Posts Tagged ‘digital literacy’

It’s been a tough one, boys and girls. I’m not gonna lie. I have most certainly run out of “give-a-fucks” here for my last semester at CSC. Soon, I’ll officially be a college-educated fool. I’ve done a lot of typing over the semester. Blogs, tweets, papers, comments, etc. etc. I suppose I should feel somewhat grateful since I type about eight hundred million miles faster than I can hand write anything. That being said, as part of our DigiLit final, we were asked to go back through our blogs and comments and analyze them. Find some commonalities, some changes, some surprises, etc.

So, for the final time, let’s get this freakshow on the road.

Marc Palm Photo CC-by Marc Palm, tangentially relevant

Repeat Offenses

A lot, and I mean, a lot of my blog posts this semester tackled problems I found in my own and in others’ education. I’m definitely not a proponent of traditional “sit down and shut up” classroom etiquette. We need to shake things up, identify alternative strategies, and figure out how to incorporate them into classrooms. The problem here is the immense amounts of bullshit teachers have to deal with. Curricula being designed for them, not by them, as well as stuffy administration or government mandates requiring they continue to recycle the same busted-ass methods are doing no one any favors. Oh, that’s another common thread: I despise closed-mindedness, tradition for tradition’s sake, and pretty much anything remotely resembling an authority figure imposing its will over others. I’m so edgy (this is sarcasm).

Another thread that joins a lot of my posts and comments together is a contrarian viewpoint. Call me a hipster, call me a douche, whatever, but in most facets of our education this semester, I did my best to look from all angles, and not just take everything at face value. Sure, I can read 15 articles and listen to 12 TEDTalks about how this new innovative idea is so great and will change the world, but I don’t need a pat on the back, and I don’t need idealism. I need results. I need proof. If you want me to believe that your idea is fullproof, I’m going to try to find the holes that can be poked in it and see how you plug them. I’m not trying to be edgy or be “that guy,” I’m really just trying to cover all bases here. A great idea is great.. in theory. Can it hold up to practice? Can it hold up to peer review? These details do matter. Ideas are good. Acting on them is better.

Photo CC-by Sean MacEntee

Sean MacEntee

Takeaway Points

A key point that a few of my blogs mentioned that I feel is worth mentioning again is that we need to abandon the fetishizing of ideas and of innovation. People walk away from TEDTalks feeling good and optimistic for the future, mostly because somebody else has a good idea. What TEDTalks have you actually put into practice? Good for them, they’ve reached a successful point in a career and are coming to share their results with us. What does that do for us if you don’t act on it? If you don’t incorporate it into your own life in some way more than a Facebook share and a “oh hey this was really cool”? I’m a hypocrite, because I think talk is cheap. Words are my favored medium, and still, I get tired of them from time to time. I get tired of soapboxes and causes. I want something I can see – not yet another person like me, rambling on but doing little in practice to implement any differences.

Hypocrisy aside, that’s one of my favorite things about these weekly blogging exercises. I’ve got a week’s worth of Tweets, articles, blog posts, and so much more bubbling in my brain, and I’ve gotta let it out in some manner. I also, oddly enough, love attention. My blog is my soapbox. I can write about social injustice and feel less like a shit person when I fail to notice instances of it in entertainment because, hey, I wrote about it! It’s like the whole “being an asshole concept,” where people believe that by somehow prefacing being a dick by “Hey, I’m kind of a dick,” that makes whatever offensive thing said okay. I feel like writing is one of the few things I can feasibly do to make a difference. I can at least raise awareness about causes. That’s something, right? I like to pretend so. It makes me feel better about myself.

