Mar 162015
 

You might think that as I teach about using social media that I would want to interact with my students using Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, in order to give them feedback about their work. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, and the more that I teach about social media, the more I am reminded of the value of face-to-face discussions.

It’s become all too easy to suggest to learners on my modules that they can catch-up with the notes from each of the lecture sessions by reading the PDF documents that I post on my website. In a way this get me off a massive hook. I can assume that my teaching responsibilities have been exercised because I have sent out an email pointing learners in the direction of the notes.

Likewise I can safely assume that everything that is written in the notes is understandable and legible, and that any reasonable person – in my mind at least – would be able to figure them out.

But this isn’t really the case, and the more that I interact with learners on my modules, the more I have a growing sense that all of the digital forms of communication we have available to us are actually leading to lower levels of understanding.

When I sit with a learner, and we discuss the issues that have been covered in the lectures, or that crop-up in the reading, I can only really get a good sense of what is being understood by reading their face, looking at their eyes, and giving them time to think through the ideas that we are contemplating.

The stress of modern learning delivery is all focussed on delivery by technology and what’s being squashed is the one-on-one learning, in which a student sits with a tutor and they ask each other questions about the tasks or the issues to be discussed. I can’t do this very well with social media. Yes, it’s possible to give feedback using Skype or other visual and audio forms of social media, but this doesn’t get anywhere close to sitting and chatting.

One thing I would like to develop in my modules, then, are more sessions where we sit and chat with each other about the topics and the ideas we are covering. A café-style room would be ideal. Small tables that three of four learners can sit around and participate in discussions. I’d even suggest that we order tea or coffee every now and again, and really settle in to a vibrant discussion.

Those learners who are able to sit with me, I hope are well adjusted to the extended process of learning at university, rather than just being people who process information and regurgitate so-called knowledge.

Feb 052014
 

Collaborative media skills are used extensively by learners on TECH1002 Social Media & Technology, TECH2002 Social Media Production, TECH3022 Advanced Social Media Production, with the potential to be used in many other modules within the Leicester Media School. These modules focus primarily on the use and critical development of digital literacies, promoting active participation in social media production communities. Underpinning the pedagogic practice of the modules is a recognition that “In an information age… it becomes essential to prepare students for… new literacies because they are central to the use of information and the acquisition of knowledge. Traditional definitions of literacy and literacy instruction will be insufficient if we seek to provide students with the futures they deserve” (Donald J. Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004).

In supporting this learners are encouraged to avoid the ‘banking’ model of learning, and instead approach their use of online or digital media as a participant in a community of practice. As Jones & Hafner suggest “the five main changes that we see as most relevant to the kinds of literacy practices that will be required in the ‘new work order’. They are: 1) a shift away from manufacturing work to ‘knowledge work’, 2) the distribution of work across large geographic distances, 3) a de-emphasis on the ‘workplace’ as a place where people work, 4) a flattening of hierarchies within organisation, and 5) a weakening of the relationships between employers and employees” (Jones & Hafner, 2012, p. 175). In emphasising collaborative knowledge and production techniques and relationships there is a need for learners, therefore, to reflexively analyse their own status as a participant in a network of co-learners and collaborators.

In embracing these techniques, as Rheingold argues, it is important to not that with the “proliferation of literacies and divides that accompany them are a real problem. It isn’t easy to maintain a high level of basic reading and writing literacy, and the percentage of the population that can afford the time and money to learn additional multiple literacies is undoubtedly going to remain small, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an elite. The multiliterate can be a public – a networked public” (Rheingold, 2012, p. 253). None of which can be done, however, without testing the framing within which digital and social media literacies are enabled. Incorporated in these forms of practice and reflection, therefore, is an emphasis on critical questions and responses to the dominant and mainstream use of media. Using Belshaw’s elements of digital literacy learners are asked to self-evaluate their own practices and review each of the critical elements that are closest to their experience of  ‘media literacy’. According to Belshaw “Questions relevant here include: who is the audience? who is included? who is excluded? what are the assumptions behind this text? and so on’” (Belshaw, 2013, p. 53).

