Educators, Social Media and Networking: A Serendipitous Relationship

“We need, first, to take charge of our own learning, and next, help others take charge of their own learning. We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change our attitude toward learning and the educational system in general” (Downes, 2010, para 16).

The concept of socialisation in learning has long been acknowledged as essential to knowledge building and attainment in the field of education (Belbase, 2011, p.3; Cobb, 2005, p.41; Dewey, 1910; Perkins, 2009, p.7). In the Digital Age, as educators and students alike begin to favour models of connected learning over the static environment of the traditional classroom, socialisation in learning has begun to establish itself through the use of social media and networking applications, “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010, pp. 61). These innovations and technological developments that allow for online collaboration and socialisation, enable us to expand our knowledge-building ecosystems and move away from the concept of the classroom teacher as the owner of all knowledge and information (Pink as citied in Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 177).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Moving away from traditional model of learning where the teacher acts as holder of all knowledge to a social, networked approach to learning where all participants are part of the learning process (Grout, 2013).

Thus as educators, whether we like it or not, we must embrace social media and networking within our own learning ecologies so that we can extend these learning opportunities to our students of the Digital Age. Just as businesses of the twenty-first century have been forced to up-skill and transform their business models to avoid losing currency, educators cannot ignore the pull of social media and networking to meet the natural drive of socialisation as these emerging technologies, “allow us to embrace the needs of changing workplace demographics and enable people of all ages to learn in ways that are comfortable and convenient for them” (Bingham & Conner, 2010, loc. 184). In echoing the sentiment of Downes when he suggests we must first take charge of our learning before assisting others with their learning, the time has come for educators to embrace social media and networking in their own learning so that they can benefit from, participate in and model this learning for both their peers and their students (2010, para. 16). Whereas traditional education has taught us that learning only happens in the classroom, the rise of social media and networking has proven that learning happens in a variety of ways and places beyond the classroom, opening doors for citizens in the digital age to be, “more effective, more knowledgeable, more energised, and more efficient as professional educators,” and ultimately, as learners (Whitaker, Zoul & Casas, 2015, loc. 205).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

Opening the door to learning beyond the classroom (Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest, 2015).

As Perkins suggests in Futurewise: Educating Our Children For A Changing World, We must consider what constitutes our learning ecology and ‘go beyond’ the world of traditional education to ensure our students are prepared for learning that is ‘lifeworthy’ – “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, loc 395), and ‘lifeready’ -“ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, loc 694). This learning will only be possible when we consider learning collectives in networked environments, rather than learning in our traditional hierarchal classrooms (Schravemade, 2015, para. 4).

What is different about teaching and learning using social media and networking is that we are working in environments that we cannot control. The traditional learning relationships we had with our peers and students took place in physical environments, however in the digital age, they are happening in front of an audience we cannot monitor, mandate or select. The notion of connected learning is not one we can learn from a textbook, it involves educators stepping out of their comfort zone and, not only reading or viewing the work of students, but adopting a mindset that places them in the position of learner as they participate in the processes involved with, not only their individual learning, but also that of their peers and students (Whitaker et al., 2015, loc. 248). If, “social learning happens using social media tools and through extended access and conversations with all our connections – in our workplaces, our communities, and online. It happens when we keep the conversation going on a blog rich with comments, through coaching and mentoring, or even during a workout at the gym,” as Bingham and Conner suggest in The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media, then we as educators must ourselves be comfortable with and understand how to participate in such environments (2010, loc. 340).

This is where teaching and learning using social media and networking constitutes a serendipitous relationship with educators. Piaget asserted that, “cognitive conflict created by social interaction is the locus at which the power driving intellectual development is generated” (Perret-Clermont, 1980, p. 12). In this sense, cognition is a collaborative process, and the mind of the learner creates meaning, knowledge and understanding through dialogue, interaction and conversation with others (Ernest, 1995). Research such as that by Bell, Grossen and Perret-Clermont (1985) affirms this social practice, as they assert that students who are actively engaged in working with their peers display greater cognitive growth than those working alone. This promotes the idea that, “personal experiences of individuals become social and collective experiences when they are shared, interacted, and retained as knowledge” (Belbase, 2011, p.3). It is essential then, that as educators we examine how our pedagogy encourages students to participate and be guided by others in their learning. In the twenty-first century, we must embrace trends in technological development such as social media and networking to provide learning experiences reflective of the Digital Age. It becomes innate for educators to continue their serendipitous relationship with socialisation in learning through the participatory culture that is social media and networking.