Shawn Carpenter

Photo CC-by Sean Carpenter

Ch-ch-ch-changes

One thing I noticed as the year went on, in my blog posts, my bravado and usual “funny sarcastic guy” schtick began to fall in favor of unfiltered cynicism or flat out boredom. I won’t lie, certain blog posts this semester just did not have my attention. They were definitely cranked out for the sake of an assignment. As we went, I became more and more aware of my own flaws, more conscious about the things I didn’t like about myself or my work, and rather than try to cover them up with a fascade of humor, instead decided to let the truth be the truth. I’m thankful for my education here. I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve seen. Still, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth at the end of the day. Do teens really need to commit 4 years of their life and thousands of dollars of money they don’t have for what is essentially a repeat of a high school education? The government sure wants them to think so.

I think the gradual change in demeanor is equal parts the inevitable exhaustion that accumulates for students and teachers alike over the semester, as well as the pre-graduation jitters. I’m going to have a Bachelor’s Degree. I’m going to be expected to be a functioning adult. I’m already being harangued about grad schools. I don’t want to go to grad school, goddammit. At least not yet. I’ve been in academia for a good 16 years straight. I’m calling a time out. I’m done for now. I’m going to experience life a little, be it mundane or absolute chaos. Besides, I have no desire for a higher degree besides “it would make me feel good about myself.” I don’t want to teach, okay? Stop fucking asking. Maybe I’ll give substitute teaching a try, but for now, it’s not in the books.

I know a lot of people whose senioritis kicks in and gets them excited about graduating. I don’t think I could be more lethargic. I took my last hand-written final this morning, potentially ever. What was my first thought after?

“Shit, I need a nap.”

emdot Photo CC-by emdot

Truth Time

In all honesty, my growing cynicism and lethargy aside, I’ve loved this class. I’ve loved (almost all) of my blog posts. This class has forced me to look a lot of things I’ve never considered, and consider a lot of viewpoints I’d never known about. I actually learned something in an online class. Holy crap.

Despite the fact that for the last 8 weeks solid I did the dumb thing and waited until 10 Sunday night to do a week’s worth of homework, I always did my best. I always tried to put some substance in my work, never opting for lame “I agree!” replies or bare-bones blog posts. That’s something I’m proud of. To my classmates: it’s been fun. New perspectives, and a lot of new faces. To Dr. Ellington, thank you for showing me that the ideas regarding innovation and shaking up the classroom aren’t all just blown smoke. To Fish, you’re awesome, and I love you.

Continuing the theme of truth, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Daily Creates to catch up on.

Contendo

In a true “better late than never” fashion, it’s that time of year. Forget Hellweek, this is

FINALS WEEK

Keeping up with tradition dictates that I put off gobs of assignments until the last possible moment, and even then, I stumble or limp to the finish line in my attempts to get them done. For our Week 14 assignments in DigiLit class, we were asked to put together a digital story entailing a metaphor about learning: how we learn, what we think about learning, how we teach, something along those lines. I thought about this one for awhile (obviously). How do I learn? What do I think of it? This isn’t something I’ve ever really thought about. What defines me as a learner? How have I made it to where I’ve made it?

Then it clicked. Without discipline, routine, and determination, I wouldn’t be the learner I am. These components sound strikingly similar to another facet of life that I take almost no part in. The irony of my metaphor is palpable, but I felt it was the best one that fit. Rather than go the Powerpoint or YouTube route with my digital story, I decided to roll with something I’m a bit more fond of: the Podcast format.

For the lazy or time-constrained among you, here’s the story transcribed into text:

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Learning is a workout routine.

Not literally, mind you. If I know anything, it’s that exercise and I get along together about as well as fire and kerosine.

No, no, learning is a mental exercise. And not in that “Lumosity.com” kind of way. Your avenue, whether it be a classroom, books, or the internet, is your gym. Learning, much like physical activity, is a process that requires strict discipline, definitive goals, and oddly enough, variety.

I have friends who are weight lifters (the protein shake and Facebook memes kind), and they have a very methodical process. Each day consists of a warm-up, a workout of a different particular group of muscles, a cool down, and the maintaining of a strict diet designed around whatever their particular goals might be. Need bulk? Protein all day, everyday: chicken breasts, eggs, steaks, etcetera. Most will give themselves one rest day a week so their bodies don’t completely rebel and shut off completely from the immense stress.

