Writing as a Community Practice

In a recent post on the Digital Media & Learning blog the topic of Community and Writing in an Age of New Collectives was explored.  The most interesting point was the recognition that writing is a community practice.  This is likely the result of literacy emerging from oral tradition (see Walter Ong for an in-depth treaty on orality and literacy).

Besides the importance in understand that community encourages stronger writing, the post argues that to fully prepare students to write, we need to prepare students for community.   Also, the audience is crucial.

One way to do this is by leveraging the communities that students are already participating in, from those in their local neighborhoods, to online communities such as those around fanfics or social networks. The ability of computer networks to connect students with others in different physical locations provides a fertile ground for teaching students how to interact with new communities of writers.

They argue that this is the responsibility of schools, but I would disagree.  Schools only offer a temporary community for these students, whereas libraries offer a lifetime community.

The Twelve Cognitive Processes that Underlie Learning

So many people are thinking, talking, reading, writing and working towards 21st Century Skills, from what I can see most of them are not librarians and libraries don’t figure into their projections or plans. While I am heartened to see so many groups thinking about our problems, I’m discouraged at the lack of a role for libraries, whether school, public or academic.

I recently came across another group working to ensure students acquires the skills necessary for to be successful citizens in today’s world. Engines for Education was founded by Roger Schank who writes at Education Outrage

Dr. Schank was the Founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where he is John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology. He was Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Yale University and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He was a visiting professor at the University of Paris VII, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Linguistics at Stanford University and research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland. He also served as the Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a fellow of the AAAI and was founder of the Cognitive Science Society and co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from University of Texas.

From Engines for Education (emphasis added by me)

The following cognitive skills are developed gradually over time. This is the stuff that we need to learn how to do in order to function well in the world. . The more proficient you are at these skills, the smarter you appear and the more you can learn:

Conceptual Processes

1. Prediction: Making a prediction about the outcome of actions
2. Modeling: Building a conscious model of a process
3. Experimentation: Finding out for oneself what works and what doesn’t
4. Evaluation: Improving our ability to determine the value of something on many different dimensions

Analytic Processes

5. Diagnosis: Making a diagnosis of a complex situation by identifying relevant factors and seeking causal explanations
6. Planning: Learning to plan and do needs analysis as well as acquiring a conscious and subconscious understanding of what goals are satisfied by what plans
7. Causation: Detecting what has caused a sequence of events to occur by relying upon a case base of previous knowledge of similar situations
8. Judgment: Making an objective judgment

Social Processes

9. Influence: Understanding how others respond to your requests and recognizing consciously and unconsciously how to improve the process
10. Teamwork: Learning how to achieve goals by using a team, consciously allocating roles, managing inputs from others, coordinating actors, and handling conflicts; managing operations using a model of processes and handling real time issues
11. Negotiation: Making a deal; negotiation/contracts; resolving goal conflicts
12. Describing: Creating conscious descriptions of situations to explain them to others in writing and orally

One’s intelligence is typically judged by others in relation to one’s proficiency at five of these cognitive skills:

  • Prediction
  • Diagnosis
  • Causation
  • Describing
  • Planning

Howard Rheingold on Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies

There is a great article  by Howard Rheingold up at EDUCAUSE focusing on 21s Century Literacies.

If you were the only person on earth who knew how to use a fishing rod, you would be tremendously empowered. If you were the only person on earth who knew how to read and write, you would be frustrated and empowered only in tiny ways, like writing notes to yourself. When it comes to social media, knowing how to post a video or download a podcast—technology-centric encoding and decoding skills—is not enough. Access to many media empowers only those who know how to use them. We need to go beyond skills and technologies. We need to think in terms of literacies. And we need to expand our thinking of digital skills or information literacies to include social media literacies.

Social media—networked digital media such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and wikis—enable people to socialize, organize, learn, play, and engage in commerce. The part that makes social media social is that technical skills need to be exercised in concert with others: encoding, decoding, and community.

