To Learn, Unlearn, & Relearn

I recently found the list below of 21st Century Literacies, posted by Cathy Davidson. As I prepared to launch myself and my students into Fall term today, I re-read the list, paused, and thought that even though I am not teaching any content specific to these literacies (I teach in the PLA program), at some level, in some way, I’d like to address them for my students because they seem pretty darn relevant to me. The list is from a course description for a course Davidson is teaching. Here they are, as she has defined them, along with key questions we might ask for each:

  • Attention: What are the new ways that we pay attention in a digital era? How do we need to change our concepts and practices of attention for a new era? How do we learn and practice new forms of attention in a digital age?
  • Participation: How do we encourage meaningful interaction and participation in a digital age? How can the internet be useful on a cultural, social, or civic level?
  • Collaboration: Collaboration can simply reconfirm consensus, acting more as peer pressure than a lever to truly original thinking. HASTAC has cultivated the methodology of collaboration by difference to inspire meaningful ways of working together.
  • Network awareness: How can we both thrive as creative individuals and understand our contribution within a network of others? How do you gain a sense of what that extended network is and what it can do?
  • Global Consciousness: How does the World Wide Web change our responsibilities in and to the world we live in?
  • Design: How is information conveyed differently, effectively, and beautifully in diverse digital forms? Aesthetics form a key part of digital communication. How do we understand and practice the elements of good design as part of our communication and interactive practices?
  • Narrative, Storytelling: How do narrative elements shape the information we wish to convey, helping it to have force in a world of competing information?
  • Procedural (Game) Literacy: What are the new tactics and strategies of interactive games, where the multimedia narrative forms changes because of our success or failure? How can we use game mechanics for learning and for motivation in our lives?
  • Critical consumption of information: Without a filter (editors, experts, and professionals), much information on the internet can be inaccurate, deceptive, or inadequate. How do we learn to be critical? What are the standards of credibility?
  • Digital Divides, Digital Participation: What divisions still remain in digital culture? Who is included and who excluded? How do basic aspects of economics and culture dictate not only who participates in the digital age but how they participate?
  • Ethics: What are the new moral imperatives of our interconnected age?
  • Assessment: What are the best, most fluid, most adaptive and helpful ways to measure progress and productivity, not as fixed goals, but as a part of a productive process that also requires innovation and creativity?
  • Preservation: What are the requirements for preserving the digital world we are creating? Paper lasts. Platforms change.
  • Sustainability: What are the metrics for sustainability in a world where we live on more kilowatts than ever before? How do we protect the environment in a plugged-in era?
  • Learning, Unlearning, and Relearning: Alvin Toffler has said that, in the rapidly changing world of the twenty-first century, the most important skill anyone can have is the ability to stop in ones tracks, see what isn’t working, and then find ways to unlearn old patterns and relearn how to learn. How is this process especially important in our rapidly changing digital world?

It is perhaps the last one that applies to our PLA work the most, as the critical reflection process in PLA causes us to ask what do we need to unlearn / relearn / learn?

Thanks to Jonas B. on Flickr for making this image available for reuse.

I believe that in my teaching I address other literacies represented on this list as well though, namely participation, collaboration, narrative, critical consumption of information, and of course, the heart of it all,  assessment. Though I do not necessarily view them in the way that Davidson is proposing — from a “digital world” point of view — I contend that they represent qualities of mind, an ethos, if you will, that transcends delivery / platform / media.

I like the list a lot, and I plan to use it as a map for the critically reflective journey I am about to embark on with my students. And, in the spirit of the list and in the spirit of being a co-learner, I will try to be clear with myself about my own areas to learn, unlearn and relearn as  well.

Working + Together

Howard Rheingold is someone I’ve started paying careful attention to (one of my earlier posts includes a video from Rheingold in which he highlights his ideas about Learning to Inquire). He almost always challenges my thinking or at least provides me with a new way of thinking, and lord knows I need new ways of thinking more than I need much of anything else.

Whenever I watch or read something of his, I feel like I have direct access to one of the most interesting thinkers alive and I would love to be able to take a class with him someday. But thanks to sites like YouTube and TED, I DO, in fact, have this access, and this is one of the great benefits of social media that I am learning and teaching about.

In this video below, Rheingold has some provocative things to say about our innate desire to collaborate — that’s right, innate. I once heard someone say that debating nature versus nurture is like debating whether length or width is most important to understanding the area of a square, and I am in no position to take a stance about this. Nonetheless, I think that the specific examples that Rheingold cites — corporate examples, technological examples — speak to the power of working together instead of against each other. Another note:  Rheingold used this talk to launch The Cooperation Commons — the “Interdisciplinary study of cooperation and collective action.” We could use more of this, too!