Learning, I’ve found, is almost exactly the same. Learning will not just come to you out of the blue. You need to dedicate yourself to the process. Randomly surfing through Wikipedia articles doesn’t count, either. If you want to learn about something, you must discipline yourself to do so.

When I was in middle and high school in Alliance, Nebraska, marching band was an extremely popular activity. It reached across the boundaries of “cliques,” uniting the jocks, geeks, and stoner kids alike under a common banner. As you can probably imagine, trying to teach 100 pre-teens / angry teenagers how to march in time, let alone play an instrument, was nigh impossible. For band director of 33 years Dick Rischling, however, anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Dick Rischling was a man who would go for a 2 mile run and smoke a cigarette every step of the way. The man provided us with gems such as, “I love conflict! I win them all!” and “I hate cymbals, they sound horrible.” Every morning at 7:30 AM, a half hour before classes started, all 100 of us would show up, line up on a practice field in the rain or snow, and march with Dick Rischling barking commands from a megaphone. The man taught us to stand up straight, carry ourselves with some dignity, and above all: discipline. This discipline is something I’ve carried with me throughout my schooling career. Without it, I doubt I would have reached any level of success. In order to do well, you have to want to do well. You have to want to improve to improve.

Once discipline is instilled in a learner, different learners will find that they have a different “core group” of muscles that are already strengthened: some people are naturals at maths and sciences, but awful at humanities. Along this same vein, different people have different primary methods of learning. Some are auditory learners, preferring to listen to lectures or podcasts, while others are strictly visual, favoring note-taking and reading. Others still are “hands on” learners, better at learning through a “do as I do” method of teaching. While it’s natural to want to focus on your best attribute in terms of subject material, just because exercise is routine doesn’t mean you should forego adding variety to your workout. At some point, you will plateau. You will reach a ceiling that will seem impossible to break out of, and the best way to continue is to try something different before returning to that plateau. This is why weight-lifters rotate the muscle groups being worked on each day: an immensely powerful upper body is useless without the leg day to support it.

By identifying which style of learner a person is, they can also best figure out how to approach these different subjects. With the internet, there is no shortage of resources for learners of all strengths and weaknesses. If weight lifting isn’t your strong suit, maybe cardio is more your thing. Maybe yoga or some type of martial art is your best avenue. Take whatever learning style is best for you, and apply it to all subjects. See what works and what doesn’t. Identify and improve upon your weaknesses, even if only minutely.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that the principle of “use it or lose it” applies just as much with learning as it does with physical exercise. Your brain, the supercomputer that it is, is going to deem skills or knowledge left unused unessential. The way to avoid this is to stay in practice. Remember to review the concepts you already have a firm grasp on, while continuing to strive for new improvements.

While you won’t be seeing me in a gym anytime soon, it is undeniable that the same dedication and persistence found in a good workout regiment can be used just as effectively when building the most important quote muscle unquote of all:

your brain!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Accipio

Reflection

Posted: March 23, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , ,

A lot of time spent in college, depending on the college, is time wasted. General Studies programs are the laughing stocks of people who went to pursue higher education fresh out of high school. You’re literally paying to take the same classes you took last year: basic Algebra, Biology, English, even P.E. (at least at my school) for Christ’s sake. What part of you thinks any part of me wants to re-experience P.E.? Yeesh.

Luckily, there are certain classes where your brain actually has to stretch a bit, you need to utilize (and harness) a set of skills, and you can walk away feeling like your time wasn’t wasted.

If you haven’t gathered, I’m reflecting on my Digital Literacy class, taught by Dr. Elisabeth Ellington.

Sacha Chua

Photo CC-by Sacha Chua, and pretty accurate to boot!

To be honest, going into this class, I was completely unsure of what to expect. The catalog description simply said “learning how to utilize technology in a way combined with literacy” or something really vague and over-generalized, as college catalogs tend to be. I expected to have to be tweeting and blogging (mostly because I knew the professor and her preferred methods, not because I knew anything about the class), and so far, that has obviously rang extremely true.

