Last week as I listened to Harold Rheingold‘s #etmooc session: Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration and Network Know-How, I began to think about how frequently in education we devote 90% of our energies to 10% of an issue. Just as studying an iceberg exclusively above water and refusing to consider the more substantial portion that lurks below the surface, in education, we often fail to get to the bottom of issues. Nowhere is this more evident than in our approach to ed-tech as we continue to fixate and fascinate on the bells and whistles, but seem unable to look beyond the specific technologies to the more deeply rooted and implied literacies. (The iceberg also serves nicely as a symbol for our teens’ digital vs. school lives; what we see of them at school is only the tip of the iceberg as many have rich, active digital lives that we fail to consider, examine or connect to while they are at school.)
Is technology “just” the fun tricks to be played and titillated by? Are proficiencies with digital tools really what this is all about, like skills to drive a backhoe; a finite universal list that can be acquired once and then checked off? Or do we need to begin to understand literacies more as: “an active relationship or way of orienting to the social and cultural world” (Lankshear 1999) as Doug Belshaw suggested in his session on digital literacies. He pointed in the direction of considering literacies, as something to be developed rather than delivered. Is this the something larger lurking below the surface that our Edu-ship might run into, causing us to capsize, leaving us gasping in the dark waters à la Titanic? Or has this already happened and we feel this frigid disconnect on a daily basis in our classrooms when we work with students?
Is it really the tech tools now in the hands, pockets, and purses of our students that account for the scattered focus we feel intuitively in our classes? (And honestly, did we ever have their attention when we stood and lectured for hour on end?) Is it whether or not we know how to use Socrative, Camtasia8, Animoto etc. that is THE game changer in this time of serial digital divides (have and have-nots, teacher and student, adult and teens, parents and teens, tech savvy and non etc.)?
Or is it more that as a collective, mainstream education has for the most part, failed to notice where our students ARE stuck, where they are struggling, submerged below the surface in their digital lives? And although many students do need help with the how to of setting up a blog, imbedding an image or making a digital story, where they are stuck is in the underwater part of this digital iceberg; frozen in the complex issues of digital literacies (and lack thereof) hidden, submerged, at times drowning in this complicated new ecosystem that is their digital lives.
As Rheingold explains: “Keeping up with technologies is not as important as keeping up with literacies”. This implies we may need to take a step back, or rather back up our boat a bit, to see the difference.
Harold Rheingold describes his book Net Smart.