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.
A group of 5th graders joined me in the library learning loft after school this past semester to work on a gamification project. Because Project Based Learning has been emphasized in academia as a way to promote real world learning in the 21st century, the goal of our tech club was to conquer a real need that students have in today’s digital culture: understanding the responsibilities of digital citizenship and cyber safety. My role was to provide the space, the technology tools, and to facilitate the learning experience, but the project would be totally developed and designed by 5th graders.
The Project Began
Since I have a background in virtual worlds and machinima, I was comfortable with building in 3D and shooting video inside a game world. However, I had never played Minecraft and wanted to be sure the students understood the educational purpose of our club. Parental permission and school district approval were first and foremost before the students could begin work.
Because this was the first project in a virtual online game at my school (or that I am aware of in my school district), I needed to get support from administration. I was given the okay to use MinecraftEDU rather than the regular Minecraft game most likely because the “edu” clearly focuses on a collaboration of educators. After receiving approval from my principal and district administration, I was given a purchase order for a classroom set of Minecraftedu game licenses to use with up to 25 students.
I was already aware that Minecraft is currently a very popular game with children because the icon on my desktop caused a constant chatter in the library for weeks before the club began. “Hey, look- she plays Minecraft!” was heard in almost every class- even kindergarten. I decided to hide the icon rather than tell the students that only a small group would be able to take part in the Minecraft project.
Although I consider myself a tech savvy librarian, am comfortable in a variety of virtual worlds, and have embraced Web 2.0 and multi-media tools, I had a difficult time getting the server up. A private server would assure that students would not run into strangers. During the busy school day, I tried several times to host the server but never could get in and began to worry that we would not be able to get into the game on the first day of the Minecraft Club. My first student entered the library after school that day and together we had it running in less than five minutes, which led to a blog post on the concept of digital natives.
Critical Thinking Skills
Watching the students work in Minecraft validated my research in virtual worlds. This next generation of young adults will be quite ready to utilize 3D immersive learning and will not find it as complex as the generation ahead of them. It was amazing to see how quickly the students built homes and buildings and it confirmed the idea that there is something innate in humans that makes us want to create.
Although the students were immediately engaged in creativity, I found my role as teacher imperative to this project. The students needed guidance in identifying an educational topic that would clearly focus on an essential driving question. After the first few club meetings, the students agreed on the need to help younger children learn digital citizenship and cyber safety. The challenge for the project was to design a game that would help students understand those concepts in a fun and immersive way. Once this driving question became the challenge, the students took off building a maze inside the “Budder Library of Digital Citizenship”. Game design came naturally to them as they built levers to open doors when questions were answered correctly.
Students as Project Leaders
Since I had very little experience in the game, the students were empowered as leaders and felt they were teaching me. They had no idea that I could film inside the game (using machinima capture software) but one boy showed me that he has a Youtube channel and films inside the game himself using Bandicam. I thought I was a pioneer in 3D learning and was humbled to see a ten year old boy film machinima easily.
Another boy asked, “Do you know what a griefer is?” These students understood griefing and other gaming terms and taught me the user-interface (how to teleport, text, etc) with excellent explanation of shortcuts. I overheard them joking with each other about trolling which led to discussion about being good digital citizens in practice not only theory.
Our project took place over just a few months but I am proud of the accomplishments of my 5th graders in that short time.
The Students Graduate to Middle School
Whether or not this project continues to grow, I know that I learned as much from this experience as my students did. As they leave for middle school, I know they are hard workers and they understand taking personal responsibility for digital citizenship. In an ever-changing world of digital media, the future is in good hands.
I’ve always enjoyed the metaphor of a library as a garden. The librarian tends the garden by planting and weeding. In Texas, the CREW method (continuous review, evaluation and weeding) proposes an ongoing way to promote a healthy library which Ranganathan defined as a “living organism”.
The Internet may be viewed with a similar metaphor and may certainly be defined as a “living organism”. However, there is no weeding method for maintaining the health of the Internet and one might compare it to a tangled forest of overgrowth or a continually growing monstrosity. Rather than a garden, the web seems more like a garbage dump with treasure buried under mounds of rubbish. Of course, there are reliable databases and sites, such as the Internet Public Library, but how many people go beyond the first page of Google hits or beyond Youtube for how-to’s on just about anything? Close-enough is sufficient and convenience trumps quality, authority, and reliability. With thousands of images at our fingertips, who really cares where they came from (other than librarians and a scholars)?
