Inspiration | Page 3

Blended Learning Inspiration Open education

We, the learners…

Petra Dierkes-Thrun launches a “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age” on her blog this morning (hat tip to the Chronicle and University Affairs for the link).

I love these statements from the preamble:

The Internet has made it possible for anyone on the planet to be a student, a teacher, and a creative collaborator at virtually no cost. Novel technologies that can catalyze learning are bubbling up in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Some have emerged from universities, some from the private sector, some from individuals and digital communities. In the past year, Massive Online Open Courseware, or MOOCs, have become the darling of the moment–lauded by the media, embraced by millions–so new, so promising in possibility, and yet so ripe for exploitation.

We believe that online learning represents a powerful and potentially awe-inspiring opportunity to make new forms of learning available to all students worldwide, whether young or old, learning for credit, self-improvement, employment, or just pleasure. We believe that online courses can create “meaningful” as well as “massive” learning opportunities.

We are aware of how much we don’t know: that we have yet to explore the full pedagogical potential of learning online, of how it can change the ways we teach, the ways we learn, and the ways we connect.

Our broad goal is to inspire an open, learner-centered dialogue around the rights, responsibilities, and possibilities for education in the globally-connected world of the present and beyond.

The document itself presents a set of rights and another of principles. With regards to the former, they include the right to: access; privacy; create public knowledge; own one’s personal data and intellectual property; financial transparency; pedagogical transparency; quality and care; have great teachers; and to be teachers. While for the latter, principles include: Global contribution; Value; Flexibility; Hybrid learning; Persistence; Innovation; Formative assessment; Experimentation; Civility; and Play.

I find that these statements are important reminders of the issues that underpin our daily activities. Congratulations to the drafters and this will certainly help me orient my online endeavours.

Information literacy Inspiration

UNESCO launches Media & Information Literacy Online Course

UNESCO annonces the launch of an online course in Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue :

The course will focus on the following subjects:

Intercultural dialogue and citizenship;
Freedom of expression, freedom of information and understanding the news;
Representation and languages in media and information;
Advertising and citizenship;
Information literacy and library skills;
MIL and teaching/learning;
MIL policies and strategies;
Citizens and the media and technologies;
Global media/technologies in an increasingly connected world; and
Internet opportunities and challenges.
The course will be offered through QUT’s online learning system, Blackboard, and via Blackboard Collaborate. Most sessions will be self-directed, with ongoing interaction with the course presenters in the online space. There will be four ‘live’ sessions presented globally by international guest lecturers.

The course is free but enrollment is limited to 50 people. Applicants must fill out a form and submit it before mid-January 2013.

UNESCO and InfoLit

Of greater interest is UNESCO’s interest in IL. According to the United Nations agency :

This online course is part of UNESCO’s strategy to foster media and information literacy in societies, which includes:

Inspiration Research Social media

Tools for the digital scholar

A colleague passed on this nifty project – it aims to survey the digital authorship tools out there… Bamboo DiRT
From the Bamboo DiRT “about” page:

Bamboo DiRT is a tool, service, and collection registry of digital research tools for scholarly use. Developed by Project Bamboo, Bamboo DiRT is an evolution of Lisa Spiro’s DiRT wiki and makes it easy for digital humanists and others conducting digital research to find and compare resources ranging from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mindmapping software.


Comics in the classroom

An interesting read : this post on a Chronicle of Higher Education blog about comics in the classroom :

Last week many of us here at ProfHacker traveled out to George Mason University for THATCamp CHNM. I proposed a session on comics, and lots of great resources came out of the conversation as well as ideas about the possibilities of using the comic form to deliver accessible scholarship or to challenge students to engage differently with material in assignments. Comic-form scholarship is not a new idea–in the ProfHacker Summer Reading Guide, I recommended two books of this kind I’ve been re-reading: Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes and Alice in Sunderland. Nick Sousanis’s dissertation as comic takes the visual form to an inspiring extreme, reminiscent of Scott McCloud’s seminal comic texts. The same ideas can be applied to the digital, as conversions such as the CD version (with animations, billed as “interactive literature”) of Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe and the many layers of Art Spiegelman’s Meta Maus demonstrate.

These examples point towards what working in the comic form can accomplish as an exercise for students as well as for us: it demands the conscious structure of visual and textual data with intention. It can be a great form for experimenting with multimedia and in particular remembering that a picture can be more than illustration—it can illuminate something that complements, contradicts or otherwise engages with the text.

Critical Thinking Information literacy Inspiration

Reading notes: Information Diet by Clay Johnson

I just finished reading Clay Johnson’s book called The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. The author provides for a light and interesting read, somewhere between a personal account, a self-help book and a deeper analysis of information consumption. I highly recommend it to anyone working on information literacy.

My favorite quote comes at p.120: “Hummanity’s darkest moments are the ones in which masses of people had the worst information diets.”

Johnson uses a driving analogy between the food we eat (i.e. our diet) and the information we consume. He quickly dismisses the phrase “information overload” as misleading – as with obesity, we are responsible for the information we consume :

It’s not information overload, it’s information overconsumption that’s the problem. Information overload means somehow managing the intake of vast quantities of information in new and more efficient ways. Information overconsumption means we need to find new ways to be selective about our intake. It is very difficult, for example, to overconsume vegetables. (p.26)

The author then points out, in chapter 3 (“Big Info”) that the major corporations in charge of producing news have slowly but surely affirmed their strategy to “give people what they want: entertainment and affirmation” (p.31) rather than balanced facts. Entertainment is self-explanatory but affirmation means providing reinforcement for pre-existing beliefs – neither ofwhich qualify as balanced fact-based news.

