Are Digital Literacies Generic or Context-specific?


I was recently asked by Sally Pewhairangi whether I thought digital literacies could be taught as generic skills, out of any particular context, and whether they would then transfer. When I was asked this question, examples of cooking and learning languages were offered (citing chef Tim Ferris). For example, could we learn the rules of cooking, then apply them to different ingredients and cuisines? Does “content” matter that much? There are three broad dimensions in my answer to this with respect to digital literacies being generic vs. context-specific: Cognitive skills aren’t like physical skills, but share

Turning Bullies Into Leaders Through Writing


When their writing is read and praised by others, “bullies become class leaders — they want attention, acknowledgement, appreciation. In this case, appreciation of creative risk.” Journalist-turned educator Geoffrey Gevalt is speaking of the Young Writers Project, an online writing magazine and community by and for more than 3,000 young people: “This site is a community that provides peer, mentor and professional support through reactions to individual posts, projects (youth-led, artist-supported initiatives) and, formal learning Playlists — offered for a small fee (or free if you can’t afford it.) This community has only one rule — RESPECT

Screen Time for Kids: Getting the Balance Right


From digital homework platforms to extended video chats with friends, from remote working to family WhatsApp groups, there are infinite ways that digital media are becoming integrated into both children’s and parents’ lives. Despite parents reporting how they benefit in their personal, professional and parenting lives from digital media, it is remarkable that so many in this generation of parents are still anxiously watching the “screen time” clock. “Screen time” is not “good” or “bad” in and of itself, but is rather a shorthand (though fairly out-dated) way of talking about millions of different ways of

What Teachers Can Learn from Students


I remember being a college student. The problem with being a professor who remembers being a college student, is that we’re probably misremembering, or our experience is different from those of our current students. Last week, I got to experience being in students’ shoes a little more than usual, and I found the experience particularly enlightening. I felt that being in closer or more intense contact with students for a couple of days and experiencing their lives helped me empathize with them more. This is very different from teaching them, because when I teach them, I

Did Media Literacy Backfire?


Anxious about the widespread consumption and spread of propaganda and fake news during this year’s election cycle, many progressives are calling for an increased commitment to media literacy programs. Others are clamoring for solutions that focus on expert fact-checking and labeling. Both of these approaches are likely to fail —  not because they are bad ideas, but because they fail to take into consideration the cultural context of information consumption that we’ve created over the last 30 years. The problem on our hands is a lot bigger than most folks appreciate. What Are Your Sources? I remember a

IBM, Pearson and the Cognitive Infrastructure of Education


The world’s largest edu-business, Pearson, partnered with one of the world’s largest computing companies, IBM, at the end of October 2016 to develop new approaches to education in the “cognitive era.” Their partnership was anticipated earlier in the year when both organizations produced reports about the future trajectories of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence for personalizing learning. I wrote a piece highlighting the key claims of both at the time, and have previously published some articles tracing both Pearson’s interests in big data and IBM’s development of cognitive systems for learning. The announcement of their partnership

‘Compojing’: Writing with Emoji for Fun and Profit


Over the past year and a half, I have been working closely with a group of researchers and teachers in Northern Colorado on a co-designed curriculum project called Compose Our World. While there is plenty to share about that project at a future date, today I want to talk a little bit about composition practices within our online communication tool, Slack. Specifically, I want to talk about “reactions” within the platform. While many readers may be presently using or are familiar with Slack, what I most appreciate is how seamlessly it moves communication from text to