Higher Education, Learning, Learning and Performance, Library, Online Learning, Professional Development

Why Can’t Learning in the Analog and Digital Just Get Along?

It’s the end of the academic term (well, almost, I’m still wrapping up my grading), but I have been thinking a great deal about learning, how we learn, and the modes of learning for both my students and professionals this semester. Back in March, Joshua Kim posed a series of questions related to the higher education conference learning that goes on, and questioning how we might need to rethink our own professional development for learning:

  • What if the way we think about professional development for learning professionals is actually holding back the learning profession?
  • What if what we really need is to create new knowledge?
  • What if what the learning profession really needs is original scholarship?
  • What if the resources, time and energy we devote to attending large professional conferences would be better spent in small-scale convenings, where the goals of scholarly productivity are foregrounded above all others?

These questions resonated with me, my friends/colleagues often ask if I will be attending an upcoming conference or event so we can meet up. As a professional with minimal funds for travel and also little interest in attending conferences during the academic term (I teach A LOT of learners during the two long semesters – Fall and Spring), many are surprised to hear I am not going to be at these events as I value professional learning. In the last few years, I have notices that I am not learning very much at conferences on site at these events. To clarify — I DO participate in valuable discussions, debates, and banter with peers at these events, but I’m not sure the format of a typical 2-3 day conference with keynotes, workshops, lecture presentations, academic papers/posters, etc. in a 2-3 day format is not how I WANT to learn.

Sure. I miss the connections and socialization within the profession at these conference events, but really, my learning and development is on-going and more tailored to what I need and want to learn about. These days, I think there are SO many ways to engage with professionals and gain the knowledge I am looking about — that I have not been interested in figuring out how to build a budget for one event. Sometimes I follow and read through a conference backchannel if I can’t physically attend; however, lately, I’m not sure I’m really missing out on anything. I think the biggest loss of not attending might not actually be the learning, but the networking and professional socialization that comes with the analog format of most conferences.  Also what is often lost in these large learning events, is the knowledge creation and sharing beyond a time, location, and date to a broader audience — that comes with “the common is a faith in the power of convening. And, in particular, a faith in the power of convening at scale” (Kim, 2019).

I think there are SO many ways professional to learn, develop, and gain knowledge in higher education. I typically find ways to learn from my peers and gain insights into my field through:

  • Books I borrow from the public & university library – I read A LOT!
  • Hashtags I search/follow/chat with on Twitter based on topics I’m interested in
  • Peers and colleagues work I follow — especially those who tweet, podcast, blog, and share in open access ways online
  • Journal articles and conference proceedings (ones that are publish)
  • PODCASTS! Like books, I listen to and learn from a wide variety of episodes, including the growing number of higher ed-focused podcasts, available on-demand, for download, and/or streaming. I guess I also create a couple to learn from as well e.g. @BreakDrink & @InVinoFab
  • LIVE/ARCHIVED web stuff: Webinars, web-events, broadcasts, YouTube live, Virtually Connecting sessions, etc.
  • Local events and happenings around DFW — at my campus, at other campuses, and general MeetUps or events. This even includes things posted on my local neighborhood network, NextDoor.
  • Subscriptions to learning, like this yearly membership I have to MasterClass.com
  • Open educational resources (OER) — e.g. MOOCs offered by FutureLearn, Coursera or edX and other OER repositories
  • Listservs and Google Groups — yeah, I still learn news, information, and find opportunities on these emailed spaces.
  • Library or research workshops at UNT Library like Software Carpentry for R and Python to tool up on a skills, platform, or research method.
  • Formal university courses. I take advantage of that staff/faculty discount at my own institution to take a non-degree course (I’m working on this certificate now).
  • Friends, colleague, and peer suggestions for learning and training — they just know I like learning, and what might peak my interest, in general. So I welcome referrals and suggestions for any of the above — and I get these often.

