Digital literacy around the world in 2017: today in the Open Learning MOOC

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today is the third day of a week of digital literacy discussion, part of the Open Learning MOOC.  Is mid-MOOC Wednesday digital hump day?

Today’s assignment is to watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  It’s a rich conversation about the subject involving almost ten people across several continents.  There’s a wide range of perspectives. Here’s more information about the topic and the participants (I, alas, wasn’t among them).

Next, respond to the discussion by extending it, using one more more of these technologies  to share your thoughts (hey, actually doing digital literacy!):

…in comments at the end of this blog post

…on your own blog

…in comments on that YouTube page

…on Twitter (don’t forget the hashtag #OpenLearning17)

Today’s bonus content is the NMC digital literacy briefing.  I have some background posts here, here, here, here, and here.

If you’d like to catch up on this project, check my post outlining the week’s resources and assignments.  Feel free to listen to my audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education and/or to partake of the Twitter conversation (hashtag #OpenLearning17) and/or to read into some bonus content, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Coming up for the rest of the week:

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.

Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

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Tomorrow morning I lead a video panel on digital literacy

More digital literacy!  Tomorrow I’m leading a videoconference discussion on the subject.  That’s February 22nd, running from 8-9 am US Central Time.

NMC Beyond the HorizonIt’s part of the New Media Consortium (NMC)’s Beyond the Horizon videoconference series.    It draws on prior NMC digital literacy work, including the report I co-authored and December’s videoconference session on this very topic.

My fellow panelists are an international lot, including Helen Beetham (UK), Cheryl Brown (University of Cape Town), and Yves Punie (European Commission Institute for Prospective Technological Studies).

Here’s the official description:

How do we prepare students to live and thrive in a digital society? Digital literacy goes beyond technical skills. It includes the complex practices of digital professions and subject specialisms. It involves the lifelong, life-wide skills required to thrive in a digital society. Institutions are charged with developing students’ digital citizenship, ensuring mastery of responsible and appropriate technology use, including online communication etiquette and digital rights and responsibilities in blended and online learning settings and beyond.

Some readings to consider: there’s December’s video discussion:

There are also documents from the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, also known as (DigComp). They published a digital competence framework report, along with a report on computational thinking.  And more from the official description:

This new category of competence is affecting curriculum design, professional development, and student-facing services and resources. In this event, panelists will discuss how learning-focused organizations and national governments are responding to these new responsibilities. Panelists’ expertise includes the development of national and international frameworks to support digital literacies.

Participation is free to NMC Members and $125 for everyone else.  Here’s the official link: http://go.nmc.org/digilit2.

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The ACRL Information Literacy Framework: today in the Open Learning MOOC

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today is the second day of a week of digital literacy discussion, part of the Open Learning MOOC.

Today’s discussion document is the ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2015-16).  This is an important update in information literacy thinking, incorporating digital literacy developments.  Please read it, and then respond using one more more of these technologies (hey, actually doing digital literacy!):

…in comments at the end of this blog post

…on your own blog

…on Twitter (hashtag #OpenLearning17)

…through the Hypothes.is annotation plugin.  We have an Open Learning ’17 Hypothes.is group, which you’re welcome to join.  You can also check the openlearning17 tag on that platform.  You’ll note that this is an additional method for engaging with digital documents.

Today’s bonus content is a European digital literacy document that complements the ACRL’s, “DigComp 2.0: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. Update Phase 1: the Conceptual Reference Model.”

If you’d like to catch up on this project, check my post outlining the week’s resources and assignments.  Feel free to listen to my audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education and/or to partake of the Twitter conversation (hashtag #OpenLearning17) and/or to read into some bonus content, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Coming up for the rest of the week:

Wednesday, February 22: Watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  More Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the NMC digital literacy briefing.

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts!

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Launching a week of digital literacy

AAC&U MOOC 2017Today I’m kicking off a week of digital literacy discussion.  This effort is part of the Open Learning MOOC, which in turn is part of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Faculty Collaboratives program.  Gardner Campbell is the chief cat-herder and impresario.

What does digital literacy have to do with open education, and vice versa?  That is the subject of this week’s exploration.

My plan for the week is that each day centers on a document in different media platforms (web page, pdf, video, audio files).  Participants (such as these fine people) will discuss and riff upon it from their own sites and through Twitter (hashtag #OpenLearning17).  There is a bonus reading for each day as well.

Here’s the week’s schedule:

Monday, February 20: An audio introduction to digital literacy and why it matters for open education.  Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning”.

Tuesday, February 21: Discussion of the ACRL Information Literacy Framework. Participants can annotate and respond to the Framework by using Hypothes.is.  Twitter conversation continues.
Bonus content: “DigComp 2.0: The Digital Competence Framework for Citizens. Update Phase 1: the Conceptual Reference Model.”

Wednesday, February 22: Watch and listen to the recent New Media Consortium webinar on Digital Literacy.  More Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the NMC digital literacy briefing.

Thursday, February 23: Digital literacy, fake news, and politics. Reading: Crap Detection 101, by Howard Rheingold.  Google Hangout from 12-1 pm eastern standard time.  Still more Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: the Snopes fake news archive.

Friday, February 24: The future of digital literacy: audio statement from Bryan.  Twitter live chatfrom 12-1 pm eastern standard time. Irrepressible Twitter conversation.
Bonus content: a new digital literacy politics.

Please join in as much as you’d like.  You can connect yourself formally to the project here, or comment on my blog posts, or tweet, or a mixture of these.

You can find more about the MOOC and associated projects here.

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Paying the Price: readers get creative, City of Broken Dreams, and Getting to Graduation

Our reading of Sara Goldrick-Rab’s Paying the Price continues, as we reach some of the last chapters. It’s a powerful, meticulously researched, and vital book for anyone interested in American education.  (Click here to find all posts and discussion on the reading so far)

Paying the Price, resting on my laptops

News items have cropped up which support the book’s findings.  For example, NPR recently reported on rising homelessness and hunger among college students (thanks to Kyle Johnson for the pointer).  At Inside Higher Ed Matt Reed reminds us to pay more attention to community colleges, and commends Goldrick-Rab for doing just that.

At the same time, other readers have been sharing their thoughts. Robin DeRosa tweeted her reading, and neatly Storified the series of 46+ tweetsJohn Stewart blogged about how to discuss changes in higher education finance, and an Oklahoma University provost describing the impacts of state budget cuts.

In this post I’ll discuss the next two chapters, 8 and 9, “City of Broken Dreams” and “Getting to Graduation.”  I’ll outline their contents, then  ask some discussion questions.

To participate, you can leave thoughts and your own questions as comments below.  You can also write in our reading’s Google Doc.  And if that’s not enough, you can also join the Twitter conversation by using the hashtag #payingtheprice.

For more information about this reading, check the posts about the book so far under this tag.

8: City of Broken Dreams

Once again, it’s clear to me that Paying the Price focuses on students we normally don’t discuss in higher education.  She’s not dwelling on learners from professional families who head off to distant and elite colleges, where they find themselves in an atmosphere of detached contemplation.  Paying the Price is about the rest of us, the majority of learners, the bulk of America’s higher ed experience.

Chapter 8 focuses on the experience of students in one major city, Milwaukee.  It’s a good exemplar of low income and/or minority populations within Wisconsin.

Milwaukee, by Ron Reiring

It also reminds us that the clear majority of college students attend very local institutions: “More than three in four students attend colleges within fifty miles of their homes, continuing their relationships with families, neighbors, and nearby institutions as they pursue degrees.” (Kindle location 3781)

Milwaukee students tended to be less well supported than those attending other state institutions, and fared less well (3837ff).  The state university there is relatively starved for resources compared to the Wisconsin branch.  Privatization of higher ed hit UW-Milwaukee very hard:

Once, going to UW–Milwaukee cost relatively little because of the large state subsidy. Today, students and the families must use their incomes and savings—if they have any— along with grants and loans to pay the tuition bills (3935)

Meanwhile, the real costs of living and studying in Milwaukee are higher than those of other areas.  “The result is de facto segregation in higher education.” (3975)

Goldrick-Rab freights her research with heartbreaking personal stories.  We learn about hard-working and ambitious Alicia, who drops out after “spen[ding] eight semesters in school” (3894), and Anne, nearly derailed by odd housing policies (4163ff).  Jose’s positive story (4101ff) is in sharp contrast.

