Consider your own attitudes to online citizenship. How do you manage your privacy and reputation? Why?
Rather than assigning just two arbitrary tags – bad and good – to the type of citizen we can be (both on and offline) I think the possibility exists for us to also be benign and neutral. Certainly there are times when I contribute actively to an online group or discussion or forum that I might belong to or follow. A good example might be an online discussion forum such as the Vic PLN. While it is true that I have tried to contribute, in some small way to the learning of others through my blogs, it is also true that I haven’t responded to people’s questions or concerns and neither have I had a chance to participate in any of the webinars and consequently I am not sure if I have been a good, bad or neutral citizen during this PLN course. In a similar way, I find that I absolutely love following Twitter and the tweets of those I follow. However, I am quite reluctant to actually post tweets. From the statement “…take without contributing…” this would make me a bad Twitter citizen despite the fact that I don’t ever hurt those I interact with.
My view of citizenship is that it is perfectly fine to take without giving and equally acceptable to be benign and indifferent, at times, however when I do contribute I always try to add value and positivity.
I think that Facebook is perhaps the most public tool I use and here I am again conscious of what I post – which is very little. For most of the tools I use I try to put fairly stringent privacy settings in place to protect my privacy.
The other day I Googled my name and was very surprised to see a lot of my blogs, scoops and tweets were listed in the hit results. I didn’t actually expect, or like, this. Consequently, I deleted a few accounts I had opened that I really wasn’t using because I felt I would rather not have access to them than allow people to see what I was doing with them.
I think that if you are going to have a public persona and presence and you are going to be an online citizen then it is crucial to be aware of how you are perceived, what information is made available and I think you should try to govern what you say and post in order to preserve your identity and privacy.
Track down a person under the age of 18 (or a slightly older one if that thought scares you too much). Discuss their attitudes to privacy online: are they concerned about their online reputation and do they take steps to protect their privacy?
I spoke with my wife’s 19 year old cousin about this topic. Connor is a very keen Facebooker and it often appears to me that he writes down every thought that enters his head and every action he has been engaged in. It seems like he posts for the sake of posting. This might, in some ways, be seen as bad citizenship as I feel he quite often is not adding any real value to the lives of those he is connected to. I do, however, accept his paradigm which is that it is fine to just have some fun and not everything has to be big or important or meaningful.
When I asked Connor about privacy he was very carefree about it. He said that his privacy settings are pretty tight but among his friends he feels free to be himself. When I asked him about the fact that his friends might have lax privacy settings which, by extension, might make him and his info more public than he intended he really wasn’t bothered by it. This attitude might be indicative of a little lack of foresight, experience and maturity as it is common practice these days for potential employers to FB potential employees to get a sense of who they are employing. Again, when I mentioned this to Connor he shrugged it off.
What tools do they use to stay in touch?
Connor is a big Facebook user. He also uses Skype and his mobile phone to communicate and keep in touch with people. Additionally, he belongs to a number of online gaming communities – each with their own forums and chat rooms – as well as a few movie fan chat sites.
Do they have multiple personae?
Yes, Connor does use multiple personae. For Facebook he just has the one true account. However, for his gaming and movie forums he tends to create avatars that reflect the characters he creates to play.
How would they feel about using the same tool for their personal lives and their learning?
When I asked this question, Connor joked that he doesn’t use digital tools for learning too often. He sees digital tools as tools to be used for his entertainment and socialising. When I asked him to consider all that he does he did agree that there are different types of learning and that there are learning opportunities to be had from each of the tools he uses. He said he would be very happy to use the same tool for both his personal life and learning.
Consider the relationship between digital fluency and citizenship. If one of the powerful aspects of online platforms is the way we can connect with others, then is it okay to try and lock students into walled digital gardens? How far does an educator’s responsibility stretch? Do they need to teach students to be responsible and informed users of social tools?
The short answer is no, we shouldn’t try and lock students into walled digital gardens. The long answer is no, we shouldn’t try and lock students into walled digital gardens BUT we should be conscious of where they are going when they leave their gardens and who is entering them. There are so many ways that digital social networking tools can be used to educate and teach that it is safe to state you can’t really fully educate a student to survive in the 21st century if you aren’t using digital tools and technology. While I completely agree with this statement, this does not excuse the responsibility that is placed upon teachers to guard the emotional, social and spiritual well-being of those we teach. To do this, we need to be digitally fluent and always trying to remain aware of those most popular tools our students are using and aware of the best practices associated with managing and using them in an educational environment.
ACARA defines digital fluency as the “…capacity [to use] ICT for tasks associated with information access and management, communication, creative expression, and empirical reasoning…and the ability to transfer these across environments and applications. They [students] learn to use ICT with confidence, care and consideration, understanding its possibilities, limitations and impact on individuals, groups and communities.”
Implicit in the words “management, reasoning, confidence, care and consideration, and understanding” is the notion that students need to be trained to think for themselves and understand not just WHAT tools to use and HOW to use them but also WHEN and WHY. I think our job, as educators, is to help our students become FLUENT digital users – and not just LITERATE users – and to THEN allow them to use their knowledge, understanding and competencies to aid their own teaching and learning. Keeping them in a walled digital garden helps neither them nor others.
Is this limited to the tools that we encourage students to use, or does it extend to the tools that students want to use? For example, should we be teaching responsible use of Facebook, or is it better to model behaviour in a platform like Edmodo and hope that it rubs off?
I think it is much more important to focus on teaching FUNCTION than FORM. By this, I mean that if we teach our students how to act and interact positively and with reasoning, consideration and understanding, as opposed to focusing on specific tools (FORMS) then they will be better prepared to know how to use specific tools as they are introduced or discovered.