Beyond professional learning conferences, this sentiment also present with the work I do in the online teaching/learning domain. At our colleges and universities (at least in the US), there seems to be more value placed on the analog vs. the digital work we do on campus. If I am not physically “present” somewhere, how can the work I be doing the same as my colleague? What does a lecturer do who does not actually lecture? Good question, let me tease this out a bit as a couple of recent reads around digital minimalism and revenge of the analog has peaked these thoughts.

Over the past five years, as a full-time non-tenure track faculty member, I have been involved in a great deal of teaching/learning as a lecturer (who might not actually lecture). My work involves instructing face-to-face (F2F), online, and blended learning university courses and also designing learning/training on digital platforms AND within new physical teaching spaces. This has been fun, as I try to apply what I’m learning and discovering in my own research/learning (see list above) to re-tool how to best design these educational experiences digitally (like others who move to online teaching). That being said, when talking to some colleagues, I do notice the embedded bias for the “traditional” teaching methods (e.g. sage on the stage, chalk n’ talk, talking-head expert, etc.) for what it means to be present on a campus as a faculty or staff employee.

Looking back, I suppose most of my own experience as a learner involved F2F means of instruction, student support, and interactions. Before finishing my PhD, I had a number of F2F and blended courses I taught or had been enrolled in myself. Part of the assumption of online teaching comes with the culture on campus and the expectations of what an online course will entail for the learner. For F2F courses, I think there is less pressure to have your entire curriculum prepared, available, and online at the start of each semester. A professor or instructor can just show up and talk (on or off topic) based on what might be loosely included in the course syllabus or schedule that day, often without any concern for lecture capturing, archiving, and transcribing media (audio or video) of their presentation. As a F2F instructor who teaches on campus, there is no need to be explicit in detail for assignments, or itemization of instruction on projects, tasks, or activities for learning. Students attending these courses on site can ask immediate follow up questions before, during or after scheduled class time. Additionally, students feel a rapport or social presence with the in-class instructor that is different those educators they might have online (not always, but it often it is so). These interactions to learn with peers or through impromptu discussions in class, does not require a script, plan, or set outline of pedagogy when comparing it to the defined structures of an online course.  Then there are other F2F learning experiences when faculty stick to the scripted presentation/lecture with minimal interaction or engagement.

Since my faculty role has primarily involved designing and delivering online learning, I have been a fortunate to lecture and capture lessons on video/audio, augment how I offer student support in office hours, create useful learning materials beyond a textbook, create social presence for myself and learners in these courses, and be mindful of making my educational resources accessible in a variety of different formats considerations for multiple formats. This reflection of my teaching online is constant and helps me to improve how to make concepts and learning relevant for my students.

For learning, it does not have to be a THIS or THAT debate. When it comes to the digital or analog practices, I think there is value in both. Like making a mix tape of music or playing a vinyl record, I take the skills of searching, listening, finding, and curating my music on Spotify playlists digitally. I don’t think I could do one well without the other. The skills for learning design offline apply to how I think about my online curriculum. Both should exist — it’s not an either or when it comes to the analog and digital experience for learning. Our college/university campuses and our professional associations could use a healthy smattering of both. We need educators, administrators, instructional designers, and student support services that are versatile in both digital and analog practices. I think teaching online, over the past few years, better informs my pedagogical preparation and considerations for how I design and deliver learning. Whether it is an in-person conference workshop or an online week webinar, I think the pedagogical experiences help to merge my digital and analog practices. It’s marriage of both skills sets to reach a variety of ways to gain knowledge and learn.

We will never change how we create and share knowledge, or learn new ways to do things, unless we change our professional practices. The model of conference learning is fine to socialize and network with the select few who can afford to attend the conference; however, I would challenge the number of professional associations I am/have been a member of to think about how to BETTER share and TRULY scale knowledge in a manageable way, specifically:

  • How are these learning artifacts archived beyond the dates and locations of these events?
  • Are there ways to share knowledge and learning that we need to start modeling for professional learning, training, and development of our own?
  • How are professionals who do not attend engaged and encouraged to understand the value-add of these learning experience or resources shared from the in-person meetings?
  • What was can data be managed and learning objects be curated to organize what was shared, learned, and presented at these events?

