Information ecology at the heart of knowledge

learning

While technology is changing the information environment (including information places and spaces), the transactional nature of information interactions and knowledge flow underpins learning. Information can comprise both physical and virtual parts for operation and interaction.

I see that a  major challenge for education is to enable and facilitate the generation of new knowledge via an appropriate information environment, to facilitate integration of new concepts within each person’s existing knowledge structure.

Information ecology presents the contexts of information behavior by analogy with ecological habitats and niches, identifying behaviours in biological terms such as ‘foraging’ (Bawden & Robinson, 2012. p.199). In this context of adaptive and responsive co-construction of knowledge, we can facilitate a viable praxis in digital environments, influenced by concepts of rhisomatic learning. Seen as a model for the construction of knowledge, rhizomatic processes hint at the interconnectedness of ideas as well as boundless exploration across many fronts from many different starting points. (Sharples, et al. 2012 p.33).

By creating curriculum and subject delivery which can be reshaped and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in response to changing environmental conditions or the personal professional needs of students, a digital information ecology provides the opportunity to work with information in the construction of knowledge in more dynamic ways, connecting learning experiences across the contexts of location, time, devices and platforms.

Researching how digital technologies may be used to create a more responsive learning ecology both in use of online tools and assessment practices can provide a valid way of examining effectiveness if the link between the use and the learning is explicit. Research to date rarely makes this link explicit and evaluations appear to be based on researcher beliefs about learning which are either not expressed or vague (Starkey 2011, p20.)

Starkey (2011) provides an excellent summary of the key concepts of critical thinking skills, knowledge creation and learning through connections that epitomizes 21st century learning. Technology can be used to evaluate learning, though the link between digital technologies and student performance is complex. Yet the digital age students, who can think critically, learn through connections, create knowledge and understand concepts should be able to connect and collaborate with others beyond a constrained physical environment; understand that knowledge is created through a range of media and created through networks, connections and collaborations; be able to think critically and evaluate processes and emerging ideas. The ability to evaluate the validity and value of information accessed is essential.

In such a context and information ecology, enabling learning involves the creation of assessments and environments for knowledge building to enhance collaborative efforts to create and continually improve ideas. This approach to knowledge building exploits the potential of collaborative knowledge work by situating ideas in a communal workspace where others can criticize or contribute to their improvement (Scardamalia 2012 p.238 ).

A communal workspace, a collaborative and formative framework for assessments, and research into the impact of all this on learning futures – now that would be grand to see!

Rhizomatic learning new to you?  You might like this fireside presentation from Dave Cormier about embracing uncertainty.

References

Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2012). Information behaviour. In Introduction to information science (pp. 187-210). London : Facet.
Scardamalia, M., Bransford, J., Kozma, B., & Quellmalz, E. (2012). New assessments and environments for knowledge building. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 231-300). Springer Netherlands.
Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Hirst, T., & Whitelock, D. (2012). Innovating Pedagogy 2012: Open University Innovation Report 1. Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.

Image: Learning (Photo credit: Anne Davis 773)

Track those new Horizons!

While it was published a little while ago, I am still pleased to share the NMC Horizon Report 2014 edition, in case you’ve missed it.

Launched in 2009, the NMC Horizon Report > K-12 Edition broadened the reach of the NMC Horizon Report series to include primary, middle, and high schools. The K-12 Edition explores the key trends accelerating educational technology adoption in schools, the significant challenges impeding it, and emerging technologies poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

I’ve been along for the journey in every K-12 edition as a member of the K-12 Expert Panel, which has been amazing! Now we have this amazing collection that tells an extraordinary story of change, development and innovation in education as part of the mapping of new horizons.  It is fantastic to be involved at this level in education – I love it :-)

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition

Check out the trends, challenges and technology forecast in the report. Look for the opportunities where you can contribute to your school’s development, especially in ways that technology can be embedded into the curriculum programs.

Standing on stilts – and a new degree!

Sometimes we are too immersed in what is around us, and find it hard to look out beyond the crowd to a place that brings not only excitement, but also the the kind of stimulation that any creative mind seeks. That’s what education aims to be about of course, but we can’t always succeed.  In that sense I am really lucky to be working in an environment that does support standing on stilts – if you are willing to take up the balancing-act challenge!

