The Network & Me

This post is the script I wrote up for a presentation I record as part of CSU’s Think Pieces project for 2014. The aim is to create a series of presentation that explore different aspects of the theme “Towards the future CSU graduate”. I’ve embedded the video below but you can also view the slides on Slideshare. The time for these is limited so I know I’ve glossed over a few details throughout – but feel free to comment below if you have any questions or ideas.

The Network

I want to start this think piece discussing some of the concepts and beliefs that frame our understanding of networks.

The emergence of commercial enterprises operating online social networks has created a notion that networks are an entity unto themselves. They’ve given life to this idea that networks are things that can be created, manipulated, bought and sold. But that’s not really the truth.

The Network is an Expression

A network isn’t a thing – it’s an expression of individual nodes, how they interact with each other and the relationships they develop.

Maps Rather than Places

They are more like maps than places. They exist as ephemeral expressions of the bonds and ties that we, as individuals choose to express, but they lack a tangible existence. It’s because of this that a network cannot be directly controlled or manipulated – it can only react and respond – in the same way that a map has no effect on the geological patterns or landmarks, it simply displays them. There is no power to control the network as a whole because power is distributed and contained within the nodes themselves.

Networks aren’t things we build – they map the connections we create.

Networks are about relationships and interaction and it’s for this reason that they are vitally important. They provide a way to externally express and conceptualise complex relationships in a way that we can understand and learn. In a network each individual is important, but what makes them powerful is in improving the ability for each individual to connect with others.

Connectivism

Networks are an interesting way of framing concepts. Siemens and Downes have done this with learning through the theory of Connectivism. But Networks provide us with a flexible way to develop understanding which is transferable to other areas – including the role and practice of institutions like CSU.

Meaning

What we do as an institution is create connections, and connections create meaning.

The Medium

The creation, formation and sustainability of a network relies on a medium to facilitate the connections between individuals. It also needs to support and propagate the relationships between them.

Medium ≠ Technology

The medium isn’t explicitly about the technology, but the structure and support needed to facilitate the functions of the network. Traditional mediums has been the institutions and organisations that societies established – like universities and community groups.

The Medium Is

A medium provides a way for individuals to

  • create & share
  • participate in dialogue
  • facilitate experiences

It is through these functions that interaction occurs and relationships are established.

Networks are not new

Networks are not new, but the reason they have grown in prominence is that digital technology enhances the essential functions of a medium.

  • Create/Share = abundance
  • Dialogue with others = complexification
  • Facilitate experiences = enlargement/expansion

– Siemens

Technology has increased the abundance, complexity and expansion of networks. It has created the opportunity for new mediums to develop while at the same time challenging those of the past.

Beyond the Physical

Digital technology enables networks to exist without geographical and physical constraints. It enables better networks – ones that are bigger, broader and more diverse but more significantly – faster – reacting and responding in real time and without delay. They use consumer grade technology so we’re not reliant on access to the most sophisticated infrastructure or systems. The mediation of networks through digital tools has allowed the simplification of complex interactions and bridge some of the most significant challenges of our physical world.

Logistical Freedom

The technology of today has allowed networks to evolve quickly. They are now free from many of the logistical challenges of the past where they were required them to build the infrastructure and bear those costs.

The Personal Network

These limitations which restricted the growth and spread of networks are gone, and it has allowed the networks of today to become tailored and personalised to suit the individual rather than having to be scaled to cover costs. Despite their complexity, they can be created, developed and managed by the individual, with little to no external intervention. We now have an environment where we can create networks to suit our own goals and aims. We can base them on our personal and professional interests, research topics, issues we wish to discuss or to improve our engagement with our broader communities.

Connecting the Campus

For those of us living and working in regional Australia, networks enable the world to come to us, and us to it. For those working in specialised roles and areas of research this is vital. It provides a way to overcome one of the big advantages that metropolitan universities have had -

Geography’s Effect

As larger populations that can maintain better networks of specialists. Today’s networks are no longer constrained by location so the effect of geography is diminished significantly.