Still in chapter 3, Johnson covers “content farms” who aim to (1) drive traffic to a site, (2) maximize ad-revenue, (3) on low turn-around time with (4) a modicum of editorial quality (p.35). This leads new model is possible because of a software system called BlogSmith which looks at search queries in real time and identifies breaking, seasonal or evergreen topics. “It’s journalism, commoditized.” (p.36) He also decries in 2008 there were 69300 news analysts versus 275000 public relations specialists, creating a system where the professionals responsible for our news suffer from their own kind of obesity that leads to churnalism (p.40) – the tendency to plagiarize press releases and calling it news.

Based on this prognosis, Johnson dives in the social psychology behind our unhealthy information consumption habits in his forth chapter. “[D]elusion comes from psychological phenomena like heuristics, conformation bias, and cognitive dissonance.” (p.45) A heuristic is a rule of thumb, confirmation bias is the tendency to overvalue information that confirms our point of view (all the while disregarding what attacks it) and we hate cognitive dissonance – according to Wikipedia – “discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.” Johnson even links searching to a dopamine inducing process: “We’re information consumption machines that evolved in a world where information about survival was scarce.” (p.51)

Johnson’ 5th chapter covers the central theme of his book: information obesity. “Through trial and error, our media companies have figured out what we want, and are giving it to us. It turns out, the more they give it to us, the more we want it. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop. […] The result is a public that’s being torn apart, only comfortable hearing the reality that’s unique to their particular tribe. […] It’s a new kind of ignorance epidemic: information obesity.” (p.54)

“The new ignorance has three flavors – all of which lead us to information obesity: agnotology, epistemic closure and filter failure” (p.58) efering to Robert Proctor, a historian at Stanford University, Johnson defines agnotology “as the study of culturally induced doubt, particularly through the production of seemingly factual data. It’s a modern form of manufactured ignorance.” (p.58) Similarly, epistemic closure is, quoting Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute,

“Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of had because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.”(p.59)

Johnson states “Epistemic closure is a tool that empowers agnotological ignorance. As certain information is produced, all other sources of information are dismissed as unreliable or worse, conspiratorial” (p.60). Finally, filter bubbles refers to Eli Pariser’s eponymous book (The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You) and emerge from “the network of personalization technology that figures out what you want and keeps feeding you that at the expense of what you don’t want.” (p.61)

The first part of Johnson’s book closes with the symptoms of information obesity (chapter 6): apnea (how notifications of new email of text messages on your cell phone change your vital signs); a poor sense of time; attention fatigue; loss of social breadth; distorted sense of reality and brand loyalty.

The second part of Johnson’s book covers his “information diet” – and has the definite (and slightly annoying) tone of a self-help book.

Johnson’s 7th chapter covers data literacy – which has “four main components – you need to know how to search, you need to know how to filter and process, you need to know how to produce, and you need to know how to synthesize” (p. 80) For searching, he points out the value of government information. For filtering, he quoted from a Knight commission report called Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.

Attention Fitness is the crux of Johnson’s 8th chapter. Willpower can be improved but only by measuring our current state and providing for an information consumption plan or budget. One must eliminate interruption technologies and focus on giving us some productive time while planning to spend time of social media a few minutes on the hour. This training can take time, increasing the amount of productive work in relation to distractive tasks – all the while keeping moments to pause or exercise.

Of course, having a strong sense of humor keeps us sane and allows us to consider all options – particularly the least probable or anticipated, as Johnson explains in his 9th chapter, quoting from Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind, MIT Press.

Johnson’s 10th chapter provides details on how to consume and proposes an audacious (but tongue-in-cheek) scheme to provide “nutritional” labels in information products – very much as we have for food. In reality, one should consume consciously, that is by controlling our information intake and its source. Keeping a clean habit includes such important advice as to cut one’s subscription to cable television in order to purchase items à la carte. Keeping a journal is also a good idea – as it provides measurable feedback. Other bits of advice include consuming local (p.108), low-ad (p.111), diverse – mainly Khan Academy, TED Talks and Kickstarter (p.113-5) and balanced (p.115) sources.

Johnson’s conclusion (Part III – Social Obesity) attempts to depict the how his scheme might impact the political and social climate in the USA. Of interest in Chapter 11 (the participation Gap) is his take on transparency’s dark side:

“You can simply claim to be transparent, and create a halo of honesty about you, without actually being honest.
Two factors empower this dark side of transparency. […] The first is the deluge of information and facts disguised as entertainment. Even the most open and transparent systems must compete with buckets of information that are more interesting. The second is our poor information diets – that we choose information we want to hear over information that reveals the truth makes the competition all the more difficult.(p.132)

Johnson continues:

“[T]he thruth is that citizen-focused transparency initiatives have a miserable track record of fighting corruption. And citizens have a miserable track record of using those initiatives to make rational decisions about the people they elect.
Transparency isn’t a replacement for integrity and honesty; it’s an infrastructural tool that allows for those attributes to occur – but only if the public is willing [to] act upon the information that they recieve as a result of transparency in a conscious, deliberate way.” (p. 134)

and :

“The greatest political ideas have come from the constant search for synthesis and pragmatism, and the foundation of democracy is constant public participation. (p. 137)

Our information consumption habits thus shape the economics of information production – that is how we can shape the future of available information at the societal level.

Johnson closes with a letter to programmers and software developers – the “new” scribes that rule our information world, with a call to get involved in local and social issues with their skills – to fix real problems.