I don’t have the answers to these, but I think this is worthy of further discussion and consideration. I know I would be willing to support and work with professional associations/organizations who would like to consider how to effectively organize their own digital libraries for learning, knowledge sharing, and advancement of the field. Let’s chat.

#HEdigID

#HEdigID Chat No. 7: Managing Digital Overload & Stress

It’s August, which means the start of Fall college/university semester is just around the corner. I’m not entirely sure if I am ready for summer to be over; however, I do know that one of my own goals before school begins was to make sure my digital life was in order and ready. Fortunately, the August Higher Ed Digital Identity (#HEdigID) Chat welcomes Paul Eaton (@profpeaton) as the guest moderator (MOD) for Friday’s (8/10) #HEdigID chat slow, all-day Twitter chat. Thanks to all who participated in the discussion last month. There was an active conversation over a few days for the #HEDigID no. 6 on Open Ed Practices in July, and a thoughtful and kind reflection from contributors/lurkers.

To reflect on our digital lives, Paul has prepared questions and prompts to encourage us to think about how to better manage our networked practices before it manages us. Here is more about the August #HEdigID chat topic, Managing Digital Overload & Stress:

Digital tools, platforms, applications, and hardware are often heralded for their ability to connect professionals, openly share resources and knowledge, and build communities of practice across geographic spaces.

Digital tools and social media spaces have ushered in new stressors for professionals in higher education.” ~ Paul Eaton

Some of these we know about anecdotally – the fear of missing out, the hidden expectation of constant connectivity, comparative stress such as imposter syndrome, or stress from online conflict. Other stresses of the digital age we may be less cognizant of – for example, bodily stress induced by consistent eye strain, sitting or typing on digital devices. There may even be good stress, as in the recent article from Meier (2018) on how the comparison can drive us to perform better.  The purpose of this month’s #HEdigID chat will be to examine the many ways digital tools, spaces, and places, contribute to stress in our lives (both good and bad), and how can we manage that stress effectively as professionals.

Reference:

Meier, A., & Schafer, S. (2018). The positive side of social comparison on social network sites: How envy can drive inspiration on Instagram. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21(7). https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2017.0708

#HEdigID CHAT TOPIC: Managing Digital Overload & Stress

The next Higher Ed Digital Identity SLOW chat will be on Twitter with the hashtag: #HEdigID and within this OPEN Google doc: http://bit.ly/HEdigid7

Learn more about the #HEdigID Chat and review the QUESTIONS in that will be posted on Twitter and in the Google doc the next discussion on FRIDAY (August 10th):

  1. Today we are talking about Managing Digital Overload and Stress. Tell us who you are, what you do, and what brings you to the discussion?
  2. This is a big topic. What are some issues, questions, and concerns you would like to address around the topic of “Managing Digital Overload and Stress”?
  3. How do you define digital overload? In what ways does a digital overload manifest in your professional and/or personal life?
  4. How do you define digital stress? What are some ways or symptoms you feel that technologies and your online life impact your stress levels?
  5. Not all digital stress is bad – so how does being connected and online motivate the work you do in #highered?
  6. Let’s talk about managing your digital life and work. What are some strategies and practices have you implemented to deal with digital overload and stress?
  7. Let’s talk about tools for your digital life and work. What are some tools or resources you use to manage your digital life?