The Digital Divide

The technology to achieve these aims is available today and it provides everyone with the opportunity to connect – If we allow ourselves and if we use the medium. The problem for many staff and students is that the medium is no longer the traditions and institutions we know – it’s digital. Digital is still an unknown, a medium where we don’t feel entirely comfortable, and it’s why digital literacies are vital, not just for our graduates but for our staff too. Digitally enhanced and enabled networks are increasingly the natural state of affairs, not because they are new but because they are faster, bigger, more diverse and more personal.

The Digital Self

What is important to remember is that networks are maps, not places. You can’t go to a network, you have to engage with others and become part of it. You have to establish yourself as a node, and this means getting online and using the tools that enable you to connect. It’s in this way that we create networks that are strong and robust but also fluid and changing. What matters is not the medium but the nodes themselves and how well they can connect to each other.

Social Systems

It’s not about systems or tools like Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn – it is about finding a Self that can be expressed in a digital space. In this way digital literacy is not about learning a specific skill but becoming fluent in our ability to interact in a new medium – finding ourselves and how we can articulate and express that self.

The Self Aware Node

What is needed is to go beyond a mere avatar that represents the real you. It’s more like a persona – you’re not role-playing or assuming an identity,

In Digital form

You are that identity – this is you in a digital form. If you want to build better networks, you need to have better nodes. Nodes that are self aware and able to connect and relate in a digital space. The challenge we face is how we develop those literacies and that awareness.

… and me?

The title of this presentation was the network and me – so what about me?

I work in a niche area and have a niche set of skills. Living and working in Wagga has often felt like being a fish, living in a bowl while dreaming of the ocean. But over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to go out and establish and develop my digital self.

Blog + Twitter + Yammer

I created a blog, got on Twitter and started to use Yammer to develop multiple networks to engage professionally. They provided me with a platform for expressing and sharing my thoughts, communicating with those working in similar fields around the world and it’s acted as an incubator for ideas. What has come out of this process have been real connections, conversations and opportunities.

Real Opportunities

Instead of feeling trapped in a bubble, I now feel like I am part of something bigger. It’s not virtual or fake – even through it’s mediated through digital technology. It’s engaging with real people in real things. It goes beyond simply broadcasting – it’s about creating opportunities to interact and create more connections.

The Effect

Right now

  • I have a readership located right around the world.
  • A network of professionals that spans the oceans & disciplines feeding me information
  • My work is escaping the bubble and has now started to be re-blogged, quoted and referenced.
  • What’s really satisfying is seeing what I’ve created and shared stimulating others to create and share.

Connected

Today I don’t feel like an isolated node, but part of a intricate, rich and rewarding network.

The Network and Me

And that’s the story of the Network and Me.

Thanks

Network Ideas:

These think pieces are a challenge to get everything into such a short timeframe. If you’d like to know more here’s some reading and further ideas on the topic:

The Information Age to the Networked Age: Are You Network Literate?

The Mostly Unread World of Academic Papers/

What is Connectivism?

Thoughts on Connectivism

Connectivism as Learning Theory

Reclaiming the Web for the Next Generation

The Self Aware Node

Literacy and the Digital Self

Digital Literacy: Interaction as Language

From Natives & Immigrants to Visitors & Residents

Images

My Reclaim Project

This weekend I’ve really begun to embark on a personal project that seeks to reclaim my digital content and presence in an attempt to establish an authentic “Digital Self”. I’ve spoken about this idea of the Digital Self a couple of times now but it’s something I believe in, and something I have to practice in order to preach. So why would you want to do this? Well I’m going to turn you over to Audrey Watters & Kin Lane to explain. They cover pretty much everything I would but in a way more interesting way (there’s even a few swears :-0 )and you get to look at that killer beard that Kin is sporting :)

So what does this whole process include? Well it’s pretty basic, but it is somewhat complex to lay the groundwork. The way I’ve approached it is:

  • Getting some server space over at Reclaim Hosting.
  • Getting your domain name sorted (you get a free one with your Reclaim plan but I had a couple of others floating around that needed consolidation).
  • Mapping out the services and components that I currently use.
  • Mapping out the services and components I want to use.

