This is a continuation of a discussion presented in Mobile Media: Changing Educational Landscapes (Overview and Part I). For a synopsis, see this overview.
Myth of the Digital Native: put it to rest
Before I discuss mobile affordances, I thought I'd touch on the idea of the digital native. This is a topic others have discussed, but I think it is crucial to how we approach the problem of changing landscapes.
This term is troubling--culturally, ethnographically, and pragmatically. While our students may have grown up using computers, many lack sophistication, few are capable of critical self-reflection. They need opportunities to think through complex issues of identity formation, knowledge creation/validation. and network building.
The idea of the Digital Native is often based on a misappropriation of Marc Prensky's 2001 argument about the divide between "Digital Native, Digital Immigrant" (pdf). The reification of the Digital Native not only risks dubious essentialisms around questions of demographics and language acquisition by asserting an analogy between those born before the 1960s and second language learners from immigrant families—Prensky suggests both share an "accent" of sorts. It also avoids difficult questions about the social differences that mark digital culture across age, gender, race, and class distinctions.
Experts are beginning to come to terms with the magnitude of cultural changes created by a shift in communications technologies. 10, 20 200, 500 years(?) How long until we understand the scope of the social impact of these new technologies. After all, we're still grappling with effect of the printing press.
The study of digital culture and mobile media studies are growing and contested fields of research. Careful consideration of their importance to teaching and teaching is beyond this scope of these posts, even though they do influence my thinking. My main concern with is that we need to understand the disparate, often contradictory skill sets students bring to bear on post-secondary education.
On a pragmatic level, as Prensky (along with a host of others) suggests, we need to aware of the shifting cultural space of education and the dramatic impact of new media on the classroom. This a point Cathy Davidson makes clearly in her discussions on rethinking education beyond the confines of industrial learning.
My concern is that too often we make assumption about the students abilities and facilities and in so doing, fail to carefully consider the deeper pedagogical implications of teaching in this networked and mediated age. To wit, I like to recommend to students that they check out the digital tattoo, a website/tool set up at UBC to help students understand their digital identity and to protect themselves.
It is incumbent on educators, artists, curators, and other cultural theorists to be vigilant to the actors and networks changing around us. I invoke Bruno Latour's ANT (actor-network theory) (reference), because it helps me to think about the landscape of education in a very broad sense and to new configurations of human and non-human actors and the myriad links between us.
The increasing diversity of students can not be thought of or approached separately from the proliferation of hardware and software that is reshaping our teaching and learning environment, our lives. The laptop, cellphone, ipad, digital projector, ipod, as well as moodle, tumblr.com, wordpress, buddypress, twitter.com, posterous.com, facebook.com need to thoughtfully and carefully understood in terms of a web of intricate association.
II Looking for Affordances
To move this discussion back into the realm of the practical and pragmatic, I'd like discuss Mobility Shifts, a recent conference at the New School in New York. This conference brought together digital educators and innovators to discuss mobile media and open access to education. The organizers said, the conference was motivated by a crisis in the US system of post-secondary education (higher tuition costs, escalating student debt, and a struggle for universities to remain relevant).
To highlight the main ideas, I would like to quote from John Belshaw’s blog post:
5 key trends for the future of education
Openness - This has been going on for a while, but there's a real drive towards open access for academic research in particular.There is a feeling that education and public services should be open and transparent.
Greater insight into the knowledge creation process - This is similar to openness but pertains to the creation of articles, books and other material. It's not just the output that should be shared, but the context of how it was put together.
Mobile learning. - The big movement at the moment outside the conference is BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) but the focus at Mobility Shifts was upon mobile for ubiquitous learning. It's not so much about the mobility of the device but the multiple ways in which the learner is mobile.
Alternative forms of assessment - This is a big one with Mozilla's Open Badges leading the way. Because assessment often drives the structure of learning, this is key.
Rethinking the classroom environment - This goes hand-in-hand with the curricula redesign necessitated by alternative forms of assessment. How should we build new (or reorganise existing) classrooms?
Without going into a play-by-play of the different conversations presented at Mobility Shifts, I'd like to point to a number of people / projects helping in thinking about making positive changes to the landscapes of education.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it suggests a few interesting and, for me, watershed projects.
Trebor Scholz: Mobility Shifts organizer, collectivate.net, and editor of Learning Through Digital Media: Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy (online)
Shin Mizukoshi: Mobile Media theorist and specialist at the Univ of Tokyo (Hastac link)
John Willinsky: Standford Professor (link) and advocate for open source academic publishing, involved with the Public Knowledge Project.
Bob Stein and the future of the book are radically transforming the way we think about and experience books.
Mimi Ito: Cultural Anthropologist and author of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media (pdf). Ito's work helps us to understand the diverse experience shaping young peoples use of social media.
Mike Wesch: Prof of Anthropology at Kansas State University (see digital ethnography). Wesch is well known for his youtube channel and ground breaking (co-creative) work with students.
Cathy Davidson: Duke English Prof, author, geek, educational mover and shaker (fast company article). Check out. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press June 2011 publication date). 2010. [web]
Matthew Gold: One of the creatives of the CUNY Commons, a buddy press built multiuser blog the multiple campuses of the City University of New York.
Geert Lovink: digital editor, publisher, activist (see Institute of Network Cultures). Lovink's understanding of the need to support writers on the level of content while respecting the human/emotional side of academic publishing is important.
Eric Gordon: Professor of Media Studies at Emerson and Director of Engagement Game Lab. Gordon's approach to engagement vs. participation is extremely useful and will be more fully discussed in Part III of this series.
Closer to Home, I should also mention
Brian Lamb (blog) and BCCampus. Both have had an important influence on eLearning in BC and on my own teaching and learning directly.
Part I: Mobile Media Changing Educational LandscapesPart III: Mobile Media Changing Educational Landscapes