So on that front I have been lucky to have the support of my Faculty to stand on stilts – big time!.  We’ve now officially launched the website about our newest degree offering, the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). In this degree will be undertaking to meet the challenges of learning in a connected world, and helping our post-graduate students (who will already be outstanding teaching practitioners)  develop the capacity to be responsive to the challenges that this connected world brings.

In examining the concepts and practices for a digital age, we will of course engage with as many of the recent developments which are influencing learning and teaching in an increasingly digitally-connected world. By examining key features and influences of global connectedness, information organization, communication and participatory cultures of learning, I hope that our students will be provided with the opportunity to reflect on their professional practice in a networked learning community, and engage in dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in digital environments.

We will be reviewing and reconstructing understanding. We will be standing on stilts and looking for the contexts for innovation and change in day-to-day professional practice. Overall we will be encouraging professional learning through authentic tasks and activities through collaboration with peers; by immersing ourselves in readings that are thought-provoking; by adopting a stance of inquiry, reflection and analysis, and by engaging with new knowledge in the context of the daily transactions of learning and teaching.

The new degree follows a flexible structure, allowing students to craft a program of study that meets their own (and often diverse) professional needs.  The range of subjects on offer are varied, following the foundation subject “Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age“.  I will be teaching this subject myself to kick-start the degree program, because I want to!  I believe that this new degree program is going to be demanding, exciting, challenging, invigorating, and  will allow us to build professional connections between us and a real excitement for future possibilities.

OK, you say – get off your stilts now!  Stop dreaming!

The fact is that I am totally committed.  As a Courses Director, I am not expected to teach.  But in fact, I will be teaching the foundation subject because I want very much  to engage with our first cohort of students to get a measure of what is possible, and to ensure that our degree program can respond together to the challenges that new knowledge networks bring us.  You, the first cohort, will indeed lay the foundations of the purposes and future learning opportunities for anyone entering the program.  Let’s do it!  Come and join me in the challenge.

I will be holding the first round of online information Webinars about this degree program next week. If you are in the least bit curious, do sign up and join me for a chat. You’ll find the link to sign up for the webinar at the degree program website.

If you haven’t quite caught up with the rapid changes in our connected world – consider this.  Yesterday saw the world scrambling to update their iPhones to the new iOS7 operating system.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I played with my device for hours. I exchanged views and opinions with my global online colleagues via Twitter and Facebook. It was a ball!

I also work online all the time – and talk, plan, dream, sigh in these virtually connected environments. What will it be like when iRobot comes into our working environments?

iRobot was founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists with the vision of making practical robots a reality.  Since then they have produced robots that vacuum and wash floors, clean gutters and pools and patrol war zones.  At InfoComm which was held in Orlando, Florida last month iRobot announced they were partnering with Cisco (videoconference and telepresence solutions company) to bring an enterprise grade iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot to market.  iRobot blended their self navigating robot with Cisco’s high definition TelePresence technology (EX60) and wireless access points to allow offsite workers to participate in meetings where movement and the ability to change locations quickly was simple.

Ava 500 gives new meaning to the term mobile videoconferencing.  It’s no longer a case of mobile describing where you can take your equipment but where your equipment can take you!!

AVA 500 telepresence robot in action

Navigation is controlled with an advanced suite of sensors consisting of laser, sonar, 2D and 3D imaging, cliff sensors and contact bumpers.  Ava can move in any direction just like a human and safely transport herself to a meeting (having already mapped out the floor plan of the building).  She can adjust her height to accomodate who she’s meeting with (seated or standing) and can moderate her speed and alter her path if she senses humans in the environment (to get to the meeting on time).  She automatically returns to her charging station after the meeting is over.

Ava comes with a dedicated iPad which is used to schedule and control her attendance at meetings.  You can select Ava’s meeting destination by tapping a location on a map or choosing a room or employee name.  At the scheduled time Ava is activated to take you where you want to go.  You can elect to travel from the charging station to the selected location in either private mode (screen appears blank) or in public mode (screen shows video of you – see above).  If public mode is chosen you can see and be seen by others and can even stop to have a conversation with a colleague on the way.