That’s what I’ve been worked on so far. Over the weekend, while battling with flu and toddler tantrums, I managed to start the next stage which is to begin to build and design my space to start migrating stuff to the server.

At the moment that looks like this:

  • A HTML landing page at timklapdor.me where I’m putting links to all my current online spaces and places that I plan on keeping. Anything that needs migrating will go there once it’s done. Just modified one of the great templates from HTML5 Up
  • I installed WordPress Multisite on timklapdor.me where I’ll be setting up a number of sites for different and specific purposes. This will give me some flexibility to change and migrate over time, and also not lump everything into a single mega site. I like the idea of this way of working and centrally managing WordPress means that plugin and theme deployment is simpler and easy. The great thing about cPanel and Installatron is that I can easily install a myriad of other software too – wikis etc – to suit whatever else I might need or want down the line.
  • I’ve set up one such site to take over all my curated bits and pieces from the web – Miscellanea. It’s using the ExpressCurate WordPress Theme & Plugin to provide the functionality and it comes with a Chrome Plugin so that the process can be quick and painless.
  • I have had a play with Digital Ocean as a cloud based server infrastructure for all this but to be honest it’s still a bit new for me. I can see a place for it, but am thinking I might use that as a Lab space – somewhere I can quickly spool up something to test on – anything running Node.js especially. At $5 a month it’s pretty good value.

The plan from here is to slowly work through developing solutions for:
- A Blog and moving from wordpress.com
- Quotes to collect all those wisdom – similar to this over on WorryDream.com
- MicroBlog that will be a I/O for twitter – so that I have my own copy of everything I tweet (good and bad)
- And a richer personal Profile that includes: Resume, Portfolio, Badges, Publications and Presentations.

To augment my domain I still plan on utilising online services such as:
- Dropbox – easy, interoperable and an offsite backup.
- iTunes Match – my music backup in the cloud.
- Evernote – I’m too far in at this point, and I still enjoy the experience – but I want Markdown support :(
- iCloud Drive – I’m still looking for a good backup solution for my Aperture library, and integration in next iOS will be a good thing for simplicity.

And to round things off I’m hoping to shift my use of other services to function merely as external publishers. So it means keeping an active profile – but looking at POSSE as a model to remain connected to Twitter, Google+, Flickr and Facebook.

It will be a bit of an ongoing project, but one I’m actually looking forward to tackling. I have a lot of debris scattered around the web after more than a decade so it’s a good opportunity to clean it up and give what I want to keep a bit of polish. I’m also enjoying doing some of the simpler things – like designing a bit of a logo and visual conceptual for myself. The banner image from timklapdor.me is something I spent some time on over the weekend. I loved getting back into Illustrator and playing, creating and experimenting visually. I think I’ve got something I actually like – which for any designer is often the hardest thing! – and it will be able to work across pretty much every application I can think of. It also has flexibility built-in – meaning I can change colours and images to suit what I’m trying to do. Should be fun!

design ideas

Personalisation without People

I just finished reading Audrey Watters’ wrap up of blog posts debating “personalized learning”. I’ve read a couple of these already (not all) but what I find interesting in this debate is, as Audrey suggests, the ideology at play. What the debate highlights for me is the effort that some people will go to maintain their power and a sense of control. It’s an ideology that thinks that it’s worth the effort to come up with ever more complex maps, data capture points and elaborate algorithms to anticipate learner behaviour, rather than just asking. Let’s spend millions of dollars on making learning more opaque while harder to access and understand. It’s an ideology that insists on making education more complex, more expensive, more incomprehensible than it all ready is so that they can maintain power and control.

You know what would make learning more personalised? Choice.

You know what would make choosing easier? Empowerment.

You know what would make empowerment occur? Understanding.

You know what would make understanding easier? Explanation.

How about we think about learners as people – intelligent people – rather than data points? How can you have a debate about personalisation without giving people a voice? Surely empowered people can be a empowered learners and personalisation simply becomes the default position?

As Charlie Brooker clearly observes in his post on the recent Facebook experiment “the more personalised any online service appears to be, the less it thinks of you as a person”.

