Digital Dreams

Am I the only one who is dreaming in both physical and digital formats?

I am no dream expert. But I do get a sense, intuitively, that we can learn about ourselves from our dreams.

As a lifelong learner and educator, I have had many dreams in which I am still a student enrolled in class. I dream I forgot to do my homework. I guess, that is not hard to believe since I have spent most of my life in the classroom- both as teacher and learner. (I earned my master’s degree in 2007 and my PhD in 2012.) Or, as an educator, I dream that I forgot my lesson plans or that the students are completely unruly. Or- even that quintessential dream of showing up without your clothes (in the classroom, of course)!

In the past couple of years, I have had dreams in digital formats. I am online, at the computer, in a virtual space, or juggling screens.

Recently, I had a vivid dream in which many of my colleagues were present. We were attending some sort of staff development and had been asked to come prepared with a Powerpoint slide show or something. You know how you can’t really describe what happens in a dream in words. Whatever it was that I was suppose to bring….well, I was not prepared.

My supervisor said, “Wow! What is this! You always are on top of this!! Did you not get the email?”

Here is the vivid part of the dream, which was in color and was powerfully emotional. Tears filled up my eyes (and I don’t easily cry at sappy movies or anything). I had this sense of -enough is enough! I had this sense of admitting to everyone present something that I had been holding in for a long, long time.

With tearful eyes, I blurted out, “I am drowning in emails!”

It was a moment of complete surrender. I felt more a sense of relief and release than defeat. I had reached the limit and could not take one more step.

Thanks for reading this, dear reader. I just had to tell someone.

How Do We Loathe Thee, Facebook (a sonnet)

(Inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861))

How do we loathe thee, Facebook?

How do we loathe thee? Let us count the ways.
We loathe thy boastfulness disguised as good.
Our souls detest thou’st photos of thy food
And cluttered trivial nonsense hour by hour.
Abhor thy mutilation of our “friends”–
A word whose meaning now no longer lives.
We loathe thy inefficiency at best,
For when we use thee more, we learn the less.
Compelled to scroll then mandated to post,
Against old griefs, and with all childhood lost.
We loathe thy shouts of “Oh World, look at me!”
With whispered gossip, — yet gluttonous glee.
Commodities with no regard for fact–
The “ad” revered more highly than the act.

Prep for a Twitter Chat on Digital Literacy

When asked to host a live twitter chat for the Texas Educators Chat @txeduchat on Dec. 1, 2013 from 8-9pm Central Time, I immediately thought of “Information Literacy in Participatory Digital Culture with a Focus on Youth and 21st Century Learning”. Of course, that topic was way too long for a tweet, so it was shortened to digital literacy (hashtag #digilit). Condensing our thoughts and words may appear easy (140 characters can be read fast) but it actually can be challenging. One of the most powerful online tools I have found for developing a professional learning network is twitter- once you get the hang of it.

The word most difficult to cut from my initial long topic phrase was “participatory”. Social media, live online interaction, user-generated content, and content curation tools have revolutionized our information intake. Students are now expected to be both consumers and producers of information (prosumers- a term coined by Alvin Toffler). In order to participate actively in the construction of learning in digital culture, students are required to develop digital literacy skills which are strongly focused on technology tools.

Condensing terms to hold the most meaning in the smallest space (think poetry) is not the only challenge of tweeting. We also have to consider nomenclature. Academics are sometimes criticized for using jargon that is difficult for people to understand. Natural language, tagging, and folksonomies have risen in popularity over formal classification subject headings in digital culture. Understandably, it is important to agree on correct terms that best describe broad categories and specific things.

Information Literacy
In the days before the close of the Gutenberg Parenthesis (when the book was king of the information hierarchy), literacy meant reading and writing. Information Literacy, a term coined by Paul Zurkowski, is recognized by numerous experts in the fields of information science and education, such as Mike Eisenberg, as the umbrella under which other literacies are categorized. As much of life is spent online, digital literacy has risen to the top of the list of multiple literacies which have numerous related terms.

Useful Resources for Digital Literacy

Critical Evaluation of Websites (Kathy Schrock)
AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner
Common Sense Media on Digital Literacy

Not a Gadget- Nor a Crystal Ball of Data

People are more important than data.

I just finished Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier and although economics is in no way my area of expertise- he makes interesting points about the future of economics and society in the Information Age. His previous book You Are Not a Gadget provided insight into digital culture and this new book is a warning about the increasing risk of losing the backbone of modern civilization- the middle class. The following notes come from Lanier’s perspective and are worth contemplating.


We have this crazy illusion that data is sort of magic – that “data came from the heavens instead of from people.” Inanimate data holds no promises for the future — only people hold promise. Our fascination with technological gadgetry (also a theme in his prior writing) puts emphasis on the data instead of the people who create it.

