Collaborative Consumption

One thing which excites me about Transliteracy is, because of its newness, the skills involved are not well-defined. It seems like many people interested in the topic have an “I know it when I see it” approach to identifying skills and these skew toward computer-related skills, which is entirely legitimate since the need to be transliterate most obviously manifests itself when confronted with a new technology. Of course, Transliteracy involves a whole swath of cognitive skills that transcend navigating new technology.

One factor that suddenly seems, to me, so essential to Transliteracy, and not, perhaps, a skill per se, is the issue of trust. This insight dawned on me while watching Rachel Botsman’s TED presentation. Because Transliteracy often concerns itself with social media, the development of trust becomes very important. To a certain extent, trust is a teachable skill and librarians invest a great deal of effort in instilling notions of trust. How do we trust that a web site is reliable? But beyond that, individuals need to learn how and when other individuals are trustworthy. In a way, this notion of trust seems an obvious component of Transliteracy, but it only recently dawned on me how essential it is to our discussion.

Watch what Botsman has to say about trust. Does it seem like trust is an important element of our conversation? How teachable is trust? Can the level of trust she talks about be taught or are we relying on a cultural shift?

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

Matt Richtell, in his New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” raises the concern that computers and smart phones pose “a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.” He opens with the story of Vishal Singh, a seventeen-year-old high school student who prefers YouTube to books because, as he says, “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.” Richtell paints the usual portrait of students too distracted to succeed in school, but he also raises many poignant issues.

He writes that

even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

Richtell does not portray technology as an evil but as a tool that can be harnessed for educational purposes and relates many of the complex tensions that arise between traditional ideas of education and more recent thoughts which attempt to utilize newer technologies.

The article also looks at some of the science behind distractions, pointing to various research, including this finding that was published in the journal Pediatrics:

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words.

The article ends with the story of Singh’s passion for and success in video editing and points to this as his desired career. The article subtly argues that the nature of academic success is changing. He states one major reason why Singh succeeds with video editing: interactivity. Richtell writes, “As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.”

Richtell’s thoughtful article succeeds in humanizing some of the issues facing students who are exposed to a wide-range of technology and doesn’t shy away from examining the complex and changing nature of how we need to address learning.

Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

Cathy Michael, who writes the Communications & Legal Studies blog, posts a link to the text of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. She quotes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on the importance of the act:

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most significant disability law in two decades.  The law’s provisions were endorsed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.  They will bring communication laws into the 21st Century, providing people with disabilities access to new broadband technologies and promoting new opportunities for innovation.

More pertinent quotes from Chairman Genachowski can be found at the Communications & Legal Studies blog and the full text of the act can be found here.

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.

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