In the video below, Helen Haste articulates the collaborative nature of information gathering and knowledge development in the twenty-first century (2009).

Social media and networking present the perfect platforms to encourage collaborative an co-operative perspectives through technology use. It is our role as educators to embrace these in our learning so that we can model, participate in and extend this opportunity to our students. The first step in this process as educators is to become digital citizens and connected learners ourselves, so that we can effectively and successfully extend this opportunity to our students. The interactive infographic ‘Getting Started With Digital Citizenship: Social Media and Networking’ shared in a previous post  provides a bank of resources for educators to use as a guide when they begin their journey as connected learners, exploring digital citizenship through social media and networking.

Reference List

Belbase, S. (2011). Radical versus social constructivism: dilemma, dialogue, and defense [Online Submission]. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED525159).

Bell, N. Grossen, M. Perret-Clermont, A.N. (1985). Sociocognitive conflict and intellectual growth. In M.W. Berkowitz (Ed.), Peer conflict and psychological growth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bingham, T., & Conner, M. (2010). The new social learning: A guide to transforming organizations through social media [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Social-Learning-Organizations/dp/1605097020

Cobb, P. (2005). Where is the mind? A coordination of sociocultural and cognitive constructivist perspectives. In C. Twomey Fosnot (Ed.), Constructivism: theory, perspectives and practice (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Dewey, J. (1910). How we think. Boston: DC Heath.

Downes, S. (2010). A world to change. Huffpost Education. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/a-world-to-change_b_762738.html

Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. (2015). Open white door floating plaster wall [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest http://quest.eb.com/search/165_3338382/1/165_3338382/cite

Ernest, P. (1995). The one and the many. In L. P Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in education (pp. 459-486). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Grout, M. (2013). Teaching strategies [Image]. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/y28yncf_uu4b/teaching-strategies/

Haste, H. (2009, June 25). Technology and youth: rethinking the landscape of education (part 4 of 4) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZt9rEnAvew

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003

Perkins, D. N. (2009). Making learning whole: How seven principles of teaching can transform education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Perkins, D. (2014). Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Future-Wise-Educating-Children-Changing/dp/1118844084

Perret-Clermont, A. N. (1980). Social interaction and cognitive development in children. Academic Press.

Schravemade, K. (2015, March 29). ‘Lifeready’ and ‘Lifeworthy’ learning: go beyond the traditional [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://theprivateteacher.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/lifeready-and-lifeworthy-learning-going-beyond-the-traditional/

Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casa, J. (2015). What connected educators do differently [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/What-Connected-Educators-Do-Differently-ebook/dp/B00ULQN564/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1428829250

Digital Citizenship just as important as Social Media Policies when considering Online Behaviours

footprint

There is no doubt that considering how Social Media is used by ALL members of a school community (students, staff, parents) is essential in our digital age.  Often, we may find that staff can be just as prone to misusing (either intentionally or unintentionally) social media as students.  While many organisations are drafting policies to cater for the use of social media by their representatives, I believe, particular in schools, that we must begin with educating community members about Digital Citizenship in conjunction with any policy creation regarding online behaviours.

I was at a BBQ last week and the ideas of teaching Digital Citizenship and using Social Media in class were mentioned.  I was interested that many attendees scoffed at the idea of teaching this in schools and believed that this was something of a joke, with one person commenting that, “no one ever taught us to socialise at school and we turned out just fine”, and another suggesting that, “if schools didn’t encourage their students to be online they wouldn’t have a problem”.  Unfortunately, I think many parents have this same mindset when it comes to Digital Citizenship and Social Media, often believing that whatever will happen online will happen, regardless of what they are taught, or, they won’t have  a problem if they prohibit their children from being online.

This Science Friday podcast provides some real insight into the ‘why’ behind teaching Digital Citizenship in schools, as it suggests that teenagers have always needed to learn how to control social situations and being online should be no different.  We have always focused on ‘personal development’ in schools where we have modelled appropriate behaviours in social situations, we shouldn’t ignore that much of this socialisation has now moved beyond physical situations to online situations. Thus, I believe that as educators it is our responsibility to create awareness of what it means to be a digital citizen and model this behaviour, not only for our students, but also for their parents, our peers and wider community.

