When thinking about outward-facing learning, what is your greatest ‘take-away’ in terms of your own professional development and personal practices?

Key Question 1:

If you know it [it = what ever you are creating] will be shared before you start, does it change how you approach the task?

Answer:

For me, yes.

Key Question 2:

Is that change positive, negative, or neutral?

Answer:

It’s a positive, mostly. To ensure an audience / reader could grasp what I’m saying in a blog post, I need to make sure my writing is clear and the ideas well articulated (as much as is in my power to do so). To do this I need to plan, synthesise, and draft all my posts. I combine ideas, I expand others, and I explore the topic of the post through the initial generative process then hone in on my main points through the drafting, cutting, and synthesizing phase.

This is a particular strength of written communication and why I assume assignments are still in (predominantly) written form: it allows a full exploration of a topic in a structured, guided, referenced manner.

But blogging is different from writing an assignment, as anyone with an internet connection could potentially stumble onto it. (Note: I still put all my assignments up online though after I get them back, just because).

Someone is able to leave a comment, to add their perspective to the issue, and therefore help take my own thinking into new directions. This means when publishing online, it’s never really publishing for good – the story is evolving and iterative. The knowledge is not static. There is rarely one right answer.

Even so, if I’m blogging, I take it seriously. Someone reading my blog (lol?) is able to get a sense of who I am professionally, what I stand for, and what I believe through each blog post. I don’t want a reader to think “he doesn’t know what he’s on about”, “this is rubbish”, or “he hasn’t done his research.” I take pride in my blogging, and I want it to show the kind of professional, reflective teacher I am.

To be honest, I also know future recruiters / schools may peruse my blog before an interview, so I want this digital reflection of my personal persona to be up to scratch.

But because of this, I’ve suffered from analysis paralysis on many occasions. The amount of blog posts I’ve thought up, planned, then shelved because I think they are not “good enough” ideas are many. Which is a shame – that many of my ideas and reflections are tucked away in an Evernote folder somewhere, not able to be shared, commented on, or connected to. Even if they are half-baked, or useless, they still should be out there – someone could stumble upon one of the thoughts or ideas I’ve published, and even though it might not resonate with them or they might think it sucks, it might propel them into other more interesting lines of inquiry.

Actually though, while my care levels are still high – I do care what people think – they seem to be diminishing with each consecutive year on this planet. You can’t please everyone, and even if you could, why should you. Perfect is the enemy of done etc. I don’t need to be a perfectionist – I need to give X task a good shot to the best of my ability in the timeframe I have allocated, then move on with life. To do otherwise is the road to stress and burnout.

So, my personal goal this year is to cultivate and practice this attitude more. Publishing my outward-facing learning need not be a big deal. I don’t need to agonise over it. I need to get it out there. Because the more teachers just “get it out there” the more nodes of knowledge there are in the world, the more connections become available, and the more transparency there is in our industry. It’s selfish to lock up ideas and reflections, wins and fails, within the four walls of your classroom.

This was my first shot.

I do not apologise for any spelling errors, run on sentences, or jumbled thinking.

 

CC0 image via unsplash.com

On August 15th, 2012, a six-wheeled remotely operated rover named Curiosity touched down on Mars. In “The Martian Diaries: What if the Curiosity rover kept a scrapbook?” authored and designed by ScienceNews, a non-profit organisation dedicated to public engagement in scientific research and education, the Curiosity rover’s scientific discoveries are presented in a form of multimedia journalism and fictive “first person” accounts from Curiosity. The Martian Diaries are an example of a growing genre of immersive multimedia journalism, where non-fiction facts, first-person accounts, and news are presented in multimodal formats which are engaging readers in new experiences (Silvia & Anzur, 2011).