Metaphorically this is akin to teaching students how to drive. The skill is in the driving (FUNCTION). It doesn’t matter what type of car (FORM) the student drives as long as they know how. Facebook and Edmodo are just two different types of cars (e.g. Toyota and Mazda). If the student knows how to drive safely then the car s/he uses is less important because they will have the knowledge to safely operate the tool. This is true FLUENCY.
THE 5 CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE LEARNER
By its very definition, to be a learner is to be someone who is willing to learn. I think that one of the problems we face, as educators, today is the fact that many of the students we teach are more digitally fluent than we are. Too often, this can cause educators to shirk away from using ICT and digital tools in the classroom. A better approach would be to accept that there are things you can learn from your students and things they can learn from you and to enjoy a collaborative teaching environment where the teacher can sometimes be the student and the students may sometimes be the teachers.
The question ‘Why?” has probably led me to Google more than any other. Effective learners tend to be individuals who are curious and inquisitive and prepared to take the steps needed to seek out answers to those “WHY, HOW, WHEN, WHO, WHAT” questions.
The ability and willingness to change an existing paradigm, belief, idea or attitude is crucial for on-going learning. There is truth in the statement, Time is the greatest teacher. So often, as we grow physically and mature in our thinking and experiences we learn to approach existing knowledge and beliefs from another perspective or point of view and it is this willingness to flex that often leads to the greatest discoveries.
I think this is probably synonymous with both teachable and flexible but goes one step further. It implies a willingness to accept that not only does one not know everything but that others will and do know more and a willingness to admit when a firmly held belief is wrong. It also implies a willingness to actively seek others’ ideas, opinions, beliefs, wisdom and understanding. It begins with a person looking outward as opposed to inwardly for answers. I think these are implications that must exist if a person is to truly ever learn.
I am using this adjective to describe a host of related synonyms such as tenacious, diligent, hard-working, determined, enduring, patient, etc…Each of these describe the characteristics and traits needed to be an effective learner. Learning is a process and like all processes takes time. It is often structured and sequential and it can often take years to truly understand and/or master a concept, skill, idea or tool. It is the persistent, patient person who works hard, learns from their successes and mistakes and endures that will be truly effective in their learning. Digital tools have certainly sped up the process of accessing information but the sorting, assimilation and implementation of information is still pretty much down to the individual.
Final questions and reflections
My own progression with technology. How it has changed the way I learn and shaped my professional practice.
I must confess that I took a somewhat slow approach to adopting and embracing technology. For a long time, I tried to resist allowing technology to take over my role as a Teacher/Librarian. Unfortunately resistance, as the Borg would say, was futile. It is just impossible to be an effective educator and information specialist, in this day and age, if you ignore the influence and use of digital tools and technology. Slowly I came to this realisation and decided that if I had to use technology I would embrace it. For the past 7 years I have tried to continually learn new skills and competencies related to digital fluency and believe I have a sound understanding of a good number of useful tools and technologies that I can effectively use in my role.
It is fair to state that technology has dramatically changed the way I learn. I completed my 2nd Masters (MBA) in 2010 and studied it at the Curtin Graduate School of Business in Perth. At the time, I was living in New Zealand and despite a few trips to Perth was able to complete the program completely online along with 270 other online students. This is a good example of how technology has changed the way I am able to learn.
Similarly, right at this moment, I am situated in Hornsby, NSW, while I work on a response to questions posed by people in Victoria.
These two examples demonstrate how boundaries no longer exist when it comes to learning opportunities. At the push of a button I am able to attend an online lecture from Stanford University or watch an online tutorial via You Tube or read a book online. I can take virtual tours of pretty much any city, landmark, library, museum, archive, or school in the world. This, to me, is the real benefit of using technology as a part of my learning strategy.
My feelings about the impact of technology on us as citizens
Technology connects people from all walks of life. It is a tool and thus is no respecter of person, qualification, age or socio-economic status. As long as the user has some semblance of competency s/he can become an active citizen of the world.
Technology effectively removes borders. It brings the world to us and connects and informs people of what is happening everywhere around them. Consequently, as technology users we become, in essence, citizens of the world and should therefore, take a participatory interest in things that happen all around the world. I think Twitter is a great example of people, from all around the world, connecting and coming together to share and teach and entertain and learn. This is a good example of the impact technology can have on creating citizens of the world.
My thoughts about the use of technology in learning and the role educators play in modelling the use of technology
Educators educate. Good educators model best practice for using teaching and learning resources regardless of their nature or design. Technology is a tool and, as such, has a place in education and teaching. When used properly, like any other tool, technology has a significant role to play in education.
How technology can be used to support my chosen 5 characteristics of an effective learner
- Teachable: Technology broadens horizons and exposes new ideas, truths, discoveries, theories, inventions, beliefs and philosophies to its users. By showing the diverse breadth of knowledge that does exist, technology encourages users to adopt a teachable attitude that allows them to be taught by the wisdom of others.
- Inquisitive: How often does one questions answer lead to another question? Technology helps to make this learning and discovery process almost infinite. As users use technology to find answers to questions and make new discoveries it also exposes the user to new mysteries, ideas, beliefs and teachings that should be explored.
- Flexible: It is impossible to remain ignorant in the information age. We are all exposed to so much information each day that we are forced to concede there is much we don’t know and much we need to learn.
- Humble: See teachable and flexible.
- Persistent: Learning is a lifelong process. It is paradoxical that while technology makes learning easier and faster it also exposes us to so much more information that needs to be learned.
My predictions about how technology will change the way we learn in the future.
- Less formalised
- Less face to face time
- Greater dependence on online learning
- More collaborative
- Less specialised/fewer specialists
- Global classrooms.
Sorry for the long posting guys, but there was a lot to respond to.