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  • Mark 2:43 pm on June 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , platform literacy   

    What is global competence? 

    My growing interest in how digital competence is being conceptualised, pursued and enacted by national and international organisations has led me towards the slightly older concept of global competence. In this paper on global competence in engineers, it is presented in terms of a mismatch between the requirements of working as an engineer in global society and the skills which existing engineering education tends to develop in students. In this sense there’s a normative model of how students must be taught in a way that leaves them able to function adequately within a global order. As they write on pg 120:

    Globalization is a fact of life, whether in the management of business enterprises, the conduct of government affairs or the exploration of the frontiers of science and technology (Ratchford 1998, Grose 1999, Wheeler 2001). Our highly interdependent global society is as much a result of the need to address major worldwide challenges, such as sustainability, health and security, as it is the result of important advances in the conduct of international commerce, e.g. the European Union, NAFTA, and the creation of nearly instantaneous worldwide commu- nications using cell phones and the Internet (McGraw 2000a, Akay 2003). These challenges and opportunities are dramatically and rapidly changing the role of engineers in society and, consequently, the nature of engineering practice (Loftus 2003).

    In this sense, the notion of ‘global competence’ is about adaptation to a changing world, through the mechanism of transforming the educational processes which leave people with some dispositions and not with others. Even if a big chunk of their discussion is confined to engineers, the changing conditions ascribed to the working lives of engineers clearly apply to other occupational groups as well. From pg 121:

    Most engineering now involves large, complex and multinational projects. Many engineers will find themselves working and/or living in foreign environments during much of their career. This places an increased emphasis on language and communication skills (Malone et al. 2003). The facility to communicate in other languages and to assimilate with ease into foreign workplaces and lifestyles are critical to both professional and life success.

    They equate this capacity with the need to “think and act on a global scale” but there seems to be an equivocation here. Much of what they discuss is about operating in different locations, it is the small scale multiplied across contexts rather than an expansion of horizons to global proportions. The consensus in the literature is apparently that three elements are needed to produce globally competent students: “coursework in international studies, second language proficiency and international experience” (121). It’s clear to me how this could improve the capacity to shift between concepts but not how this would engender thinking and acting on a global scale. They stress that international experience must be interconnected and that global knowledge must be demonstrated in terms of the student’s own course of study, as opposed to being presented in the abstract.

    A number of US universities have developed programs “designed to prepare students to live and work in the global context of the 21st century” even if they don’t use the term global competence to describe the aim (122). They are particularly interested in Georgia Tech’s International Plan, described on pg 123: 

    This program, designed for completion within four years, includes the three components deemed essential for global competence: coursework in international studies, language proficiency and an immersive international experience. A hallmark of this program, and one that sets it apart from other programs, is that it is integrated into the student’s disciplinary studies. Participants gain an appreciation for how cultural context affects the practice of the discipline. Successful participants receive a designation on their diploma and transcript signifying the depth and breadth of their global competence in the discipline (i.e. Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering: International Plan). The general requirements for the International Plan are shown in table 1. Participating units then tailor their degree programs within this framework of requirements.

    Students must complete four courses in international studies (the categories are “international relations, global economics and a course with an emphasis on a country or region”). This is how the outcomes are assessed, quoted by the authors on pg 125:

    Basic global competence is the product of both education and experience, and it is characterized by a graduate’s ability to (1) communicate in a second language via speaking, listening, reading, and writing (second language proficiency); (2) demonstrate substantively the major social–political–economic processes and systems (com- parative global knowledge); (3) assimilate knowledgeably and with ease into foreign communities and work environments (intercultural assimilation); and (4) communicate with confidence and specificity the practice of his or her major in a global context (disciplinary practice in a global context). (Georgia Institute of Technology 2005)

    I find the focus on the substantive character of global society extremely interesting and would like to understand more. How widespread is this approach to global competence? The digital equivalent of it would be something like platform literacy?

     
  • Mark 10:21 am on April 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , platform literacy   

    The components of digital literacy 

    My notes on Eshet, Y. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of educational multimedia and hypermedia, 13(1), 93-106.

    There is widespread agreement that the ubiquity of digital technology presents a whole range of challenges to the people living within these newly digital environments, but there is little agreement about what competencies are involved in meeting those challenges. The term ‘digital literacy’ has often been used as a blanket term to cover a range of competencies (technical, cognitive, psychological, sociological) but this ambiguity about which it refers to has created problems. Eshet-Alkalai is seeking to address this problem, as described on pg 94:

    Development of a more clear-cut conceptual framework may improve the understanding of the skills encompassed by the term “digital literacy,” and provide designers of digital environments with more precise guidelines for effective planning of learner-oriented digital work environments

    His new conceptual framework incorporates five types of literacy which “encompass most of the cognitive skills applied when using digital environments” (pg 94). It’s interesting to note the studies he references that suggest young people show higher photo-visual literacy and branching literacy than adults but adults show higher reproduction literacy and information literacy.

