What makes a connected and digital literate learner?

This is a cross post of a blog I originally shared for the Masters course I am studying- Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). It was originally posted at- http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/becspink/2014/03/25/connected-learning-and-digital-literacy/

The world is moving at such a rapid pace and new, significant advances to technology and digital environments are happening exponentially. As educators, it is vital that we keep up with these changes and advancements in order to best prepare our students for the future. We need to ensure that our students are equipped with the information, knowledge and skills needed for them to participate in a technology driven, evolving world where the only constant we know is change. The concept of connected learning and digital literacy is an area where teachers need to develop their knowledge and practice in order to provide the most adequate opportunities for our students to be successful in this digital age.

Digital literacy involves a number of key facets as described by Bawden (2008):

  • “knowledge assembly,” building a “reliable information hoard” from diverse sources
  • retrieval skills, plus “critical thinking” for making informed judgements about retrieved information, with wariness about the validity and completeness of internet sources
  • reading and understanding non-sequential and dynamic material
  • awareness of the value of traditional tools in conjunction with networked media
  • awareness of “people networks” as sources of advice and help
  • using filters and agents to manage incoming information
  • being comfortable with publishing and communicating information as well as accessing it

But what does this mean for teachers? In order for teachers to truly understand and assess digital literacy they must first accept digital literacy as a ‘genre’ within what they already know and understand as formal literacy. Digital literacy should not be perceived as an extra concept or ‘add on’ (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011).

When considering the Literacy General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum it is already evident, even if not explicitly, that digital literacies should become an integral and important component of any school curriculum.

Retrieved from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/english/literacy

An important observation to question is what exactly is meant by “every day texts and workplace texts”? An everyday text to me is digital, online and not linear, they are the texts that I choose to read and view. Or is it more general, is this defined as texts such as signs students may see everyday? I think the concept of ‘everyday texts’ is something that needs more consideration and definition depending on the context of students we teach. Digital literacies is however, far more than just about being able to read and write in digital form. Reading digitally involves being able to read beyond a static page. To be digitally literate, students and teachers alike must be able to critically engage with technology, communicating and representing their knowledge in different formats, contexts and for different audiences (Future Lab, n.d.). Chase and Laufenberg (2011) support this idea by describing that the ‘digital’ aspect of literacy provides students and teachers with a variety of learning opportunities, creation formats and spaces for expression that were not previously available. Closed, ‘in-class’ lessons or assignments can become multimodal, digital productions that provide students with authenticity and a larger audience.

One idea for fostering digital literacy in the classroom can be done effectively through finding something teachers are already familiar with doing in the classroom, but using digital technologies to transform and redefine how this could look. In a recent post on my blog, I wrote about transforming a writing lesson using Book Creator on an iPad and publishing student made books to the iBooks store, this kind of activity enables subject learning to become more relevant to students in a society where technology is changing the way both children and adults communicate and represent information (Future Lab, n.d.)

A key component of becoming a digitally literate citizen is being able to connect and communicate with a wider audience. Digitally literate citizens are aware of ‘people networks’, networked media (Bawden, 2008) and use digital tools effectively collaborate in online communities (Ng, 2011). With this in mind, it could be advantageous to infer that without connected learning, one can not truly be digitally literate.

Connected learning allows both teachers and students to leverage their use of digital tools in order to involve themselves in interest based, hands-on, active, production driven learning. Connected learning has the ability to transform classroom environments, moving away from content driven, teacher-led experiences, shifting to an environment where teachers too are valued as learners (Connected Learning Principles, n.d.). Connected learning aims to create adaptive learners who will thrive in our rapidly technologically changing world (Connected Learning For Educators, n.d.). In order for our students to become digitally literate, connected learners we need to provide our students with interactive, networked media that allows them to connect, engage, collaborate, participate and share effectively in a digital environment.

So what are my goals for my current role and educational context? What am I going to do about it?

  • I need to model and share how the digital literacy ‘genre’ can be incorporated into our current curriculum.
  • I need to demonstrate to teachers at my school the affordances of this type of education can develop students who are skilled in consumption, evaluation and creation of content (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011).
  • I need to focus more on the underlying learning, rather than on the tools being used.
  • I need to create opportunities for demonstrating how connecting students personal passions, expected curriculum standards and the wider community and world can revitalise the learning process and engage learners in a more purposeful, authentic learning experience (Challenge Based Learning anyone?)

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestDigg this

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *