If you have any comments, please leave them in the section below.
The Storify of our afternoon meeting at University of Westminster
If you have any comments, please leave them in the section below.
The Storify of our afternoon meeting at University of Westminster
This is the latest book of Neil Selwyn. Illuminating and incredibly helpful for my research. The advice to NOT be an evangelist of digital technology is so useful for me. I have been observing this attitude very hidden but present in my thinking. When discussing my research project with my supervisors, I find myself, advocating for technology interventions. Even worse, I find myself, promoting the idea of the PLE. Reflecting on this, I have realised that it has nothing to do with being the PLE approach a good or a bad thing per se, but what is relevant is to let the research tell the story of what is best for the kind of students I am working with.
The book is relevant in that it brings to the fore the importance of the social reality in which education is embedded, a complex situation for which there is not a simple solution.
The overarching theme of the book is the need to be extremely careful with evangelistic discourses, phrases like “A digital fix for a broken system” is one of those. Selwyn acknowledges the potency of the space of digital education for voicing fears and visions about what will education look like in the near future. Therefore, he suggests, we need to treat any overly confident assertion of digital change in a circumspect and sceptical manner. I truly believe in the power of digital technologies for education, but I agree, any possible solution that is thought needs to be envisioned and treated with scepticism and moreover with a critical view were nothing is like magic and without any consequence. Where there are gains there are also losses; thinking about the balance of them, considering what is what we are losing when embracing a particular technological solution.
I like the phrase on page 19:
the essence of education has remained the same: punctuated by an entrenched grammar of doing things that reinforces the notion of the expert teacher and the regulation of time, space and place, alongside the routines of curriculum and pedagogy, and rituals of assessment and credentializing
What I like about it is the notion of regulating time, space and place alongside the basic rituals of education, namely curriculum and traditional assessment. Indeed time, space and place are the key elements for any educational experience to happen, but in my view digital tools and in general the Internet have changed the perception or notion of space, place and somehow, time. Although time as such never changes, not within planet earth, the managing of the time where people study is different. So students can view a lecture, a video or any other interactive element in the time that is right for them, which makes it less fixed to a particular time. The notion of place as gained a new dimension, space is no longer only the physical spaces we inhabit but also the virtual spaces that digital technologies have enabled to exist. These spaces then will hopefully become places where different experiences are mediated by digital tools and that are complementing all of the other experiences happening in the face to face experience.
In any case, the format of the teaching and learning experience within most universities is still fixed to the lecture format thus to the notion of traditional space -the lecture hall- and time -from 4 to 5- and being the lecure the main event of the learning episode, taking that information as initial input to then try to give meaning to that knowledge through the activities designed for that. But this is the same as thousand years ago. What is that what can be changed through the new possibilities, affordances that degital technologies offer?
Genuine disruption involves re-thinking the very nature of education: its activities and relationships, as well as its core purposes and values. Genuine disruption is not about using technology to do the same differently, but using technology to do different things (p.20)
This is so true. It is about rethinking the possibilities available to learn any knowledge we want to teach. It is re-thinking how could we harness collaborative learning when we are showing, for example, the messy nature of social research. How can this topic be taught making use of digital tools? What activity would be best if we want our students to start to learn how knowledge can be co-constructed. Can we think of creating for each topic a wiki-page? But first, they would need to search what is already available on the web about the topic. If there are 3 wiki resources, is that the activity that would be relevant to do? Or could we negotiate with students which are the tools they would like to explore and this can be a way to explore that particular tool?
If we are willing to take part of the change that is happening in education we need to remain as dispassionate and circumspect as possible and ask suitable critical questions. Selwyn suggests that the idea of digital improvement/transformation/disruption of education require problematizing, namely, not taking them at face value. Questions like how are digital technologies actually finding a place in education settings and educational context, that is, finding out the state of the actual instead of the state of the art.