The idea of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the twentieth century, and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt, and you will be saved.

  • Jill Lepore

This critique of Clayton Christensen’s work is fantastic! Not only does it discuss some of the many, many flaws in the theory of Disruptive Innovation, I think it contextualises it really well as merely part of our current crop of mythology that we employ to explain nature – rise/fall, birth/death and the changes in between. I think this sums the whole thing up perfectly:

Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature. It’s an artifact of history, an idea, forged in time; it’s the manufacture of a moment of upsetting and edgy uncertainty. Transfixed by change, it’s blind to continuity. It makes a very poor prophet.

The Self Aware Node

The Web no longer looks like a distributed network. Over time it’s become increasingly centralised, concentrated and dominated by a handful of big names. This change has greatly benefited a few corporate interests and government surveillance, but the Web no longer functions as a democratic place. We are living in a period where individuals on the Web have almost ceased to exist in their own right.

We are becoming a generation where our digital life tends not to be of our own making. Instead they are expressions and apparitions that exist only within an other. From Facebook to Google to Amazon to Twitter – we are simply nodes within the networks they create rather than true expression of ourselves.

The tilde spaces have disappeared and with it the means for many people to self-publish on the web. The concept of the a self-made website has been subsumed by apps that swallow our data under the guise of being “easy to use”. Our presence on the web is now owned and managed by someone else.

These corporate interests don’t treat us as individuals or as people that they need to interface and interact with. Instead we must surrender and assimilate when we accept their Terms and Conditions. There’s no opportunity to discuss or negotiate as people are want to do – just click OK. We literally pour our information into their databases, a black box that obscures what is being done on our behalf. Our individualism is then sold and sacrificed to marketers and advertisers. Our memories and expressions of love, happiness, fear and sadness are abstracted to a data set that renders our life sum for an algorithm to sell shoes, wedding photographers and promote gambling.

We are surrendering our identity, our digital selves, to entities that don’t treat us with respect, who can’t be trusted to act in out best interests and who continue to exploit our information for their own financial and political gain.

The only person who should be in charge of our identity and how we express ourselves – is us.

The emergence of commercial entities who operate online social networks has created a notion that networks are an entity unto themselves. How else could they justify the VC capital and market evaluations of the IPO? It gave breath to the idea that networks are things that can be created, manipulated, bought and sold. But it’s just a lie.

A network isn’t a thing. It’s an expression of individual nodes, how they interact and the relationships they develop.

They are maps rather than places. They exist as ephemeral expressions of the bonds and ties that we as individuals choose to express, but they lack a tangible existence. It’s because of this that a network cannot be directly controlled or manipulated – it can only reacts and responds to the nodes themselves. Just as a map has no effect on the geological patterns or artefacts, it simply displays them. There is no power to control the network as a whole because power is distributed and contained in the nodes.

For example, if individuals leave Facebook then there is no longer a network. Value is only possible because of the network created by those individuals. The network and all its value only exists if individuals stay, if they leave everything goes away.

It’s because of this distributed power that change is always possible and why we are seeing the emergence of a counter-culture that promotes the “node”. It’s a movement that seeks to empower the node so that it can become a powerful expression of self.

It’s a movement that wants us to reclaim our identity and take back control. Control of our data and our identity in a way that truly reflects the fact that we are faceted individuals. It seeks to empowers the individual instead of assimilating them and removing their self-determination. It seeks to wrest control and influence back from the centralised systems that exploit us. It is not just a set of tools but an awakening – it is the beginning of us becoming self-aware in our digital forms.

I call it a culture because it’s not a single thing. It’s a messy combination of ideas, technology and events that have given rise to people developing an alternative to the mess we find ourselves in. It’s a culture because it represents more than an object, a technology or a process. It’s a movement and a network – but one made up of Self Aware Nodes.


Read more: Connectivist posts from Stephen Downes and George Siemens plus the work from Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Kin Lane, Mike Caulfield, Doug Belshaw, Jaron Lanier – this talk in particular and especially Tim Berners-Lee.