Considering that I had no expectations, they couldn’t exactly be defied – I was going in blind, but curious to see where I’d wind up. To say I’m surprised would be an understatement. This class has been multi-faceted in a way I wouldn’t have ever thought of. We’ve covered what it means to be technologically savvy, the best way to utilize technology in classrooms, ways to use technology to network properly and build a career path, as well as the infinite different ways technology can be put to use as a creative outlet. All without stepping on anyone’s toes, doing anything that can get us sued, or stepping out of the comfort of our homes and / or preferred coffee shops.

Denise Krebs

Photo CC-by Denise Krebs

This class hasn’t only helped me learn the ropes of a lot of facets of the web I wouldn’t have thought to use prior (including blogging and Tweeting, as well as searching for photos and videos that won’t have copyright lawyers banging on my door), but has also taught me a few things about myself. 1) I procrastinate, real bad. I always figured I sort of did, but trying to stuff 2 blog posts, 20 tweets, and more in one Sunday night is something I need to stop fucking doing jesus why do I do this to myself

I’ve also discovered that I very much enjoy trying to farm all sides of perspectives and arguments. When TEDTalks were introduced to the curriculum, I wound up gravitating toward anti-TEDTalk TEDTalks. So meta. So edgy. So hipster. When proposed initiatives or radical renovations to old-school teaching are offered, I’m the first one in line for both the pros / possibilities as well as the cons / harsh realities and obstacles. I’m not trying to be a contrarian because I feel cool – I genuinely feel like perspective gained is worthless if it isn’t all-encompassing. Stacking the deck in favor of your opinions or beliefs doesn’t help anyone, and it makes you look like a nimrod.

For future reference in this class, I’d very much like to connect with or see some people who have put these alternative forms of education and learning into practice. Granted, we did watch a TEDTalk and read a fistful of blog posts with examples, but I mean on a larger scale. Someone out there has to be doing something to better our busted-ass educational system, and the idea has to be gaining steam. At least, the (tiny) idealist in me hopes so. I also wouldn’t mind maybe some more collaboration / actual back-and-forth between classmates. Responding to tweets / blog comments is fine and dandy, but I’d be lying if I said that it felt like most of us were doing it for the sake of the assignment quota, and less out of a general interest. Regardless of how cool an online class is, I do value the all-important face-to-face components.

Paul HocksenarPhoto CC-by Paul Hocksenar

Overall, I am enjoying this class immensely, and I’m excited to see what else we cover before the semester is up. I’m also excited, if not a little leery, to begin my Daily Create project. I feel like it’ll force me to have to flex my creative muscles a bit more than I have been, and hey, I’m not going to complain about that.

Mitesco

It’s a question we’re often asked when we decide to get a tattoo: “Will that still look good 30 years from now?” As if any part of me looks good now. My body is not a temple.

Still, the question does hold merit – not in the realm of tattoos, what people want to do with their body is their business, not yours, but when it comes to responsibility and ethics online, a lot of people have made the analogy “what you do online is as permanent as a tattoo.”

And it’s true.

London Permaculture Photo CC-by London Permaculture, relevant!

Digital Citizenship

The Internet is an entirely different world in and of itself than common society. Granted, is has microcasms of society: niche groups, hobbyists gathered together, fans of music / movies / etc, cliques, etc. However, the Internet offers something that none of these other groups offer without the aid of a mask: anonymity.

Digital Citizenship is a sophisticated way of describing how you behave on the Internet, and is often multi-faceted, including your security (passwords, not exposing identity-related information), ethical behavior (being a normal person as opposed to being an asshole troll), and responsibility. Everything you put your legal name on, attach to your e-mail address, and upload to an image-hosting website is there for good. You can delete these things, but often webpages have cached, older versions of themselves that can still be recalled. The Internet Wayback Machine lets you look through the older versions of countless websites.  Deletion is equivalent to getting a tattoo removed by putting another tattoo on top of it. Underneath, the original is still there.