A highlight of Who Owns the Future was an excellent analogy about current TOS (terms of service) contracts and how we completely ignore them in the numerous apps and sites we download and take part in daily. Most are written in complex jargon that would take hours to analyze. Lanier presents the terms of service of a lemonade stand (page 80) in a child’s front yard! In the lengthy legalese statements to the parents of the lemonade stand entrepreneurs, he include such items as:

“A percentage of up to 30% of revenues will be kept by StreetBook.

Limited free access to StreetBook’s curb in front of your house is available in exchange for advertising on your body and property. The signage of your lemonade stand, the paper cups, and the clothing worn by your children must include advertising chosen soley by StreetBook.

If you choose to seek limited free access to use of the curb in front of your house, you must make available to StreetBook a current inventory of items in your house, and allow StreetBook to monitor movement and communications of individuals within your house.”

That is a small fraction of the contents of the terms of service for the lemonade stand. His point is that we simply cannot keep up with the fine print on these TOS agreements, so must of us simply click “agree” and get on with it.

Lanier calls Google, Facebook, and other online giant information providers “siren servers”. Lanier believes the biggest threat to our economic future is big data networks (siren servers) getting all online profits rather than individuals who create or program digital content. “One giant siren server (Facebook) should not own an individual’s online identity (p. 250).” He proposes a revolutionary payment system on the Internet, which includes possibly linking monetary payment for creative skills and service into the data transfer.

His digital “golden rule” could be stated– Pay others the way you would like to be paid.

Today, it is easy to access and copy information for use in multiple formats. Why not copy when it is convenient? “If you copy a file, you don’t know where it came from, if it’s been altered, or what other information might be needed for it to make sense (p.221).” Meaning depends on context and the copy/paste/share mentally of digital participatory culture erodes context.

With the vast information landscape we navigate daily, Lanier proposes another idea called “decision reduction services” (p. 270). That reminds me of librarianship! The acquisition of high quality resources that have been evaluated for specific criteria sounds rather familiar. I suppose I am a “decision reduction service provider” for my patron community. (Lanier highly values libraries and librarians. I heard him praise them at the American Library Association convention last summer in Chicago).

For the past decade, I have been hearing the notion that information should be free. Lanier says that the “lure of free” beckons (e.g. MOOCs- massive open online courses) and the future of education could be grim if seduced by siren servers. As I currently research information literacy needs in MOOCs, his perspective illustrates some of the problems higher education is facing. He answered a question at the ALA convention with a humorous exclamation that “MOOCs are moronic!”

Online “creepiness” due to being spied on or having personal data collected is nothing new but Lanier illustrates the idea that we may not share the same “augmented reality” in the near future. Each of us will live in a personalized world and that loss of shared experience might be “creepy” and isolating (p. 315).

His prediction of The Future of the Book. (p. 356) was certainly full of insightful points. I can agree with Lanier’s hypothesis that books will merge with apps, video games, virtual worlds. He says, “Many readers will read what is put in front of their eyes by crowdsourcing algorithms, and often will not be aware of the identity of the author or the boundary between one book and another. This is similar to Barlow and Leston’s warning about the Internet becoming a book of sand.

Lanier points out that “There will be much more information available in some semblance of book form than ever before, but overall a lower quality of standard”. I heard Roy Tennant make that same prediction back in 2008 at the Texas Library Association Conference when he said that today “convenience trumps quality”.

My personal take away from Who Owns the Future is that embedding intellectual property identification and a small monetary token of appreciation into data could solve both information literacy issues and help strengthen a shaky economic future for civilization. Information is actually never free (even though many want it to be)- just as life is never free. Open access to information and projects that promote free information and books benefit society but certainly have costs involved somewhere. Acquisition and organization of high quality resources takes time and effort, which are as valuable as dollars and cents. Respect for people in both the physical and digital world is the bottom line. You really are not a gadget and you are not made of code.

Lanier, J. (2013). Who Owns the Future?. New York: Simon and Schuster.

The Future was Almost Twenty Years Ago

Written back in 1995, I am finally getting around to reading Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Or, perhaps I should say I am finally ready for it. Twenty years ago, the idea of a technology entering our minds through virtual reality worlds and nanotechnology entering our bloodstreams to alter our bodies was over my head. Today, it is no longer far-fetched science fiction. Of course, like most people who have explored virtual worlds, I read Stephenson’s novel Snowcrash and credit him for coining the term “the metaverse”. Both novels share concepts that seemed almost outrageous when released but now fade into the tech scene without raised eyebrows.

While some of the concepts in The Diamond Age are similar to innovations which have come to fruition in 2013, some evolved into different versions of his visualized world. His “MC” (Matter Compiler) can be compared to a 3D printer and his concept of “ractive”s are similar to online interactive videogames.