Thanks @downes, @gsiemens, @jimgroom, @audreywatters , @kinlane, @holden & @dajbelshaw for all your awesome and open work!

Tertiary 3 point Oh

Yesterday I attended the Tertiary 3.0: Exploring Local Innovation in Higher Education event that was part of Sydney’s Vivid Festival. I enjoyed the day and the format of the sessions but after the event I didn’t feel the buzz I was expecting.

It has nothing to do with the speakers or what was said – it was high quality, interesting and engaging. I think the problem I have is what wasn’t said.

The people who work in education are, as you should expect, extremely intelligent. The speakers at Vivid had great ideas and shared many great things. What tends to happen at these events is that when the discussion starts to go beyond the theoretical into mainstream implementation it gets hung up on “the system”. The conversation starts to revolve around the problems faced and when it does it’s like the air that gives life to ideas gets sucked out of the room. Great things blossom and then quickly fade away.

What I came away with are some fantastic and amazing examples of creative and inventive thinking and practice – but they’re most often small scale and local solutions. They are that person and their work but they could be real innovations if they were adopted more broadly – but what happens is that we just spent an hour discussing why they won’t. Because “the system”.

Here’s the thing – You can’t call it an innovation until people have adopted it. Think about it. If you had created the iPod and it was only you and maybe your family who ever used it you’re not an innovator, you’re an inventor. You can only adopt the innovation tag once it’s in use and it’s changed the usage pattern beyond return. Changed usage patterns is also the differentiation between innovation and fad. A fad might get wide scale adoption but it lacks staying power and sees usage patterns revert back to their previous state. An innovation changes the usage patter so much there’s simply no way back. iPods changed music consumption so much there was no way back so the physical media was simply discarded, both the discs and the medium to play them.

What I was hoping from a provocative title like Tertiary 3.0 (even though I’m not sure what 2.0 means) was that the ideas would look past the constraints of “the system” or that it would actively engage with changing them. I really wanted to explore what’s on the other side.

The problem for me though is all this is retrospective. At the time I didn’t think or feel like this. I was in the moment and caught up with what I was there, not what wasn’t. In hindsight I wished I’d asked some questions that could have taken us down that road. Thinking now I should have asked something like

Are Universities too anchored and constrained by the ideology and notion of degrees and qualification rather than learning?

Or

Is the big silo we need to break down the concept that learning is contained within the provision of a degree?

In the first session the argument was made that universities are obsessed with campuses being the organising model for everything. I’ve actually voiced this sentiment before and it would have been great to explore this kind of thinking with the fantastic presenters. It would have been great to put the components of “the system” on the table to debate – with budgets, academic culture, responsibilities, legislation, qualifications, learning structures etc.

Maybe we need to focus on innovation in “the system” rather than having it stomp on our potential to change and improve.

I want to thank all the speakers and presenters on the day and the organisers too. I got a lot out of the sessions and was personally challenged by some of the things I saw and heard. So this isn’t a critique of the day or anything anyone said as it’s more of a challenge to myself to rethink where my effort is going and how change can be achieved. It’s a reminder not to go down the rabbit hole of debating “the system” – if anything it’s to work on ways, to quote NWA, “fuck the police” and subvert the system :) because this is where innovation lies.

PS – I purposely haven’t defined “the system” beyond a list of things like budgets, academic culture, responsibilities, legislation, qualifications, learning structures etc. because it’s amorphous and varies greatly. I think leaving it open allows it to be defined subjectively, but I’d be happy to have a discussion about that if people feel the need.

Digital Literacy: Interaction as Language

In my last post I posed a question -

If we use the example of traditional literacy, reading/writing, it is inseparably paired with language – so what accompanies digital literacy?

Doug Belshaw wrote a great response to that post and it’s prompted me to ponder that concept a little more. Doug explains that literacy is not a simple concept and that

The best we can hope for with new ‘literacies’ (and we’re using that in a metaphorical way) is to define forms of literacy in particular context. In other words, a community comes together to decide what constitutes literate practices within their given domain. This can be done through consensus or through authority.