I found this out the hard way. Try Googling your name – some things might turn up, newspaper articles, forums, webpages, etc. My Amazon author page and my portfolio for CSC’s newspaper, The Eagle, turned up. Same thing with image searching yourself. If you want a bit more interesting of an exercise.. try Googling your e-mail address. This yielded some.. interesting results. Including, but not limited to, a Dragonball Z fansite I made when I was between the ages of around 10 to 12. Tristen still has not stopped laughing about how, in her words, “adorable” that is. My ears and their burning beg to differ.

Tom's pipe fetish. Photo CC-by Jeff Commons, and what turned up when I searched for “embarrassment”

Anonymity /=/ Ethical Behavior

The reason so many people forego responsibility, compassion, ethical behavior, any of it on the Internet is because the Internet allows us what we believe to be free reign. Usernames aren’t our real names. Our avatar photos aren’t us. So it isn’t us, right? Wrong. Police and those of us who are tech-savvy can easily still discover a true identity. Insert flaw #1 with the anonymity theory.

Without repercussions or consequences, people see it fit to let their freak flag fly, and reveal an uglier side of them that day-to-day life doesn’t give them a chance to vent. Perfectly normal seeming people turn into monsters online: people encourage others to commit suicide, make horrendous, tasteless jokes, and send threatening e-mails every day, and with the exception of Cyberbullying laws beginning to be legislated, get away with it. As I have found out the hard way: jokes / sarcasm don’t translate well over text alone. No tonal inflections means things can be taken at face value, sometimes with poor consequences. During arguments online, gloves come off: everything is fair game, and they often become pissing contests over who can say the nastier thing. For every good facet of the Internet, there are infinitely as many evil ones.

How in the world do we combat this?

open Photo CC-by opensource.com

Live Online as You Do Off

Education is key. Children in school today have untold access to technology, and therefore, the Internet. Parents and teachers cannot possibly monitor it all, and even if they could, that would help little. It’s been proven that anti-Drug programs hammering it into kids to “just say no” don’t work. Schools where abstinence is the only method of sex-ed are proven to have higher teen pregnancy rates. Rather than treating kids like idiots, how about we do something novel and teach them early on how to use technology responsibly, and properly?

Schools (claim) to take zero-tolerance policies against bullying, but often look the other way (especially if perpetrators are children of administration or high-profile athletes). This has got to stop. If it’s doable, children need to be showed the permanency of their online actions early on, and be taught that the Golden Rule doesn’t stop applying just because someone’s sitting behind a keyboard. In a blog post by Craig Badura, he comes up with an extremely effective set of ways to analogize real-world actions to online behavior. Anything posted is like toothpaste out of a tube: it isn’t going back in. Passwords are toothbrushes: why in the hell would you ever share one? It seems simplistic or even silly, but something like this could be the difference between a student sticking up for someone being cyberbullied or laughing along and clicking the “Like” button. Bullies grow up to be bullies. Anything that can be done to break the cycle, should.

Scientia potentia est

It’s rare, but occasionally, even on the Internet, I stumble upon something that seems almost beyond description.

In the beginning of our digitally literate journey, we had to do some digging and discover what exactly it meant to be digitally literate. If we had to dig deeper and find something, like an online class, that perfectly embodied putting what digital literacy is into practice, it would be ds106.

digistorytellin Photo CC-by digistorytelln

Digital Whosawhatnow?

Digital storytelling. In a nutshell, without Wikipedia’s help, digital storytelling is the usage of all mediums of technology both audial and visual: written, filmed, recorded, drawn, photographed, read, etc. for the sake of telling one’s life story and sharing one’s life experiences. Each and every one of us is on a journey, and no two are ever the same. We feel a basic need as human beings to connect with one another – how better than to swap stories, even if by non-conventional methods?

ds106 is an open source, open-enrollment online course, originally offered at the University of Mary Washington and now available as a drop-in, drop-out, all resources available online course. No enrollment fee, no grading, all it takes is some participation, and a hell of a lot of creativity.