The “young lady’s illustrated primer” is an interactive book which drives the plot and the concept of a real human behind the facade of the avatar or the book character is critical as we now move toward a blur between our physical and digital selves.

While I am no avid science fiction aficionado, I find Stephenson’s novels compelling and prophetic. Surprisingly, The Diamond Age contains countless images of actual physical books, yet today the book is moving from print into ereaders and rapidly taking a backseat to apps. Stephenson, obviously, has an appreciation for the Gutenberg era format, stating, “But a book is different–it is not just a material possession but the pathway to an enlightened mind, and thence to a well-ordered society as the Master has stated many times. (p.163)”

Long live the book and the reader who understands and appreciates high quality literature.

Stephenson, Neal. 1995. The Diamond Age or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. Bantam Nooks: New York.

Privacy Died and Nobody Mourned

We are moving toward a “hypervisable age” where individual privacy is a relic.  Sean Parker (in an argument about the death of privacy) said, “Today’s creepy is tomorrow’s necessity”. Parker, one of the founders of Facebook, is certainly no stranger to the hypervisable trend of social media.

Keen (on page 57 in #digitalvertigo) says, “…the death of privacy is no different, in principle, from the retirement of the horse and cart or the disappearance of gaslights from city streets”.

This is my second post about #digitalvertigo (first post is linked here) and I, for one, am mourning the death of privacy.  Is anyone else? Couldn’t we meet and have some sort of memorial? Perhaps we could light candles and reminisce about the days that shall be no more.

Keen, A. (2012). #digitalvertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Think Before You Speak or get #digitalvertigo

My mom used to remind all of her kids (and grandkids) that “everything you think does not need to come out of your mouth”.  You can keep some ideas and words to yourself.  If you don’t think first, you may regret it later.

A new way to phrase this idea might be, “Think before you post”.  As social media sites urge everyone to share life in digital formats, many rush to the opportunity.  The idea, like most ideas, is not new.  Napoleon Hill was one of the first to say “Think twice before you speak” and also one of the first “motivational self-help” proponents of the modern personal success genre.

Here’s another book on the topic that cautions us (think Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr) about the pleasures of sharing our lives online.
Title:  #digitalvertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Dimishing, and Disorienting Us 
Author:  Andrew Keen





I like the clever use of a hashtag in the title.







Notice all the post-it notes sticking out the side of my copy?  On a side note, I really like physical books because I can put those tangible notes inside!  Sure, I can highlight on an ebook, but going back to find my notes is not as “obvious” to me and I end up forgetting I even have an electronic copy.  (More on that another day.)

Many ideas for blog posts can be seen in the numerous post-its.  But I will only share one because I have learned that the chance of anyone reading a long blog post is nil.

Participation in social media has changed the way we live, think,  and interact.  Jonas Lehrer states, “While the Web has enabled new forms of collective action, it has also enabled new kinds of collective stupidity”.  Lehrer is a contributor to Wired magazine.  He cautions that we are moving from “the smart group” to “the dumb herd” and reminds us that real insight means “thinking for oneself” (Keen, page 51).

Following the crowd has always been dangerous but #digitalvertigo gives some real world examples about how the phrase “think before you speak” is taking on new meaning in digital culture.  We all have digital voices now.  We all can speak and can be heard.  The keyword that we mustn’t forget is…..THINK.



Summer of Connected Learning & I am Building a Little Digital Lifeboat

During the #clmooc this summer, I connected with educators to explore the potential for Google Plus, tweet-ups, Google Hangouts, and a variety of digital writing tools.  Although I am no stranger to the importance of embracing change and diving into new innovative technology, this group of moocers made me realize the impossibility of conquering digital media and EVER feeling as though I am “done”.  So, as I reflect, I contemplate how to cope with this feeling of never reaching the end.

As a National Writing Project trainer and mentor, I used to teach summer writing institutes with a philosophical foundation about process being more important than product.  Writing is a process which is recursive- meaning a writer continuously gathers ideas and revisits them.

Digital media, however,  has dramatically changed this process, by providing a constant stream of new tools. Imagine giving the writer different paper, pens, typewriters, or other writing materials every hour or so and expecting a revised, high quality essay of a sizeable length. Without time to master the tool, can one create something of value with the tool? I have written about “disposable media” in the past.  We now witness a flood of disposal media from all age groups: status updates, tweets, Vine videos, memes, and blog posts.  Some of this triviality is simply clutter and very little is meant to be of high literary quality.  Because I simultaneously taught a childrens’ and young adult literature class this summer (while moocing) high quality literature is foremost in my mind.  Literature, I daresay, is still important!  How can we teach writers to carefully hone revision skills in an age of disposable media?  I raise the question, because the process has become so rapid and chaotic, the actual products (countless digital Web 2.0 productions) are tossed into the cyber sea.