Ava is targeted for availability in early 2014.  Thanks to the DIT blog at CSU for this eye-popping information.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by John Flinchbaugh

#MysterySkype for a global adventure

A promotion arrived in my email today that has to be worth grabbing!  If you are not already hooked into Skype in the Classroom, then here is a great opportunity to get started.

#MysterySkype is a global guessing game, devised by teachers, to be played between two classrooms around the world. The promotion says that it’s suitable for all age groups and can be used for subjects such as history, geography, languages, mathematics and science.

1. Find a class – Join the list and message or tweet teachers you’d like to connect with.

2. Arrange a time – When you’ve found a class you’d like to Mystery Skype with, agree on a date and time for your lesson.

3. Share your story – Share your  Mystery Skype stories, photos and videos. Share them on Twitter by mentioning @SkypeClassroom and using the #MysterySkype hashtag.

More information to tantalize you at this link.

What’s with all the conversations?

You know how it is these days – everyone seems to be looking at some kind of an iDevice or another, where-ever you turn. It’s easy to make trivial comments about the iSociety, but let’s face it – the future of technology and information is anything but trivial!

Last year I discovered that I could speak to my mobile phone – literally ask it a  question.  With the power of SIRI (Apple’s iOS information navigator) my mobile phone gave me some answers right there on my screen.  It would seem that soon there will be no need to read an answer to a question with voice responses being the norm, and in another few decades there may not even be a question!

While we grapple with devices, interfaces and screens in our daily lives, the futurists tell us that we will BE our technology and information will be who we are and 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 remains the core business of librarians and info-nerds. 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 and which are directly attributable to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.  As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in this fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

The digital revolution has given us instant communication and easy global connectedness, with mobile technology and its influences in particular growing at warp speed – in 2013, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. This digital transformation has produced some extraordinary tools for flexible learning, which are exciting for both students and teachers and promise new and innovative methods of teaching. However, these tools can also be incredibly daunting and challenging for educators.

Thomas and Seely Brown (2011), who explored this new culture of learning in our world of constant change, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are able to take an active role in helping to create and mould it, particularly in areas of social information.

To support and nurture learning in these evolving environments is a challenge, and why using digital mediums to communicate, collaborate, and curate in the management and dissemination of information is important. Library and information science academic and professional development programs should be designed to enhance personal professional networks and personal learning conversations.

I’m pleased to welcome a new group of students into our degree program for Teacher Librarianship. These ‘students’ already have a wealth of professional experience as teachers behind them, but our professional program for them is already challenging them with  new cultures of learning  – and it’s only Week 1!

It’s exciting to see the evolving information ecology that these students are moving into. What’s more exciting is that with such a great new bunch of students, I know that teacher librarianship will be in safe hands in the future.

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Image: The Family Pile cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Blake Patterson

It’s Here! The NMC Horizon Report – K-12

HorizonOnce again I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the NMC Horizon Report K-12 as a member of the international Advisory Board. I was joined by fellow Australians Tony Brandenburg (Education Services Australia), Daniel Ingvarson (National Schools Interoperability Program), Julie Lindsay (Flat Classroom Project), and  Kathryn Moyle (Centre for School Leadership, Learning and Development).

The New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), with the support of HP, produced the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition, which was released in a special session at the NMC Summer Conference. This fifth edition in the annual K-12 series of the NMC Horizon Project examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry within the environment of pre-college education.

Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving educators, school administrators, and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning:

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile Learning
  • Learning Analytics
  • Open Content
  • 3D Printing
  • Virtual and Remote Laboratories

The NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition is available online, free of charge, and published under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.  Do make sure that you grab a copy and share it with your staff!

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition (PDF)

The video provides a quick view and discussion starter for your next PD session at school.

Creative computing – give Scratch a go!

Creative Computing is a six-week online workshop for educators who want to learn more about using Scratch and supporting computational thinking in the classroom and other learning environments.

The workshop, which is free, begins on Monday, June 3 and ends on Friday, July 12. Check out the FAQ for more information about this learning experience.

Creative Computing is facilitated by members of the ScratchEd Team at Harvard University, and has been made possible with funding from the CS4HS program at Google.

The video makes it sound exciting and very worthwhile. Give it a go!

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by jenny downing