Even though this is such a broad question, it always excites me to think about learning in a new light--that is to look at learning as something not constrained by physical location but opened up by our networked publics (including this ning site). Currently I am at a cafe typing on my laptop, so issues of portability come into play as well as time. I can type this and click "reply" and then come back to it later and add to this thread. This kind of environment is exciting to me as both a teacher and a learner.
I also appreciate the literacy aspect of the question (full disclosure: I am a literacy person even though I am also the "ed tech" person in my department), since school-based learning can be so focused on print-based texts. I love the idea of broadening literacy to include the many different ways (or modes in which) we communicate. It is truly exciting for me. How about you? Excited? Nervous? Irritated? Annoyed? How does this question make you feel?
For a discussion of ubiquitous learning, read the article E-Lessons learned from Nicholas Burbules.
Sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed. Like I have an obligation to "keep up" with social communication. I lead a very busy life and that is just one more thing I have to do in my day. It's now laundry, dinner, homework with the kids, baseball games, facebook, twitter, email, upload pictures......I tend to shut myself off from technology at times to get a good healthy break!
I find your post fascinating. As a museum educator, I work with a variety of teachers, teaching philosophies and subject areas, and I see both opportunities and challenges in using new media to blur the lines between formal and informal education. Educators in general should be mindful of the prevalence of new media and interconnectedness in today's society, but Burbules definitely hit on a challenge that schools are often unequipped to support incorporating technology into classroom teaching. How can we better leverage the technological and social media students experience outside the classroom into their studies and motivations for perpetual learning?
I actually see strong similarities between Burbules' article and learning opportunities in a museum. From my perspective as a museum educator, the ubiquitous and spatial notion of the "anytime, anywhere" learning culture creates participation opportunities regarding museum objects and ideas. Traditional, authoritative exhibits often fail to elicit discussion from visitors by not asking them how to access ideas or offer their own comment. I also see similarity between traditional museum exhibits and teaching practice involving a one-directional dissemination of content. Fostering the use of mobile technologies and new media might be a way to change the approach and emphasize the ability for visitors/students to drive their own learning experience. The question I've been asking lately is applicable to both museums and classrooms: "how can we ensure visitors/students take charge of the learning experience?" The answer I keep getting is this: "what does that mean for authority of knowledge?"
Great questions. I love the parallels with regards to learning in museums and in school. I think that authorities will continue to exist, but for me it has more to do with interest-driven environments and access to resources such as hyperlinks, videos, comment boxes, etc. Choice is key for me. I see this as similar to students' use of Wikipedia: they love Wikipedia, they search for entries they are interested in and they read the entry and then use the resources to take them to different aspects related to the entry and sometimes fascinating tangents. Offering a museum environment based around choice and interaction with material and other museum members makes, at least in my opinion, for an experience that can be custom-made and can lend itself to "visitors/students taking charge of the learning experience." That said, the knowledge base of the museum environment would then widen and authority/expertise would be dispersed. I don't think this is a bad thing compared to traditional museum exhibits that you discussed above; I just think it is a different way of interacting with information, history, and interest-based topics. Great stuff! I would love to hear how the museum has changed or is attempting to change its exhibits with new media.
I have decided to post my experience from a recent conference in this spot bc I think my ideas are a response to this question.
About a month ago, I attended the CUE (Computer Using Educators) Conference in American Canyon at the brand spanking new American Canyon High School. Overall, the conference was excellent. I spent most of my time attending "Google" workshops- the workshops varied- How to use Google docs to how to use Google movie, to how to use Google in intervention classes. I have to say that most of this was overwhelming to me but also helped remind me how much is available to us on-line without buying anything-- but this is not the point of my post.
I presented a workshop based on a media literacy project I did with my students. It was called "Lookin' at and Talkin' back" and gave students the opportunity to look at/deconstruct print ads from pop culture magazines and then "talk back" at them by creating a 3-5 word message that they wanted to "say back" to the media. The students came up with messages such as "Don't brand me-- I am not cattle," to "Am I the media or is the media me?" The students created stencils and spray painted these messages over collages they had created from the magazines we looked at. It was a simple project to execute that I believe left a lasting impression on the students. So, back to the CUE Conference.
What I noticed that out of ALL of the workshops presented (and there were probably about 75) there were only THREE that addressed the idea of media literacy. Admittedly, I did not attend every workshop thus I am basing this fact on reading the descriptors but I am safe to say that over 90% of the workshops were about how to use tools or applications with students or as teachers. Few presenters seemed to be presenting the idea of helping our students become more "savvy" about the media. This concerns me. As Jessica has explained many times, students can learn to use tools- they are very good at this and much of the time more versed than the person (teacher) teaching the tool. Tools do not alone create "media literate" students. Tools are a way to help our students get to that "media literate" place.
Students will not magically learn this on their own as they do with media tools. If we would like our students to become critical consumers/producers, we must spend time facilitating this learning-- at least as much time as we spend teaching them how to create a powerpoint, share a googledoc. or make an imovie. I am sure there are those who would argue that learning to use tools is promoting media literacy but I think this has become or continues to be much of the focus instead of helping students to become more critical consumers and producers of media.