Join the discussion on managing your digital life by:

  • Tweeting your response with the hashtag: #HEdigID

  • Responding directly IN this Google Doc: http://bit.ly/HEdigid7 {the “HE” is capitalized}

  • Use these questions to draft your own personal reflection and response (e.g. blog post, video, audio, drawing or offline discussion)

Update: Transcripts from the #HEdigID chat from August 8th are HERE

#AcDigID, #EdDigID, #HEdigID

#HEdigID Chat No. 4: Digital Opportunities & Networked Challenges

So… as I said in my early post this week, being a higher ed professional online is complicated:

With the shift and scale of a number of social networks and online platforms, I’m not so sure everyone needs to be everywhere online. Some might need an academic persona … whereas other college/university staff may not or might be struggling with their digital, professional lives. Being a higher ed professional online is quite complicated. Asking and learning about professionals digital selves unpacks the complexity of living our individual networked experiences. Being a digital professional might differ based on the culture of the institution, support (or lack there of) from peers and/or a supervisor, ability to participate (or not) based on geographic location, and the social identities that travel with professionals via online platforms. The decision to “be” a professional online is not a simple or straightforward “how to” guide. And, I think it’s something that often gets overlooked or not really talked about it among higher ed faculty and staff — so let’s change that. Let’s talk about it!

And talk we WILL, during the 4th monthly Higher Ed Digital Identity Chat on Friday, May 18, 2018!

#HEdigID Chat TOPIC: “Digital Opportunities & Networked Challenges ”

Here are few QUESTIONS that will roll out on Twitter throughout TODAY and are posted in the open Google doc for the #HEdigID Friday (May 18th) ALL-DAY digital conversation. In previous #HEdigID conversations we have talked about the affordances and challenges, but we have not touched upon our own personal data and privacy after we agree to an app or platforms terms of service. We need to discuss ways to support staff, faculty, and students using social media in higher ed, specifically in asking:

  1. What digital platforms and social networks are you “present” and/or do you participate on (besides Twitter) as a #highered professional (staff/faculty)?
  2. Describe WHY you are digitally active, have a digital identity/persona, and engage in a peer network/community online as a #highered professional (faculty/staff).
  3. What online communities or networked spaces do you flock to for your professional learning & development, discipline engagement, research sharing, or open practice? E.g. hashtags, groups, podcasts, blogs, etc.
  4. What are the benefits of developing a digital identity or being present online in a digital #highered community? Tell us what you have gained from being connected & networked for your role in higher ed.
  5. How much TIME do you spend each day/week on digital and social platforms to engage with peers, share in a community, or “be” online? What strategies, tips or tricks do you suggest to manage social media & flow of information on digital platforms to cut through the noise/clutter online?
  6. What challenges and/or risks exist for networked #highered professionals (staff/faculty) who are active in online communities or engage on digital platforms? Have you ever left a social network or digital platform due to any challenges/risks online?
  7. What suggestions or resources do you have for #highered professionals (faculty/staff) who are concerned about protecting their data and personal information online?

What questions, issues, or challenges should we be discussing with our peers in networked spaces? How are we thinking about the opportunities and the risks for being connected online as a higher education professional (faculty/staff)? What’s the GOOD and BAD about participating in an online community of practice?

The questions are posted and shared NOW and this day-long Twitter chat will conclude late afternoon on Friday (5/18)in my timezone (Central Standard Time). This SLOW style Twitter chat is designed to allow more higher ed colleagues and friends to join in the conversation to account for different geographic regions, multiple time zones, busy schedules, and more

Join us on Friday, May 18, 2018 to discuss these questions and more! You can participate by:

  • Tweeting a response using this hashtag on Twitter: #HEdigID

  • Draft a longer response in the open OPEN Google Doc: http://bit.ly/hedigid4

  • Take any (or all) of these questions to create your OWN response in any media or format, you want: journal, blog post, video/audio reflection, drawing, or offline discussion. 🙂

I welcome and would love to hear YOUR suggestions. What QUESTIONS or ISSUES should we consider for this chat? Please share in the Google doc above or comments below. I’m looking forward to the conversation and contribution in Twitter and in the Google doc. Additionally, do you care to moderate a FUTURE #HEdigID chat? Guest moderators ARE INVITED! Learn more here: https://techknowtools.com/twitter-chats/hedigid/

 

