Thursday, 8 April 2010

Social Media doesn't threaten literacy!

Also published on the Educational Technology and Change Journal

You can read a lot about the threat of new media to literacy and the printed word. Harold Jarche blog post Literacies is an example. Often there is a link made between an ability to engage in deep and meaningful understanding and learning and reading large bodies of text. Or rather, a link between an inability to do this with the fast-pace of linking between different media in the Web 2.0 world. Well, I just don't buy this. In fact it's rubbish.

Firstly, literate doesn't just mean reading large bodies of text, you can be literate in a number of diffrerent communication tools. Not just the one that dominated by necessity being the only means of mass media distribution available for a while. Now the oral tradition is making a comeback and I have no real problem with that. It's the way it was done before books were on the scene and its still the dominant way in many non-western societies who can now take advantage of what's on offer. Also, text literacy isn't threatened by social media it's enhanced by it. Facebook and messaging forced teenagers to use words and sentences for their communication where previously it was only speaking (I never wrote a letter to a friend when I was a teenager). Ok, it's short but what the matter with that. I'm more in line with Negroponte on this issue. He says:

"Reading and writing are going to be around forever. The word is not going to go away and collecting words into bodies of thought is not going to go away." and

"There is no question that words are powerful, that they always have been and always will be … But just as we seldom carve words in rocks these days, we will probably not print many of them on paper for binding tomorrow."

Let's not confuse reading with publishing. Publishers want reading to be synonymous with books. But it doesn't have to be this way and it really isn't now.

The ability to quickly reference, aggregation, annotate and manipulate text is a massive, massive plus for learning and understanding. It can be done and was done in the old way but not by nearly enough as we'd care to admit to ourselves. Often the book champions are avid readers. What about those that don't read much. Surely, engaging in social media is plus for them. There exposure to words goes up drastically. Now the conditions for learning (admittedly only in computer rich societies) are far more desirable. Thinking about how I learn, I like printing and noting, but I also like RSS, online note-taking, bookmarking, and blogging. There things are fundamental. These things facilitate my learning and democratise it for all. The single biggest factor in helping the quality of my literacy is this blog (please don't comment on my grammar, it's improved a lot)!

The biggest barrier to this is learning how to learn this way and an obstacle in the way of this is the negative light social media is painted in.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Ebook readers/Ipad for education?

Also published on the Educational Technology and Change Journal

I'm doing a project on Ebook readers at the moment and it's led me to follow closely the advent of the iPad and the ebook reader developments. My interest is the potential impact on education. At the moment, the contest is in the commercial/entertainment market. Once things settle down education will be looked at. From what I've been studying, you can't just give students and educators an ebook reader as it is right now and expect it to transfer across to education successfully. Looking at it just from a book replication point of view it has to, at least, perform the tasks students need from any text well and efficiently. Principle amongst these is taking notes and flicking back and forth through the pages. It seems that, at the moment, Kindle and co. don't do the annotation and navigation well enough for the devices to sell themselves in an educational context. This is crucial because, for learning, you have to be able to personalise the resource in some way and, for the classic textbook, this is done by scribbling in the margin, underlining, highlighting. A recent pilot programme using ebook readers showing these issues is discussed in the article Highlighting E-Readers by Steve Kolowich.

Alongside this, you have the easy sell of the storage saving and long term cost saving together with the environmental plus point. This last issue is a complicated one but I come down on the plus side largely because of the article Ebook readers greener than books, study says by Martin LaMonica. However, I've heard some awful things about the black market that exists around the disposal of old hardware.

When the time comes for educational use, the selling point be with the textbook. The classic ebook reader will not challenge the didactic pedagogy and therefore has a chance of success - as long as it can be seen to do what is done already better. The biggest obstacle in the way of this will be publishers jockeying for position to control this market. It's annoying but inevitable.

Now to the ipad. One impact will be making Kindle look horribly out of date. Even though they are not doing exactly the same things, they look and seem comparable and the ebook reader pales by comparison. I suggest Kindle sorts out it's web browsing and lack of colour pretty damn quickly! Looking out of date shouldn't matter, but this is always a valid bullet point when you approach the whole issue of e-learning and "connecting with the kids." Still this is the important point. What's important is the impact it will have on mobile learning in general. Yes, e-reading can occur, but being a suitable, valid, legitimate devices to house to house mobile learning could be its biggest legacy. It's far too early to say but my instinct tell me so.

When it comes to pedagogy, whereas the ebook reader will reinforced the didactic, the ipad would challenge it by offering such a vast array of features and media options any educator who teaches with one would be foolish not to explore what's available.

Now I know none of this will happen any time soon. But the potential is there. Having said that the potential is there to do a lot of things with technology and it doesn't happen, but you know that right.