Sonia Livingstone suggests that problematising the place of technology in education involves 3 areas:
Selwyn proposes a set fo simple but complex and hard questions to move forward the critical agenda of educational technology with more chance to impact and change current deficits or improvable practices:
Question 1, 5 and 6 I think, will become my underlying guiding questions along my research. There are not far away from my currently research questions, but I think I need to take a more dispassionate stance towards technology.
What drives my thinking is the need that I see to learn these different literacies that are related with being able to use digital technology at its full potential. I see it as the same situation that happened in the 18th century when the need to teach (in a more broader fashion) how to read and write started. I don’t think that the idea of digital literacies as need is bad per se, what I do see is that a simplistic or evangelistic view on it is the wrong way to go.
Chapter 2 comes next: Making education more democratic?
We all know that it is now more important than ever to have searchable paper, (digital) thesis and book titles. So, as well as the key word list, titles need to use the kinds of words that will sho…
I am writing for my progression assessment, which has been a real struggle. Writing is for me a difficult act. I have been identifying some aspects of it so I can improve. It might be because I need to stop, find silence within me, and try to find words and a way to structure them so they make justice to my ideas and all the bits and bops that float around but are an important part of the process of ideation. So yes!! It is an agony I am afraid. But here I am, holding the space of struggle and moving forward I hope! Courage is not missing, so I guess, there will be a productive outcome, in what form, that is still to come 🙂
I am receiving an incredible support from @gconole, my supervisor Grainne Conole. Thank you for that!
Reflecting on my work through my writing and some reading (@DonnaLanclos and @Lawrie) I did this morning I came to realise how important the first phase of my research is. To give this reflection a context let me summarise my research and then explain what I am saying.
My research is about finding ways in which the university, through its members of staff and their institutional vision, can support students to enhance, improve and sometimes even learn about digital literacies. I think digital literacies will and indeed already are, in some occasions, taking the place of literacy as we know them, but I will develop this idea in another post, although I already started to reflect on it here.
When I was thinking about the idea of my research I had already a potential answer or hunch solution if you will. Then came all the process of thinking about how this question could be answered and planning the design research that goes with it. In this process something was not feeling right, I was very uncomfortable, still at an intuitive level, with the idea of how to implement this ‘hunch’ or idea about improving students’ digital literacies. It was definitely not standing in front of a group of students and presenting to them “my idea”! Who am I to present to them ‘The Solution’ without asking them. That felt very uncomfortable, so much so, that I decided to stop for a while and give it further thinking and time to mature.
I then had the chance to give a talk about my research in the National University Galway with @catherinecronin in CELT (Centre for the Excellence of Learning and Teaching), where I had very good feedback and a rich and fruitful 1:1 discussion with Catherine to share our research ideas and the literature we had been looking at. The result of both, the feedback and the discussion session was a CLICK, an AJA moment. It all suddenly fall into place and I saw the piece that was missing: Students voice, their current digital practice, where they are at in this particular moment in relation with their digital literacies. What was missing was the ‘present moment’ which Donna Lanclos describes very nicely in her article (referred and linked above). An interesting point she makes is not to base our research in an imagined future, instead we need to explore the messy and not so sexy but indeed interesting present.
Future thinking is unfortunate because in part it encourages a neglect of the complicated and messy (and interesting!) present. It’s easier to think and talk about a future where the current problems with which we wrestle are fixed (jet packs!). It is more challenging to confront the present.
This idea of the problems of the future being fixed is relevant and more so the challenge that lies in exploring the present -not an imagined present she says- in order to see what is really possible to do. The core of her article is how the ‘digital native’ cliche does exactly that, hands us an imagined present where young people, all in general, do technology, are experts, hence there is no need to improve nothing, there is no need to teach nothing but only let them do what they know best and in a way we are liberated of all responsibility not only with them, but more over with our own improvement of digital literacies.