 

The Martian Diaries are a ‘scrapbook’ of entries chronicling the Curiosity rover’s work on Mars. While the story content is itself exciting and interesting – it presents scientific material on the forefront of human exploration and discovery – the real magic here is that the story unfolds via the Curiosity rover itself, endowed with an anthropomorphic, jaunty 21st Century colloquial voice. The language used is playful and memetic, couching the scientific jargon in an accessible, interesting form. The story of Curiosity unfolds much like that of a classic adventure story: Curiosity is scared at the start of the adventure, and people worry about it back home, but nevertheless it sets off on its epic journey towards the “tall and rough” Mount Sharp in the distance, numerous adventures and missteps between itself and the goal. Chronicle entries along the way expand on these adventures: detailing new finds (evidence of past water), problems (radiation levels), potential uses for the discoveries, detecting organics, and signs that Mars might be habitable. Curiosity remediates pop culture (Allen, 2001); song lyrics and phrases from classic novels along the way, creates new language (yestersol, rather than yesterday) and even bemoans the lack of an iPhone to take a good selfie. These elements make Curiosity relatable, creating an emotional attachment and engaging the reader in a scientific story which may have otherwise been presented as a sterile, technical report.

 

Curiosity rover sets off on the big adventure

Curiosity rover sets off on the big adventure

 

The digital affordances of the medium are well leveraged. Each entry contains a transmedia mixture of multimodal features: images taken from the Curiosity, panoramas, slideshows, videos, links to the official NASA press releases, maps, diagrams, computer generated predictions, and explanatory animated gifs. These serve to illustrate and extend the scientific concepts introduced in the accompanying story. Most significantly however, the Curiosity rover shows it is a skilled and literate member of online 21st Century life by having an active Twitter profile. As Curiosity was “doing cool science” on Mars, NASA was tweeting in real time as the rover, and select tweets are embedded in the beginning of each chronicle entry. The statistics on the tweets are astounding – some have over 8000 retweets and 5000 likes, showing the extent to which interested public participated in this first-person pseudo-narrative. Readers here are positioned not just as passive consumers but active participants in the journalism, co-creating the story as it emerges (Lorenzo, Oblinger, & Dziuban, 2007; Van Dijck, 2009). The Curiosity rover replied to tweets at the time and is in fact still tweeting, you can “follow” the account to catch updates, and read the replies of others to the Curiosity, discovering a deeper range of perspective and opinion (Serafini, 2013).

 

https://twitter.com/MarsCuriosity/status/232348380431544320?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Curiosity tweets its landing, garnering nearly 65,000 retweets

 

The Martian Diaries is housed on an open-access website, so in terms of usability and accessibility all that’s required is an internet connection and a browser. No advertisements or distractions appear, which can often plague online reading (Liu, 2005). The chronicle entries consist of simple, centrally laid out elements which are easy to navigate. Upon loading a reader is greeted with a full-page image of the Curiosity rover looking at you with two quizzically mechanical eyes reminiscent of Pixar’s Wall-E; the design choice here immediately building empathy and relationship with the Curiosity character. A helpful menu floats at the top of the screen, staying in place as you scroll down from which you can select the different chronicle entries. This allows flexibility and a non-linear means of accessing the content if a reader wishes, an important feature to have available in digital environments (Liu, 2005).

 

In terms of alignment to the curriculum, The Martian Diaries could be used as an information resource if students are inquiring into explorations, technical advancement and robotics, human futures, or scientific concepts such as geology, radiation, atmosphere, molecules, chemicals, or minerals. More generally, The Martian Diaries is an example of immersive multimedia journalism, and could be explored and studied as an transmedia artifact (Lamb, 2011). Some key questions might be: how well does the integration of different multimodal elements work? What affordances does the Twitter integration create? How is the “scientific load” softened? How is reader given flexibility and choice?

 

Of course, overall, The Martian Diaries can be enjoyed for it’s own sake – as an exciting piece of multimedia journalism about discovery and exploration.

 


References

 

Allen, N. (2001). Telling our stories in new ways. Retrieved from http://williamwolff.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/allen-cc-2001-review.pdf

 

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17.

 

Lorenzo, G., Oblinger, D., & Dziuban, C. (2007). How choice, co-creation, and culture are changing what it means to be net savvy. Educause Quarterly, 30(1), 6.

