My head is swimming with ideas after watching this YouTube video (which literally made me tired with all the ideas flashing) and the numerous articles I have read for my Introduction to Emerging Technologies course, including one by Lankshear and Knobel. As detailed as the explanation became, I was relieved to finally understand why "literacy" would take on the plural form "literacies" as that had bothered me a bit from a grammatical point of view (non-countable noun that I thought it was). But, just as technology changes, so do words....and they do this based on our evolving ways of communicating and, in this case, how we see our communication within a cultural context. And so it is that "literacy" has become "literacies" for those who deny the "It" factor - ie, the concept that digital literacy is not a 'thing' or an 'it' to be acquired and measured. Rather, by referring to literacies, we are referring to the varied ways in which we personalize and find meaning in the tasks at hand - and this varies based on factors such as age, culture, personality, and purpose.
When I consider my own group of learners, the literacies that I see as fundamental to a positive online experience are:
- social literacy - You learn better when in a community of other learners who are along for the ride. Remember the theme song for the TV show Cheers where the chorus proclaims (rightly so) that "sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came...." A simple concept? Yes, but creating activities as a means of social interaction gets people coming back and results in confident learners and meaningful learning.
- basic computer skills - Technology is intimidating for those new to it, so although the authors of the article we read are not much into literacies as "skills", if you don't know how to turn on the computer or do a Google search, it would be helpful to be shown. It is after learning these basic skills (yes, skills!) that we evolve and can achieve something higher and more meaningful by using the tools available.
- focus & flexibility - With all the information sources and teaching/learning platforms available to us, we need to learn how to weed through it all and choose what best fits our needs. At the same time, we need to be flexible to change and move on.
- collaborative learning & problem solving - While I was reading the article, I thought about how much traditional education has changed. We don't just teach from the front of the class (lecture-style) anymore but rather collaborate in groups and incorporate the socio-cultural elements into the learning and problem-solving. The same should result in a positive learning experience for online learners (although I must admit, this is a harder concept to sell with learners of certain cultural backgrounds).
I am working at becoming socially literate and being engaged. Besides this blog, I have been regularly maintaining two others for personal use, although I quickly learned that by sharing the best of yourself online, you can at times be left lost in real time and real life. Turns out I was lifting my own stories from myself; I would be having coffee with friends and would start in on my story, only to be interrupted with: "Yeah, you said that in your blog" and again "Oh, yes, I read that". There was nothing left to say. So, I am learning to blog better (right now that has meant shutting those ones off to the world).
For work, I have needed to practice the literacy of focus and flexibility as we are constantly searching for the best teaching platforms. But, while we're piloting things, the show must go on, and the students must continue to be engaged. I facilitate online chats via Skype, am learning to tweet and engage in professional networking and meetings via WiZiQ, which I will pilot with my learners this fall.
The bottom line is that there is so much to learn and I seem to only know what I regularly use. I would like to know what alternatives there are to virtual classroom setups such as WiZiQ. I want to also find ways of teaching the necessary computer skills to inexperienced learners, not for the sake of getting the skill that is required just to complete the program I teach but for the sake of higher, more meaningful lifelong learning. Oh, and I would like to learn to create engaging podcasts, use Twitter effectively, and learn more about concept maps.