Something in me is inherently leery about something this open. Where’s the catch? All these resources, all these testimonials at my fingertips. I’ve been here before. “Hear our glowing customer testimonials!” “See what others think!” Page after page of falsified reviews and bogus claims give the Internet and I a love-hate relationship.

The thing is, I see no reason to disbelieve. All over the place there are videos offering reviews / advice to oncoming students about the class. Everywhere you look: Twitter, Gravitar, YouTube, WordPress, you see the real work of real people as they try to flex their creative muscles and learn a thing or two about technology in the process. As an educational tool, this is the real deal.

opensourcedotcom Photo CC-by opensource.com

Talk Techy to Me

I’ve made the analogy several times already that creativity is a muscle, but it’s something I truly believe. Use it or lose it – great ideas are good, but they benefit no one trapped inside your head!

Scam or no scam, cult or no cult, aliens or no, ds106 wins in my book for two reasons.

  1.  Promoting Digital Literacy
    1. A huge part of ds106 is learning how to tangle with the Internet’s different beasts: Twiter, YouTube, Gravitar, WordPress, Facebook, Internet Radio, Flickr, video manipulation software, photo editing software, etc. all are part of the many various creative assignments offered by ds106. In order to participate, you’ve got to be ready to tackle some serious tech. This is a great way to introduce those unfamiliar or leery of some of the many services offered online: I was the type of person to scoff at both blogs and Twitter feeds until I was forced to maintain ones of my own.
  2. Creativity
    1. “Storytelling”. That’s the focus of the class. It just happens to be digital. ds106 offers an untold number of different ways to put your creativity into practice. Writing prompts about fanfic characters? Check. Conversations with celebrities using soundboards and audio editing software? Check. Photography exercises focusing on colors? Check. Creation of old-school, 50’s style educational videos in favor of a topic of choice? Check. The possibilities here are nearly limitless. There are even assignments focused around creating animated GIF images, and if that’s not outrageous enough, there are 3D Printing based assignments. Holy hell.

The applications for this class, to me, transcend the bounds of education. Teachers who are passion-focused or looking for ways to hack education: this is it. Students learn practical / new skills, students learn (and tell us) about themselves, and students are allowed to be creative and kept from doing needless busywork. Hell yes. For others, it’s a great crash-course in Internet-ing. For others still, it’s a good chance to experiment with different forms of creative expression.

So, it’s a free, open-source, do-as-you-please class where all the material is available online, the assignments are all open to tweaking, and you’re heavily encouraged to share your work with others and network with people about what you’re doing and what you’re learning?

Sounds like digital literacy 101 to me.

Ex nihilo

Let’s get something straight.

I understand that the human language is flexible. I understand that words have meaning that change and evolve over time, and I understand that people are going to use words how they want to use words. I understand that the original definition of the word “hack” meant to tinker with or achieving a goal through non-conventional means, okay? I get that.

But I hate the oversaturation of the word now in 2015.  I was born and raised in the generation where I was taught “hacking” was the cracking of a computer system. When I hear someone describe something as a “life hack,” I’m sorry,  but my skin crawls. I am a tech freak at heart, and unless you’re breaking a code or calling someone a hack, other uses do not jive with me. Okay?

hacking

Photo CC- by bareform, and THIS IS HACKING OKAY JEEZ

“Hacking” Education

So, a young fellow by the name of Logan LaPlante gave a TEDTalk at an age where most of the people I know were still bumbling through angsty adolescence and could barely decide what color of ripped jeans to wear.

Mr. LaPlante’s message is simple: we need to reform education. We need to make sure kids are happy and healthy above all else, and we need to foster their passions rather than squash them with conventional, ineffective education techniques.

Bud Hunt wrote a blog post with similar ideas entitled “Make/Hack/Play,” stating that the three things we need to emphasize in education are creation, innovation, and freedom.

