Digital Identity: December 1-18, 2009

Networking: the new literacy?

Networking: the new literacy?

by Cindy Underhill -
Number of replies: 6
In his excellent article Footprints in the Digital Age, Will Richardson makes this point about social networking and content creation on the web: "This may be the first large technological shift in history that's being driven by children." That's an interesting thought - and a bit scary for us as well as (I suspect) for them. This supports some recent survey data that we collected from 68 grade 9 students in that virtually none of them reported to have been taught how to use the web from teachers or parents. Most reported they were self taught, some reported they were taught by siblings or friends.

What does that mean to us as mentors, parents, educators? Richardson suggests we must walk the talk and "own these technologies and be able to take advantage of these networked learning spaces" ourselves.

It sounds like many of us (participating in this forum) are integrating these approaches into our practices - what's the next step?
In reply to Cindy Underhill

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Harriette Spiegel -
Up to now, I have lurked on this list, but am interested in the topics. I reacted to the "...being driven by children" with the thoughts: indeed, and what are we going to do about it. Back when cell phones were catching on , I sat in an airport waiting area listening (hard not to) to a young woman broadcasting names, facts, issues about apparently her client, and it was obvious she was a lawyer. I was appalled and wanted to ask her - are you trying to get fired? I have also overheard cell phoners giving out a computer password on the phone, in plain earshot of anyone (such as I did) going by.

We don't need technology to point out the dearth of instruction to children (yes, children, but they grow up to be the adults we are talking about) about common sense judgment: one simply does not discuss private matters in public, period. All this "open" networking is simply a manifestation of the hold that peer pressure has on our society. I believe such common sense instruction should be included with ethics instruction and any other ingredient of a good education - now, as to how, well, that's another consideration....

While obviously, "how to use the web" is part of computer literacy, integration literacy and information literacy which we instructional technologist include in our training of teachers, for instance, I believe that the underlying guiding principles of what to say and how to say it would be the same - good manners, common sense, as well as awareness of the new implications of technology use.
In reply to Harriette Spiegel

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Cindy Underhill -

Hi Hariette,

Glad you were inspired to jump in to the conversation! I have a question about something you wrote:

Harriette Spiegel wrote,

All this "$:open" networking is simply a manifestation of the hold that peer pressure has on our society.


In your view, is it possible that our open networks can contribute to learning?


Cindy





In reply to Cindy Underhill

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Vance Stevens -
Cindy asked Hariette "In your view, is it possible that our open networks can contribute to learning?"

Rather than simply say "yes" I offer this example. For some time (in my copious spare time, ha ha) I have been teaching a course on Multiliteraces, currently via http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com/. Due to this I have my antennae tuned to people's thoughts on new literacies, and my antennae are beginning to vibrate as messages from this seminar flow through my gmail. "Networking, the new literacy," as with any concept of literacy, cuts right to the heart of learning.

The concept of networking as a literacy touches on what George Siemens and Stephen Downes have been exploring for some time under the umbrella of Connectivism & Connective Knowledge: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/.

At the most recent TESOL conference in Denver I addressed the 25th anniversary of the formation of the CALL interest section, of which I was a founding member, and suggested that the acronym CALL (computer assisted language learning) might be becoming anachronistic. I suggested instead that people think SMALL (for social media assisted language learning - I prefer 'enhanced' to 'assisted' but chose the latter for obvious reasons ;-).

Meanwhile just last night I picked up a retweet from one of my occasional glances at Twitter that pointed me to Howard Rheingold's mini-course on 'network and social network literacy': http://howardrheingold.posterous.com/a-min-course-on-network-and-social-network-li. Based in a Posterous blog, the course is set in a "sprout" which has a play button and some tabs. When you hit the play button, you hear Howard say "I've become convinced that understanding how networks work is one of the most important literacies of the 21st century," and he takes it from there.

I left a comment here of course, to which Howard promptly replied. He pointed me in turn to http://sproutbuilder.com which is where he built his elegantly constructed course (I learned something there) and also to an article where he elaborates on the connection of networks to literacies: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/index?blogid=108. Here he elaborates on his concept of "Infotention" http://www.smartmobs.com/2009/08/20/infotention/.

"Honing the mental ability to deploy the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably." Reading on, we find that our set of filters includes a "crap detector" etc. My, this does resonate.

If you are still reading (certain filters not having yet kicked in ;-) we come back to how this relates to learning, and how we can hang what is emerging about new literacies onto cognitive pegs we already have (e.g. the concepts of literacy and media).