My son and I once glimpsed something truly stunning outside the window of the parlor car on a train: a junkyard filled with cars, each with the hood up. The sun was shining at a angle that made the cars sparkle in many colors and we thought it looked like a garden. There is beauty everywhere- there are poems hidden under leaves and in my purse. Who am I to question where and how anyone finds what they seek? I suppose, a career in information science for over 20 years allows me just a bit of knowledge on the subject; yet I keep referring in my blog to the “toppling of the information hierarchy”. My professional role has been to help others find the best quality in information resources in any location or format (whether in a garden or a garbage dump?).
Thrift Store creative commons photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/orinrobertjohn/500212463/
The Old and the New
As a thrift store shopper, I understand that the “old” can sometimes be the “new”. I have found lovely clothes and treasures hidden in thrift shops. Often the newer articles are cheaply constructed and not worth the cost. Instead of comparing the Internet to a garbage dump, perhaps a better metaphor is a giant thrift store full of treasures mingled with crazy crafts and user-generated gadgetry.
Currently, I am reading Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman. The book discusses how we are witnessing the moment of crossover into pervasive media technologies (p. 41). Ubiquitous computing has arrived and we can choose to perceive the change as frightening (Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together) or investigate ways to adapt to the three C’s: communication, community, and collaboration (p.23).
A gardener can work alone among the flora and the weeds; but we need each other to uncover the buried treasure (physical, virtual, digital, and augmented) in the gigantic tangled cyberworld in which we now live.
Emerging technology trends (often called Web 2.0 for educators) can sometimes be overwhelming to teachers. For example, my Assistant Principal has been working with me in the library to share new tech tools with teachers at a “lunch and learn” session. Teachers bring lunch to the library and my Principal covers recess duty. That shows commitment to teachers learning technology!
MOOCs & Intimidating New Trends
Last week, I shared my recent exploration of a MOOC (massively open online course) with a group of kindergarten teachers. MOOCs are mostly used for higher education, but the Anne Frank MOOC, which takes place online as well is in a virtual world, is designed for middle school learners and is a great example of how education is changing. I felt kindergarten teachers should be aware of where students are headed. When one kindergarten teacher saw the virtual world avatars, she became overwhelmed and stated in exasperation, “WHO has time for that?”
She paused, looking as though she might cry, and then said, “We need to be teaching our kids the basics.”
Then she said something that really made me stop in my tracks. She asked, “Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?”
I completely understood her frustration with keeping up with technology. I was reminded of the popular essay “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulgham. For the rest of the day, this idea and the overwhelmed expression of the kindergarten teacher, whose face usually appears patient and calm, kept coming to mind. I felt a need to answer her question, not directly to her because the session had other technology tips that were useful and applicable to kindergarten and she left feeling a sense of accomplishment. I needed to answer her questions for my own peace of mind.
1. WHO has time for that?
Who has time to keep up with all of the educational technology trends, applications, upgrades, and online tools as they rapidly change? After several years of trying, I often say that nobody could keep up with them all. The only way we can utilize them is through personal and professional networks. I could stay up all night every night and never conquer all the new apps, online sites, user-generated content tools, and sharing sites. But that does not mean that I don’t need to be aware of them. I think it is important to make time for the networking with the goal of awareness of education on the other side of the digital revolution. Building a “go-to” network of other educators has become crucial.
2.Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?
Have you watched a kindergartener lately? Any 5 year old can pick up an iPad and use it and I see toddlers every day in the mall, at a restaurant, or with parents after school, using digital devices. The world has changed since the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” essay. What has changed our world? Everyone’s world? A kindergartener’s world?
“It may be that the great age of libraries is waning, but I am here to tell you that the great age of librarians is just beginning. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be a part of it.” ~T. Scott Plutchak
I have used this quote perhaps more than any other over the past five years when writing or speaking about the future of education and information. As the digital revolution changes education and society, physical libraries and physical books are no longer at the top of the information hierarchy. My role, however, is as relevant as it was in the days of “books” and I am beginning to think it may be even more critical. Information literacy includes so much more than reading and writing.
Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.
As convener of the Association of College and Research Libraries Virtual World Interest Group, I am excited about an upcoming event which is jointly sponsored by ACRL VWIG and CILR (the Center for Information Literacy Research based in the UK). The two groups have worked together to discuss information literacy on a global scale. How is literacy changing and how are information literacy specialists teaching 21st century skills to students?
Sunday, October 21st from 12 noon to 1 pm SLT (Pacific Time USA)
International Information Literacy Panelists
Sheila Webber (Sheila Yoshikawa in SL), Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Information Studies, University of Sheffield – UK (British IL Associations)
Ewa Rozkosz-Poland – Saba Pearl in SL (Polish IL Association)
Elvira Saurina (Mariae Habana in SL) -, Sistema de Bibliotecas. Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile Santiago de Chile
Stylianos Mystakidis (Sylianos Mystakidis in SL)- E-learning & Virtual Worlds Specialist at the Library & Information Center of the University of Patras, Greece
Valerie Hill – (Valibrarian Gregg in SL) LISD Library Media Specialist, Adjunct Instructor, TWU School of Library and Information Studies- USA (AASL 21st Century Standards Information Literacy)
Where will my eyes stop for a moment to truly focus?