#HEdigID

#HEdigID Chat No. 1: Being A Higher Ed Professional Online

Friday, February 9, 2018 — is the FIRST of a series of conversations on Twitter I hope to instigate, support, and contribute to this year: Higher Education Digital Identity (a.k.a. #HEdigID) Chat.  As I’ve previously blogged, I think it’s about time to properly discuss the impacts and ramifications of being a higher education professional (e.g. staff, faculty, graduate students, etc.) online. Over the last decade, I’ve seen my postsecondary peers  “grow up” digitally, e.g. on social networks, linked platforms, and media spaces. There are a number of connected communities and brilliant friends who I’ve met online first that I’ve had the opportunity to chat, collaborate, conspire, and create with over the years. That being said, being digitally engaged does not come without challenges, issues, or considerations for being on social/digital platforms (I’m looking directly at YOU, data, privacy, and surveillance monsters).

I’ll be the moderator (MOD) for today’s (Feb. 9th) #HEdigID Chat to initiate this conversation and identify SPECIFIC TOPICS and ISSUES we might want to dig into further over the next few months. I’ll pose a few prompts and questions using the hashtag #HEdigID (with the images) to stir the chat pot, but I welcome any and all campus colleagues to add their own to the discussion.

If you can’t be on Twitter TODAY (2/9), no need to fear. We will connect on the SECOND FRIDAY of EACH month this year to have an open conversation about being a higher ed professional who is connected, networked and/or digitally engaged. Here’s the #HEdigID schedule, if you would like to #SaveTheDates:

March 9, 2018 August 10, 2018
April 13, 2018 September 14, 2018
May 11, 2018 October 9, 2018
June 8, 2018 November 9, 2018
July 13, 2018 December 14, 2018

Any and all post-secondary faculty, staff, professionals, scholars, practitioners, administrators, graduate students, and leaders (really anyone in higher ed) are encouraged to JOIN and CONTRIBUTE to the Twitter conversation. There will be a TOPIC, THEME, and PROMPTS to guide the Twitter Chat over the course of the day. This “SLOW” Twitter Chat (all day) is designed to encourage and allow our colleagues from across the pond, time zones, and busy work schedules to join in the dialogue.

I will moderate (MOD) the first one or two #HEdigID chats; however, I am also quite open to others who want to MOD and/or contribute an IDEA or TOPIC we should dig into online. I plan to tap a few shoulders of other colleagues who are involved in teaching, research, and service scholarship in the area of networked scholarship/practice and online digital identity and presence to lead a future #HEdigID Chat TOPIC.Are you interested in being a MOD? Let me know — DM me on the Twitters, comment below, or find my email on the “about” page. Chat with y’all soon via #HEdigID!

UPDATED — here is the TRANSCRIPT Archive of the conversation and sharing from the first discussion via the hashtag #HEdigID in an open Google spreadsheet:

#HEdigID Chat Transcript, No. 1: On Being Online in Higher Ed (February 9, 2018)

Thank you

 

#LTEC6040, Online Learning, Research, SoTL

#LTEC6040 Asks, “Why Online?”

This academic semester I am fully immersed in online/digital scholarship of teaching and learning. This should not be a surprise, as I teach online and I’m often trying to figure out how distance/technology impacts learning. This year I am exploring HOW TO research digital teaching/learning practices in the courses I instruct and for the scholarship I’m drafting. According to Storify (soon to R.I.P. in May 2018), we’ve been talking about how to best define/label distributed learning for a while => here’s a Twitter thread captured from 3 years ago:  “State of ______ [insert: digital, online, etc.] Learning.” Under the umbrella term, distance education, comes a variety of ways to teach and learn. Additionally, the technological landscape in education has offered a number of ways to discuss, research, and design distributed learning. It’s complicated and challenging as the titles/labels for this type of teaching/learning hold many monikers in the empirical research: educational/learning technologies, networked learning, online education, blended learning environments, hybrid models, flipped learning, e-Learning, virtual environments, and more! Some technologies have the ability to design a flow of distributed learning that is seamless; whereas other digital facets create barriers and challenges.

