There’s a question for you at the bottom of this post.
The Transitional Moment
This phrase (by Cathy N. Davidson) captures my life over the past five years. Both my library and my profession (librarian, information architect, media specialist, whatever) are in the transitional moment. Many of us are diligently searching for ways to embrace 21st century information literacy skills to help others cope with what I call the “toppled hierarchy of information”. Numerous recent professional books mirror the dystopian fiction (so popular with YA readers) through dark and foreboding predictions about the future of education, learning, and our changing humanity (see my recommendation list).
I just finished Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn by Cathy N. Davidson and was pleasantly surprised by the more hopeful outlook on the exponential evolution of technology or the “singularity”. I could write a 20 page-blog post as I flip through the tons of post-it notes I used to highlight fascinating tidbits in this text. Realizing nobody reads 20 page blog-posts, I will share a sample quote and a question for colleagues.
Davidson says, “We are both adopting new information technologies all the time and being alarmed by them, even wondering if they are causing us harm, exceeding our human capacities” (p. 16). I sense anxiety when I discuss the digital revolution with educators because participatory culture no longer values expertise and uniformity. Crowdsourcing places difference, collective wisdom, and diversity at the top of the value list (p. 65). How does it make educators feel to hear that the knowledge and expertise acquired over years in the profession is no longer highly valued? So, I ask myself – how do I cope? Answer: I cope with the closing of “the Gutenberg parentheses” by striving to adapt, evolve, and become information flexible. I seek the ability to let go of formats and collide with others to learn adaptive skills. In the new hierarchy, the law may be “survival of the information literacy fittest”.
The Science of Attention
Davidson brings together the topics of the changing hierarchy of information, participatory culture, and current brain research on the science of attention. Her idea that we are always selectively paying attention to something (and NOT paying attention to something else) is a simple yet enlightening truth. She includes a checklist for teaching 21st century literacies, including: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness and many more (p. 297).
A critical concept for the future of learning (included on Davidson’s checklist) is Critical Consumption of Information. Without gatekeepers to verify accuracy, authority, credibility, and standards for ethical and aesthetically pleasing content, it can be difficult to find the cream of the crop (which used to be housed physically in a library) and to teach students to evaluate content. Many people, in my opinion, simply do not care. I see them intrigued by the novelty and ease of sharing user-generated content through social media tools. Sharing through social media is fun (nothing wrong with fun and I totally agree that all learning should be fun), however; social media often promotes a trivial , narcissistic, entertainment focused culture. I totally agree with Davidson’s positive perspective on the future of teaching and learning. That being said, does anyone agree that the flood of images, videos, and witticisms we face daily can bury the best content under a mound of mediocre mud? How do we promote tools for spraying off the mud and uncovering high quality resources when there are so many adorable cupcakes to be photographed and pinned? Awwwww…