As I write this I am watching the news on TV. I'm learning stuff I don't need to know right now about the Kercher murder trial, but earlier as I was writing this message I was picking up some interesting details about the UAE financial situation from an Al Jazira documentary (relevant to me as I live in Abu Dhabi). When I send this I'll turn the news off and give no further thought about what programs and facts I might miss as I go about the other things that occupy my day. Most of us have developed literacy skills to accustom us to dealing with this kind of always-on media.

I mentioned earlier that I glanced at Twitter, and this was a crucial insight because it suggests that I am starting to treat Twitter like any other media. It scrolls across my radar, I follow a link here, and connect this link to a SCoPE seminar that is scrolling in another part of my radar, and voila, the two converge resulting in this posting addressing the question of how people learn in networks, and how new literacies are invoked as a mechanism for this learning. As I write this perhaps 20 or 30 messages have scrolled through my Twitter account which I'll never see because there will be a couple hundred more by the time I go there again. I'll glance at the top few, learn something new and insightful, and move on.

It actually occurred to me as I started writing this that the tweet that sent me to Rheingold's course and his insights on infotention could have originated with this very SCoPEseminar, and these links I am pointing to might be discussed in some other forum here I haven't seen yet. For example, there was a tweet at about the same time referring to Will Richardson's idea that the literacy of networks is being driven by children, which I came across when I visited here afterwards. But here again, this is how this literacy works. Who won the world series? You don't have to tune in to the game or to a particular news broadcast right on the hour, or even run out on the lawn on a freezing morning to retrieve your newspaper as we did in the past, you can sit back and your media will pass you the information somehow. Your new literacy skills will percolate the information you need in such a way that it will come to you as easily as does your morning coffee.

That's how we learn these days and I think that's what this seminar is about, and I hope this answers the question (anyone remember what it was? ;-)

I might add that we not only learn in this manner but that our teachers or mentors are among the brightest on the planet, if these are the kinds of people you cultivate in your network. It's remarkable that simply by nurturing appropriate networks, anyone can set up a personal learning environment that will result in enhanced knowledge in whatever our individual passions are. What is surprising (to me) is that not everyone does this!

Vance






In reply to Vance Stevens

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Cindy Underhill -
Vance,

Thank you for your contribution and your living example of how your networks contribute to learning. The links you shared have (I suspect) contributed to the learning networks of many of us (mine included)!

It is interesting to me that many of our students aren't often using their networks to learn in this way. Many keep their social networks quite separate from what they consider to be their learning environments. I suspect this relates to a piece in what Howard Reingold stated in his opening comments for the mini course you linked us to: the value of networks changes with the ways we use them (both in how they are constructed and how we construct our own). I would imagine that it is possible that as students become learners and find other learners who share interests and expertise, their social networks may evolve to support their learning in these ways. On the other hand, if those networks were built for social interaction only, will they make the transiition to something else, and is that what learners want? Will they need to create new sorts of networks for learning and professional activities that don't cross over into the social?

And, back to our question of digital identity, how do we build and maintain an authentic online presence if we are working hard to keep our "communities" separate from each other?

I look forward to hearing more of your perspectives this week!

Cindy


In reply to Vance Stevens

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Trish Rosseel -
Hi folks,

Vance, thanks so much for your thoughtful posting. Lots of great stuff to think about and explore further. In particular, I was intrigued by your approach to learning from your network via tools like Twitter.

I was in a meeting just the other day with some colleagues who noted some of the benefits and challenges of keeping up with Twitter..."keeping up" being what frustrates some folks. Your posting highlights for me a great alternative way of thinking about "keeping up" --> learning what you can as you're able and knowing when to move on and not feel the need to keep up with everything posted by everyone in your network.

One of the key areas in my work with students is helping them search and sift through the wealth of research and information at their disposal to find key sources which will support their research assignments, projects. An important element of this process is knowing when to move on, but it can be a very difficult step as there is often a mistaken belief that there is one perfect source that will facilitate learning and understanding. I also like the network approach because it highlights the fact that it is the multiplicity of sources, people, viewpoints that enriches learning.

Cheers,
Trish
In reply to Cindy Underhill

Re: Networking: the new literacy?

by Harriette Spiegel -
Thanks, Cindy -
Undoubtedly, open networks can contribute to learning - but it is the same dilemma that all teachers face when using the Internet for learning. How do teachers distinguish the truth from fiction? Furthermore, we have social learning and cooperative learning factors at work! But like a good conversation's giving us food for thought, the individual will have to decide what he/she gets from the "conversation" in social networking. As I am a late adopter, I am not in the mainstream of social networking yet - but look forward to getting closer!