Our learning spaces have a number of ways to infuse technology into distance education. With this comes even more ways to research and study these pedagogical practices for digital learning.  Regardless of the app, platform, or tool, we seem to have some aspect of “digital” infused into how we both teach and learn. As the options and variety of this online teaching/learning scholarship is broad, I am looking forward to supporting doctoral researchers who will identify one aspect of digital learning in our LTEC 6040: Theory and Practice of Distributed Learning (#LTEC6040 ) course. If you read this blog or connect with me on Twitter, you might see a few posts/shares using this hashtag to signal ideas and offer resources for these early career scholars as they work on investigating one piece of this distance/distributed learning pie.

The central focus of the #LTEC6040 course is to encourage doctoral researchers to define their own theory of online learning/teaching in context to:

  • Outlining empirical literature that supports (or refutes) their personal online learning/teaching theory
  • Identifying appropriate research methods to collect and analyze data connected to this personal online learning/teaching theory (small scale study)
  • Describing the ethical considerations and practices for this research study (e.g. IRB, recruitment, sample population, etc.)
  • Drafting an academic article manuscript for an appropriate publication outlet related to their field of inquiry in online teaching/learning

If you are so inclined, I would encourage you to join in the conversation and offer advice, resources,ideas, and readings for these scholars — as a number of you hold some invaluable expertise in a variety of areas we’ll be exploring for distributed learning this term [To see potential topics, see page 6 of the LTEC 6040 Course Syllabus]:

#LTEC6040 Blogs
https://jennie6040.blog/
https://nitiesite.wordpress.com/
https://jackimberly.wordpress.com/
https://crossingboundariesmedia.wordpress.com
https://osbornemarks.wordpress.com/
https://notlostnotyet.wordpress.com/
https://rickwoods2018.wordpress.com/
https://ltiwithme.wordpress.com/

We are just beginning to define what it means to examine online instruction/learning and unpacking distributed educational environments. In the initial conversations and class blog posts, most are still working on how they DEFINE and OUTLINE what it means to learn/teach online from their own experiences and expectations from the theories they are learning about in our program. Distance education research in higher education is fairly “young” (in comparison to other disciplines) and I am grateful I am surrounded by some fantastic colleagues and their respective departments/units/centers/teams who continue to find value in sharing digital teaching/learning scholarship resources. Here are a just a few (of many) examples:

Beyond these databases, reports, and resources, I am curating other digital learning materials and discourse to prompt discussion, debate and inquiry. Please feel free to share articles, blog posts, media, and more that might be suitable for diving into online teaching/learning research. Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below, if you have any. If you tweet, share what you think is critical for investigations in the digital age of learning using the course hashtag: #LTEC6040

#AcDigID, #EdDigID, #HEdigID

#HEdigID Twitter Chat: Let’s Talk About Our Networked, Digital Life, Higher Ed.

For the last couple of  years, I have been talking, researching and engaging with colleagues to figure out what it means to be a networked practitioner and/or scholar in higher ed. Based on a recent workshop and Twitter conversation (#acdigid chat), it is clear that being online feels different in 2018 than it did back in 2008 when I first started to really connect to other professionals in digital, social networks.  In an editorial I wrote for Inside Higher Ed last year, I ask questions about what it means to have a digital persona in academia, specifically these ones (slightly modified):

  • How does being part of a digital learning network support learning and development for higher ed professionals?
  • How are faculty and staff shaping their online identity and presence to share professional values, work, etc.?
  • How can does a networked community expand knowledge to enhance our roles on campus and the work we do?
  • Why might others higher ed professionals want to network with peers to scaffold their own career goals?