One thing we often overlook when we consider Digital Citizenship, is that we are not only teaching students how to be appropriate in their socialisation online, we are also teaching them how to be ethical and legal online.  It is essential for people to realise that as soon as they post something online they are becoming both a copyright holder and  publisher, hence, they need to consider how they are branding themselves personally and professionally.  In the video below, Barry Britt discusses the importance of students and teachers understanding the impact that their interactions and posts online can have on their personal and professional profiles.  Essentially, he suggests that we need to ensure both students and teachers have the knowledge to make decisions about branding rights.

Another important consideration concerning Digital Citizenship is catering for ‘context collapse’.  In her book It’s Complicated, Danah Boyd asserts that teenagers today are not doing anything different to what they have always done; the problem with the emergence of social media is that now the whole world can see how they are socialising.  Thus, they need to be aware of ‘context collapse’ – if they don’t  understand the context in which they are operating  online, their behaviour will often be misrepresented.  A teacher mentioned to me the other day that she was annoyed students had started following her on Twitter as she wanted to use it as a personal account.  This is a perfect example of ‘context collapse’  as this teacher obviously didn’t understand the social context around Twitter, highlighting the growing need for awareness around Digital Citizenship and the use of social media.

Digital Citizenship involves accepting that we need to interact online and brand and promote ourselves in a positive manner.  We must accept that we need to learn to control our social situations online, just as much as we do in a physical setting. Thus, if we begin a Digital Citizenship education in conjunction to creating policy around Social Media use, we may find that community members are more aware of and informed of acceptable online behaviours.

Enter Librarians 2.0 – We’re not paid to shush!

 

Librarian Signaling Quiet. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. http://quest.eb.com/images/154_2888635

Librarian Signaling Quiet. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. http://quest.eb.com/images/154_2888635

Often when we tell people that we are Teacher-Librarians (TLs) a strange smile spreads over their face. Straight away we feel a need to defend what we do and explain that we don’t actually spend our days loaning out books, nor do we hide in the stacks waiting to catch people talking, or putting things back in the wrong places. In fact, sadly, often we can go days without even touching a book. So this begs the question, what do Teacher-Librarians in the world of Web 2.0 actually do?

Teacher-Librarians are uniquely qualified: we are specialists, we are teachers, we are learners, we are researchers, we are information specialists we are supporters, we are facilitators, we are connectors, we are teachers AND we are readers. We’d love to give you a run-down of what we do everyday, but, in this position, no day is ever the same. We think on our feet, we go where we’re needed and we share what we know, or find what we don’t. Libraries 2.0 don’t just store information, they connect learners with skills, tools and information and, as teacher-librarians, this is what we do. We are the space, we are the library and we’re everything in between.

So how can we help you? Firstly, we like to research. We’re information specialists, so ask us to help you find resources, or show you where to find them. We can teach you and we can teach your students, we’re very friendly and we don’t discriminate. We love books, fiction and non-fiction, ebooks and audio. Ask us to talk about them, recommend one, read one. We’ll build a campfire and make hot chocolate.

We’re quite literate, we love literacies and we love sharing our knowledge of these. Digital literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, information literacy, technology literacy, visual literacy. We have the skills, we have the knowledge. If we don’t, we’ll find out. All you need to do is ask.

We love change, we love mess, we love order. Need a Space? Teacher-centred, student-centred, collaborative, campfire. We’ll make one.

We love to travel. We can come to your class, in fact please ask us. We can share our knowledge, assist you or collaborate with you. The Library 2.0 has no walls. We can tweet you, skype you, call you, blog with you.. We’d love to help you do the same.

We can help you connect. To a professional learning network, to your colleagues, to your family, to your friends. Need help with your privacy settings? We can show you how to set them and check them.

We research. A lot. Pedagogy, technology, trends in education, the lot. Ask us. We love to share. We love to learn.

Some confessions we’ve always wanted to make. Catalogues bore us, we’re not great with contact. Laminating scares us, we don’t sleep on the beanbags, we like noise.. lots of it. We don’t know the history behind book-binding and haven’t memorised the Dewey Decimal system. We make a mess and we eat in the library.. often.

We are Teacher-Librarians in the world of Web 2.0 Library 2.0.

Is your Library in the World of 2.0?