This idea of exploring the present is also encouraged by critical thinkers of ed tech like Neil Selwyn and Martin Oliver. They are also informing my work. They argue that there is a need in ed tech to explore more the ‘state of the current’ how they call it in order to attempt to bridge the existing gap between the enthusiastic rhetoric and the not so happy reality happening in the classrooms. And this is exactly what I am doing in phase 1, mapping students current digital practice so I can understand what is what they can and cannot do with technology and where is support really needed. I am using the V+R approach (another explanation here) to map students’ digital practice and it has been eye opening for my research. It shows exactly the opposite of what Prensky has established. From 20 students I worked with only 3 have located digital tools for academic purposes in their V+R Map, and less than 1/4 of the participants feel safe and confident with the idea of exploring new tools in order to work in formal settings and improve their academic digital skills. I also had a big discussion with a group of 30 students (between 23 and 45 years old) and only 3 knew the meaning of digital literacies. In my case the evidence contradicts Prensky’s assumption totally, and it reveals how passive this cliche results.
Next step will be looking at the different factors that are hindering students to use more digital tools for learning and studying available in the Internet. As Lanclos argues, there is a need to look at the complex interactions of factors that are restricting students from being masters of the Web and its tools for academic purposes. The idea with phase 1 is to be able to extract relevant elements from the data in order to design a scaffolding structure that supports students to improve their existing and informal personal learning environments reflected in their V+R map.
It is only exploring and knowing how their present practice looks like that anything relevant can be designed in order to support them in the process of improving and teaching the so demanded digital literacies.
Relevant and interesting ideas to look at! @catherinecronin and open spaces
Recently, a paper I co-wrote about the ‘Student Teaching and Learning Consultant’ scheme was published. I wrote it with Dawn Bagnall, who was one of the students working as a consultant, and it was a really valuable experience to be able to discuss and analyse what the scheme had been about with someone who had worked with the staff. I was the project co-ordinator and co-trainer of the student consultants and although I did get feedback from staff who participated in the scheme, I did not participate in the consultancy activity itself.
Although the scheme is not running this year, for a variety of reasons, I continue to reflect on the space that was created as a result of the scheme. I have characterised this space as ‘liminal’ in other posts (and in another forthcoming paper, link added 25th June 2015) because the roles of students/staff became ambiguous and…
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This is an interesting resource to look at the history of social events, in particular I am looking at the history of the written tradition and the book and the concomitant writing skill in order to search for the intellectual impact it had in society and its culture. This with the intention to find similarities, at least in the process, with the intense and -in some sectors-ubiquitous use of the Web as the platform for almost every thing that has to do with writing, much of the reading and publishing, which is a relatively new possibility afforded by the Web.
Publishing our thoughts and ideas to a broader audience, the possibility to share, in a very easy way our process of thinking and generating ideas is, I think, one of the major shifts the Web has brought about to our society. The transition from the printing press to the ‘publishing Web’ at the tip of our fingers and the concomitant digital literacies required to use this features to its maximum potential, not always consuming the media but also thinking about creating and produce in it, are under scrutiny in my mind.
I am trying to make sense of this process. Not only am I looking at this online resource but also reading two relevant texts: Ong, W. (1982), Orality and Literacy and Haverlock, E. (1963), A Preface to Plato. Both are good sources of knowledge about the transition from the oral tradition to the written tradition, starting with the Greek Plato and his struggle with poetry and the writing tradition.
Haverlock in Preface to Plato wrote:
The oral state of mind was Plato’s main enemy
Ong adds to this that
Plato was thinking of writing as an external, alien technology, as many people today think of computers (…) Once the word in technologized, there is no effective way to criticize what technology had done without the aid of the highest technology available (…) the new technology brought the critique into existence. Plato’s philosophically analytical thought including his critique on writing, was possible only because of the effects that writing was beginning to have on mental processes
Looking more into the thinking process he argues,
(…) the writer-reader situation created by writing deeply affects unconscious processes involved in composing and writing , once one has learned the explicit conscious rules
He continuous his line of thought saying that although writing is an artificial creation, a technology that calls for tools: styli, brushes, prepared surfaces such as paper, animal skins, strips of wood and inks or paints, it is essential for the realisation of internal human potential.
