What Does it Mean to be Digital Literate?

Doug Belshaw responds to the question as to the biggest mistake when it comes to digital literacies. After pointing out that they are plural, context-dependent and socially-negotiated, he explains that it is not something that one necessarily becomes.

There is no stance from which you could call someone ‘digitally literate’, because (as Allan Martin has pointed out), it is a condition, not a threshold. There is no test you could devise to say whether someone was ‘digitally literate’, except maybe at a very particular snapshot in time, for a very defined purpose, in a certain context. source

I have elaborated on Belshaw’s book here.

Leadership: Flat-Footed or Future Focused?

David Culberhouse discusses the need to be proactive as a leader or else actions will be pushed on you.

In the end, the worst stance is to be flat-footed and motionless, when change and disruption comes a calling, determined to pull the rug out from under you, to have the future forced upon you.  Rather, we need leaders drenched in awareness, connecting dots, searching for signals, willing to intentionally design our way forward in a much more proactive manner. source

Leadership Like Rock Climbing

Paul Browning discusses the challenges associated with leadership. In particular, he focuses on responding to the unknown.

Leadership is a bit like rock climbing (my son took me indoor climbing over Easter). When you look up the cliff face looks formidable, unachieveable. Half way up your arms begin to shake, particularly if you are using the wrong technique. If you look down your courage can falter and you think you can’t push on any further.But like rock climbing, leadership is a skill, that with practise, can be improved. You only get better at it when you are faced with a new over-hang, new hold, or new rock face.Good leaders will assess each challenge. Have I seen this before? What did I learn last time? Should I tackle this a bit differently? Who can I ask for advice? And if I make a mistake, what is the worst that is going to happen? I’ll have to apologise, adjust my strategy and give it another go.Rock climbers, like leaders never get any better by looking at the cliff. They can learn by watching others, but the real learning happens when you hook on and give it a go. source

This reminds me of the work of David Culberhouse around embracing the VUCA.

Care in Educational Social Spaces

There has been a lot written about the potential of social media. However, there is just as much discussed around the limitations of such spaces and the ease to with which we can confirm our biases. One aspect that has arisen over time is the place and power of tribes and with this some negative attributes, such as trolling. In a recent post, Marten Koomen wonders about the place of care in such spaces.

Many educators approach education from an ethic of care and are particularly prone to bullying. As Noddings (2003) explains, a person who engages others from an ethic of care “is not seeking the answer but the involvement” (p. 176). Care is of primary importance in education. It is through an ethic of care that new insights and understandings become possible. When involvement is inauthentic and hostile, those engaging can experience toxicity and distress. Of course, those who approach life from an ethic of care still need to reason, but this reasoning needs to proceed with an empathy for different perspectives. It requires moral development (Gilligan, 1977; Kohlberg, 1971; Murphy & Gilligan, 1980). source

It is interesting to consider this alongside Michael Caulfield’s discussion of technology designed to meet a demand and whether spaces such as Twitter are designed to support and sabotage a culture of care?

Technology Designed to Meet a Demand

What comes first, the technology or the hoax? Michael Caulfield examines a hoax involving people living on the surface of the moon in the 19th century. He makes the case that this event was not created to promote newspapers, but vice versa. Newspapers and mass print was designed to promote such events:

In other words, you can think of the hoax as meeting a demand technology creates. The hoax is hyperreal, the realer-than-real event custom-built for the technology it will inhabit. It doesn’t subvert the technology as much as exploit it to its full potential. The hoax, not reality, shows the underlying logic of the platform, and lays it bare.
The hoax is the unbridled platform made manifest.Whether we realize it or not, that’s where  we are with social media at this moment. The proliferation of hoaxes have repeatedly shown the moral bankruptcy of our current platforms, and just as early hoaxes of the 1800s started a conversation that would lead to modern journalistic ethics, we are beginning to have that discussion now about our online presses and virtual barking newsboys. And just like then, the question is not primarily about hoaxes, but about what we should be able to expect, in terms of ethics, from the people running and developing our information platforms. source

This relates to the idea that [[technology is never neutral]].


This makes me wonder what the purpose of technology, such as NAPLAN and Google Docs is fufilling?

People Are Always Your Best Resource

In a short post, George Couros argues that people are any organisations most important resource. Although there may be the most outstanding values statements in place, if this does not connect and respect the individuals then it will always be limited.

To do work that matters, people need to know that they are the best resource your organisation will have, and they have to be utilised according to this belief.  If you do not bring out the best in them, nothing you write on any document will matter.  Those visions and mission statements can become important, but only people can bring them to life.Source

Another take on this is Brad Gustafson’s take on Start With Why in that in schools we should start with the students first. While Dean Shareski suggests that people and connections are what matters when leaving a conference.

Open Office Stress

The claim is made that open offices were designed as a part of the third industrial revolution where skilled people could come together and collaborate. Reports since the 70’s have discovered that this is not the case and that such spaces increase stress and reduce productivity.

Another design-based example is open-plan offices. In the push to lower overheads—and under the false assumption that it would encourage better working practices—private rooms were traded for non-divided workspaces. This resulted in environments that increase stress, particularly due to noise. Stress has become the dominant cost to human health at work. A 2016 report found that stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases in the UK and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.Source

In response to Apple’s new open planned architecture, Rima Sabina Aouf summarises some scrutiny:

Open-plan offices have become more common since the 1990s but have come under scrutiny in recent years. A recent Haworth’s white paper said that open-plan offices are “sabotaging” employees’ ability to focus at work, with office workers losing 28 per cent of their productive time due to interruptions and distractions.

Similarly, Gensler’s 2016 UK Workplace Survey found that workers were more likely to innovate if they had access to a range of spaces supporting different working styles – including private, semi-private and open-plan environments.

These discussions remind me of the experience described by Aaron Swartz.

Collaboration Should Be Natural

Gary Stager wonders about all the hype surrounding Google Docs and it’s collaborative edge. In discussing his decades of experience, he suggests that writing is selfish and that collaboration should not be forced. Instead, he argues that for collaboration to work it needs to be natural.

Cooperation and collaboration are natural processes. Such skills are useful when the creative process benefits from interdependence. The best collaboration mirrors democracy when individual talents, knowledge, or experiences are contributed to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.

Work with your friends. Work with people you trust. Work with people who have different skills or expertise. If that doesn’t produce the result you desire, you will find others to collaborate with. That is how you learn to collaborate. You may teach it, but the students will not stay taught.

Honestly, I could not care less about whom my students (kids or adults) choose to work with. The only reason to assign group size is scarcity of materials (we have to share). Even in those largely avoidable scenarios, it hardly matters if group size varies a bit. The main consideration is inactivity by some members when a group is too large.

Collaboration is both selfish and selfless. You give of yourself by sharing your talent and expertise, but the collaboration should benefit you as well.Source

This is a useful provocation in thinking about technology and 21st century learning.

Collective Network

Andrea Stringer discusses the voices of teachers within education, the power of coaching to develop expertise and the overall potential for collective efficacy. Aspects such as social media provide a way of supporting this.

For expertise in the classroom and in leadership, colleagues, my professional learning network, professional reading and discourse support me. I also tap into the expertise of academics I have connected with via Twitter. With that broad depth of expertise, I learn, explore, implement and reflect. It is about connecting, building relationships, increasing awareness and developing empathy. Social media has provided a platform for this to happen, although some sectors have restrictions. Social media decreases the traditional hierarchy within education and allows more stakeholders the opportunity to connect.Source