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

Augmented realities in learning – hype for now?

I don’t have enough time for thinking these days – which is  not a very good thing.This thinking beyond ourselves is what the game of learning is all about, and how we do this is how we augment the true cognitive capacities of our minds, regardless of what technology-enhanced sphere that thinking takes us into.

I see so much happening in school and higher education that is encouraging – not the least being the passion that individual ‘teachers’ as learners bring to the daily interaction of augmenting the cognitive interactions of many  minds.

This is what makes learning special.We’ve had this extraordinary trajectory happening as lead speakers ‘bag out’ the industrial model of schooling, introducing ‘new’ ideas, tools, or learning designs. Everything in the past was NOT all bad – if it was we would still be in caves!

Oh I do not dispute the need for change, but I do dispute the passion with which educators get onto the latest bandwagon. First it was the internet, then it was the ICT imperative, then it was computers, then it was laptops, then it was BYOD and mobile devices – like any of this was a curative for poor thinking, poor inspiration, poor learning.

So for me today it’s the MOOC hype. While the MOOC hype continues to grow, lets not confuse mass attendance, choice, access to instructors outside our physical domains, or online platforms for informal courses as being ‘new’. Society has always had answers to the ‘informal’ learning needs of groups of people, and at times these spaces merge into more structured or formal forms of learning. Socrates challenged his listeners – so do MOOCs – if they have a ‘socrates’ equivalent to spike the thinking. But that’s not the only thing that is needed to add depth to knowledge. We have to work with the experts somewhere along the way. We have to undertake research to test ideas, look for answers, find new questions.

So I see this ‘hype’ as really an extension of ways that we augment our learning capabilities.I know that ‘augmented reality’ is used to mean something different – but is it really any different?  Whether the augmentation takes place purely in our minds, as we overlay one idea upon another, or whether the augmentation takes place as we overlay a tech-inspired 3G delivered bit of information/ideas on a local view of things – the question remains – what are we learning? what is it’s deep value? how will this scaffold thinking? Will I want to seek out more?

To be honest, it’s going to take a long time before MOOC, tech, or any hybrid can replace years of cognitive engagement with a field or discipline. MOOCing will not change the world, but thinking has and does. What we should be discussing is how we work with information and knowledge to build the capacity of our society to reach the right answers, generation after generation, in order to further the endeavours of mankind. This is why I get angry when thought leaders simply dismiss the industrial model of schooling – without first acknowledging the valuable elements that were there which we need to retrieve. Building upon foundations is a stronger metaphor for me than burning Rome. We wouldn’t be able to do what we can today if it was all bad!  Thank you Tim Berners-Lee for putting the human need ahead of your pocket!

This is where technology fits in – not BYOD or ipads or pulling down the walls for massive sized classrooms for free play with technology.   When technology makes it possible to communicate swiftly, search and acquire information and research effectively,  leverage computational thinking, and come up with better ideas or answers – then we are making sense of ICT, e-learning, technology, or whatever you want to call it.

MOOCs are just the new water cooler.  PLANE and augmented PD initiatives are just the new staff room for peer coaching. Face 2 Face conferences and online gatherings are all great ways to inspire and connect. Augmented reality and virtual worlds are new interfaces for encouraging growth and personal cognitive development. Kids understand this – that’s why they rush into Minecraft!

None of them replaces quality and depth in discipline learning.We’re committed to learning. Let’s not pretend that dedicated teaching is lessened by lack of access to technology. Let’s not pretend that poor teaching is ameliorated by tech.  Until I can plug a USB directly into your mind, it’s the cognitive wheels that need to turn. I can inspire you by drawing in the sand, or giving you a book that takes you to new ideas. Or I can give you an App.

No more hype for me. Sorry for the rant – this interaction with inspirational friends is what got me thinking!

So you think they can learn?

Perhaps the answer to that question is obvious to you? Or perhaps you are wondering what exactly it is that you should wish your students  to learn?

I know that teachers are passionate people, who are committed to providing students with rich learning experiences and diverse opportunities to rise to the challenges that our world provides. But this passion needs to be nurtured, and is best nurtured by drawing on the quality experiences of our peer practitioners, and quality research that is being undertaken in schools.

