Well, it has been an interesting ride since my first blog last summer when I began the graduate certificate program Teaching & Learning in a Knowledge Society. As the final course in my first year of graduate work comes to an end, I am charged with the task of reflecting back own what new literacies I have developed, and how my learning and teaching practices have been impacted.
I have certainly gained new knowledge on a number of aspects of teaching and learning in the twenty-first century: knowledge about learning theories like Connectivism and Socio-constructivism, and the t-pack framework for content, pedagogy and technology. I have developed a better understand of the power of social media and Web 2.0 tools like twitter, wikis and blogs, and know how to use them to collaborate digitally on a project with someone living in a different province. I have expanded my knowledge of the benefits and challenges of technology in teaching and learning, and the elements of digital citizenship that I need to both practice and teach. But is it accurate to call these new literacies?
Belshaw (2011) points out that “Equating literacy with knowledge is relatively unproblematic if the latter is a static concept.” (p.56). I don’t believe that knowledge is static. Belshaw also highlights the perspective that “digital literacy is not a ‘fixed’ attribute, and that not everything worth measuring can be measured.” (p. 29). I would tend to agree, seeing all forms of literacy as dynamic processes that are not easy to assess.
To state that I have developed ‘digital literacy’ or ‘visual literacy’, could be misleading. The word ‘developed’ is a past tense term, that can hold some connotations about being finished, as when we used to have photos developed. If I have learned anything at all about teaching and learning in the 21st century, it is that we are never finished. New tools and contexts place us in a perpetual state of developing new literacies.
Belshaw (2011) arrives at a definition of literacies which includes the phrases “intellectual empowerment” and “transformation in human thinking capacities”. (p. 90). If this is true, then what transformations have occurred in my thinking capacities as a result of my learning experiences this past year? How do I view the processes of teaching and learning differently than before? In what ways do I feel intellectually empowered?
Here are some key concepts and phrases that reflect a few of my transformations and feelings of empowerment:
- Teaching and learning is about building and fostering connections – between people, ideas and contexts.
- We don’t have to know it all, at least not today! But we do need to know how and where to find it, evaluate it, and apply it. (And cite our sources!)
- Being a digital citizen comes with rights and responsibilities that we must acknowledge, embrace, and intentionally teach.
- My two worlds, personal and professional, don’t have to remain separate or collide. They already exist together, as two sides of the same coin.
- Going forward doesn’t mean leaving the past behind. We just need to bring it with us!
- Most importantly, it is ALL about literacy!
Belshaw’s description of literacy cited earlier also includes the notion that literacies are “only meaningful within a social context”. How have I made use of new literacies? By welcoming students’ own digital devices as learning tools in the classroom, in facilitating the use of a Web 2.0 tool for a staff PD activity, I have made meaningful changes in my practice. Looking ahead to next year, I am already planning ways to incorporate blogging and elements of digital storytelling in my Grade Six classroom.
I have have engaged with some aspects of digital literacy, tool literacy, media literacy, and transliteracy, but I think the biggest literacy I am developing (present tense intentional) is the literacy of learning. After 15 years as a teacher, it has been great to be truly back in the role of the student once again. In learning about digital learning by being a digital learner, I feel better equipped for Teaching and Learning in a Knowledge Society.
But I’m certainly not finished.