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The connectedness and interactivity of Web 2.0 challenges us to only change our behaviour online, but it always pushes schools and businesses to rethink they do to cater for clientele that are used to such fast-passed, click-of-the-button service.  One particular sector that has been under great pressure to alter or face redundancy is libraries.  School libraries especially are quickly realising they need to offer services to cater for the change in teaching and learning that has accompanied Web 2.0 as their users are preferring to visit Google and  other Internet services over the library catalogue, under the belief that the library can no longer meet their needs. Enter the notion of Library 2.0.

The video below published by UC Berkeley discusses the notion of Library 2.0 and flags several concepts for libraries to follow when ensuring their services reflect twenty-first century, digital age services.

Keynote speaker Meredith Farkas discusses Library 2.0 as building on the concept of Web 2.0 where instead of users being only viewers of information, they became active participants in the creation of information (UC Berkeley Events, 2007). Whereas our traditional libraries acted primarily as storehouses of information, they must now evolve to reflect societal and technological changes and reevaluate how to meet the needs of users in the world of the digital age. Perhaps the biggest change libraries can make to move into the world of 2.0 is embrace the notion that our services can no longer remain static, we must constantly alter what we do to reflect the world around us, whether we have yet perfected the service or not.

The video below created by myself and colleague Helen Stower provides one example of how our libraries can enter to the world of 2.0 and evolve to meet the needs of users.

As suggested by Farkas in her UC Berkeley address, libraries need to reimagine what they can offer in their spaces and how they can enter Web 2.0 and respond to the needs of our digital age users. This involves considering exactly who the users of library are, in the case of the Mount Alvernia iCentre, this meant altering services to not only consider the needs of students of the college but all learners; teachers, parents and the wider community.  After all, in the world of Library 2.0, access to the library becomes open to anyone with internet access, not just those who access the physical space.  If users can access Google and other information services from the comfort of their own home, why wouldn’t they want to access the services of their school library from the same place.  Hence, libraries that offer 2.0 services must allow for interaction with users  via websites and social media sites. The Slideshare below highlights some key considerations for school libraries to consider when altering their services from a Library 1.0 model to that of a 2.0 model.

http://www.slideshare.net/schrk/slideshelf

Most importantly, the biggest recommendation for libraries looking to enter the world of Library 2.0 is to dive and meet users where they are at, if we continue to sit back and wait for services in the digital age to become perfect and static, they will have changed before we have the chance to offer them in our spaces.

kanterquote
Reference List

UC Berkeley Events.  (2007, November 19).  Building academic library 2.0 . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_uOKFhoznI

Letting Others Control How You Are Perceived Online

online-reviews

Question and Answer services and User Review sites have become increasingly popular features of Web 2.0 platforms as users connect with each other by asking or answering questions and posting reviews or services or products they have encountered. While in theory this concept is not a new one, the posting of these things online allows the option of anonymity, making the validity and reliability of content questionable and hard to trace. While in the physical world we can choose to gain opinions, answers and feedback from people we know and trust, we cannot guarantee this in the digital world. Also, instead of being able to judge an individual’s response by way of physical determents, such as body language and tone, their response is reliant on their ability to articulate themselves in writing (Jeon & Rieh, 2014, p.663). Consequently, while it may be useful to gather feedback, answers and reviews at the click of a button online, users are often taking a gamble in doing this, as unless they are able to trace or verify the source, they are relying on feedback from someone completely unknown to them, with motives that are completely unknown.

While these question and answer and review sites provide a certain convenience for users who may be shopping or need a quick answer, we cannot overlook the potentially detrimental affects of the anonymity of these services, as evidenced in the video below, when 12 year old student Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide after she was bullied on popular question and answer sites, Kik and Ask.FM

 

This may be an extreme example, but it does lead us to question whether the anonymity allowed on such sites makes it easier for people to act without consequences of their actions.  This also leads to users being able to give an opinion or review of a person or business out of context, as is seen regularly on social media sites such as Facebook when disgruntled customers post their annoyance, anger or negative opinions on company pages for all users to see.

Even though question and answer and reviews sites are prone to negative feedback, many businesses revel in the free publicity and advertising they gain.  Racherla and Friske suggest that online word-of-mouth platforms such as TripAdvisor and Amazon have become the most valuable sources of information for online consumers, as these sites allow them to become fully informed as the product details and social interactions available allow them to become fully informed (2012, p.548). These same authors warn however, that there is still a way to go in terms of  the balances and checks put in place on these platforms to ensure that the user is gathering valid information and not experiencing a sense of ‘infowhelm‘ (2012, p.558). Additionally, more recent examples of customers being fined by companies for leaving bad reviews on word-of-mouth platform raise the question of how these sites are monitored and controlled.