In speaking to a group of new post graduate students this evening, I explained that one of the avenues for supporting your own ‘passion’ is to subscribe to a new online journal for educators called SCAN (which – for my money – has always been one of the best-value journals around in print form).

What does SCAN offer?

Scan is a leading refereed journal that focuses on the interaction between information in a digital age and effective student learning. Scan offers engaging professional support for all educators.

What’s in Scan?

Articles, school stories and resources about:

  • quality learning and connected curriculum
  • teaching ideas for digital age literacies
  • inquiry learning and evidence based practice
  • multimodal resources for exciting learning
  • research and emerging trends
  • extensive e-resource, website and other reviews
  • dynamic school libraries

The new online issue of SCAN carries the article  So you think they can learn? in which I urge SCAN readers to make learning visible by re-envisioning information literacy for today’s learners.

Do take the time to visit SCAN and experience the new interactive capabilities that will surely make this journal a continued leader in the field in the digital era.

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Tagging my Technology and Teaching Practice

This week sees me concluding a year of academic activities by participating in graduation, and other professional events at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. It is always a pleasure to celebrate the big graduation day with a new batch of happy graduates!

Meanwhile, much of the discussions back in the ‘academic halls’  hinge around technology and teaching practice, one way or another. Much planning for 2012 as a result!

As educators we are always looking for yet another way to bend an online tool to our purpose. Thursday will see me contributing to the Technology and Teaching Practice Research Group 2011 Symposium. The focus is on the communicative affordances of online tools. My spin is really just a futuristic focus on the changing context of the web, and the deepening issues for educators around search strategies and information retrieval.

Just a 20 minute discussion starter – so what could I do that introduces something new?

You can see the presentation slidedeck for From Web 1.0 to Web 3.0: A wolf in sheep’s clothing or a new culture of learning. You’ll notice a QR code on the front slide. This QRcode created at TagMyDoc points to a supporting document – and this code will download that too directly from TagMyDoc to your e-device!

The presentations throughout the day will have a series of papers included in a print document,  to provide supporting information and material for the presentations.  While I thought that this was useful, I also thought it would be interesting to show how to provide access to the electronic file directly from within  that printed document – or from where it is attached to the front of the slideshare presentation (that I have embedded in this post).

Now, it’s available to all ~ either at the Symposium, or anywhere else on the planet!  I do like this way of enhancing a slideshare presentation, and the ease of being able to share an electronic file.

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by opensourceway

Thinking about teaching & Graduate Standards

Judy, Kathleen Morris, Anne Mirtschin

Last Friday  I flew to Melbourne to join a group of excellent ICT innovators, to take part in Teaching Teachers for the Future focus group - A project funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations through the ICT Innovation Fund.

The purpose of our full day meeting was to provide  input and feedback to the 22 draft elaborations of the Graduate standards required for proficiency in the National Professional Standards for Teachers and to  assist in the exemplification of the elaborations of these Graduate Standards. We’ve established a group of ‘critical friends’ who can provide input and feedback to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) – Component 1 of the Teaching Teachers for the Future project during 2011.

According to the media statement, the National Professional Standards for Teachers, which were validated throughout 2010 by almost 6,000 teachers, school leaders and parents, make explicit what teachers should know and be able to do across 4 career stages: graduate, proficient, highly accomplished and lead.  In truth, the elaborations are still very much in development, and there will be many steps yet before the standards are finalised.

So the project that had us gathered together in Melbourne  specifically targets systematic change in the Information and Communication Technology in Education (ICTE) proficiency of graduate teachers across Australia. The project team is led by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), and includes the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE), the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), Education Services Australia (ESA), the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE), and Australian universities/institutions with pre-service teacher education programs as partners.

We had an epic day deliberating, changing, making recommendations.  My thanks to Tony Brandenburg (President of the Australian Council for Computers in Education, ISTE Ambassador 2011, Member of the ISTE International Committee), Dr Margaret Lloyd (Faculty of Education at Queensland Uni) and others in  ACCE for extending an invitation to me, and making the day such an outstanding success. We will continue to work as a critical group by providing feedback and response to the ICT elaborations as they continue work on them in 2011.

However, my take-away is that we are not going to achieve in Australia anything like the flexibility and innovation that we would have liked to see.

We are not heading for a Finland phenomenon.  I wish we were.