Scaffolding Web Literacy Through Learning Pathways


Learning is messy. It starts. It stops. It’s prismatic and elusive. Learners make progress, regress and then make giant leaps forward in understanding and ability. Some concepts and skills come quickly and easily, while others are hard-won. Learning, in other words — while fundamental to what it means to be human — remains somewhat of an enigma. Since leaving the confines of formal education, I’ve found just how messy learning can be. I’ve found that for most people it’s an intensely personal journey, something that not only is important for employment and contribution to society, but for self-actualization and human flourishing. Sometimes, but not

Digital Tools Can’t Magically Create Connections


One of the best perks of supporting the Los Angeles Central Library is advanced notice of the readings and talks coming through town as part of their ALOUD program. A few months ago, when I noticed that danah boyd was going to be talking about her recent book, “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens,” with USC Professor and Connected Learning pioneer, Henry Jenkins, I snapped up a ticket. The talk took place at the end of July, and the ideas that these two scholars expressed about how young people are interacting with digital tools

Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity


By the end of 2014, more than 3 billion people will have access to the Internet, which means that they (we) have the power to ask any question at any time and get a multitude of answers within a second. The responsibility for distinguishing between accurate, credible, true information and misinformation or disinformation, however, is no longer vested in trained and vetted experts — editors, publishers, critics, librarians, professors, subject-matter specialists. Now, the enormity, ubiquity and dubious credibility of the information available to most of the world’s population is requiring each of us to become something

Paper Circuitry Illuminates ‘Writing as Making’


There has been a great deal of buzz lately about “making” and production-centered learning. As a professor of literature and writing, I have been enthusiastic about the role “making” might play in the classroom. (Even those classrooms or courses that don’t inherently seem to lend themselves to making in the most obvious sense.) But the truth is, this new found enthusiasm is sometimes an uphill march. Should we relinquish our valuable classroom time to such endeavors that seem at best a crafty indulgence, or at worst, a waste of precious instructional time? This summer, I have

Study Proves Why We Need Digital Literacy Education


A few months ago, the Internet buzzed with the results of a study comparing students’ note-taking on computers versus note-taking with paper and pen. In the article, authors Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer shared the results of three experiments comparing these two note-taking conditions, and their conclusion was signaled in the title: “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard.” Following the authors’ lead, most media reports treated these results as proof that using laptops for note-taking — or, some argued, any classroom use — was detrimental to learning. However, I think the results point

‘Breaking the Wall of Internet Censorship’


When I was in East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the reunification of the two divided states, I was struck by how many shop windows advertised how-to guides with technical specifications for TV and radio enthusiasts, so that people once cut-off from the rest of the world could feel connected to various electronic sources for news and information. All over Dresden, where I was, it seemed that hobbyists were mounting antennas on rooftops to get signals from the other side of a once impenetrable Iron Curtain and were building knowledge networks

The Selfish Selfie and Simulation, Part 2


Random autobiographical story: When in school, as part of our elocution classes, we had a dragon for a teacher, who used to prowl around with a menacing looking wooden measuring scale, as we obediently enunciated our words and practiced tongue twisters in an attempt to improve our diction and pronunciation. “She sells shellfish on the sea shore” the class chanted in a well-trained chorus. Every voice a whimper, trying to find comfort in remaining anonymous. But, in the middle of the group chanting, the scale rose and there would be silence. One petrified kid was stared

Organizing Algorithms, Calculated Publics in Digitally-Mediated Education


Recent news reports have begun to reveal how various analytics companies are now data mining millions of children. The learning analytics company Knewton, for example, claims that 4.1 million students are now using its proficiency-based adaptive learning platform, which has served 3.5 billion total recommendations between May 2013 and May 2014 alone. The role of these predictive analytics platforms and recommender systems in education is increasingly causing political and parental concerns, largely related to privacy. Less acknowledged, however, is the increasingly autonomous and automated capacity of the software algorithms working in the background of these platforms.