From WoW to wow!

I can’t believe how close we are to the end! Just one more class to go – it’s amazing how time flies. It feels like just a few weeks ago we were reading about actor-network theory and World of Warcraft. Now, we’re talking about access and equity and projects I can’t even begin to describe. Crazy.

I originally envisioned this blog as a sort of beacon, a place to call for and justify the need for information and media literacy. However, I quickly came to realize two things:

1. As a student who is involved in writing many, many other things, I don’t always have the time to sit down and write out a polished analysis or argument.

2. I don’t always want to write about media and information literacy! Sometimes, I find other topics to be equally if not more interesting. It’s very difficult to write about the same thing each week.

That being said, thank you (to my small in-class readership) for indulging me in my half-formed thoughts and musings about all things Massive-related. I didn’t realize blogging could be so rewarding!

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The Second Digital Divide – a Gap in Media Literacy

I loved our readings this week – I feel like I’ve been waiting to talk about issues of equity and access since the beginning of the course! I’m wondering, though, how best to address these issues in writing this week – I feel like the ideas and worries are so big, and the solutions so elusive, that I don’t even know where to start. The idea of the second digital divide – the notion that it’s not just the access to technology, but the ways in which we use the technology that is creating a rift between the haves and have-nots – was really salient to me, and rang true to me in a way that few of our other readings have. As you may know from my past blog posts, I’m a big proponent of media and information literacy, which not only encompasses how we locate and evaluate information, but how we use it – and accompanying media tools – thoughtfully and effectively. This second digital divide is essentially a gap in media literacy, which can be traced back to the the quality of an individual’s learning experiences with computers (both at home and in the classroom).  Thus I’m puzzling this week: how can we address this is schools?  When I think back to my own students, I had those who were in both camps, and those who were somewhere in-between – and meanwhile, I only had three computers in my classroom, and only myself to oversee students in the lab. Students did have a technology special once a week, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily enough – and that still isn’t giving students sustained time with technology, let alone time to work with the single adult in the room. None of this is to mention the kinds of programs students are using in school – which vary wildly depending on school budgets, philosophies, etc.

I know I haven’t fully fleshed out the issue (not by a long shot) – and I apologize for not presenting it better – I’m rather swamped this week and I think my brain is starting to short-circuit! All the same, I’m wondering if other people are thinking about this as well? Help me work through the muddle!

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Visions of the Future

This week, I’m choosing to forgo a traditional blog post in light of one of our class assignments, which is to create a dramatic rendering of a dystopian future arising from the misuse of technology in education (think MOOCs, flipped classrooms, etc. meets Big Brother – the 1984 one, not the TV one, although that would be pretty messed up too.) This whole assignment intrigues me, so I wanted to give myself time to explore it. A first attempt:

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I may create more visions, so keep an eye out! I can’t wait to see what other people come up with.

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To MOOC, or not to MOOC?

That is the dilemma of the week.

Totally deviating from the norm today – not going to talk about information literacy OR about Massive. (Not directly, anyways).

I’m thinking about taking a MOOC!

There’s a course on EdX called Intro to Game Design that started yesterday – incidentally, the same day I had a sort of revelation that I might want to build learning games for my career. (I’m not completely ruling out a return to the classroom, but I’m completely fascinated by the concept of play as a more authentic form of learning, of promoting growth by working to build and sustain motivation through feedback and fun!)

My biggest concern is being able to handle a MOOC on top of my current courseload – anyone with experience taking MOOCs have any insight to offer on this? I’m completely excited about this course, but I don’t want to make myself crazy.

Thoughts?

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Information Literacy in an Era of “Backpack” Funding

This week, we read a great deal about the finances of digital and online education, from the cost effectiveness of implementing MOOCs in various postsecondary settings to the roadblocks of funding hybridized public and charter school programs.

As a former K-12 educator, I was particularly struck by one author’s proposal for promoting technological innovation in schools through the unbundling of school services and funds. Broadly, his idea is to alter funding systems so that the money follows the students, rather than the institutions, creating a sort of “backpack of funds” that could then be used to purchase various types of instruction and services throughout the educational life of a child.

While this sounds wonderful in terms of the scope of possibilities available, I find it problematic on two levels: it potentially perpetuates the advantages held by the wealthy in terms of educational options, and it requires a great deal more consumer literacy and/or fluency on the part of parents when choosing educational packages for their children.

Let me explain.

In terms of the wealth/opportunity/achievement gap, I worry that a system in which parents pick and choose options for their children would be biased towards those families that could afford better and/or additional options. Sounds a lot like our current system, right? If educational services were further unbundled, creating a sort of educational marketplace, would it be possible to use the money provided by the state as well as purchase additional packages out of one’s own pocket (thus creating advantage for the wealthiest to purchase the most in-demand/expensive options without sacrificing supplementary curriculum).

I just worry about any new system that doesn’t improve on existing issues of equity and access. Presumably any child could be educated by any school or instructor of their choice, but the attachment of price tags to public educational services is problematic to me.

I also worry about parents’ ability to choose the best educational packages for their children. Would there be a set curriculum that someone, somewhere, would oversee? Would there be a checklist of components for parents to follow? How would parents become informed and capable of evaluating various programs without training in educational methods (as well as marketing and advertising gimmicks?) I think such a system would require a whole new level of consumer and financial literacy in order for parents to make good choices, and while I think this could be reached eventually, at the outset this could be a huge problem. How would we teach this kind of literacy?

In addition to the problem of making good choices, there’s also the problem of continuity, especially if poor choices are made, and children are yanked from one program to another. I wonder what it would do to familiarity, comfort, motivation, or even achievement.

Just some thoughts on the readings – obviously not a comprehensive response, but a few items that bothered me. If you have ideas or clarifications on these issues, let me know!

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Appearances Matter!

From the response to my last blog post, I’m gathering that the presentation of information is important when assessing its validity – does the website look good? Is the format clear and easy to follow? Does it look “polished” or illustrate thoughtfulness/intentionality in its design?

The underlying assumption here, I think, is that one wouldn’t go to such lengths to present false information? Or perhaps that organizational skills are related to knowledge/competence? Or perhaps good presentation speaks to caring about the information? Or to money and resources?

I’m really trying to unpack this, because I agree – what a site LOOKS like has a strong impact on my reaction to it. So, my question for this week: what specific elements of presentation suggest quality information? which elements raise red flags? Why?

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What Makes Information Good?

I’m going to break away from my norm a little bit here, and instead of connecting course readings to information literacy, today I want to ask what seems to me a big question:

What makes information good?

To break it down a little bit, I might also ask:

What kind of information do you look for and/or consume most frequently? (News, ideas, how-tos, scholarly or research articles, opinion pieces?)

What is it that gives information credibility? (What do you look for when assessing the veracity of a source? Are there some sources you trust automatically? Why?)

One of my goals is not just to create content, but to curate it, and to learn from others online. I’m interested in knowing what and how people think about information, so please leave your feedback in the comments!

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