My emphasis is there because that process (or the lack thereof) is what spurned my initial questions. There’s been rapid adoption of the term Digital Literacy, but for such a difficult concept there hasn’t been much discussion at a local level. I think that reason for that is that there’s little, if any, clarity on how to discuss it. We can define practices and outcomes, which is really important, but there’s something missing because nothing links these things together. What is at the heart of this idea? Something foundational with which to discuss digital literacy is missing – a vocabulary, a taxonomy, a framework, a standard – and without it there’s nothing to support a frank and open discussion and provide some boundaries to work within.

What’s the thread that allows us to discuss and contextualise traditional literacy? Language.

So I went back to that original post and that question popped out again at me. I asked myself how does that relationship between language and literacy work? The thing that started to emerge was a concept gleaned from the experience of reading James Gleick’s The Information about abstraction of information and the transition from oral to written communication. To this degree literacy gave us a way of discussing the translation of information from a physical and oral tradition, into the codified and symbolic system of written text. It’s a bit of a leap, a bit hazy and very much a raw idea which needs far more context put around it, but that book has had a profound impact on the way I see the world and changed the way I think about these kinds of issues.

So with that in my mind I decided to shift the question – What are we trying to encode in our digital environment that’s similar to the way that text functions for oral language? What is distinct and different from text? In the haze of a slightly insomniac stupor what came to me was interaction.

In the same way that we pair literacy with language – what if digital literacy was paired with interaction?

We use “literacy” in a sense to understand the abstraction of an oral language into a visual set of symbols. Literacy is then seen as being the development of skills to understand, construct, interpret and invent the conventions of this symbolic abstraction.

If we then use “digital literacy” in the same way it can be seen as a way to understand the abstraction of interaction into an entirely constructed and virtual environment. Digital literacy becomes the vehicle for which we can discuss translating real world interactions that are based on our physical and analogue selves.

What connects these two ideas of literacy is abstraction – changing the way something is represented beyond the constraints of the physical. That’s the connection here between what the written and read text does to our oral and physical language and what a digital environment does to our physical ability to interact with our world and each other. Both are abstractions that enable us to go beyond the physical and temporal constraints of the physical world. They both allow us as people and as disembodied ideas to connect, exchange, teach and learn in ways that are unimaginable when trapped by the physical constraints of the body and our environment. Both forms of literacy can perhaps be measured by how successful we are in untethering ourselves from the physical world and transport, connect, communicate, share and engage with those ideas, concepts and processes in ways we cannot physically manipulate.

As Doug points out ‘digital literacies’, the plural, might be a better way of thinking, and in this case if we think of Interaction we are not discussing an interaction – we need to talk about interactions, the plural. By mapping out the different types of interaction that digital technology allows what was missing in the conversation is starting to appear. What is beginning to emerge is a way to discuss digital literacies in a meaningful way so that we can work towards that process of defining it in our context.

Interaction as Language

So just quickly I put together this list to map out some of the interactions that digital technology facilitates and enables:

  • Human > Hardware – Translation of analogue input to digital signals
  • Human > Human – Interaction between people mediated by a digital space
  • Human > Computer interface – The symbolic and metaphorical taxonomy
  • Human > Software – The applications we use as tools to create and modify digital objects
  • Human > Data – The manipulation, modification and storage digital objects
  • Data > Program – Data is manipulated and transformed programmatically through logic and rules
  • Program > Program – Programmatic passing of data to simulate intelligence
  • Computer > Computer – Methods for hardware, software and applications to have dialogue

From this list you can see how we can map out our local and individual domains of digital literacy – like the ability to use hardware and software. It’s also possible to see how you can frame Doug’s Essential Elements of Digital Literacies as forms of interaction and ways of understanding them.

So why do this?

Well put simply – it’s to try to bring some clarity to a complex concept. Steve Schaffer’s comment on the original post perfectly articulates the confusion around digital literacy. He also articulates the concept of digital literacy as the ability for people to “transact their existence” in a digital environment – which to me is through those outlined interaction. My proposal isn’t an attempt to define digital literacies within a context – but move away from the current position where they’re conflated with a vast range of other “literacies” – reading, writing, information, media, web etc. – and give them space and method to be defined in their own way. While digital literacy can touch each of these areas it makes starts to make sense when you see it through the lens of interaction. Interaction is how and why things occur and are performed in a certain way and it begins to differentiates digital literacy, while at the same time providing a common thread and theme with which to discuss and frame it.