On what do I give my undivided attention?
Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Time is money”; however, I propose a change in the old adage. How about, “Attention is money”?
Attention is valuable in the information age because we are bombarded with information in multiple formats. Instead of seeking out what to see or hear, information is knocking down our front door every day– each time we plug-in. And, today’s youth are always plugged-in. Most people under 30 years of age (and some older- how about you?) reach for a smart phone and access the virtual world before getting out of bed each morning. Or perhaps they put on Google goggles or whatever new app is available by the time I hit the “submit” button for this blog post.
Back in the glory days of the book, some of the quickest learners were admired for their speed reading abilities. Today, after the digital revolution, we scan through Internet pages while multitasking on our digital devices, focusing for only a number of seconds on most pages.
Now, after the Gutenberg parenthesis has closed, the quickest learners may not be those able to speed read, but those able to
s–l–o–w–d–o–w–n and truly focus deeply.
“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” ~ John Naisbitt
The quest for knowledge (and ultimately wisdom) requires perseverance, focus, and that now extremely valuable and rare element of attention.
What does that mean? In the old hierarchy mode, an authority figure was in charge (the teacher, the press, the library, the institution). Today, crowd-sourced content is top dog and the media news broadcast is a talk show over coffee. Which means, you must critically evaluate all the information that is bombarding you on the web each day.
2. You must participate.
This can be problematic. Most of the experts (whom I respect greatly- see my recommended reading list) warn of the “dumbing down” of our youth through convenient internet browsing for answers and through narcissistic social media participation. Like it or not, however, there is no going back to the old hierarchy where accuracy and authority were more important than popularity and personal interest. Barlow and Leston end their book, Beyond the Blogsphere (2012), by stating, “When a collective force as ubiquitous as the internet continues to grow at alarming speeds and when most of its energy is wasted, some sketches of understanding need to be made so that we can begin to better understand this growing, pulsing, emerging organism called the internet.”
3. You MUST credit.
Surprise! Plagiarism still applies! Amazingly, I see both students and teachers who do not understand that you cannot simply take a picture off a website and use it in whatever manner you choose. The common misconception is that if someone posted it online…it’s mine! Perhaps the rapid evolution from print to electronic media created confusion about intellectual property. But, in my opinion, the blurry line between professional life and personal life is more likely the culprit.
That’s another topic- one which I imagine others are currently contemplating. Social media encourages the “fuzzy line” between professional and personal communication. For the past year or so, I have been thinking that entertainment and triviality make up about 98% of social media, leaving only 2% for educational use. In other words, you really don’t have to give credit when the communication is just about the pizza you are eating! (Why does eveyone love to post pictures of food? I guess it is just part of being human. And, by the way, you must credit even the pizza picture unless you took it yourself or it is copyright free.) That 98% I mentioned is, metaphorically, a giant pizza.
Steampunk from http://www.flickr.com/photos/f7oor/564669765/
The first time I encountered the term “steampunk” was in the virtual world of Second Life. I rode a hot-air balloon and saw interesting and wacky contraptions! Merging of the mechanical gagetry of the industrial revolution with the sleek high tech digital age provides some unique creative expression. One of the librarian blogs I follow (see the Centered Librarian– where do you find all the cool photos!?) shared this PBS Arts Special on the topic of steampunk. Take a look:
The idea of an altervative historical genre is aesthetically appealing particularly in a time when architecture and design are often dictated by short-term goals. Disposable, economical buildings are more prevalent than beautiful, expensive and artistically designed ones in our current culture. Clothing, too, is made to appeal to the masses and styles are dictated by the media and celebrities. Perhaps part of the appeal of steampunk is the return to an earlier time- when things were built to last. Combine that appeal with the wildest inventions one can imagine and the mix is both comforting and disturbing. An oxymoron is, in my opinion, a true expression of life’s essence.
In March of 2010, the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference had a steampunk theme. Some of the presentation venues (virtually spaces where avatars gathered) had interesting mechanical gadgets with lots of metal gears and parts. Participants, including myself and colleagues from the University of Washington, dressed in steampunk attire during sessions. I filmed a few machinima shots during our session and at the main conference meeting space.
Although I am not personally a steampunk enthusiast, I am intrigued by all genres of transmedia. My brief trip into the realm of steampunk was an example of transliteracy because I experienced the genre across a variety of communication platforms.