Tag Archives: reflect

Digital Literacy Defined?

Digital Literacies Peacock

Digital Literacies Peacock (Photo credit: *s@lly*)

What does it mean to be digitally literate? And who can actually answer that question today – teachers, administrators, researchers, students? I’m not sure I can do it justice. I think that’s one of my big takeaways from participating in the #etmooc Digital Literacy topic.

I have been busier than I expected these past two weeks so I have not had a chance to follow the Twitter and Google+ dialogues very closely or read many blog posts and I am definitely feeling that lack. The amount of learning and questioning I’m prompted to engage in by participating with the group is a credit to the #etmooc community and I hope I’m able to dive back in more next week. Still, from the archives I listened to and the one session I was able to attend (Howard Rheingold’s Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration & Network Know-How) live, I have come to realize that digital literacy or literacies is no simple topic.

In part, this is because there are still disputes about how to define literacy itself and then there is the challenge of trying to define something that is constantly shifting and changing in response to technology developments and cultural shifts. Similar to the use of “21st Century Skills,” at what point do they just become “skills” or “literacies”? Do we need to distinguish between the digital aspects and the analog ones?

Web literacy? (v0.1)

Web literacy? (v0.1) (Photo credit: dougbelshaw)

And then there is the question of whether to differentiate between skills and literacies. As Steve shares so well in this recent post, there are “nuances and emerging aspects of learning [specifically] through digital media.” I agree with the inherently contextual and cultural nature of (digital) literacies and the idea that while certain skills may be transferable between them (e.g., writing an email) the ways in which it is done can depend on the type of literacy used in that context. For example, when writing an email to a friend, young students might use very informal language or text speak but hopefully, when writing to teachers or professors, they code-switch to a more professional tone and different type of text and then they might have to adjust their practice again if they enter the workforce and learn the unique email protocols used there. I know I have found that in certain contexts, the expectation is that everyone at a conference or event will be tweeting and know how to converse in that type of 140 character, shortened URL code while at other conferences, I have to be aware that many people have never even seen a tweet and I need to be literate in other ways of communication to connect with them.

As an educator, what I think is important for me and others to consider is whether our students are cognizant of the different types of digital literacies they already know, of the digital literacies they will need to know, and of the concept of digital literacies as a whole? In reflecting on the past two weeks, I realized that while my schedule was busier I was also a little less motivated to blog/participate because I felt there was less creation work and more analysis of deeper concepts that I needed to do to wrap my head around digital literacies. Honestly, I love to sit back and just think and reflect on ideas but when I’m pressed for time, it becomes a lot more challenging and I definitely felt like digital literacies required … requires … a lot more thought before I feel like I have a true grasp of it.

So, my next project is to consider ways to create in order to better break apart and conceptualize digital literacies and then to consider projects that would be developmentally appropriate for my young students to create so they can begin to learn through this process too. When we were learning and sharing ideas about digital storytelling, I almost couldn’t resist posting multiple times during the week because I was having so much fun creating and learning and I wanted to share that with the #etmooc community. I’d like to find a way for that same level of excitement to be shared around digital literacies so that I can then invite my students into these engaging activities and open up an early dialogue with them about ways they can each define digital literacies for themselves.

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Giving GIFs a Try

One of the suggested #etmooc tasks for this week’s topic of digital storytelling is to make an animated GIF. I’ve never tried created a GIF but I’ve been very interested in testing it out, especially after watching the the “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the GIF” session with Jim Groom.

During the session there was an active backchannel via the #etmooc hashtag and someone asked about tools and apps to create GIFs. One of the suggestions was Cinemagram, which I promptly downloaded so I could test it out.

After checking out the app, I considered different things I could film to create my first GIF. I had hoped one of my cats might be a willing participant … but no such luck. Then, on my way into work today, I realized I had the perfect setting right outside my door – the playground.

I love playgrounds and think they can be wonderful places for play, exploration, and discovery. Given how many people have experienced a playground of some sort, I think they are also rich ground for calling on memories and prompting people to reflect on their own childhoods.

I created two GIFs to try and capture the movement of playgrounds. I appreciated the ability to slow the clip via Cinemagram because while action is often very fast on the playground when you’re a child, when you recall your experiences, things seem to slow down. Time is less of a factor and you’re able to gently savor a moment and think back to the people and places that share your playground memories with you. I’d be curious to hear what memories these GIFs might call up for others.

cinemagram_monkeybars
This first GIF shows swaying monkey bars, slowly yet perpetually migrating from side to side. To me, they tell the story of children who have swung on them over and over, of the desire young kids have to return to the same games time and time again. And while they sway, they are also not all in sync, reminding me of the discord that often develops among children during play when activities don’t always go as planned.

swing GIF

I debated about what story this next GIF was trying to tell (since I’m giving it a life of it’s own) and hopefully it will speak in different ways to different people. At first, I thought the GIF was a bit somber, showing empty swings with no one to enjoy them. But as I watched it some more, I felt it was actually a nice way to capture the peace and joy I often experience when swinging. I like how through the GIF I can capture the rhythmic repetition of gliding back and forth in one “still” scene and watching it, I actually begin to feel like I’m in motion too.

With all of that said, I’m not at all sure if I’m taking full advantage of all of the capabilities of Cinemagram and creating GIFs to capture a moment. Next, I hope to explore creating GIFs from photographs and using a tool like GIMP.