Tools are not only external aids but also internal transformation of consciousness and more so when they affect the world.
The transformation some technologies bring about can be uplifting says Ong. He argues that writing heightens consciousness and that ‘artificial’ technologies, when properly internalised enhance humans ‘awareness’ thus, humans’ lives. I sustain that in order for tools to transform and enhance humans’ lives they need to be used in such a way that they become second nature (this is the maximum standard, there are different levels of mastery possible). In this process of mastering the tool skills are developed. The more internalised the skills become the better the tool operates hence the inner transformation, or in Ong’s words, the interior transformation of consciousness is more deep and intense.
This supports in part my argument that being digital literate is desirable in nowadays society and more so in the near future. These skills are aids to flourish in a society that is almost entirely mediated by digital technologies (take a look at this: Gov 2020). Digital skills are the equivalent of writing skills or literacy that Plato was rejecting but paradoxically he experienced its benefits in dramatic ways, leaving an intellectual legacy that still almost 2 millennia ago, when learned deeply can be transformative.
Digital literacies are the skills people, in this particular case, undergraduate students, need to develop in order to master different digital tools and the Web (as the overarching platform where most of the tools and resources live) in a way that allows them to take advantage of the benefits and opportunities this new digital ecosystem has to offer, in particular in academic setting . It will also enhance their digital capability so much in demand in the work place. Look at this interesting report from the Institute for the Future (USA) to get a grasp of what the future work skills will look like.
For young people operating in their personal and informal digital context, away from the university, seems natural. Using mainly ‘consuming’ tools, e.g. Google to find out almost everything or YouTube as the source for any informal hands on learning and BBC channel to find more about an area of interest. All of these platforms and tools seems to be handled easily without much of a struggle. Some preliminary and very early findings from the focus groups I conducted, students navigate documentary channels, shopping platforms, online banking, social apps like WhattsApp, describing with no complications the sets of functions that these technologies allow them to carry out: communicating with friends and family, listening to music, watching documentaries, reading online books, playing games, or watching video clips. All of these activities that are part of their personal life and where they have a visitor approach seems to occur smoothly and seamless, not to much effort nor struggle is attached to its use. They were even able to offer a quite coherent pictures of how all these platforms and tools fit together in their daily lives giving meaning to the many activities they carry out, having a very clear picture of the advantages those spaces bring to them, some of them included how these personal activities had an influence in their academic life. One student said:
I watch a lot of documentaries in the BBC and I think it is not only for my personal benefit because when I watch those documentaries I gain a broader vision, a wider perspective and then when I write my essays I have a stronger position, I have developed a point of view. I safe them so I can see them when I need to refresh my knowledge.
It seems to me this student is very clear about the benefits of this medium. She has found also a system -not very efficient she said-to safe the relevant resources in case she would need them later. This was not the case when they talked about tools they could use only for academic purposes, e.g., Mendeley, MindMeister, Evernote to cite some. Word and PowerPoint where not mentioned, they take them as the default tool to write and create presentations, the main means by which they are assessed. It would be similar if we ask students about the use of their hands for typing. I think the word processor functions as an extension of the hand and the mind while thinking and writing.
The use of these new tools, mainly web-based tools or applications, that can serve as an aid to work in a more effective and organised way seems not to be very common, even less popular, among undergraduate and at first sight it seems to me they generate more aversion than pleasure let alone curiosity. Digital literacies in academic setting definitely needs more exploration. We need to find ways in which they can be foster and improved, particularly for the more vulnerable and disconnected ones, so students can benefit of a wide range of possibilities that are available only if we know how to operate in this new landscape.
