10 Response to “We Don’t Have Enough Resources to Make a Difference”

As a professor and consultant, I work with a variety of people who feel inhibited by limited resources. While the topic of inadequate resources is a real and important one, I’m not quite ready to accept that it is a big enough problem to hinder many good and important projects, ideas, tasks, initiatives or visions.  Here are ten reasons why.  For me, they are reminders of what it possible when there is imagination and vision…even when the resources are scarce.

1. Landfill Harmonic – They started with a vision, then the figured out how to make it happen with the resources at their disposal.

Landfill Harmonic | Juliana Penaranda-Loftus & Alejandra Nash from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

2. BYOD Schools with Recycled Devices – People are throwing away devices that are a couple of years old, but they remain powerful tools for teaching and learning.

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3.Free Technology – So much today is free and open source.

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4. Chromebooks & Cloud Computing – It isn’t free, but this is one of a growing number of examples for low-cost one-to-one school initiatives.

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5. Tina Seelig’s $5 Classroom Challenge – How much money can you make with $5 in two hours?

6. The 30 Goals Challenge for Professional Development – You don’t have enough money to pay for a graduate degree, but you want to grow and learn as an educator?  Try this out.  Or, how about one of the many MOOCs or open courses on the web?

7. Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy – The only cost is a willingness to look a little silly.

8. Honk if you Love Someone – A little time, markers, and a few posters can go a long way.

9. Free Hugs Campaign – How much does a hug cost?

10. Caine’s Arcade – How about this for a STEM education?

8 Books for a Rich and Diverse Perspective on Digital Literacies

Orality and Literacy by Walter Ong  – This is a classic text, describing how various societies transitioned form an oral tradition to a written tradition.  Written largely before the Internet, it provides a wonderful foundation for thinking about literacy in the digital age.

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Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language by David Barton – This is not the easiest read, but Barton does a fine job introducing he reader to the idea of literacy as something more than just a discrete set of skills.  Rather, he helps us to think about literacy from a social perspective.

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What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee – Gee’s work has become a classic in the field of new litearcies, demonstrating the way in literacieis emerge or are cultivated within digital contexts, especially within games.

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Handbook of Research on New Literacies – This is a massive collection of chapters that address a wide variety of topics and perspectives.

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New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning by Colin Lankshear & Michele Knobel – If you are looking at this list and wondering where to start, this would not be a bad one.  It has a nice blend of practical ideas and solid theory to help establish a conceptual understanding of new literacies.

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Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold – Howard does an excellent job helping readers to navigate life and learning in a digital context.

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Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff and Leland Purvis – This is a topic that is often overlooked.  It is a very short, but substantive read that helps us to think about how we can get involved in shaping our lives in the digital world (even shaping the digital world itself) and not passively letting the digital trends shape us.

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Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning With New Media by Mizuko Ito, Heather Horst, Judd Antin, and Megan Finn – This is one of the best books out there that provides insight into how young people are cultivating new and valuable literacies outside of the traditional classroom, as they take part in a variety of informal and online social learning environments.

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If you can’t read it, then it can’t influence you = false

If you can’t read it, then it can’t influence you.  That may be true with words and books, but it is not true in a world of images, music and multimedia.  With a book, if you can’t decipher the meaning of the words, then the influence is indeed limited.  When you look at an image or watch a video, it can influence you without your ability to fully “read” it.  Without any formal training, practice, or instruction, an infant can look at a picture and have an emotional reaction.  As we grow up, we continue to be moved and influenced by visuals and media in a similar way. For many, they go through much or all of school with little or no introduction to the grammar of visual and multimedia messages.  They can graduate high school or even college with a visual or media literacy that is essentially a first or second grade reading level.  They may even go throughout their entire lives functioning at that visual and media literacy level.  This is changing in some schools and districts as standards are beginning to include references to these new literacies.  However, there is another challenge.  The teachers who are expected model and teach media literacy across the curriculum lack the background as well.

What are the implications for a limited visual and media literacy?  We can be influenced, but not fully understand why or how.  We do not develop the capacity to “write” visual and multimedia messages, limiting our potential voice and influence in many contexts where images dominate or are the language of choice. We are influenced by messages about politics, science, religion, and healthcare without an ability to analyze and evaluate them.