Allowing others to control how individuals or businesses are perceived online is definitely a reality of Web 2.0.  However, as with any interaction in a digital environment, users must exercise digital etiquette and common digital citizenship practices to ensure that they are discerning in their use of these sites.

Reference List

Jeon, G. Y., & Rieh, S.U. (2014).  Answers form the crowd: How credible are strangers in social Q&A? iConference 2014 Proceedings (p.663 – 668).  Retrieved from http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/106410/Jeon_Rieh_iConference2014_answers%20from%20the%20crowd.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Racherla, P., & Friske, W. (2012).  Perceived ‘usefulness’ of online consumer reviews: An exploratory investigation across three service categories.  Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, 11(6), 548-559.  doi: 10.1016/j.elerap.2012.06.003

 

The Connected Attraction of the Socially Networked World via Web 2.0

Kocaer, M. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/289074869801956615/

Kocaer, M. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/289074869801956615/

It has become clear in recent years, post the emergence of Web 2.0, that social networks, are here to stay. As evidenced in the images below, Web 2.0 altered the static nature of the websites we experienced in Web 1.0, allowing users to not only consume but produce content when interacting with a site.

web1_0-vs-web2_0

Martin, P. (2007).  web 1.0 vs web 2.0.  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Pan, A .  (2006).  Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0.  CC BY-NC-ND 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When users became able to interact with the sites they were visiting online, it was easy to see how the popularity of social networking sites grew rapidly, as the ability of users to draw on the collective intelligence of other users and ‘friends’ replicated networking in the physical sense but evolved to ‘networking on steroids’, as users were suddenly able to connect with people at any time in any place with the click of a button (O’ Reilly, 2005). Christopher Barnatt (2008, March 30) elaborates on this in the video below and suggests that Web 2.0 involves making connections between two or more people, items or applications, essentially allowing interpersonal computing aspects to integrate their offerings and provide a richer service than that of Web 1.0 sites.

 

This emergence of Web 2.0 and social networking challenged us to re-think our behaviour on the internet and, instead of viewing it as simply a place to gather information, users were able to go beyond this and create and discuss information with others around the world (De Rosea, Cantrell, Havens, Hawk & Jenkins, 2007, p. vii). As Meyer suggests when quoting from A. A. Milne, the concept of social networking that evolved with Web 2.0 has allowed us to connect with others where they are comfortable, instead of waiting for them to come to us, creating attractive  networking possibilities as we strive to create and maintain relationships both personally and professionally (as cited in Ishizuka, K, 2010, p.32).

The social networking craze that resulted from Web 2.0 is one that needs further exploration in the world of education.  If individuals have become so attracted to broadening their networks beyond physical forms and connecting with others in the digital world, it won’t be long before this concept is one we must consider in our classrooms.  We must consider how the emergence of Web 2.0 and social networking will push us from the world of static learning and information to the interactive.

Reference List

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J. & Jenkins, L.  (2007).  Sharing privacy and trust in our networked world: A report to the OCLC membership.  Dublin, Ohio: OCLC  [ebook].  Available from www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/sharing.pdf

Ishizuka, K.  (2010).  People who need people.  School Library Journal56(2), 32.

O’Reilly, T.  (2005) What is Web 2.0.  Retrieved from http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=2

 

 

 

From Hierarchical to Networked: Ensuring Lifeready and Lifeworthy Learning in the Digital Age

-John Dewey

Introduction

The relentless pace of change of the twenty-first century has framed learning as a cultural phenomenon as globalisation, technological advancements and the rise of the digital age have created a need for citizens to become lifelong learners who are constantly up-skilling in order to survive and thrive (Douglas & Seely Brown, 2011, loc 50; Jarvis, 2009, p.15).  The digital age has removed many of the physical restrictions placed on learning, as technologies allow us to travel around the world and access a ubiquity of information at the click of a button (Selwyn, 2013, p.2).

The Future of Learning (Redecker et al., 2011, p. 9).

The Future of Learning (Redecker et al., 2011, p. 9).

