Digital divide – what can go wrong!

Wrangling with online tools has become part of the daily work expectation for many – but not for many of our teachers in schools and universities it seems.

The more I work with educators, the more I worry about the learning opportunities we are creating for our students. Of course, I am generalising here, but nevertheless, I remain perplexed by the idea that teachers feel they are too “time poor” to learn something new each day. Every day, teachers expect their students to ‘go forth’ and find new information, learn new ways of approaching a topic, write another essay, fill another wiki, write another blog post, make another movie, sit another exam…..you know, it’s endless.  So students should stick at it…but not teachers?

Last Saturday I attended a wonderful full day of workshops at Tara School,  run by some trusty colleagues for the ICTENSW teachers.  Attendees came from city and country locations – some even found their way there from Singapore.  My workshop is one that I plan to run in a  few different locations in Australia and NZ during the year.  I wasn’t sure if it was really worthwhile – but Saturday reminded me of the great digital divide that is emerging  in teaching ranks. Here were keen teachers, willing to learn – what about the rest?

It’s not an issue of resourcing – it’s an issue of understanding and capability.  We need to make sure we remain sufficiently skilled to actually be quality mentors for our students!

Two areas stick out like a sore thumb - digital footprint and information seeking.

It’s the same problem we have always had – the expectation that only teacher librarians need to really know how to find stuff! I’m afraid that in our digital era, the stuff finding has to become a core digital skill for all teachers.  This is all the more paramount, when you juxtapose information seeking skills and knowledge creation strategies with digital footprint/digital citizenship and the power of positive digital interactions for professional learning.

The two are not mutually exclusive!

Learning to wrangle the web correctly and well  for information, communication, collaboration, social networking, gaming etc is an essential core skill for 21st century students.

I created a Livebinder to drill into some of these questions.  We didn’t get to do very much at all, even with two hours,  but at least the resource is there to learn more!

The rationale behind Knoweldge 2.0 is acknowledging the information maze; recognising that googling is the default skill that poor teaching promotes; finding out what else is around and why you would craft different approaches to information seeking; discovering the difference between seeking, and having information & news delivered with the power of RSS;  considering the power of academic databases and RSS; pegging cognitive skills into the mix, and dipping into the Howard Rheingold bunch of goodies; and then setting up your own personalised strategies.

All that can take a day to work through, not just a workshop. But it IS the sequence of thinking that every teacher needs to go through at some point if they are going to consider themselves as proper participants in Knowledge 2.0 or 21st century learning, or whatever else you want to label the learning  of today’s kids!

Let me know if you’d like to have a workshop like this at your school or institution.

Innovation and attention ~ locally

For many  campuses [and schools], the question is which learning technologies to support locally to support deeper student engagement with learning.

The information in the Horizon Report, published annually by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium (NMC), can help.2 The report identifies and describes the key trends and critical challenges associated with those emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on teaching, learning, creative inquiry, and student engagement in higher education over the next five years. It categorizes six areas of emerging technologies within three adoption horizons: a year or less, two to three years, and four to five years. A quick review of the report and its vast collection of examples and practices can serve as the preliminary research needed for an institution to proceed tactically.

This article from Educause Review addresses three technologies from the 2010 Horizon Report: electronic books, mobile computing, and open content. Both mobile computing and open content are within the one-year-or-less time-to-adoption; electronic books are in the two-to-three-years adoption horizon.

Read the full articleDeploying Innovation Locally.

Other articles in the  current issue Attention, Engagement, and the Next Generation — Volume 45, Number 5, September/October 2010 – are also worth reading.

Howard Rheingold’s article has some important points for us all to consider in  Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Always enjoy reading Howard’s thoughts!

If we want to discover how we can engage students as well as ourselves in the 21st century, we must move beyond skills and technologies. We must explore also the interconnected social media literacies of attention, participation, cooperation, network awareness, and critical consumption.
Although I consider attention to be fundamental to all the other literacies, the one that links together all the others, and although it is the one I will spend the most time discussing in this article, none of these literacies live in isolation.1 They are interconnected. You need to learn how to exercise mindful deployment of your attention online if you are going to become a critical consumer of digital media; productive use of Twitter or YouTube requires knowledge of who your public is, how your participation meets their needs (and what you get in return), and how memes flow through networked publics. Ultimately, the most important fluency is not in mastering a particular literacy but in being able to put all five of these literacies together into a way of being in digital culture.

