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

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Wired: 7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College

Although partly tongue in cheek, Wired’s article on the “7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College” provides some thought-provoking insights into the changing nature of information and interactions with technology. The description of the purpose of the site is not far afield from our discussions of transliteracy:

It’s the 21st century. Knowing how to read a novel, craft an essay, and derive the slope of a tangent isn’t enough anymore. You need to know how to swim through the data deluge, optimize your prose for Twitter, and expose statistics that lie. In the following pages, you’ll find our updated core curriculum, which fills in the gaps of your 20th-century education with the tools you need now. Call it the neoliberal arts: higher learning for highly evolved humans.

The seven skills and the brief descriptions from the site are:

  1. Statistical Literacy: Making sense of today’s data-driven world.
  2. Post-State Diplomacy: Power and politics, sans government.
  3. Remix Culture: Samples, mashups, and mixes.
  4. Applied Cognition: The neuroscience you need.
  5. Writing for New Forms: Self-expression in 140 characters.
  6. Waste Studies: Understanding end-to-end economics.
  7. Domestic Tech: How to use the world as your lab.

Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet

Salon posted an interview with Eli Pariser of Moveon.org fame in their series “The Influencers.” Pariser introduces the idea of “the filter bubble,” which is an important concept to consider when thinking about how people interact with various web services. He discusses how web services such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are creating highly individualized experiences which undermine the idea of a shared Internet community. He defines this filter bubble as “a personal ecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms to who they think you are.”

He explains why he thinks this is dangerous:

We thought that the Internet was going to connect us all together. As a young geek in rural Maine, I got excited about the Internet because it seemed that I could be connected to the world. What it’s looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves. There’s a looping going on where if you have an interest, you’re going to learn a lot about that interest. But you’re not going to learn about the very next thing over. And you certainly won’t learn about the opposite view. If you have a political position, you’re not going to learn about the other one. If you Google some sites about the link between vaccines and autism, you can very quickly find that Google is repeating back to you your view about whether that link exists and not what scientists know, which is that there isn’t a link between vaccines and autism. It’s a feedback loop that’s invisible. You can’t witness it happening because it’s baked into the fabric of the information environment.

This type of individualized encounter with the Internet and with social networking is an important concept to consider since everyone’s experience is growing more and more unique.

Pariser also delves into his thoughts about net neutrality in the interview. The entire article can be found here.

Posted in 21st Century Literacies, Digital Literacy, New Literacies, Social Media. Tags: . Comments Off on Eli Pariser on the Future of the Internet

Video 21 – What Does a 21st Century Education Look Like in the Classroom?

The Infinite Adventures of Dora and Harry

Dora  and Boots

Dora the Explorer & Boots

Dora the Explorer. She is what made Transliteracy click for me. Personally, I can do without the animated child who shouts at her viewers with a forced sense of enthusiasm, but there are thousands…nay, millions of kids in the world who see Dora through much different eyes.

For years now, children have known Dora through the TV show, books, music albums, movies & website games not to mention the kazillions of other Dora merchandise from birthday cake toppers to backpacks. To children, Dora transcends format. She is ubiquitous in a way. If they use a form of media, they can find Dora on it. Yes, this now includes our fancy smartphones. Dora is even on FOURSQUARE!

When these Dora loving children walk into our public libraries, where can they find her? They may want to borrow a Dora DVD, a book (if yours carries them) and they probably want to get on the computers to play some Dora games (how easy is it for a preschooler to do that?).

But, I am only talking about input measures here. Kids are able to understand, interpret & read Dora’s stories through all of these different medias, not to mention telling the stories through their own imaginative play. Technology now empowers kids to explore the other side of Transliteracy – output measures.

Like them or not, branded toys & media can be a springboard for children to take ideas and imagination further, developing 21st Century skills along the way. With a little imagination and freedom, kids can take a story or character they enjoy and bring it into their own world, affecting & changing it. They can choose from many tech tools to create & share content with the world that centers around the original story.

Harry Potter is a great example of this. HP fans make music, write stories, create posters & videos, play role playing games (heard of the International Quiddich Association?) and even attend Harry Potter conventions. There are countless examples of kids and teens creating content inspired by simply reading this series of books.

Technology has given kids a freedom to create  the ability to share what they create. There are over 470,000 HP stories on one fan fiction site alone! They aren’t doing it for an assignment, they aren’t doing it because their parents thought it would be good for their college applications, they do it because they love it and because they can.

This is Transliteracy in action.

The old service model in children’s libraries was input only (sit quietly & listen to the story, kid!). Now, we have the opportunity in libraries to engage with kids in the output side of their Transliterate experience. Libraries can provide opportunities to help them develop new skills, to share their creations & to have more of a dialogue with our kids and their parents. I’m excited to sink my teeth into this concept at my library – aren’t you?

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