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The digital age has unexpectedly forced us to re-evaluate what it means to be literate in a modern age. There's knowledge about how to use the computer. There's knowledge about how to express yourself using the common forms of software available for public use. There's knowledge of yourself and community or work environment; I call this having your own primary data. There is the knowledge you can get online about the world and other people; we might call this secondary data. There is the task of integrating all these forms of knowledge inside yourself, a task that takes weeks months or years. (See my early attempt to describe Information Literacy.) Until your new learning is internalised, it's still fragile, only partly integrated into your life. Each of us has to develop your own online confidence and communication skills. We have a new potential to create a much better informed society, but we have hardly begun the task. Each of us has to learn to learn again. Five or ten years after you begin, clear evidence of new skills and understandings, a completely new capability will be present. Sadly the way most people choose to use computers the five or ten year process I point to will never happen. If you don't engage with other people online, the potential benefits cannot be realised. (See my early research: The Bryndwr Group.)
Here in New Zealand we have done a great deal to develop a new behavioural based educational curriculum. At every level of the education system people need to be able to develop these new forms of literacy. We can achieve a lot by considering Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking Skills at each level. Educational specialists need to develop the Unit Standards that seek to teach the basis of these skills.
Imagine a learning spiral, starting with a small base and getting stronger and wider as knowledge grows. Each turn of the spiral is supported by desired outcomes and knowledge.
Each turn of the spiral reinforces and extends the core elements of the process.
Data Collection and Analysis
Interpersonal and Intercultural Knowledge
Understanding Civic and Social Choices
Thinking and Integration Skills
Below I speculate on the sort of skills people need to develop.
Doing your own first hand local research and observations. (primary data)
Searching the WWW for information. Learning to use books and library services. (secondary data)
Engaging online or in person with parents, grandparents and other people we know.
Engaging in your own class in asking better questions, and finding more satisfying responses.
Engaging in discussions with pupils in other schools and other countries.
Discovering the cultural mix in our own communities. (primary data)
Finding out about the families and lifestyles of people we meet online. Letter exchanges with children overseas. Instant messenger discussions with an educational objective online. (secondary data)
Looking at the way we organise our community and comparing that with other communities. Doing some research in history and geography. Understanding a little about different political and economic systems.
Integration of these ideas with our understanding of history, geography and social organisation.
New names, new languages, new ways of understanding. Developing a curiosity about the world, the need to be capable of operating in more than one language.
Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking Skills, provides a framework to think about thinking skills, beginning with finding the data, then learning to understand and apply it, but also going on to higher level comparative and generative activities.
Costa's Theory of Habits of the Mind, is another way to think about thinking that considers the quality of engagement and the social aspects of better thinking.
Collecting your own data about your own primary experience. (Keeping a journal or a notebook.)
Identify areas of interest and seeking to find others who share that interest. (secondary experience)
Asking questions or posing problems for yourself and the people you are connected with. Seeking together to improve y/our knowledge.
Acknowledging the contributions of others. Being sensitive to the religious and political opinions of others. Listening and learning.
Engaging in debate across cultural boundaries.
Engaging in research and discussion with the objective of creating and sharing useful ideas.
Participation in online forums. Awareness of online political and social campaigns.
Privately integrating the vast number of new and challenging ideas that confront one when you begin to work online. Enlarging your own world.
Actively engaging in debate and discussion. Participating on forums and social networks.
Finding several (10) sources of rich data that can inform your professional and social life. Organising and evaluating that data in relation to your own primary experience. Actively engaged in making that data understandable and useful.
Joining groups of people who are engaged in a Community of Practice. Conducting a professional level interaction with those people. Developing a diverse group of peers (30) who you know and trust and who likewise know you. These people will offer you time and knowledge and advice if you ask, but that's a mutual obligation.
Online you meet people from many cultures, religions and political viewpoints. This may be most obvious in poor use of second and third languages. It may also flare up in causing deep offence against someone's religious or political standards. If you care to listen there is much to learn.
Recognition of obligations to peers and to the process of defending truth and democratic process. Recognition of the need to use data in a way that is scientifically and socially useful. Misuse of data and knowing corruption of data is both professional and social misconduct.
Generative use of your understanding and knowledge. Sharing what you know with peers and with appropriate juniors.
Being a resource person for others.
Using language and the integration of new ideas to create new meaning.
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