The image above provides a conceptual map of the future of learning and the influence of drivers and Information Communication Technology (ICT) trends on education means that, more than ever, teachers are expected to be adept at a variety of technology-based pedagogical practices in order to promote twenty-first century learning experiences for their students (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freedman, 2014, p.6). In response to the ever-changing notions of learning in the twenty-first century, Perkins suggests that educators must begin to provide learning experiences that are both ‘lifeworthy’- “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, p. 8), and ‘lifeready’ – “ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, p. 24).Consequently, as educators in this society, to offer lifeworthy and lifeready learning to our students, our classrooms must become what Boccini, Kampylis and Punie describe as ‘live ecosystems’, environments that constantly evolve and change to suit the context and culture of which they are a part (2012). It becomes essential then that we meet the learning needs of students by creating, “a sustainable learning ecology that is shaped by the ubiquity of information, globally responsive pedagogical practices, and driven by collaboration and informal learning in multiple access points and through multiple mediums” (O’Connell, 2015). The greatest challenge for educators in the digital age becomes how to alter their pedagogy and curricula to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning for students that will be likely to matter to them in their future (Perkins, 2014). Therefore networked concepts such as expert amateurism and connected learning are essential starting points for educators in ensuring the learning that happens in their classrooms is future-proof.

Lifeready and Lifeworthy Learning

In the video above, Alan November poses some important questions about the role of teaching and learning in the digital age.  He emphasises that we must accept the idea of ‘digital natives’ as a myth and acknowledge the fact that, just because today’s learners were born into the digital age, they are not necessarily prepared for learning in the digital age. Thus, we must accept that our society of ubiquitous information access does not make redundant the role of the teacher, as information access does not equal knowledge attainment (Seely Brown & Duguid, 2000). Rather, it becomes the role of the teacher to ensure that all learning experienced in the classroom is genuine, viable and future-orientated.  This is where Perkin’s notions of lifeready and lifeworthy learning become, essential for educators of the digital age in ensuring the currency and relevancy of what they are teaching.  Traditionally, education in schools has been concerned with educating for a known future, where tried and true hierarchical structures were dictated by curriculum organised into disciplines. Perkins asserts that while a hierarchical structure offers advantages of simplicity and organisation, it does not aptly reflect the learners of the digital age, who are living in an increasingly networked and globalised world, calling educators to rethink the how, what and why of teaching to incorporate the expanding measure of what is worth learning (2014, p.41).  Similarly, Douglas and Seely Brown suggest that we must consider the change in learning that happened with the move from the stable infrastructure of the twentieth century to the fluid infrastructure of the twenty-first century (2011, loc. 50).

Traditional Hierarchical Structure of Education (Perkins, 2014, p.41).

Traditional Hierarchical Structure of Education (Perkins, 2014, p.41).

Networked Structure of Education in the Digital Age (Perkins, 2014, p.42).

Networked Structure of Education in the Digital Age (Perkins, 2014, p.42).

Thus, a more networked approach to learning that incorporates lifeready and lifeworthy learning is essential as, “a network structure mirrors today’s multiplicity of engagements and serves today’s learners better: disciplines related to one another, teachers collaborating with one another, students interact richly with one another, drawing on diverse information sources, addressing twenty-first century skills, and engaging life and world problems and opportunities” (2014, p.47).  It becomes evident then, that educators must begin to consider how the influence of networked environments reshapes the learning that is valued by students in their classrooms and the relevance the learning that takes places will have in the lives their students are likely to live.

Expert Amateurism

The video above articulates perfectly the decreasing value of knowledge attainment alone in a world where we can access all of the information we need online.  What is more important is knowing how to ask the right questions and building the skills we need to assist us in knowing what to do when we do not know what to do.  Therefore, considering a networked curriculum that caters for expert amateurism, becomes a way for educators to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning that will enable them to succeed beyond their time at school.  Perkins states that an, “expert amateur understands the basics and applies them confidently, correctly and flexibly” (2014, p.38). Furthermore, this notion of expert amateurism serves much of the learning we do outside the school environment in our everyday lives.  While not devaluing the role of specialisation and traditional disciplines, expert amateurism has the potential to play an appropriate role at the foundation of our curricula in the digital age.  It allows us to practice the skills of lifelong learning as we apply what we know to look outwards towards the networked world around us, instead of inwards towards our insular scholarly disciplines.  Of course, our traditional focus on building expertise in each discipline by way of advanced technical content has value later in life as individuals choose to specialise in areas that interest them, however, in our school environments, this is unlikely to have much value to the majority of students in the lives they are likely to live (Perkins, 2014).  Embracing expert amateurism allows us to ensure that the students in our classrooms are able to make connections outside of specific learning areas and connect their learning to build greater understanding, just as they do in their everyday life outside of the classroom.