One goal I propose for myself, is to gather these new digital tools into a personal electronic portfolio (eportfolio)- not only to help myself find them later in the numerous online spaces (think accounts/passwords/urls) but to share them as examples to students and educators.  This eportfolio might also be a personal archive, similar to a physical scrapbook. I might view this as a lifeboat for the bits and pieces I tryout in my digital writing process rather than allowing them to float away.

The #clmooc challenged me to consider some new digital writing forms, such as poetry written in code (thanks @chadsangsing) and countless others at the Making Learning Connected blog.  I plan to try thimble and computer code poetry!  I repeat, I feel like I will never be done!  The tools are flying past me at tweet speed.  Perhaps, this concept is not really new.  Life is never “done” but somehow a sense of closure, a sense of accomplishment may have given humans comfort in times past.  Was that just an illusion?

Building a professional learning network has been a rewarding, yet challenging feat.  I highly respect my colleagues in online communities (some newly met in the #clmooc).  I wonder if any of you sometimes feel a sense of uneasiness due to our constant digital media intake and production?

Where shall I build my “little digital lifeboat”?  I think my starting place for an eportfolio will be  livebinder.  Who knows, that tool may also change and I will have to jump over to another boat.  Being a positive person, I know that some of my friendly colleagues will help rescue me.


A MOOC Credo

As I juggle teaching a summer college course, presenting at the American Library Association Convention, and continued learning at the speed of “MOOC-light”, I have been challenged to write a personal belief statement or CREDO.  Here goes:


This I Believe

Both life and learning have changed dramatically in the past decade and will never be the same due to the information revolution.  My learning journey has focused on information literacy (as a career librarian) and the journey has been turned completely upside down.  I believe the human spirit can excel and will not succumb to the threats of “the machine” or the “cyberworld”.  Technology is but a tool and I have faith that love and compassionate wisdom will triumph.  I believe that people are more important than code or profit.


One of my ALA presentations was on the topic of MOOCs and education, so my participation in the #clmooc was timely.  This is my 4th MOOC, so I feel I am beginning to understand how to fully participate as well as how to learn simply by lurking.

This exploration of the MOOC, alongside my exploration of virtual worlds and emerging technology trends, contributed to my CREDO about new modes of learning and living.  All of us must now balance our virtual (digital) lives with our physical lives.  I found it ironic (since I was in the middle of taking a MOOC and speaking on the topic) to hear the last question asked of Jaron Lanier during his ALA speech.  When asked what he thought of MOOCs, Lanier said, “MOOCs are moronic!”  I understand and agree with Lanier’s sentiments about the future.  However, I know he realizes there is no going back to the old information hierarchy which has toppled.  Most likely, many of the innovative technology tools, trends, and websites we are currently using will come and go.   Alvin Toffler was absolutely right when he said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”










Next on my list to read is  Jaron Lanier’s new book, Who Owns the Future?  Maybe we need to unlearn and relearn our concept of the Internet.  One thing is for certain— no single person can do that.  It is up to all of us and I am counting on my fellow man to uphold my CREDO and revise it into something better one day.


Powerful PROs of Connected Learning

#Clmooc reflection

I write my reflection between conference sessions at the American Library Association Convention 2013 in Chicago. Traveling yesterday was grueling due to traffic jams, flight delays, crowded elevators, and confusing bus shuttles. I finally made it to my hotel, extremely hungry and exhausted. As I turned on my digital device to check the #clmooc, I realized how easy it is to learn through online virtual connectivity. Although I enjoy attending and presenting at conferences where I can network with colleagues face-to-face, the rising costs of travel make it difficult and I spend hours and hours to get to a session where I listen to a colleague thinking I should get the name so we can connect online.

I started thinking of the inevitability of virtual connected learning due to the

Powerful Pros

1. Cost effectiveness

2. Time saving

3. Personal intense learning

4. Global connections

5. Efficient (No sore feet from walking miles and miles through a convention center. I say that as someone who loves hiking.)

So now, in a beautiful ballroom at the convention, I sit anxiously awaiting a speaker who is “the father of virtual reality”- Jaron Lanier. I will revisit this post after his speech. Lanier wrote “You are Not a Gadget” which is on my list of cyborgs-beware reading (along with Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle and others). While I embrace a positive attitude toward the future, I have uneasy feelings about our rush to plunge into digital culture without the skills needed to survive.

Perhaps a metaphor I could use as an information literacy librarian would be my role as “deep sea diving trainer”. Surviving the sea of chaos requires some life-saving skills.