The use and practice of the DMU Commons is structured around the following themes:

  • Principles of Collaboration – how media production is increasingly co-developed and co-produced.
  • Critical Encounters with Media – encourage learners to reflect on how they define, access, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate using digital and social media.
  • Strategic Analysis: learners are expected to show awareness of the cultural, cognitive, constructive,  and communicative practices that the undertake, so that they can reflect on their effectiveness in and confidence in producing creative work that has a civic usefulness founded in critical reflection.
  • Employability Skills: many production companies now use collaborative and social media tools to support production, encourage innovation and to open the process of intellectual practice and knowledge work as a collaborative practice. This recognises the shift away from block audiences, linear production management techniques, and the enhanced status of networks and non-linear knowledge management skills.
  • Practice and Experience: These skills are most effectively taught through forms of practice that make use of shared resources, collective knowledge development, real-time information management, decentralised moderation, peer and network interactions.

DMU Commons Blogs:

http://futuremedia.our.dmu.ac.uk/

wpid-Future-Media-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgExperiential Learning: allows learners to showcase their work, build an online persona, collaborate in a web-document, integrate and embed other social media tools, reflexively evaluate their social media use, face outwards into wider media production and social media communities.

Literacies Acquired: blog development, reflexive writing, still and moving image appreciation and use, persona development through reflexive practice, social media networking skills networking, WordPress shortcodes,

 

Blackboard Wiki:

wpid-Blackboard-Wiki-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgThis is a limited tool that does not reflect general practice in the real-world. Learners produce content only for themselves and their tutors, limiting their expectations that the wiki entries that they make have the potential to be found, linked-to, quoted and challenged on the World Wide Web. Ring-fenced media practice opportunities delay learning as they give learners a false sense of security, a limited expectation and ambition to innovate and experiment, and a limited desire to ‘bank’ their knowledge with their tutor, rather than exchange it in a wider knowledge economy of which they are legitimate and responsible practitioners.

Media Wiki:

http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Mediawikis_for_research,_teaching_and_learning

wpid-Media-Wiki-001-2014-02-5-14-191.jpgAccording to Schneider, Beneto & Ruchat “Mediawiki, the technology developed for Wikipedia, has interesting affordances for supporting a range of teaching and other scholarly activities” (Schneider, Benetos, & Ruchat, 2013). They argue that Mediawikis facilitate the integration of diverse academic activities, the combination of learning management with knowledge management, and do so at a reasonable cost. Media Wiki is a standard format for wikis, as the platform that supports Wikipedia, the worlds largest and most accessed wiki, it has a strong founding in open-source development, not-for-profit knowledge exchange, reliability, cost-effective resource use, collaborative moderation of content and usability (with some simple instruction). It is not ‘coding’ or ‘programming’ heavy to use, it has a very robust discussion and moderation capability, and it offers increased integration with many content management systems and social media applications.

Proposal:

Host a DMU Commons Wiki that can be used as a shared network resource by students and staff at De Montfort University based on the Media Wiki platform. Promote the wiki as a knowledge-exchange community that brings learners, researchers and collaborators together to share information, ideas and academic best-practice. Media Wiki can be linked to the LDAP server so only enrolled students, researchers and staff at DMU will be able to access the wiki for editing and moderation purposes. Integrating Media Wiki skills in the taught module provision of the social media production modules, and encouraging other colleagues and learners to take-up the facility will generate usage and on-going monitoring of the system by a group of core users, with other moderators and users encouraged to participate through CELT.