I’m on the fence with this one, ladies and gentlemen. I’m 100% on board with emphasis on freedom, on happiness over test scores, on pursuing passions over outdated curricula. What I am not 100% on board with, is the recent tendency to fetishize innovation over all else. People eat TED Talks up. How often do you watch one, feel an immense burst of inspiration, and then… do absolutely nothing with it? I know I’m guilty. This is my problem: this emphasis on radical innovation creates an environment in which laziness breeds rampant. We can feel better about ourselves for not doing anything to change the world, so long as we listen to and agree with people who have good ideas about how to do so.

Public school is the sharpest double-edged sword there ever was. Kids learn social skills, make friends, and give their parents 8 hour breaks from their hormonal outrages. School also forces kids into cliques, fosters an excellent “dog eat dog, kill or be killed” social environment, and gives many people debilitating anxietal and self esteem issues from day one. Too smart? You’re a nerd, and you’re a faggot, and you make everyone else look bad because you’re a freak. Too slow? You’re a retard, and a moron, and you should just give up now. Like the color black or skateboards? You’re a stoner, and you’re a goth, and you love drugs, and you’re a delinquent who will never amount to anything.

That’s public school. It forges some of us in steel and makes us strong. Others become brittle in the process. They look fine on the outside, but inside, there’s pieces missing.

change

Photo CC-by Feggy Art

Is There an Answer?

I have no blanket solution toward fixing the broken education system. That’s what it is: it’s broken. I don’t care about dissenting opinions. Students in certain European countries go to college for free. Then they churn out more scientists, doctors, and credible artists than we could possibly dream of. A system where the amount of money you’ll be rewarded for an education is relative to how well you fill bubbles in on a ScanTron is fundamentally fucked up. Period.

I believe people like Mr. LaPlante and Mr. Hunt are on the right track. Public schools attempt to teach obedience and discipline over all else. We claim recess is only for little kids, but anyone who can throw a football reasonably well is perpetually carried through high school, and a lot of colleges. We expect kids to know enough about their passions and their lives to dictate where they go between ages 16 and 18. Kids haven’t experienced a fraction of their lives or passions at 18, yet school systems expect them to choose ONE major through college and stick with it, lest their wallet now and forever be perpetually raped by the United States Government.

It starts at a ground level. Not every school is going to get to have a curricula that involves skiing or glass blowing or anything like that. Some people are so staunchly in favor of a broken system that it’s quite baffling.

Teachers: foster creativity. Foster passion. It’s okay to like football. It’s also okay to like dance, computer science, Calculus, scratch drawing. We need critical thinkers, we need analysts. Enough of the “out of the box” bullshit. Forget the box altogether. Thinking in or out of the box keeps you firmly in the status quo. Be the teacher that cares enough to not talk down to your students, but not let them breeze through. Don’t let students think learning is “for fags,” don’t let them think failure is all they’ll ever amount to.

I’ve had 2 types of teachers talk to me in my life. I’ve had teachers who’ve told me “y’know, teaching is an alright gig. It’s job security. It isn’t my first choice, but eh,” and I’ve had teachers who told me, “If you don’t feel the call to educate, don’t waste your own or anyone else’s time.”

I think I understand the difference now.

Docendo discimus

(Disclaimer: This blog contains some strong language, and the only reason I’m being polite enough to put in a disclaimer is because I understand some of you are new to this enigmatic ball of hair and pent-up aggression that is Jeff McFarland. This is your first and only warning.)

That’s how the line goes, right? “We can rebuild him – we have the technology,” and indeed we do, boys and girls. It’s 2015. The future seems to eek closer toward us with each passing day. Nike announces self-tying shoes, the world’s top scientists (including Stephen Hawking) warn of the dangers of artificial intelligence, and supposedly, a hoverboard is in the works. We’ve truly reached the future, eh?

