Here is a link to our Institute projects from our participant project page:
Dyad Project

Cool Tools Plan & Rubric:

Digital Literacies Institute Closing Reflection

Please provide a thoughtful and organized response to each question below.Your response may be in writing or it may take the form of a recorded podcast or video commentary. Feel free to be creative! All responses should be posted no later than August 5, 2013 at 5PM.
  • Describe some of the digital literacies that you learned about this week. What did you know about these topics before the week began and how have this week’s experiences contributed to your understanding of these digital literacies?
  • Now that you’ve had this professional development experience, how are you defining “digital literacy?” What is your personal perspective on digital literacy and how has your definition changed or evolved this week? Where possible, make specific connections to readings, conversations, presentations, or activities that were especially important to the evolution of your definition of digital literacy.

The most fascinating component of digital literacy that we discussed at the Institute is the participatory nature of media and technology. I believe outsiders often mistake digital literacy for ‘tech savvy’. While related, when we discussed digital literacy at the Institute it is clear that we’re thinking about much more than a student’s ability to use a technology tool. Students are no longer information and media consumers, but producers. There’s a creative and collaborative element to digital literacy that can help formulate empowered thinkers. Digital literacy by nature is social whether intended or not; that's why this type of skill development is so imperative. Because of this I found Mary Moen's presentation on e-safety particularly relevant. I often take for granted that my students are college-level and for the most part, adults. It is often easy to assume that their age and high school experience has prepared them to use technology responsibly, yet experience tells me it needs to be reinforced throughout their entire college careers, especially if they will be seeking employment after graduation.

A particularly interesting thought this week was the notion of ‘texts’. What are texts in 2013? As an academic librarian there is a lot of emphasis on ‘scholarly information sources’ in my field and practice. Libraries subscribe to databases; librarians and professors want (read: require) students to incorporate peer-reviewed articles into their research. Of course, this practice remains important. Students should be able to utilize a variety of sources and distinguish between source types. Yet, I worry that we are sending students off into the ‘real-world’ ill prepared to deal with the variety of texts they will most likely engage with and use in their personal and professional lives. The notion of opening up the term ‘text’ to include visuals, media, etc. may actually provide greater benefit to students in the long run.

I find the diagram below to successfully illustrate how we discussed digital literacies and how I’ve come to think of the term:

These components are essentially how I think about information literacy, which is my background. As an Information Literacy Librarian I rely heavily on the
Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL)'s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Ed.
These standards have not been updated since 2000 and I find they lack many of the concepts closely related to what we have discussed as digital literacy. The ACRL standards need to be updated and thankfully that process is underway. I anticipate seeing some of the language from the diagram and Institute in the new standards. I had an interesting conversation with another attendee this week about the term 'transliteracy'. The theories of 'transliteracy' and 'metaliteracies' have emerged over the past few years in an attempt to tie together information, media, and digital literacies. I believe we need to focus more on concepts and less on what we title them. Moreover, it's important to use terms that students will understand and recognize.

  • How do digital literacies affect the way you think about academic content? Describe an example of how some specific academic content is affected by changes in the ways we read, write and think with digital media texts, tools & technologies.

As a librarian, the most exciting example of how digital literacies have affected academic content is the open access movement and the era of digital scholarship. Scholarship and research has been long held behind stone walls and this is no longer necessarily the case. While many academic journals are charging libraries astronomical prices for subscription (often with embargo periods for access), more and more peer-reviewed scholarly content is going online for free. The open access movement creates more opportunity for scholars and students alike. In my opinion, scholarship is about sharing information and engaging in a conversation. Open access and web-based journals help facilitate these conversations and connect researchers and students in a more organic fashion than the previous model. This cultural shift--while even just slowly catching on--has also changed the conversation on what constitutes scholarship. Many academics blog on a regular basis and even achieve a degree of 'fame' and recognition for doing so. While this activity doesn't count toward scholarship at most academic institutions it is encouraging to think that one day it might.

  • How do digital literacies affect teaching practices? What overarching considerations must teachers give, in general, to the interactions of digital literacies and how to teach? Now, focus on your own pedagogical practice. How will your new understanding of digital literacy affect the way you teach? Describe an example of how you will differently employ a specific teaching practice in your own context as a result of what you learned this week.

The Simpsons episode that we watched deftly illustrated the point that for pedagogical success there's a happy medium incorporating digital tools to achieve digital literacies. Teachers need to recognize that students are engaging with digital tools in and out of schools and use this reality as a learning opportunity. Yet, what I most appreciated about the Institute was the clear emphasis on using technology or 'cool tools' only when they help achieve the desired learning outcome(s) and highlighting how digital texts can advance learning. We should not use technology for technology's sake, but really think about the 'why'. The Flower Model emphasizes this point as well; lesson planning doesn't start with the technology but rather considers it as a means to an end.

Watching Ms. K. in the Simpsons meltdown over the students' use of phones and texting really hit home to me, unfortunately. I tend to find it extremely distracting when students are texting and on facebook during class so I discourage it. This week has got me thinking that I could use this opportunity to have a conversation with students about e-etiquette and even incorporate social media into the class more frequently. For instance, as an Information Literacy instructor I often have students evaluate a piece of information (news article, website, etc.). Since the students are already on facebook, it might be interesting to have them look at their timelines and evaluate a post/link that one of their 'friends' has posted. Through class surveys I've found that a lot of the time students find out about major news stories through social media. If this is where they are getting their information they need to be able to properly evaluate it. Jeremy's presentation on Celly helped me change my mentality on students using technology in the classroom. If they're likely to use it anyway I may as well use it as a learning opportunity.