To complement this idea, again the Institute for the Future has a report about the future learning landscape that can give us an idea of the future of learning
This post is about my reflections in relation to why I think that being digital literate will help students to flourish in a post-digital era, moreover why I think that being literate, in particular, digital literate, is desirable and will lead to students’ progress (I will not cover this second part of my argument in much depth, but it is my first approach to justify these ideas more theoretically)
A note from the author: It is a difficult task for a non-native and relatively new English speaker as me, to tackle some of this complex ideas from this still foreign language. My thoughts are still bubbling in my head trying to find better words and better sentences and paragraphs that can make my argument intelligible to others. I get very frustrated when I read my finished work, not because my ideas are not clear to me but because I feel still the limitation of not being proficient in the language in order to make them clear to others. My excuses for the confusion and lack of precision in parts of my text, all of this is still a work in progress.
I will start with my Research question:
How and to what extent can the university support and encourage undergraduates to enable their engagement with digital technology and research skills to become digital research literate and flourish in the 21st century?
With some help of a more knowledgeable other 🙂 I refined the question:
How and to what extent can the university support, encourage and enable undergraduates to become digital research literate and flourish in a post-digital era?
I have a potential solution to this question (the idea of re-designing and implementing a personal learning environment (PLE) by students will demand the deployment of digital skills in a critical manner)--> Re-designing students' informal PLEs and use it as a workbench in the context of the dissertation module will improve students' digital literacies and at the same time will increase their digital capability. My hunch, guess, hypothesis is that the PLE is in itself a learning outcome and an aid to improve digital literacies in students.
What do I mean by flourishing and on what does this idea rely on?
Bildung is an old German word usually translated into English as ‘formation’, ‘education’, ‘cultivation’ and more recently by Richard Rorty as ‘edification’ (edification takes us out of ourselves by the power of strangeness, to aid us in becoming new beings).
The word comes from ‘bilden’, German for giving shape and it is related to the idea of giving shape to a certain object. In its origin, it had connections with the religious sphere, but later, in the 18th century, it became an indication of a new anthropological model and a different outlook on the world. The origin of the word does not lie in the Enlightenment although it is a keyword used in the 18th century due to the protagonism of knowledge as the driving force to construct a better world. Bildung and the idea of self-cultivation through the acquisition of knowledge give voice to the new intellectual attitude of the men of the Enlightenment.
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s work at the end of the 18th century is a good example of such a tradition. He placed the idea of Bildung at the centre of his work, it was rooted in a dynamic idea of transforming the idea of the natural and human world while also being oriented toward a model of balance and perfection. It is about the self and the world. The world represented by the unity of nature, culture and society all exerting its power of influence. In this sense, bildung is seen as a reciprocal process of formation between the individual as a self and the world she/he meets actively rather than passively (Fossland, et al. 2015). It suggests self-education as a path to transformation, to strive and change in the process of meeting the world. In words of Humboldt, it is about uniting individual and culture in a rich mutual and complex interplay.
Paola Giacomoni puts it in beautiful words,
Being is Bildung for Humboldt, it is growth, it is transformation, it is never a given thing, a quality. The point is not to recognize and identify a state, a condition or a situation but rather to understand the continuous substitution of forms, the never ending metamorphosis, the unstoppable flow in which the human world may be adequately illustrated. (…) What moves the world and history moves man above all, pressing him to act and express himself as a primary need and with no other goal than the reproduction of his own movement and research: man as part of nature is impulse, energy, an irresistible longing to live in a multi-form way.
Being educated or ‘becoming’, how I see it, is a concept encompassing but subjective knowledge as Kierkegaard calls it; it includes a broad cultural orientation, the understanding of science and technology, and a cultivation of the fine arts. All of this shall bring transformation and, in words of Reindal (2012), thus foster responsibility. In this sense being literate (the word comes from the Latin word litteratus: learned, cultured, educated) is a necessary condition for knowledge to become subjective, a necessary condition to be able to understand the world and act on it, or at least that part of the world that is available to us, and participate proactively in society, taking responsibility for our transformation thus, societies’ change.