As these digital networks have scaled past the “social-media-is-just-a-fad” stage and they now influence more of our society in our daily lives. That being said, I think educators are considering how to be more thoughtful and consider HOW, WHERE, and IF, they should “be” in these public and open spaces. A number of college/university practitioners, scholars, and administrators have seen benefits to “working out loud” and being public intellectual in postsecondary. That being said, the repurposing of social media and digital platforms, has come with minimal institutional guidance and limited sociotechnical support (Pasquini & Evangelopoulos, 2017) and does appear to have ramifications for our personal/professional lives. A number of interviews with higher ed colleagues have just begun to identify the benefits, challenges, and future considerations for higher ed networked practices. And, of course, in talking to researchers, student affairs educators, early career researchers, academic advisors, senior administration, instructional designers, and other colleagues — it seems that we have even more questions and the need to continue these conversations among ourselves.

In a recent Twitter poll I put out this month, I tossed out the idea to host a SLOW (all day) Twitter chat ONE DAY per month for 2018. It seems like a few of you (at least 15) in higher ed, are interested in discussing your digital identity and “being online” or connected as a professional:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

So, let me introduce to you the…

Higher Ed Digital Identity Chat (#HEdigID)

We will connect on the SECOND FRIDAY of each month this year to have an open, honest conversation about being a higher ed professional who is connected and digitally engaged. Here’s the schedule, if you would like to #SaveTheDate:

February 9, 2018

August 10, 2018

March 9, 2018

September 14, 2018

April 13, 2018

October 9, 2018

May 11, 2018

November 9, 2018

June 8, 2018

December 14, 2018

July 13, 2018

Any and all post-secondary faculty, staff, professionals, scholars, practitioners, administrators, graduate students, and leaders (really anyone in higher ed) are encouraged to JOIN and CONTRIBUTE to the Twitter conversation. There will be a TOPIC, THEME, and PROMPTS to guide the Twitter Chat over the course of the day. This “SLOW” Twitter Chat (all day) is designed to encourage and allow our colleagues from across the pond, time zones, and busy work schedules to join in the dialogue. I am happy to moderate (MOD) the first few #HEdigID chats; however, I am also quite open to others who want to MOD and/or contribute an IDEA or TOPIC we should dig into online. Let me know!

EdTech, Higher Education

Digital Literacy and Information Fluency in Higher Ed

Consuming information online is no more than a click, scroll, or swipe these days. All searches are not created equal and rarely do we think about fact checking what we find on the Internet. I am not alone in thinking about how “…the Internet is actually changing the way we read the way we reason, and even the way we think, and all for the worse” (The Death of Expertise, Nicols, 2017, p. 111). In higher education, I think it is imperative we teach our learners and colleagues about what it means to participate and interact in digital spaces and places. How can our institutions help students, staff, and faculty “be” online and consider how both information and digital environments impact knowledge sharing and learning?

CC BY-NC via Intersection Consulting

Definition: Digital Literacy and Information Fluency

Digital literacy is multifaceted. The New Media Consortium provided a Digital Literacy Strategic Brief (Alexander, Adams Becker, & Cummins, 2016) to identify the role policy, practice, and curriculum can have on all facets of our campus. Alexander et al. (2016, p.1) defines digital literacy as “not just understanding how a tool works but also why it is useful in the real world and when to use it.” To improve our practices for improving this literacy we need to think broadly about strategic planning and the creation of standards at our campus. There are new opportunities to encourage learners to become content and media producers, identify technical competencies for the workforce with industry-education partnerships, and develop smart collaborations within the community entities, such as governments, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage organizations. This report offers insights across universal literacy, creative literacy, and literacy across disciplines by offering exemplars in practice at institutions that include digital literacy in program and curriculum design.

Beyond digital competencies, we need to develop media and information fluency in higher education. The Association of College and Research Libraries (2016) has updated their literacy competency standards by developing a Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education to offer guidance “to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Scholarly inquiry requires analyzing information for credibility and understanding if an online resource is primary, secondary or irrelevant. Information is constructed in context to digital environments and is often created as a process of knowing, reflection, editing, and production online. Beyond this, the Institute of Museum and Library Services are offering suggestions for data information literacy to help us understand how we manage, curate, and design curriculum around data and information. To encourage both digital prowess and information awareness online, we need to develop skills around: outline critical thinking for research, encourage digital teaming, and identify privacy, security and data issues online.