What I’ve put forward might not resonate, but the act of putting it out there is at least an attempt to define something by way of consensus-building. This is really just the kernel of an idea, it’s still embryonic and something that needs more work and more thought – but I feel there’s something to it. I might not have been able to express or articulate it well enough just yet – but I’m willing to stick it out there for people to comment, dismiss or ridicule :) Just the process of writing this post has been helpful in clarifying the concept in my own mind and a picture is starting to form. Like a photo in the darkroom, the paper is in the developer and only the shapes and contrasts are there to see at the moment, I’m still a little way from having anything close to the full picture.


Thanks to Doug for the reply to the original post! It greatly clarified some specific areas for me and spurned me to rethink the proposition and angle I was coming from.

Instructionally-agnostic software plays an important role. But now it’s time that we start to also use software to extend our capacity as educators. This means moving beyond the “correspondence” model of distance education – in which we use software solely as a cost-effective tool for distributing traditional education materials (typically those repurposed from print and classroom environments). It means using software that captures and embodies our best thinking about how students learn. Instructionally intelligent software extends our capacity as educators – it helps us do more with our limited time, money and skills.

Keith Hampson

I think this sums up my current thoughts on the current raft of edtech – it’s too agnostic and in therefore less capable. In this situation (where you’re striving to work within the LMS) everything becomes a hack. Personalisation doesn’t come from offering students choice because it’s thats not agnostic, and therefore not part of the LMS. Instead we seek to offer that function through abstracted data and analytics that assume far too much about “learning” from unrelated data points. It seems odd to employ this method when the user is right there – ask them! I’m liking the word BEYOND at the moment – feels like that’s where we need to be, pushing forward and further out from where we sit now.

Question about Digital Literacy: How?

I’m keenly interested in the topic of Digital Literacy as it seems to overlap so much of my professional practice. One observation I’ve had is that while a lot has been written to define digital literacies and the need to develop them – there seems to be a lack of constructive information about how they are actually developed. What do we teach and need to learn to develop these digital literacies? In essence – how we become “digital literate”?

I keep coming back to traditional literacy (the reading and writing variety) – as something that has a history, established tools and theory, even proven success – and it’s lead me to a lot of questions, but not a lot of answers:

  • If we use the example of traditional literacy, reading/writing, it is inseparably paired with language – so what accompanies digital literacy? Code? Markup? Programming Logic?
  • What are the equivalents of Grammar, Vocabulary, Text and Visual knowledge? Have these even been defined?
  • If we want to teach digital literacy how do we go about it? Where do you start? What’s the foundational equivalent of an alphabet or dictionary or the kind of kindergarten level “learn to read” resources?

I agree with the established idea that to gain literacy it must come through practice and experience – but I’m actually curious about what are the fundamental things that people should be doing in this space?

After at least a decade of mainstream use of digital technologies I’d posit that most people (regardless of age or field) are functionally illiterate, and that current practice tends to focuses only on memorising processes and applications – rather than learning the mechanics, the transferable knowledge and skills that effectively allow one to become literate. In an educational sense we are stuck at the bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy and show little indication of being able to move up. In a world that is becoming increasingly digital this is an extremely dangerous place to be in, but might actually explain some of the apathy to recent events worldwide and locally around security, privacy and infrastructure of and for the web. If at the same time we are seeking to engrain digital literacy as part of the education system – are we addressing the actual components of literacy or just providing the knowledge/skills to make them purely “functional” in todays society? I’d even go as far as to ask – in some of our practices are we actually complicit in developing an aliteracy or at least an ennui towards digital technology?

I’m greatly interested in the work that Doug Belshaw is doing around Web Literacy (a subsection of the broader Digital Literacies) in actually attempting to map out some of these intricacies. I would love to know if anyone else us doing anything similar – or if you have some ideas on how to answer any of my questions!