 

Serafini, F. (2013). Reading Workshop 2.0. Reading Teacher, 66(5), 401-404.

 

Silvia, T., & Anzur, T. (2011). Power performance: multimedia storytelling for journalism and public relations. John Wiley & Sons.

 

Van Dijck, J. (2009). Users like you? Theorizing agency in user-generated content. Media, culture, and society, 31(1), 41.

 

Ziming Liu, (2005) Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years. Journal of Documentation, 61(6), 700 – 712.

Connectivism

 A word which I’d never encountered before three weeks ago.

A theory which is beginning to make sense to me.

An area I’m growing my confidence in.

 

This is my current understanding of what it means:

Connectivism is the next evolution of the learning “-isms”: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism. It differs from the others in that connectivism strives to make sense of the impact that technology has had on how we connect and communicate, live and learn (Siemens, 2004).

It is a learning theory for the digital age – one which acknowledges we live in a world of multiplicity. Individuals and communities are nodes of knowledge, scattered about, complicatedly connected. Chaos theory, an integral part of connectivism states that while yes, our information networks are multifaceted, unpredictable and diverse, there is meaning distributed across and within this network of connections (Downes, 2012).

It’s the job of the participant in this new information ecology to uncover patterns, make sense of these connections, and make new connections (Siemens, 2004). To make sense of the chaos. How individuals go about doing this, within learning communities and networked environments, is something which connectivism strives to understand.

To participate fully within the diverse ‘knowledgefield’ technology has afforded us today, individuals need to be “confident in their ability to make connections, understand concepts, critique, create and share knowledge” (Starkey, 2011, p37). If these are some of the competencies integral to living well in the future, then we want students leaving our schools to be well versed in their arts.

While it’s clear that the students of today are changing in response to the digital age it’s a myth that they come hard-wired to participate effectively in this world (the digital native argument). Learning design, therefore, needs to focus on providing experiences that will grow these literacies and competencies. A revamped set of literacies – digital literacies – indeed a reimagined pedagogy, is required.

Ford (2008) outlines one way learning can be designed within a connectivist framework. A central theme of Ford’s work is the flow between the concepts of mediation and autonomy.

The web is the source of a massive amount of knowledge. Students may have the autonomy to surf these networks, but the extent to which they are able to source information, critically evaluate and make sense of information may be limited. The goal is to help students along the path to becoming autonomous seekers and users of information, to be flexible and versatile navigating the digital currents. Mediation is required in assisting students to achieve this goal – in particular, fostering meta-cognitive awareness.

Much exploration has also been undertaken in regard to what exactly these new literacies that students require are. It’s a diverse area of research, with many different frameworks, strategies and models.

Bawden (2008) breaks down digital literacy into information literacy (which is actively finding and using information – the “pull”) and media literacy (dealing with and understanding media “pushed” at the individual). Added into this is the necessary elements of digital citizenship – the social and moral components required for effective participation and safety.

Retrieved from http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3193/2829658906_0e94c592a8.jpg

The Digital Literacy Handbook from Future Lab UK highlights creativity, effective communication, collaboration, the ability to find and select information, e-safety, functional skills, critical thinking and evaluation, and cultural and social understanding as core dimensions of digital literacy.

Finding the commonalities between these facets of digital literacy then moulding them into the particular context of your school and community is key.

We are developing our understandings of the world in which we live in and the future the students of today will enter. Connectivism seeks to understand the role of learning in our new, diverse knowledge ecology, while models of digital literacy aim to provide educators with a framework of skills and competencies required for effective participation within them.

 

References

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and Concepts Of Digital Literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from http://sites.google.com/site/colinlankshear/DigitalLiteracies.pdf#page=19

Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks. National Research Council Canada

Ford, N. (2008). Education. In Web-based learning through educational informatics: Information science meets educational computing (pp. 75-109). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from: http://www.igi-global.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/gateway/chapter/full-text-pdf/31399

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.