One key detail I don’t want to miss: “the childcare program at her university was greatly oversubscribed, as are the majority of such programs across the country.” (3868)

9: Getting to Graduation 
Continue reading

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Two sobering datapoints for American higher education economics

I’d like to share some recent economic research.  Saying so is usually a cue that insomnia and narcolepsy have both at last been cured, but I think these are important points for higher education. Each are vital, and their interaction is sobering.

I have included colorful graphs to help you along the way.

The first finding comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and analyzes how consumer debt is changing.  Note the size and role of student loans, the pink band on top:
American consumer debt, 2004-2016

Please notice the total amount of student debt: $1.31 trillion.  It increased by a mere $31 billion in just the last three months of 2016.

Note, too, how the proportion of student loans within consumer loans is growing.  Not only do we owe more student loans than ever before, but that debt takes up a larger chunk of our debt than ever before.

The second point is broader in scope, and concerns the total American economy.  This analysis is from another Federal Reserve bank, the one in Richmond, and analyzes how several key factors are changing.  I’d like to draw your attention to two lines in this graph, gross domestic product (GDP) and productivity:

US GDP and productivity, 1958-2014

(I’ll hit on employment at another time, time permitting)

You’ll see that gross domestic product growth (the thick dark blue line) (how much economic stuff, goods and services alike, we make) has slowed down drastically since around 2005, with an especially big collapse in 2007-2008 – i.e., the financial meltdown.  But GDP growth has continued to shrink right up through the data’s end.  In short, the American economy is barely growing at all.  Given that our population keeps growing in size, that level of GDP growth just about accounts for the new humans.  In short, American economic growth has stalled out.

One reason for that is the slowdown in productivity growth (the red dashed line above).  This is crucial.  As Paul Krugman famously observed, “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”  That’s how economies grow.  Productivity growth is the power of any financial progress.  And you can look back in the chart to see it taking a walloping during the late 70s and early 80s, with stagflation, oil shocks, and the recession.  Now?  Productivity is barely inching along.

What do these two macroeconomic trendlines mean for education?  Several general* things.

  1. To the extent that colleges, universities, libraries, and museums depend on state funding for support, that funding stems from local economies which aren’t growing.  So when our institutions come to states to ask for more funding (especially as our costs rise), we’re fighting for a share of a pie that isn’t really growing.  Meanwhile, other needs are also wrestling for slices from the same non-expanding pie: health care, state-funded pensions, police and prisons, public health (remember the opioid epidemic?), and roads, for starters.  And some of those needs are increasing, like Medicaid, Medicare, and pensions, as our population ages.
  2. To the extent that colleges etc. depend on donor support, those donors are generating their own wealth in an economy that isn’t really growing.
  3. #s 1+2 mean students will have to borrow more money to pay for academia.  Remember the graph which started this post?
  4. Our students are graduating into an economy that isn’t growing, and will be even more in debt than their predecessors.   Think about what that means on a humanitarian level.
  5. It is possible that #3 is putting a drag on the economy, as graduates saddled with debt* are less likely to make investments, start businesses, or buy houses or cars.

Looking forward, I’m hard pressed to be optimistic.  It’s possible that a new technology or process will nudge productivity and GDP up a bit.  That’s one reason I’m looking hard at nanotechnology, 3d printing, and the internet of things. So far these are nascent and/or not boosting the overall economy.  Indeed, most digital and automation booms now enrich a few without much spillover or trickle-down benefit.

Meanwhile, president Trump claims he’ll grow the economy.  I’m not too sanguine about this, and worry more about the negative impact of possible trade slowdowns (Mexico) and wars (China).

So unless these trendlines reverse themselves, we should expect student loan debt to continue to grow to mind-boggling levels.  State support won’t build up.  And pressures to cut institutional spending will be fierce – i.e., little chance of reversing adjunctification and returning to an early form of tenure.

What should we do?

*Obviously there are exceptions.  These are big, top-level, macro trends.

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The new NMC Horizon Report for higher education is out

The 2017 New Media Consotrium Horizon Report on higher education has just appeared.  It’s free to download and read, and also to remix and brood upon.  There’s also a video and infographic.

