During my career as both a student and an educator, I have embraced digital tools. My work has allowed me to create robust virtual learning environments that support, amplify, and extend the learning process. As a pedagogue, my use of multi-user networking sites open new doors for my students, fostering a participatory culture 1 while cultivating technological literacy. In practicing meta-medium fluency, students learn computational thinking skills which they can apply across the curriculum 2. I practice this theory by focusing on three essential elements: access, creativity, and collaboration.
Access: I want students to have access to the course material in the legal application (“the ability to enter, speak with, or use”), the cognitive application (“the state or quality of being approachable”), and the technological use (“to locate (data) for transfer from one part of a computer system to another”) of the term 3. I build my course site using a WordPress blog and make the site open to the public, thereby extending the boundaries of the physical classroom, and providing students with the ability to connect our course content to work done in their academic, professional, and personal lives. Discussing how this access changes our work in the class and our culture at large leads to questions of digital citizenship such as identity formation, privacy, and copyright. The simultaneous attention to medium and method bolsters the development of student’s meta-awareness of their own understanding and learning processes.
Creativity: In order to foster continuous creative thinking, I engage my students at every stage of the learning process 4. While I create the infrastructure and administrative features of the blog, the students contribute the majority of the content. They integrate and create multimedia elements to enhance their posts, encouraging the students to compose mulitmodally, and to analyze visual and verbal rhetoric. For example, students create projects that can include video, images, and sound using cloud-based presentation software to present their research to their peers. By re-imagining and remixing their work in a variety of media the students practice computational thinking, requiring them to be adaptive, and challenging them to be innovative. (An example course site is live at http://thedangersoftechnology086.ws.gc.cuny.edu/)
Collaboration: As meta-media are by nature social, the skills associated are best learned through collaboration. The opportunity for “collaboration by difference” is created by the diverse backgrounds, ranges of knowledge, and varied experience levels of CUNY students 5. This approach thrives on difference in perspective; students analyze these differences in order to understand what drives their own meaning-making processes. Therefore, I strive to build a framework for social knowledge construction in my classroom, through both virtual and physical interaction. Students work together to generate ideas, compose drafts, create presentations, and review and revise their work – all made possible through the facilitation of digital tools designed for collaborative work.
Thinking critically about how technology changes the way we think and work creates a positive feedback loop; it helps students learn, it helps me to teach. I encourage students to take risks and experiment by stressing that “failing-forward” is an essential part of learning. I facilitate this approach through the cultivation of habits of mind, guiding students to formulate critical questions, develop information literacy, and practice oral and written communication skills. These are fundamental concepts in any discipline, and are invaluable throughout life.
- Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. (NYU Press: 2006). ↩
- Campbell, Gardner. “Media Fluency?” http://www.gardnercampbell.net/blog1/?p=1238. (Posted May 17, 2010). ↩
- “Access.” Dictionary.com (Accessed March 11, 2012). ↩
- In 1961 J.C. R. Licklider said “No one knows what it would do to a creative brain to think creatively continuously… interactive computers can give us our first look at unfettered thought.” Source: Waldrop, Mitchell. The Dream Machine: J. C. R. Licklider and the Revolution that Made Computing Personal. (Penguin Books, 2001). ↩
- Davidson, Cathy.Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. (Viking Press: 2011). ↩