I focus on five social media literacies:

  • Attention
  • Participation
  • Collaboration
  • Network awareness
  • Critical consumption

Although I consider attention to be fundamental to all the other literacies, the one that links together all the others, and although it is the one I will spend the most time discussing in this article, none of these literacies live in isolation.1 They are interconnected. You need to learn how to exercise mindful deployment of your attention online if you are going to become a critical consumer of digital media; productive use of Twitter or YouTube requires knowledge of who your public is, how your participation meets their needs (and what you get in return), and how memes flow through networked publics. Ultimately, the most important fluency is not in mastering a particular literacy but in being able to put all five of these literacies together into a way of being in digital culture.

Digital Media Labs: The YOUMedia Experiment

I thought that my inaugural post should be on something near and dear to my heart, and my library.  The Chicago Public Library’s YOUMedia Lab is now the model that libraries the world over will follow.  The MacArthur Foundation and the IMLS will be funding 30 more labs similar to YOUMedia.  This is what YOUMedia looks like:

The YOUMedia design is based on the research conducted by Mizuko Ito and others.  The research was published in Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. A version is also available for free from the MacArthur Foundation.  It is titled Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Either one of these resources is a must read for anyone interested in digital media labs or transliteracy.

The research indicates three zones that teens, and likely others, live in.

Hanging out is primarily participatory and social.  It is marked by the desire to use new media to fit-in and belong.

Messing around is a more intense use of new media and technology.  This zone is marked by the desire to explore our vast world, to interact an play with that world.

Geeking out is the final zone.  Geeking out is the most intense form of participation with and through technology.  Geeking out is where identity is formed.

Libraries are adapting to these zones.  Some of us are positioned for the 21st Century.  This is our future.

Comcast and One Economy’s Digital Connectors Program Teaches 21st Century Skills

One of my favorite quotes about the program

I was struck by a comment from one of our Comcast Digital Connectors during a graduation. He said he’d always been the student, but he loved Comcast Digital Connectors because the community service component of the program gave him the opportunity to be the teacher. The curriculum requires 56 hours of community outreach, offering ample opportunity to spread digital knowledge. This young man said he was able to teach how broadband can make people’s lives better. What a beautiful gift to give to his community. – Comcast Digital Connectors: Year One

Some background on the program

One Economy was created to help low-income communities understand the benefits of using broadband, and making it part of their lives (what’s known as “broadband adoption”). The Comcast Digital Connectors program, our partnership with One Economy, takes that mission a step further. We’ll make it possible for hundreds of young adults ages 14 to 21 to develop their skills in using computers, applications and the Internet, and then take what they’ve learned out into their communities to make a difference.

The Digital Connectors train two to three times per week at their local school, community center or affordable housing development to hone their technical skills. The curriculum also provides them with life skills that inspire educational advancement and workforce preparation. Each Connectors team has the opportunity to see where their hard work can lead, as they interact with Comcast employees from around the country who serve as role models by lending their leadership and expertise to local programs.

Digital Connectors commit to provide several hours a month volunteering at community-based organizations, senior centers, churches, local schools, and even reaching out to their own families and friends, to make everyone aware of how broadband can change their lives and helping them to get connected.

The program has been around since 2003

The national Digital Connectors program has had many accomplishments since its inception in 2003:

  • Over 5,000 youth engaged to date
  • 56,000+ hours of community service
  • 15,000 families trained by youth on the Beehive & software
  • Partnerships with national youth organizations, Broadband Opportunity Coalition, and media leaders like Comcast and CTIA
  • Programs in housing developments, community centers, libraries, park districts, rural and urban communities & schools
  • By 2011, 167 Connectors programs and 9, 352 hours service by end of FY11, with support of the federal Broadband Technology Program

Not only does the program teach teens the 21st Century literacy skills they need it requires them to pass them on to their communities. You can get involved by volunteering

Posted in 21st Century Literacies. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Comcast and One Economy’s Digital Connectors Program Teaches 21st Century Skills
%d bloggers like this: