Monday, December 05, 2016

Bryan Alexander Interview - The Challenge of Advancing Digital Literacy in Higher Education

At the invitation of Adobe Education, I attended the Educause Annual Conference this year and did a quick series of interviews about the education work that Adobe is doing. A huge highlight for me was reconnecting with futurist Bryan Alexander, whom I'd interviewed in 2012 as a part of my Future of Education series, and whose work and voice I've continued to really appreciate.

Bryan was the lead author of the just-released Digital Literacy - An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, which was commissioned by Adobe to "explore an increasingly pressing challenge for United States higher education institutions: advancing digital literacy among students and faculty."

From the report (emphasis mine):
A 2016 Pew Research Center’s study indicates that the digital divide in the US is no longer just about access to technology but rather fluency in using it. Socio-economic status is certainly a factor with low-income households unable to afford high-speed broadband and the latest devices, but only 17% of adults report being active learners who are “confident in their ability to use digital tools to pursue learning.” Indeed, the productive and innovative use of technology encompasses 21st century skills that are vital for being successful in the workplace and beyond. Higher education institutions must prepare students for a future where learning new digital tools is an intuitive process. 
Unfortunately, lack of agreement on what comprises digital literacy is impeding many colleges and universities from formulating adequate policies and programs. Discussions among educators and library professionals have included the idea of digital literacy as equating to competence with a wide range of digital tools for varied educational purposes, or as an indicator of having the ability to critically evaluate web resources — a component of information literacy. However, both definitions are broad and ambiguous, making digital literacy a nebulous area that requires greater clarification and consensus. 
The aim of this publication is to establish a shared vision of digital literacy for higher education leaders by illuminating key definitions and models along with best practices and recommendations for implementing successful digital literacy initiatives. 
Again, you'll find the full report here. My interview with Bryan is below, followed by some notes.

Interview Notes (with time marks):
00:30 Students have always been makers, but now we have more tools for making.
02:00 We need to embrace this because there are pedagogical benefits all over the place.
02:20 The historical arc toward "pro-suming" and learning by making meaning; constructivist pedagogy.
03:30 A major sea change and we are moving in the crest of it.
05:15 How the mindset of teaching changes when working with creators.
06:15 When students make stuff, it isn't necessarily "well-behaved" - we have to get used to this.
07:10 Critical thinking means there might be criticism or "push-back." How comfortable are you with your students arguing with you?
08:10 Long-standing tension in America between the liberal arts and the practical/mechanical arts.
09:15 Implications for institutions of this research, valuing students as makers.
10:50 The "dangerous" Web.
11:05 Students having their own website outside of the institution, having a "domain of one's own."
12:45 The fantastic place that is the library.
13:30 The promises of technology; when does technology actually transform?
14:50 Utopian hope for radio and how we killed its educational benefit; the mixed legacy of television.

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