For these and many other reasons, it is time to give visual and media literacy greater attention in education.  If you are like me, you may see a need to nurture your own media literacy.  Here are ten resources to get you started.

  1. National Association for Media Literacy Education
  2. Association for Media Literacy
  3. 5 Great Media Literacy Programs
  4. The Journal of Media Literacy Education
  5. International Visual Literacy Association
  6. MediaLiteracy.com
  7. Center for Media Literacy
  8. The University of Rhode Island Media Literacy Lab
  9. The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy (book)
  10. Media and Information Literacy Clearinghouse

Toward Digital Collaboration Fluency

As I reflect upon some of my recent experiences in MOOCs (most recently #ETMOOC and #EDCMOOC) and online communities (especially my recent participation in #COOPLIT), I find myself thinking about the notion of digital collaboration and the pursuit of digital collaboration fluency.

Learning about positive and effective communication is a lifelong task, an area where I know that I want and need to grow.  I am especially fascinated by how this looks and evolves in digital spaces. Regardless of the context, there is ample research to support the idea that high impact groups/teams develop clear and positive methods of communication.

From the positive psychology research, we know that the positivity ratio in group interaction is a key to success, even to the overall success of businesses.  When there are more negative comments than positive ones, that is a danger sign for the organization.  On the flip side, if there is 100% positivity, that lead to ineffective teams as well.  The important part, it seems, is to have more positive comments than negative, building a culture of trust and openness where people are generally positive but they can also disagree.  They can even battle some things out while keeping the co-worker / co-learner relationships healthy and intact (many of the ideas in this paragraph were informed by Seligman’s book Flourish).

Howard Rheingold just drew my attention to this blog post where the author reviews and highlights parts of Sarah Miller Caldicott new book Midnight Lunch: the 4 phases of team collaboration success from Thomas Edison’s LabTwo ideas captured my attention from this blog post and book:

  1. “Collaboration begins with collegiality. Unless people feel they can roll up their sleeves and work together, innovation is much tougher.”
  2. “Collaboration is reinforced through casual dialogue rather than stiff agendas. Every member of a collaboration team engages in dialogue with other team members, and is not able to shrink to the background.”

These two points remind me of the importance of cultivating a culture of collaboration and not simply trying to apply collaboration principles to standard meetings, classes, and environments.  It also reminds me of Jay Cross’s important work about the power and importance of Informal Learning in the workplace over traditional training programs, workshops, and seminars.

All of this brings me back to the title of this article, “Toward Digital Collaboration Fluency.”  Literacy, as I am thinking about it now is not as much about memorizing rules, grammar, and punctuation as it is about socially negotiated meaning.  As I write about digital collaboration literacy and fluency, it is more than simply applying principles from a manual on how to collaborate effectively in digital spaces.  Instead, it is about negotiating over and over.

The more that I think about it, the more that I believe that the most powerful digital collaboration comes when those involved take time to build community and trust, and then they persevere through imperfect attempts at digital communication and collaboration. Given this trust relationship, they are willing to explore and experiment with new modes of digital age communication and collaboration.  They experiment with the affordances and limitations of text versus audio versus video, synchronous versus asynchronous versus nearly now communication like what we see in texting and Twitter. They explore new ways of thinking about roles and responsibilities.  They try out various tools in search of new affordances and not simply leaning on a couple of preferred tools that are personally comfortable.  In the end, they negotiate mash-ups of collaborative tools for a given context, project, or team; and then the do it all over again with the next project or team.  This is certainly a messier way of thinking about digital collaboration fluency, but it may be one of the only ways to make significant progress toward true fluency rather than plateauing at moderate levels of competence.

The pursuit of fluency also requires lots and lots of time. I’ve yet to see any shortcuts.  It demands a willingness to immerse oneself in the environment and lean on others so much that, if they were move, you would fall over.  With that will come frustration, more messiness, and uncertainty.  It will drive us to want to revert back to our comfort zones, but doing so may inhibit us from the joy of that next digital collaboration aha moment.  This is why that informal and collegial community of trust is such an important foundation.  It is much easier to take risks when you are among trusted friends, collaborators and/or colleagues; people who pay more attention to your strengths and contributions than your weaknesses or shortcomings.