Always In Motion Is The Future

Get in, loser, we’re going back to the future. Photo CC- by JD Hancock

Though, the thing about when people talk about us nearing the “future,” is I call immediate bullshit. When people say we’re headed for the future, they usually mean we’re on the brink of some technological breakthrough (the brink meaning 10-15 years off at the very least) and we imagine our strange, sci-fi-fantasy version of the future to be just around the corner. We’re in the now. Technology is flying right now. The internet is no longer a stand-alone browser app in your computer: everything is smart (except maybe the people). TVs, phones, tablets, even picture frames. Fucking picture frames can connect to a cloud and stream photographs. As amazing as that is, it’s a little daunting too.

So, in an age where going out to dinner means sitting with 3 to 6 other people all staring at their glowing crotches and maintaining no contact with one another throughout the duration of the meal, what hope is there for homo sapiens to not simply plug and download their brains directly into Facebook? Well, if one remembers the original intent of the Internet – networking, to make the world a smaller place, we can discover some potential for good in the cesspit of evil that is the Internet.

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Photo CC-by MTSOfan, and no witty quip is needed

What is Digital Literacy?

A lot of .edu websites seem to favor defining Digital Literacy as “the understanding of, and ability to use the Internet in a responsible manner to facilitate learning.” Something like that. I don’t like that very much. In researching an answer to the above question, I stumbled upon an article on TeachThought by Terry Heick that I think hit a lot of important nuances of the question that Universities seem to overlook. Technology, the internet, all of it- are fluid. By tomorrow, yesterday’s newest device is obsolete. The internet, as both Terry and I pointed out, isn’t a stand alone thing. Not anymore. According to Heick’s article, “Digital literacy is the ability to interpret and design nuanced communication across fluid digital forms.” I think that’s a pretty good definition. It allows for flexibility in “digital forms,” emphasizes “communication” over viral cat videos, and illustrates the importance of being able to interpret information. The only thing missing, in my opinion, is a note about the responsibility needed when technology is part of the playing field.

It’s not good enough to know how to use a computer or a smartphone. To be truly “digitally literate,” you need some essential skills. You need to know how to be able to search smart, be it for academic research or even typing things into Google. You need a basic grasp on copyright law so that you don’t accidentally piss off someone who can happily and legally sue the shit out of you. You need to be able to judge the merit and authenticity of things you stumble upon, and you need to know what not to click on. Also, as a bonus tip, you need to know most Anti-Virus software is bullshit. Your computer came equipped with an anti-virus that does everything the ones you’re paying for charge to do.

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Photo CC-by Joe, and what an image

Granted, a basic grasp on how to use technology is the only way to start developing any of these skills. I’ve known my way around a computer since I was about 5 or 6, and now I’m the guy who the “No, I will not fix your computer” shirt was made for. The thing is, most of my “fixes” could be done by anyone with a little know-how. Seriously. Don’t install shit you don’t need or if you aren’t sure about the source, keep complicated passwords, and you’re 2/3rds of the way there. I used to roll my eyes at Excel and Word classes that teach people the extremely complicated nuances of clicking “File -> Save,” but I realized the truth – that some people really have trouble with that. I know how to do advanced searches, I know how not to get sued, and I know how to keep my computer clean. What I need work on, is tolerance of those who have a knowledge level below mine.

Not everyone has been behind a keyboard since childhood. The internet / home computer has only been a thing for less than half a century. I also need to recognize that there are those who know infinitely more than I do. I can fix a computer’s software. When it comes to the guts of the machine, I know next to nothing. If a computer has a problem inside of it, I’m boned.

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Photo CC-by lgb06, strangely pertinent given this week’s itinerary
I think the most important step people can take to get better at these things, is simply to undertake the effort to get better. I know that sounds idiotic, but seriously. Take a class at a community college to teach you about Word or Excel, they help, despite what snobs like me believe. Check the credibility of your sources before you share some dumb shit on Facebook. Snopes.com is your friend. Take a typing class (if you didn’t have to in grade school) and avoid the atrocious-looking “search and peck” method of typing. If our society is going to be so reliant on technology, you’re going to have to be on the up-and-up.

Progressum