Critical Thinking and Online Research

Much of what we want our students, and perhaps colleagues, to develop is a technical competency with information management in the digital realm. Digital literacy and information fluency help us improve our understanding and acquisition of knowledge to move beyond the #FakeNews fallacies and make meaning of what we are learning. In seeing how fast information travels with inaccurate content, I often wonder if my learners understand how the Internet works? Part of our responsibility, as educators, is to teach effective search processes online, to investigate databases, and examine scholarly repositories with our students and co-authors.

Additionally, as we encourage learners and peers to share presentations or develop projects it is critical to encourage citing and attribution of resources. Beyond using APA 6th edition format for referencing scholarly work, we also need to scaffold content curation and sharing, specifically with regards to copyright, fair use, and creative commons licensing. Work can be contributed to course materials (e.g. LTEC 4000 Course Wiki), textbook development (e.g. PM4ID), or perhaps even contributing to general knowledge on the Internet (e.g. Wiki Edu). Applying search skills in a course will help to hone and develop expertise beyond their degree and put into practice in their work and personal life. Here are a few examples of Information Literacy Activities or Resources you might include or apply in your course or program on campus.

Virtual Teaming: Collaboration & Problem-Solving

Part of being a member of a college or university community is the opportunity for discussion and discourse among peers. Scholarly inquiry and debate cannot and should not happen in a vacuum. Learning experiences should offer ways to evaluate information and to participate in civic online reasoning helps our learners beyond course discussions, class activities, and assigned projects. With the advent of the social web and networked communication platforms, there is an increasing opportunity to gather virtual teams or to support distributed group work. How can you enhance distributed collaboration for learners and support your peers online?

The new social learning helps us “join with others to make sense of and create new ideas…[it] is augmented with social media tools that bridge distance and time, enabling people to easily interact across the workplace, passion, curiosity, skill or need. It benefits from a diversity in types of intelligence and in the experiences of those learning” (Bingham & Connor, 2015, p.8). These digital environments need to be woven into our pedagogical considerations learning design and considered in context to support virtual teaming among scholars. Much of the creative problem solving, production development, and final products for learners can be self-directed via peers online. Some examples, I have used in practice and for instruction include shared documents for education, planning virtual group meetings, supporting hashtags for learning, and offering on-demand, online office hours. There are many ways to learn and work from a distance – decide what your purpose or goal is first, and then explore what digital platforms to use.

Digital Privacy, Security, and Data

To further this notion, we need to consider how we thrive in the digital age and this should start at our colleges and universities. The US Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity put out a Report on Securing and Growing the Digital Economy. As human behavior and technology are intertwined, it will be vital to secure our technologies, processes, and products online. As we “live” online and continue to get hacked online, we need to identify how we will operate in digital spaces and also prepare cybersecurity workforce capabilities online as outlined in this report. Higher education IT colleagues are continually thinking about ways to respond to cybersecurity attacks; however, prevention and awareness among campus stakeholders should be priorities at our institutions. I often have my students and peers think deeper about their privacy and security online by introducing them to ideas shared by WNYC’s Note To Self: Privacy Paradox 5-part series and the Privacy Paradox tip sheet, specifically to have all understand how to protect personal information and perhaps to take control back of their shared personal  data online. Beyond this short course, I often encourage colleagues and students to read recent news reports, or listen to podcasts, such as CBC Spark and Reply-All, to prompt discussions about current issues and events that apply to their own digital life to ask more about their own Terms of Service.

References

Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., & Cummins, M. (2016). Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. Volume 3.3, October 2016. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Association of College and Research Libraries. (2016, January 11). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2015). The new social learning: Connect. Collaborate. Work., 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press.

Hardin, G. (2016). White Paper: University of North Texas, Information Fluency Initiative. UNT Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc944367/

Nichols, T. (2017). The death of expertise: The campaign against established knowledge and why it matters. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

An edited version of this blog post was cross-posted on the Ed Tech Magazine: Focus on Higher Ed website.