Contextualising this idea of bildung in the academic world, Fossland et al. (2015) are of the idea that in higher education there is a particular form of bildung that is expected to happen in the student in formal and informal learning. They call it ‘academic bildung‘. The world students will meet is one of ideas, thoughts and practices. The authors argue that it is a normative concept, an idea with which I agree as it is loaded with values, it is linked with specific attitudes used in concrete situations. It is, therefore, a concept that describes a developmental process towards something better, a normative ideal in an educational setting. It is linked with critical thinking, society-oriented reflections, how Solberg and Hansen (2015) calls it, and autonomy. But it is also connected with self-development and existential reflections hence the development of the individual is not only concerned with knowledge but also with cultural sensibility linking the individual’s development with his/her wider potential through education. It seems to me that bildung and the development of greater potential are intrinsically related.
And it is precisely in the suggestion of developing more full potential where the idea of flourishing makes sense. The word flourish is derived from the Latin word florere, flourish, blossom, be prosperous. My idea is that developing the knowledge and digital skills that will enable students to interact critically with the world and the cultural reality they live in –a post-digital culture in this case- they are more able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by a digital mediated and knowledge driven society but at the same time being critical enough to think and speak from within their perspective and not only from the drivers of the labour market and other more deterministic agendas.
The link between digital literacies and progress still needs more development…
It is so nice to come across like-minded researchers with whom I share with out knowing it my own ideas about education and learning.
Article: What’s Happening in ‘Their Space’? Exploring the Borders of Formal and Informal Learning with Undergraduate Students of Education in the Age of Mobile Technologies
It has been some time that I haven’t been able to write in my blog, although I have been writing so much in my private space.
I have been working very hard in my research design (the image above is the result of that work) which is about all the logistics that I need to follow to connect my findings to the research question. It provides also a blueprint for success 🙂 It guides the process of finding the evidence or the data that will possibly answer the research questions. I also have been thinking about fare ways to invite students to participate in the project not using or taking advantage of my position of lecturer. I already have green light to address them in the core modules discussion time. I am thinking and writing about the benefits students will take advantage of when taking part of this study. I had a good conversation with my former external supervisor Jan van Maanen, a Dutch mathematician, teacher and historian. His advice was very dutch: think about having fun and providing them with time afterwards to have good conversations and a nice snack with drinks. So we decided to call it “the week summit”, I have thought to organise the activities near the end of the week in the student union launch in order to work first and then chill and enjoy the rest of the evening.
We coincide in using the summit in an arithmetic way –> sum-it a sum of activities that will bring us to know more about how students would like to be involved in re-shaping their own informal personal learning space which is the aim of the second phase of the project.
So my design research, the blueprint version 1.1 is ready to go and the idea is to brake my study in two phases. Phase 1 is about mapping students’ current digital practice. Understanding what motivates them when engaging in the Web with different platforms and tools in formal and informal settings. To explore their expectations, views, fears, anxieties in relation to their digital experience within the university and also when they are working from elsewhere. My potential participants are going to be y-1, y-2 and y-3 students in educational studies, many of which are then taking the PGCE -postgraduate certificate in education-.
The methods I am using are:
The aim of phase 1 is to capture how are students engaging with the Web, what platforms and tools do they use and for what purpose. Explore into their digital habits. Other aspects to explore are the views, expectations, vision, fears, needs and blocks students have in relation to the digital world and their experience in formal and informal settings. For that I am using Jisc’s cards and posters, both are already tested by other researchers and they seem to work well for starting a fruitful conversation about the topic.
One of the things I am also interested is how can the university digital literacy policy and culture include students’ informal digital habits and in doing so look at ways the university can match students’ digital literacy expectations where possible. Once all this data is collected it will be analyzed looking at what digital skills are revealed and what digital habits emerge. It will provide the study with a comprehensive view, a typology of students in relation to their digital literacies.
I am not only interested in the term “digital literacies” but also in “web literacy” which is an initiative of Mozilla Firefox in order to provide people with tools that will allow people have a proactive and informed attitude towards the web, teaching them the necessary skills to read, write and participate in the Web. How I will integrate both terms, digital and web I am still not sure. Intellectual work that needs to be done but what is clear to me is that both complement very well.
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