Grand challenges or a common way of thinking?

In the old epoch...

Many schools (and organisations responsible for K-12 education) worry about moving to the cloud for their knowledge pathways and   learning interactions.  But while ‘we’ worry, have we stopped long enough and looked far enough into possibilities in order to gain a better perspective on the scope of the digital [r]evolution around us?

I see this worry as being associated with a number of things:

  • A learning agenda that is essentially about achieving a ‘competitive’ edge (exams, tests, scores)
  • A learning process that is tied to a fixed content/curriculum approach (state or district syllabus directives)
  • A learning belief system that claims constructivism while operating in an industrial model of schooling.
  • A learning approach that still has to learn about connectivism as the source of powerful learning practices.

In such a scenario school libraries wishing to be placed at the centre of innovation in 21st century learning environments are faced with a remarkable challenge. While it could be said that the whole school, or education itself, is facing a challenge, the strategic importance of school libraries in forging new places and new approaches to learning should never be underestimated.


Anytime anywhere

This is as true for the smallest central school in Australia as it is for large learning enterprises such as my own school.  I believe we still have a little time up our sleeves  simply because the majority of people – from the stake-holders to the senior administrators – do not yet understand the extraordinary opportunities before us.  But getting ourselves sorted is getting urgent.  And no, the solution isn’t just going to a laptop program. It’s much more than that.

I believe it is time to start digging deeply into the new learning culture that is emerging. I am not talking here about using Web 2.0 tools, or creating content, connections and conversations online, of playing with tech tools on laptops.  I know that we are all busy exploring these options, and many teachers are demonstrating that they CAN adopt cloud-based activities to

empower learning, and do know how to challenge their students to develop the best thinking skills possible.


Uncommonly flexible..

What I would like to see is a growing understanding of the shifting base-line of our
technology-enhanced learning environment. From there we can move to develop an adoption strategy for each school that will shape the nature of a learning commons – agile learning spaces in the real sense – i.e. a school and a school library that is both physical and virtual, and which is pervasive, real, and enmeshed in all aspects of student learning.  Some are on the way – but many are not!  Where do you fit on the spectrum?

It takes time for any enterprise or organisation to adjust to new technologies, and schools are no different in this regard, particularly when K-12 moves to the cloud.

It is easy to

point to the online professional learning networks that many educators participate in as being key to helping share ideas about how to best use these tools in their classroom.

The real-time web in the classroom is here to stay and are busy lowering the proverbial walls of the classroom, giving students access to information that far surpasses the print-bound copies of encyclopedias and periodicals that were once the standard for K-12 research projects. As technology-educator Steven Anderson argues, these technologies

really make the world smaller for our students and show them that they can find the answers they need if we equip them with the tools and resources do to so.

The next step is to create a vision, form and function for your school library that is free from edu-speak conventions (which can become quite stale) and is intuitively accessible to the wider school community. Re-engineer what your library has to offer in whatever ways are possible to you. It is easy to write about whole-scale change, but not so easy when you look at each school and each school library because of the underlying thought changes that have yet to happen.

Give it time – but put KNOWLEDGE at the centre of your thinking rather than ‘library’ and  ‘information services’.    Knowledge and knowledge creation – globally – is the ticket to the future!

Smithsonian Commons Project

It’s in the context of this thinking that I really enjoyed learning about the Smithsonian Commons project.  I haven’t had time until now to catch breath and absorb the implications of this important endeavour.

Michael Edson, Director of Web and Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy at Smithsonian Institution, talked about his project, explaining that foundational concept that everyone should have access to the raw materials of knowledge  creation – everyone, for any purpose.

The project is a significant one and speaks of an approach or philosophy that should be the motivation for our educational endeavours.  It demonstrates a new model of knowledge creation – one that is fast, transparent and open. The spirit and philosophy of this project is one in which they define success as a truly open sandbox that belongs to everybody.

