Reflections on how we learn through networks, with particular infotention to the multiliteracy of new media

I've been following a SCoPE seminar out of the corner of my eye, giving it whatever infotention I feel it deserves.?? You can see it here: http://scope.bccampus.ca/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=9331 (you might have to register with SCoPE, recommended).

In one post, Cindy asked Hariette "In your view, is it possible that our open networks can contribute to learning?"

Rather than simply say "yes" I offer this example. For some time (in my copious spare time, ha ha) I have been teaching a course on Multiliteraces, currently via http://goodbyegutenberg.pbworks.com/. Due to this I have my antennae tuned to people's thoughts on new literacies, and my antennae are beginning to vibrate as messages from this seminar flow through my gmail. "Networking, the new literacy," as with any concept of literacy, cuts right to the heart of learning.

The concept of networking as a literacy touches on what George Siemens and Stephen Downes have been exploring for some time under the umbrella of Connectivism & Connective Knowledge: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/.

At the most recent TESOL conference in Denver I addressed the 25th anniversary of the formation of the CALL interest section, of which I was a founding member, and suggested that the acronym CALL (computer assisted language learning) might be becoming anachronistic. I suggested instead that people think SMALL (for social media assisted language learning – I prefer 'enhanced' to 'assisted' but chose the latter for obvious reasons wink.

Meanwhile just last night I picked up a retweet from one of my occasional glances at Twitter that pointed me to Howard Rheingold's mini-course on 'network and social network literacy': http://howardrheingold.posterous.com/a-min-course-on-network-and-social-network-li. Based in a Posterous blog, the course is set in a "sprout" which has a play button and some tabs. When you hit the play button, you hear Howard say "I've become convinced that understanding how networks work is one of the most important literacies of the 21st century," and he takes it from there.

I left a comment here of course, to which Howard promptly replied. He pointed me in turn to http://sproutbuilder.com which is where he built his elegantly constructed course (I learned something there) and also to an article where he elaborates on the connection of networks to literacies: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/index?blogid=108. Here he elaborates on his concept of "Infotention" http://www.smartmobs.com/2009/08/20/infotention/.

"Honing the mental ability to deploy the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably." Reading on, we find that our set of filters includes a "crap detector" etc. My, this does resonate.

If you are still reading (certain filters not having yet kicked in wink we come back to how this relates to learning, and how we can hang what is emerging about new literacies onto cognitive pegs we already have (e.g. the concepts of literacy and media).

As I write this I am watching the news on TV. I'm learning stuff I don't need to know right now about the Kercher murder trial, but earlier as I was writing this message I was picking up some interesting details about the UAE financial situation from an Al Jazira documentary (relevant to me as I live in Abu Dhabi). When I send this I'll turn the news off and give no further thought about what programs and facts I might miss as I go about the other things that occupy my day. Most of us have developed literacy skills to accustom us to dealing with this kind of always-on media.

I mentioned earlier that I glanced at Twitter, and this was a crucial insight because it suggests that I am starting to treat Twitter like any other media. It scrolls across my radar, I follow a link here, and connect this link to a SCoPE seminar that is scrolling in another part of my radar, and voila, the two converge resulting in this posting addressing the question of how people learn in networks, and how new literacies are invoked as a mechanism for this learning. As I write this perhaps 20 or 30 messages have scrolled through my Twitter account which I'll never see because there will be a couple hundred more by the time I go there again. I'll glance at the top few, learn something new and insightful, and move on.

It actually occurred to me as I started writing this that the tweet that sent me to Rheingold's course and his insights on infotention could have originated with this very SCoPEseminar, and these links I am pointing to might be discussed in some other forum here I haven't seen yet. For example, there was a tweet at about the same time referring to Will Richardson's idea that the literacy of networks is being driven by children, which I came across when I visited here afterwards. But here again, this is how this literacy works. Who won the world series? You don't have to tune in to the game or to a particular news broadcast right on the hour, or even run out on the lawn on a freezing morning to retrieve your newspaper as we did in the past, you can sit back and your media will pass you the information somehow. Your new literacy skills will percolate the information you need in such a way that it will come to you as easily as does your morning coffee.

That's how we learn these days and I think that's what this seminar is about, and I hope this answers the question (anyone remember what it was? wink

I might add that we not only learn in this manner but that our teachers or mentors are among the brightest on the planet, if these are the kinds of people you cultivate in your network. It's remarkable that simply by nurturing appropriate networks, anyone can set up a personal learning environment that will result in enhanced knowledge in whatever our individual passions are. What is surprising (to me) is that not everyone does this!

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