Expert Amateurism works to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning (Storm, 2013).

Expert Amateurism works to provide lifeready and lifeworthy learning (Storm, 2013).

Redecker et al., state that two of the biggest challenges in providing lifeready and lifeworthy learning are: providing transition between the worlds of school and future employment, and focussing on permanent re-skilling to enable all citizens to adjust quickly to new environments (2011, p.10).  As educators in the digital age then, we must work to build and model expert amateurism for our students to ensure that learning in the classroom is lifeready and lifeworthy.  When we consider the role of expert amateurism in a networked approach to learning, we are providing learning that allows students to use what they know to make connections and reflect best-practice in the digital age, as students are able to go beyond the insular walls of their classroom.  Expert amateurism provides students with the basics they need to thrive and survive in the twenty-first century as they navigate their way through an ever-changing and digital world.

Connected Learning

Connected learning provides an approach to teaching and learning that assists educators in building expert amateurism and move away from a hierarchical structure towards a networked structure of learning in their classroom.

The ever-present change of the twenty-first century means that educators have to seamlessly adapt their practices to suit new technologies, skills, learning environments and the needs of their students  (Cantrill, et. al., 2014, p. 4).   Outside of school, our students are learning, engaging and producing in productive and collaborative ways, using digital media and networked environments (Cantrill, et. al, 2014, p.6).  Thus, while not born in the digital age, the principles of connected learning are befitting of it, as it promotes student-driven connection that requires active participation and collaboration in front of a real-world audience (O’Connell, 2015b).   With the world at their fingertips, students of the digital age have diverse pathways in which they can access connected learning, enabling connections between their learning at school and their networks and interests outside of school, providing learning that is both lifeready and lifeworthy.  Embracing a connected learning framework in our pedagogical approaches enables us to draw focus away from particular technologies that often take precedent in the digital age, and instead, focus on the value of learning through, “purposeful integration of tools for social connection, creations and linking the classroom, community and home” (Ito, et. al., 2013, p.33).    As evidenced in the infographic below, connected learning encompasses production-centred, openly networked learning, that is driven by interests and shared purpose and allows for collaboration and academic growth.

Connected Learning (Connected Learning, 2013).

Connected Learning (Connected Learning, 2013).

The Connected Learning Framework below demonstrates the ability of connected learning to allow students to look outwards from curricula and create and build connections naturally, based on their interests.  With educators both guiding and modelling connected learning, there is much potential to provide learning that is lifeready and lifeworthy and conducive to the digital age.

Connected Learning Framework (Ito, et. al., 2013, p. 12).

Connected Learning Framework (Ito, et. al., 2013, p. 12).

The video below provides an authentic example of connected learning in practice. The combination of a student demonstrating the notion of expert amateurism combined with connected learning principles in this example attests to the power of learning that is both lifeready and lifeworthy.

Conclusion

The highly networked society of the digital age means that students are coming to school indoctrinated by our culture of lifelong learning, and if we are not careful, will be met with out-dated models of teaching and learning that do not promote engagement of lifeready and lifeworthy learning.  By foregrounding the way we learn in the digital age, rather than focusing on knowledge attainment and expertise alone, and embracing concepts such as expert amateurism and connected learning in our teaching practice, we will provide our students with the skills and ability to continue learning in their life beyond school.  We must begin to turn away from traditional hierarchical structures of education that could be seen to value what was already prescribed and valued knowledge and focus on building skills in learning that prepares students for learning in the world they are likely to live (Starkey, 2011, p. 19).  Siemansarticulates learning in the digital age as, “a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning… can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (2004, para. 23).  As educators, if we begin to explore the notions of expert amateurism and connected learning in our classrooms, we will be well on the way to meeting the needs of digital age learning.  If we continue to value the hierarchical practices of traditional education that value knowledge attainment alone, without evolving to more networked structures  promoting transferable knowledge and skills, we will not ensure that we are preparing students for lifeready and lifeworthy learning necessary of the digital age. We must begin to embrace a culture of learning indicative of twenty-first century practices in the digital age so that we are preparing students for their future, and not the future we thought they would have.

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