The Smithsonian commons is a project that is just beginning and the goal is to stimulate innovation and creativity and learning through open access to s resources, expertise and communities. In the old epoch institutions like the Smithsonian and like universities were built on the model of enduring wisdom. “we didn’t have to change, we didn’t have to look outside ourselves to strenuously because wisdom endures, wisdom is slow”.  In this epoch I think we’ll be measuring our worth, this library will be measuring its worth, the Smithsonian will be measuring its worth in terms of how successful we make people outside our walls. It’s a very different way of thinking. It requires a great deal of institutional humility and generosity.  I’m inspired by the work of Kathy Sierra, social web thought leader who said “in the old days the pitch for business was follow me, I’m great. The big opportunity now is follow me or my product because I help make YOU great”.

Watch  TWIL #22: Michael Edson (Smithsonian Institution) from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Be inspired by the idea, and visit the related websites:

Smithsonian Commons – A place to begin -  wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype  – wiki

Smithsonian Commons Prototype – Live

Hybrid synergy – the future of school libraries

The Resources Centre

School has been busy – and so have I. Not many blog posts – but nevertheless  I’ve been busy mulling over the future of school libraries and how they should best be integrated into the education setting that we call “schools”.

Those of us who have been in ‘schools’ for many years remember when schools had no libraries!  Now it seems that some forward thinking people prefer to return to elements of schooling that were regarded as outmoded.  Get rid of libraries? Forget the role of libraries and teacher librarians? We don’t try and go backwards in other areas of education – so what’s the deal with this myopic view?

I have been busy watching the twitter stream #iwbnet10 where three of my colleagues are listening to some of Australia’s brightest talk about schools, schooling and the digital revolution at the Seventh National Interactive Teaching and Learning Conference.

By all accounts the conference has been brim full of ideas. But what strikes me about this and other conferences, such as ISTE2010 (that I very much enjoyed in Denver earlier this year) is the decided lack of discussion of what I see as an urgent need for a ‘new’ hybrid synergy between learning and libraries.  According to Designing for the Future of Learning

the school library remains one of them most symbolic, protected, and expensive ’spaces’ on any campus. But will future designers of school libraries be recreating sacred book spaces of the past or will technology and the ‘consumer’ inspire new design strategies for the future? For many, the library is the literal information bridge to the future.

It is very discouraging indeed to have conference attendees excited by one-eyed presentations of future learning needs.  Focussing on the digital revolution and ignoring the pivotal role that a good school library can play is to achieve only a percentage of what is possible – regardless of how good it seems , it’s just not good enough!

When I focus on my role as a teacher librarian, I ask myself a few leading questions:

Should we be immersed in new media and technology in our hyperlinked library?  Definitely.

Should we be working tirelessly to identify what is needed to think in ‘future tense’ and embrace the challenge of keeping ahead?  Most certainly.

Should we be leading the  conversation about social networking and digital identities? And how!

Should we be discussing the assessment problem in these media environments?  But of course!

I have the joy (and tears) of managing a school library that is open each week day from 8 am – 10 pm.

It’s a central hub for collaboration, technology, reading and writing.  It’s a place for change and about change. But with all that, it still has a long way to go  to achieve a hybrid synergy in our school. No different from most – we are evolving and responding to change!

This is important because  in an era of fast facts and short cuts kids have to become VERY literate in multimodal forms.

There are NO short cuts to literacy, and there is no replacement for the love of reading! No amount of gaming, movie making, sport, social networking etc can replace the cognitive gains to be made by allowing our students to become deep readers and deep researchers.  Technology has so much to offer in this thirst for deep knowledge and engagement with the ebook [r]evolution! However, technology is not a replacement for reading, researching, and the value that school libraries and school librarians can bring to our multimodal digital century.

Can you read this?

So while you get excited about technology rich schools, and while you focus on immersive and multimodal technology, don’t forget to focus on reading, literacy, information fluency and deep understanding.  What we need is a hybrid synergy between teaching, learning, technology, pedagogy, and the services of a school library/information services centre of learning and innovation.

Everything is a matter of degree. We do need to redesign our learning environments to address, leverage and harness the new media technology environment of our schools. We need to start redesigning our school libraries and the work of teacher librarians for these learning environments. We need to adopt learner centred e-teaching. We need to share, co-operate and collaborate because we now have an information ecology that can be open, self-managed, fostered and conducive to knowledge flow between content and connections.

As Michael Wesch explains,

Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able

Please look for ways to create a hybrid synergy in your school or academic institution. In terms of modern information and media skills, our practice demonstrates small, uneven pockets of best practice. We have no textbook for what 21st-century school library practice looks like.

