevance, because of the depth, breadth, width and brain-expanding opportunities that are possible.

But enough of that for now…more later.

What we need  is a MINDshifted degree! One that helps you learn how digital connections should change the way we think, the way we teach, the way we craft the future.  We need cross-disciplinary understanding of knowledge networking and digital innovation as a degree at the intersection of knowledge, information science and education.  This way we can ensure our graduates have the capacity to manage and manipulate information in a networked way for learning and teaching.

In the next couple of weeks our new initiative (been slogging on this) is being put forward as  formal application to the Faculty of Education. The aim is to have  an amazing new degree ready for you in 2014.

Watch these pages for more updates on the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). Trust me – You’ll want to know more about it!

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.

Image: Funny – A Hoot

Constant personalisation yesterday, today and tomorrow.

No matter where we look these days, the idea of personalized information streams continue to be supported by new tools, or new ways of working with existing tools – and all linked to our mobile devices in some way.  For example, where-ever I am,  I’m constantly adding items to my public Facebook feed, which ( I have to admit) has remained a constant as any number of other tools have come and gone. I need my tools to interrelate – all the time – easily, and quickly!

What interests me is the amazing uptake of ScoopIT. I was an early adopter myself, but have now taken a different view of the value of the tool – driven by Pinterest. Yes, I’m losing interest in ScoopIT – and here’s why.

I’m not interested in using the ‘built-in’ curation tool that Scoopit offers – it’s just not good enough at sourcing the professional feeds I want.

I’m not interested in having to use a browser-add on – as I just may not be at my computer to Scoop!

In case you haven’t noticed, a Facebook page looks pretty much the same as a ScoopIT page – so guess what – now I am favouring Facebook to do what ScoopIT has been doing!  e.g. Digital Citizenship in Schools vs Digital Citizenship in Schools.

BUT the ScoopIT ecosystem gets so much more traction!  Despite that, I am (like others) now getting really bored with ScoopIT links in Twitter, or Facebook.  When I click on a recommended link I prefer to go directly to the sources.  So there is the dilemma – to Scoop or to FaceBook?  I wonder what you think?

I also became jaded with ScoopIT  me when it insisted on a monthly package upgrade to be able to stream my content to multiple Scoops. Even ScoopIT education wants a monthly payment.  After some emails to try and explain that schools and educational institutions do prefer an annual fee for payment, nothing was put on offer. #FAIL

The other interesting change is the lack of ScoopIT buttons on mainstream pages.  You can Tweet, FB, G+, LinkedIn or Pin –  but you can’t Scoop!  #FAIL

So while I ramble on, the real reason for writing this post is to reflect on  just how much content organisation and curation keeps shifting. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are fluid places of relentless change.

Thinking about tomorrow?

Check out the new eBook feature enabled in Wikipedia.

We’re happy to announce that a new EPUB export feature has been enabled on English Wikipedia. You can use it to collate your personal collection of Wikipedia articles and generate free ebooks. These can be read on a broad range of devices, like mobile phones, tablets and e-ink based e-book readers.

This is a whole new ball-game for educators. Consider the option of getting students  (Secondary or graduate) to write content for Wikipedia, and publish it as their assessment if it is worthwhile? Consider the teacher or lecturer producing content that is related to a particular discipline and distributing it via this eBook feature – puts a whole new twist on open source publishing! Consider putting your learning materials into Wikipedia and weaving it together to package a knowledge element or topic of investigation?  I think this is a real ‘watch this space’ moment once again.

There’s an explanation and explanatory video at Animals in Space. Basic – but you get the idea. Is this the start of a new shift in information delivery spearheaded by Wikipedia?  I hope so, in the sense that we need to have information from many sources and repositories, but in the first instance we may simply have to plug into Wikipedia with our content. For example, I am toying with the idea of some new ways to assess ‘collection development’ for an Master’s level subject. Prompted by the media release from Wikipedia about the eBook feature, I scanned relevant resources and came up sharply against the lack of good material. Given that Wikipedia is highly searched information source on generalist information  I began to see writing material for Wikipedia as being far more authentic and worthwhile than writing an essay. Still written, but suddenly, with the option for an audience, multimedia content and hyperlinks the learning experience takes on a new focus.  More thinking on this, but I’m tipping that I won’t be the only teacher who begins to see new uses for Wikipedia.

Another tool that caught my eye today was Media2Go. Badged as a new reading experience, it’s just another way of ‘packaging’ what you want.  I’m never that keen on such tools, and (as I mentioned) I’m ‘over’ browser buttons (having lost count of ones used and ditched as media changed)! While I understand that business or corporate users of such tools may have a focussed area of reading, in education we do need to keep open and flexible.

But still worth a try, as its concept has some exciting possibilities. As they explain, the key aims are:

1. Cut out the noise
Bookmarks, saved articles, feeds –we’ve got all those on our browsers too, but how often do you really go back and read all the content you’ve saved? Right at the point of reading, you should be able to see topics that pique your interest and pull content on those topics instantly and without having to sift through tons of articles.

2. YOUR world. YOUR opinion.
We strongly think that we CAN NOT, CAN NOT become a society of homogenized opinions. It’s YOUR world and YOU should have a say in where you get your content from.

Maybe this IS tomorrow? Learn more at the video.

Makerspace in your school library

Earlier this year I wrote a post about Hackerspaces and Makerspaces, after attending the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington. I met up with Buffy Hamilton for lunch, and as ever was inspired with the responsive way she grabs an initiative and runs with it.

So I wasn’t surprised to find Buffy writing Makerspaces, Participatory Learning, and Libraries where she ‘nailed’ the opportunity.

Now here she is, putting forward the  New Chapter for 2012-2013 proposal for A Makerspace Culture of Learning at the Unquiet Library.  Love it!

In a sense, this is not a new concept at all, particularly for primary schools, as kids are hands-on and experimental in their classroom experiences. What I particularly find attractive about makerspace culture is that it responds to, and perhaps acts as a counterfoil to the gamification/gaming momentum that is somehow almost seen as the only response to innovation and change in schools.

Hackerspaces and makerspaces provide outstanding opportunities for synergy in our new learning environments.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Pete Prodoehl