References:

Belshaw, D. (2013). Essential Elements of Digital Literacies   Retrieved from http://dougbelshaw.com/ebooks/digilit/

Donald J. Leu, J., Kinzer, C. K., Coiro, J. L., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a Theory of New Literacies Emerging From the Internet and Other Information and Communication Technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart – How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Schneider, D. K., Benetos, K., & Ruchat, M. (2013). Mediawikis for Research, Teaching and Learning   Retrieved from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Mediawikis_for_research,_teaching_and_learning

 

Jan 282014
 

I’ve recently been introduced to the ideas of Critical Pedagogy and how the concepts of progressive and radical social change as an objective of education and learning practice that goes beyond the role that individuals can play and, instead, offers a much more radical idea about social change. It seems to me that as media and social practice have changed, and as expectations of technological capabilities and their affordances have become more dispersed, we have witnessed a shift in thinking about the role that literacies play in a range of social process.

Academic debates and studies of the role and function of media literacy are widespread and challenging, and are well documented. But with the shift towards information and communication technology as an integrated part of our individual experience, there has been a surge in the discussion and the documentation of this new vista of human interaction. The lived experience of users and producers of media content is moving centre stage and is increasingly recognised for its capacity to inculcate a vibrant sense of participation in dispersed and decentred media cultures (McCarthy & Wright, 2004).

At the same time, expectations about the capabilities and skills that are thought to be needed by agents acting in this emerging economy of media practice are being revised and opened-up. Indeed, the simple fact that we can talk about an emerging form of agency at all in this way is significant. The role that digital literacies play, moreover, are clearly important, particularly as they are recognised as an essential, and therefore primary function and characteristic of this emerging world. This is a function that is shaping the economic and the social nature of the Twenty First Century, and as such is no insignificant issue to explain.

The introduction, then, of new media and communication technologies, has prompted a thorough re-evaluation of the nature of civic interaction, professional interaction, politics, economics and social and community experience, and many more forms of human collaboration and communication. Socially networked individuals and communities are therefore forcing the established and dominant interest groups to face-up to new patterns of mass media consumption that are different from the way that they where laid-down in the Twentieth Century. This wholesale revision, it could be argued, is being enacted on the basis that the formerly passive subjects of consumption-based mass media practices, are becoming intrinsically active as social agents, and are reflexive, participative and engaged in a widespread array of socially mediated communities of intertextual representation, self-identification and ironic role management. For example, when the Pope is taking and sending selfies, it is clear that something significant is going on.

It would be useful to remember, perhaps, that during a time when social change is recognised as so widespread, and potentially more far reaching, that we should not make the mistake of assuming that the experiences we are sharing are in any way unique. Yes, they have many novel traits, and they allow us to do many novel things, but overall the legacy of past historical changes will remain with us as an inscribed memory in the practice of the present. As Zygmunt Bauman reminds us, the danger is that “in a world such as ours, one is therefore compelled to take life bit by bit, as it comes, expecting each bit to be different from the proceeding one and to call for different knowledge and skills” (Bauman in Bauman & Donskis, 2013, p. 145).

In actual fact, many of the changes that we experience now, and respond to as if they are entirely new, have echo’s in the past from different times. For Bauman now “It’s all about convenience, stupid – about an effortless comfort and comfortable effortlessness; about making the world obedient and pliable; about exercising from the world all that might stand, obstinately and pugnaciously, between will and reality. Correction: as reality is what resists the will, it is all about getting rid of reality. Living in a world made of one’s wishes alone; of mine and your wishes, of our – purchases, consumers, users and beneficiaries of technology – wishes” (Bauman in Bauman & Donskis, 2013, p. 151).

It would be a mistake, therefore, to eulogise the role of culture in this process, but as Richard Hoggart argues

“Culture is a sign of disinterested goodness, of brains and imagination used to give liberty and poise. Behind the often strange form of striving is a wish for the assumed freedom, for the power and command over himself, of the ‘really cultured’ man. This may be a delusion, since it expects more from culture than culture can give; but it is a worthy delusion” (Hoggart, 1957, p. 257).

Bauman, Z., & Donskis, L. (2013). Moral Blindness – The Loss of Sensitivity in Liquid Modernity. London: Polity Press.
Hoggart, R. (1957). The Uses of Literacy. London: Chatto & Windus.