  • During the week, you were introduced to several concerns and promising practices around digital literacy, digital pedagogy, social networking, and student voice that are circulating among communities of educators, librarians, and youth media specialists. From your perspective, what promising practices show the most potential? Which specific concerns are most pressing? What key takeaways will you champion in your own work setting(s) so that together, you and your colleagues can (a) implement promising practices and (b) address issues of concern?

From my perspective the most promising practices I saw were the implementation of digital and media literacy curriculum in K-12 education, especially the Powerful Voices for Kids curriculum in K-6 education. This is especially promising to me because it is great to think about students already having many information literacy skills before they get to college. I'm often discouraged by the lack of understanding students seem to have about evaluating information/media and engaging in the digital world ethically and responsibly. I am now much more hopeful that we can achieve a continuous curriculum from K-16 education that will eventually graduate truly digital literate students. What concerns me is that those of us in higher education don't necessarily know what is being taught in the K-12 system. How can we know what students are learning or how they're being taught? Not enough folks in higher education pay attention to students' prior learning or incorporate digital literacy into the classroom. How can we expect students to succeed in a 150+ seat lecture-based class if they're used to participating in hands-on, team-based digital learning? I worry that there is a gap developing that will need to be addressed.

  • Consider the list of readings assigned for this course. Briefly summarize 1-2 key insights you gleaned from each cluster of readings (e.g., Digital Literacies in Context, Generating Questions, Instructional Strategies, and Next Steps). How do you see these insights connecting with ideas and experiences shared during the Institute (especially the Keynote and Digging Deeper Sessions)?

Digital Literacy in Context: Rushkoff and Turkle both reflect on the idea of 'digiphrenia' and our growing ability to 'be' at two places at the same time. How then, can we focus on anything? Rushkoff laughs at the idea of sharing pictures of an experience while you're in it: 'if it's not online then it didn't happen'. If we're spending energy posting photos of the party, how are we enjoying the party? It's anti-social behavior which is ironic because it revolves around social media. Trukle believes that because of this ability and behavior we expect people to be antisocial, to be less engaged. In Nicholas Carr's The Shallows, he argues that the internet is actually changing the wiring of our brains, especially Millennial students' brains. If this is true, how do we engage with students in the classroom? Where can we/should we draw the line on insisting on being present?

Generating Questions: Bowker and Wiggins address what I believe to be the key of education: critical thinking and asking questions. Students are too often trained to be information recepticals as part of what Paulo Friere calls 'banking education'. In banking education the teacher has all of the knowledge and deposits this knowledge on students. The teacher is the expert and asks the questions. Friere argues that this method of education exists to perpetuate classes of oppressed individuals and avoid instances of subversion. But when students are active learners with the ability to ask their own questions they become critical learners. As Bowker and Wiggins note, the world is full of answers there just aren't enough good questions. Students should be encouraged to create their own Essential Questions based on their own curiosity and passions. Fitness trainers often say that when it starts to hurt, that's when change is happening. I think this is also true for learning. When students are in the grey area--when there's no black or white--that's when the learning happens.

Frameworks: Project-Based Inquiry products as illustrated by Spires et. al and Harris & Hofer take our 'Generating Questions' one step further: students produce an artifact that demonstrates their ability to explore their essential question. The piece of the Spires et. al model that I find most effective is the "publish, present" component. Students produce and turn in traditional artifacts like the research paper on a regular basis. The only audience for this artifact is the teacher in most cases. What if that audience was everyone and anyone? Do students take more pride in project-based inquiry products because the artifact feels more professional and real-life based? No longer is work relegated to the classroom setting but open for engagement with the real world. Coiro's online reading protocol is especially interesting to me as I have several lessons geared toward website/online information evaluation. Narrating the thought process really highlights the critical thinking needed to do this activity well, which is exactly what I want students to realize.

Next steps: Hobb's white paper situates digital literacy as a civic imperative. She writes, "today full participation in contemporary culture requires not just consuming messages, but also creating and sharing them.". I find this statement to be at the heart of my interest in the subject and motivations for attending the Institute last week. The need for information, media, and digital literacies is that these skills go so far beyond the classroom walls. Education is largely focused on literacy development, traditionally the ability to read and write. But where are students reading and writing? Largely in digital media tools, and we need to prepare them to be able to do so effectively. The notion of the digital divide has often referred to simply access; who has access to the internet and who does not. I feel that this idea will begin to evolve to distinguish between those who achieve digital and media literacies and those that do not.

  • If you had one more day in the Institute, what would you like to learn more about and why?How will you leverage your professional learning network and your new digital literacies to explore your remaining questions over the coming year?

I would have loved to explore how we can bridge the gap between K-12 and college-level digital literacy initiatives, and not just for teacher training programs. My experience teaching undergraduates in information literacy has led me to believe that college students are not digital and media literate. How can we ensure that this kind of education is a continuous process? Where does media and digital literacy belong in higher education? As I begin my PhD program at Lesley University this fall I hope to explore these questions in more depth. I am so thankful to have met so many like-minded K-12 educators that I can partner with in the future to address these issues.