Today I found a school that has grasped the need for hybrid synergy!  Not only do they have a school library that is the centre of learning and innovation – they will have in 2011 the perfect vehicle for synergy in 21st century learning by formalising the lead structures within their school.

Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services, supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who will teach a subject, work with a faculty, as well as support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

Oh, but we can’t afford that at our school!

Maybe not – but you cannot afford to do without a library, nor can you afford not to adopt a hybrid synergy that will allow your teacher librarian to take charge of the digital revolution -  that is in danger of disenfranchising our students.

Let your students become ‘knowledge-able’ through literacy, reading and information fluency driven by teacher librarian experts embedded in your multimodal learning environments.

Infowhelm

The 21st Century Fluency Project provides educators with an innovative resource designed to cultivate 21st century fluencies, while fostering engagement and adventure in the learning experience.

Here you’ll find useful guides and other resources. To assist us in cultivating these new skills in our students, they have built an interactive online lesson and unit planning tool and have a team of dedicated educators developing hundreds of lesson plans. I’m looking forward to the public beta.

Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy their video about INFOWHELM:

We live in a 24/7 InfoWhelm world. We have access to more information than we will ever need. This video will tell you just how much information there is out there. It requires a different set of skills than the ones we leave school with today.

What matters more than your talents?

Inspiration and passion – that’s what we want to ignite in our students, isn’t it? I am not sure how often we succeed, especially when we are locked into rigid curriculum ‘must do’ topics by state syllabus directives.

But at the end of the day, talent must be nurtured and passion must be ignited and recognised for it’s true worth.

Thanks to an alert from one of my inspirational friends on Facebook – Buffy Gunter Hamilton of the inspirational The Unquiet Librarian – I was able to listen to Amazon founder, Jeff Bezoz,  address new Princeton graduates.

He makes the case that our character is reflected not in the gifts we’re endowed with at birth, but by the choices we make over the course of a lifetime. As founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos defined online shopping and rewrote the rules of commerce, ushering in a new era in business. This is testament to his belief that talent and passionate choices go hand in hand!

Now I’m never going to ‘invent’ anything!  But Jeff ‘s address has inspired me to revisit my talents and look for new inspiration in my own professional goals, and to try and bring a little more inspiration into my daily teaching interactions with my students!

Digital literacy across the curriculum

Digital Literacy across the Curriculum (pdf), from FutureLab, UK, is a 63-page handbook aimed at educational practitioners and school leaders in both primary and secondary schools who are interested in creative and critical uses of technology in the classroom. The handbook is supported by case studies (pdf) of digital literacy in practice and video case studies.

The handbook aims to introduce educational practitioners to the concepts and contexts of digital literacy and to support them in developing their own practice aimed at fostering the components of digital literacy in classroom subject teaching and in real school settings.

Developing digital literacy is important  because it supports young people to be confident and competent in their use of technology in a way that will enable them to develop their subject knowledge by encouraging their curiosity, supporting their creativity, giving them a critical framing for their emerging understandings and allowing them to make discerning use of the increasing number of digital resources available to them. p.10

Developing digital literacy in the classroom can allow students to apply their existing knowledge of creating with digital technology to learning in school and in the process be supported to think more critically and creatively about what it is they are doing. p.24

Fostering creativity in the classroom involves applying elements of creativity to subject knowledge. This can be done in all subjects across the school curriculum. p.25

This is an outstanding document that can be used as an information primer for helping schools develop a whole-school approach – particularly relevant in the current 1:1 laptop scenario in Australia.

School libraries: Designed for Learning

This video aims to contribute to the design and development of visually stunning, fit-for-purpose libraries with learning spaces that support 21st century learning in extended school settings. It shows the contribution an effective library can make to the educational, creative, emotional & reading development of children and young people, and the aspects of design that can enable this.

Where is the one place in the school, where people come together, to share and exchange and swap, but do so with an expectation of academic ambition? It’s the library!   Stephen Heppell

The school library is seen as the central space in the school for creativity, imagination and learning to be released.

Features Stephen Heppell with excellent contributions from schools around the UK.  A very comprehensive rationale and presentation funded by CILIP School Libraries Group and MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives Council).

Though this video/DVD is not new, it is very relevant as we visit and revisit our future directions.

Also at Designed for Learning: School Libraries