I’d like to summarize some of its findings here.  Where does Horizon see higher ed and technology headed in the next five years?

In full disclosure, I’m on the advisory board, and have been for, oh, a decade or so.  I’m one of about 70-odd members, so despite my energetic participation on the development wiki, the report does not map precisely onto my thoughts.  That’s how a Delphi process works.

So let’s begin.  The report, like pre-Caesarian Gaul, is broken into three parts: trends accelerating technology adoption, challenges, and emerging technologies.

Horizon Report higher education 2017 cover

Trends accelerating technology adoption  These are divided by impact timeline.

Long-Term Trends (five or more years): “Advancing Cultures of Innovation,” including initiatives supporting experimentation and entrepreneurship. “Deeper Learning Approaches” considers practices of pushing learners towards mastery levels of learning, including active, project-based, and inquiry-based learning.

Mid-Term Trends (three to five years): “Growing Focus on Measuring Learning,” meaning improved and expanded assessment, using big data and data analytics, along with better visualization tools. “Redesigning Learning Spaces” combines new learning spaces with thoughtful use of technologies, both mobile and space-based.

Short-Term Trends (one to two years): “Blended Learning Designs” carries blended/hybrid learning further forward than it already is.

The affordances blended learning offers are now well understood…  The current focus of this trend has shifted to understanding how applications of digital modes of teaching are impacting students.

“Collaborative Learning” combines learner-centric education and technology to boost group learning.

Challenges These are broken down by difficulty.

Solvable Challenges (“Those that we understand and know how to solve”): “Improving Digital Literacy” appears at this level because the topic is vital, and also widely discussed and explored.  The challenge is how best to implement it. “Integrating Formal and Informal Learning” refers to the enormous and growing amount of non-formal educational material now available, and how best to connect it to formal education, especially in terms of assessment (see above), and scale.

Difficult Challenges (“Those that we understand but for which solutions are elusive”):  “Achievement Gap” refers to “significant issues of access and equity persist among students from low income, minority, single-parent families, and other disadvantaged groups”, and notes college completion problems. “Advancing Digital Equity” concerns the digital divide.

Wicked Challenges (“Those that are complex to even define, much less address”)  “Managing Knowledge Obsolescence” combines information overload with the institutional challenge of selecting and maintaining technology. “Rethinking the Roles of Educators” addresses how many of the preceding and following trends are changing what teachers do and expectations thereof.

Emerging technologies Delphi process discussion covered a lot of ground.  Here’s a sample of the tech we addressed:

Horizon Report's technologies list

But we had to pick six.  Like accelerants above, these are divided by time to impact.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: One Year or Less –  adaptive learning technologies, which include personalized learning, have the attention of CIOs and publishers.  Mobile learning has been an issue in the United States for some time, and longer, everywhere else, but we’re still working on how best to implement it.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Two to Three Years – the internet of things is clearly growing as a technological-business-governmental movement, while educational uses are still developing. The next-generation learning management system (LMS) appears for the first time on Horizon, and considers what the next generation LMS could become, especially in light of the NGDLE current.

Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years -artificial intelligence uses in higher education are at the tentative, exploratory phase, for now.  Natural user interfaces are the mouse and keyboard’s successors, from voice to haptics.

General thoughts: the report has a nice look back over recent years, checking on trends that repeat, persist, or disappear.  For example,

Challenges, 2012-2017

There are plenty of examples for each of the eighteen trends, and a body of references.  Don’t miss the top ten trends list in the executive summary, which is a new thing.

I like the way the report turned its gaze backwards to consider previous work.  However, there needs to be a process of honing Horizon report practice by learning from past successes and misses.

One criticism of print-based and print-like documents addressing the digital world is that they don’t embody their subjects.  Horizon Reports run into this, being each, ultimately, a single pdf.  I’d like to see a report that uses some of the technologies it describes.  For instance, a mobile version that was actually designed to take advantage of the handheld world’s accordances, or a report using automation in some way (Horizon Twitter bot? automated references?), or a document that adapted itself to particular readers.  Surely there are 360 degree views of new learning spaces.

Overall, this is a good entry in the Horizon series.  The trends are vital for higher education, and the document fine fodder for provoking conversations.

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