Connected learning & digital literacy

James Paul Gee offers a powerful reflection which, for me, presents core understandings for connected learning and digital literacy. In his view he argues for one fundamental principle, namely
“It is, rather, the study of how digital tools and new forms of convergent media, production,and participation, as well as powerful forms of social organization and complexity in popular culture, can teach us how to enhance learning in and out of school and how to transform society and the global world as well.” (Gee, 2009, p. 14). (my bold type)
It is the combination of digital media and technology and relationships, that is, the connections and collaborations made through ‘powerful forms of social organization’ that is enhancing learning in formal and informal settings. Nussbaum-Beach & Ritter Hall (2012, p. 11) refer to ‘do-it-yourself learning’ mentality which is tied closely to Jenkin’s participatory culture (Jenkins, 2006) which we live in. Technology has allowed us  to ‘orchestrate our own learning’ as producers not only consumers of information – to become connected learners! (ibid) Certainly, in my own personal professional practice, the use of tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn has allowed me to connect with other educators around the globe. Some of these educators, I develop and maintain sustainable personal relationships with while others introduce me to current research and professional practice – as  ‘news feeds’ which takes me down different avenues of exploration, that I may not have found by myself.  Digital tools allow me to manage my personal and information networks.
Gee’s definition above also encapsulates what is digital literacy. It is not just about the tools or the technology, but also the media, production and participation happening within popular culture. It ties in with Paul Gilster’s (1997) definition of digital literacy which is “an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources” (Bawden, 2008, p.18).  Bawden continues later to explain that significantly it is “about the ideas and mindsets, within which particular skills and competences operate, and about information and information resources, in whatever format” (Bawden, 2008, p.19) .
Course readings also resonated  “Research on digital literacy often focuses not only on what it means to be digitally literate but also on the impact on a human being of not being digitally literate.” (CSU, Module 1.5). This brings to mind research such as Future Work Skills 2020, with its recommended ten skills that our students need to be taught in order for their future. All of them to my mind are connected with digital literacy:
  • sense-making
  •  social intelligence
  •  adaptive thinking
  •  cross-cultural competency
  •  computational thinking
  •  new-media literacy
  •  transdisciplinarity
  •  design mindset
  • cognitive load management
  •  virtual collaboration
Both connected learning and digital literacy have immediate implications for my own personal teaching practice. By introducing and developing information literacy/transliteracy skills and strategies to my upper elementary classes, I am encouraging them to critically think about the information they find and use. To ensure they are able to evaluate the reliability and credibility   of different information sources, and which will meet their information need. Part of my program is also covering  digital citizenship. That they see themselves as part of a ‘participatory culture’ where they need to understand Creative Commons, and be ethically responsible (to have respect for copyright, intellectual property, and to reference sources).
Gee sees these ‘new media literacies’ as transformational agents to enact change – both on a societal level and globally. My current explorations are showing the change that is happening within and without of the school environs.  I already can see the connections to my scholarly book review on Redesigning education – Shaping learning systems around the globe
Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In Digital literacies: concepts, policies & practices (pp. 17 – 32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Beach, Sheryl, and Lani Ritter Hall. “Defining the Connected Educator.” The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age. (pp. 9 – 24). Solution Tree, 2012. Print.

“Future Work Skills 2020.” IFTF: Future Work Skills 2020 . Institute for the Future, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. <;.

Gee, Paul James. “New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and “Worked Examples” as One Way Forward.” The MIT Press, 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <;.

Jenkins, Henry. “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture : Media Education for the  21st Century.” The MIT Press, 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 18 Mar. 2015. <;.