    • Photo-visual literacy: whereas writing became more abstract with time in its transition from visual symbols to abstract letters, the opposite trajectory is true with digital technology as text-based interfaces have led to increasingly sophisticated graphical user interfaces which rely on visual language which is familiar and resonant with the user. Photo-visual literacy is what is necessary to “‘read’ intuitively and freely, and to understand the instructions and messages represented visually” (pg 95). It’s a responsiveness to visual cues for practical action and a capacity to form associations on this basis. In its most pronounced form this is a synchronic literacy, in which different modalities contribute simultaneously to the understanding of a multimedia text
    • Reproduction literacy: reproduction became possible in a meaningful way with the invention of the printing press, as opposed to simple manual copying or oral reproduction. This went through its next revolution with digitalisation, leading to “new and unlimited possibilities for reproducing and distributing digital information have opened new horizons for scholars and artists, but they have also required the development of a new set of criteria for originality, creativity, and talent in art or academic work” (pg 97). This literacy involves “the ability to create a meaningful, authentic, and creative work or interpretation, by integrating existing independent pieces of information” (pg 98).
    • Branching literacy: the replacement of the scroll with the codex book changed how information could be processed, facilitating navigating to particular points in the text rather than being confined to reading it through row-by-row as in a scroll. It made non-linear reading possible for the first time. Digital media offers a radicalisation of this process, providing users ” with a high degree of freedom in navigating through different domains of knowledge, but also presents them with problems arising from the need to construct knowledge from large quantities of independent pieces of information, reached in a nonlinear, “unordered” manner” (pg 99). It should be stressed this is a function of a particular digital environment, as opposed the technology itself. Early computing imposed a linearity on information retrieval (e.g. absence of hypertext, insularity of databases, paucity of metadata) which seems remarkable in the contemporary digital environment. Branching literacy is the skill at retaining orientation when navigating a complex information environment in a multidimensional way.
    • Information literacy: even if the challenge of evaluating information isn’t unique to digital technology, the quantity of information which individuals have to evaluative is. As he puts it, “the unlimited exposure to digital information, which can be published easily and manipulated without difficulty, the ability to evaluate and assess information properly has become a ‘survival skill’ for scholars and information consumers” (pg 101). This involves assessing the credibility, originality and presentational integrity of information encountered online. Information literacy encompasses the cognitive skills used to evaluate information and their efficacy at filtering the torrents of information online for that which is biased, untrustworthy or erroneous.
    • Socio-emotional literacy: the capacities for communication and collaboration opened up by digital media also present all manner of challenges about managing interactions through these new means. As he puts it, “Socially-literate users of the cyberspace know how to avoid “traps” as well as derive benefits from the advantages of digital communication” who he suggests are those “who are willing to share data and knowledge with others, capable of information evaluation and abstract thinking, and able to collaboratively construct knowledge” (pg 102).
     
  • Mark 5:37 pm on April 14, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , platform literacy   

    Lateral vs vertical evaluation of sources 

    My notes on Breakstone, J., McGrew, S., Smith, M., Ortega, T., & Wineburg, S. (2018). Why we need a new approach to teaching digital literacy. Phi Delta Kappan, 99(6), 27-32.

    The upset of the 2016 American election was immediately followed by a rush to provide guidance on how to negotiate what was widely regarded as a dangerous proliferation of ‘fake news’. However Joel Breakstone et al found the problem was much wider than this in 7,804 responses to tasks which required students to evaluate online content that they collected over 18 months. Media literacy has been widely invoked as the solution to this problem and Google and Facebook have been involved respectively in funding the development of a curriculum in Canada and guidance for students in schools in Italy.

    Many of the media literacy initiatives which ensued have relied on checklists, such as the wonderfully named CRAAP Test, inviting students to ask questions such as whether the site is a ‘.com’ and whether a contact person is listed. However this guidance conflicts with what fact checkers do, who immediately begin to read laterally rather than drilling down vertically into the details of the specific site they are looking at. As they describe on pg 28:

    When confronted by new information on an unfamiliar web-site, fact-checkers almost instantaneously left the site and read laterally — opening up new browser tabs and searching across the web to see what they could fnd about the trustworthiness of the source of informa-tion. Only after examining other sites did they return to read the material on the original site more closely.

    Vertical interrogation leaves an individual easily fooled by simple procedures such as using official-looking logos and buying top level domain names. As they put it, “By focusing on features of websites that are easy to manipulate, checklists are not just ineffective but misleading.” (pg 30). Furthermore, the length of these checklists (e.g. CRAAP has 25 questions) make them unfeasible as practical everyday tools for assessing unfamiliar content online.

    In contrast lateral reading involves leaving the site to try and find external sources which offer information about it which can be used to assess its credibility. It is a practical strategy rather than a panacea, taught as part of a broader array of lessons about careful evaluation of online material. Teaching this requires reinforcement across the curriculum rather than a one off class taught by a librarian. This necessitates avoiding “mistaking students’ fluency with digital devices for sophistication at judging the information such devices yield” (pg 31). Teachers need training in these techniques, as well as the time and support needed to apply them across the curriculum.

     
  • Mark 7:22 pm on April 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , platform literacy   

    Digital literacy as individual and collective empowerment 

    My notes on Njenga, J. K. (2018). Digital literacy: The quest of an inclusive definition. Reading & Writing, 9(1), 1-7.\

    On a view which associates digitalisation with the globalisation of the economy, digital literacy is “synonymous with the ability of individuals to participate in the economy through skills and creativity enabled by the digital technologies” (1). In spite of the many definitions which can be found of digital literacy, Njenga argues that they converge on a focus on “essential competencies of the present-day citizens’ success in today’s highly competitive and globalised market, which often require the performance of basic tasks using technology” (2). It is a competence view of literacy.

    However there is good reason to be sceptical of this view: a lack of socio-economic development arising amongst the marginalised from their use of digital technology, the gap between a macro focus on economic indicators & the reality on the ground, the circumscribed character of investigations into digital impact which focus narrowly on field sites and fail to grasp dynamics which unfold beyond and past the field. If we develop these criticisms, Njenga argues we can see a way to a view of digital literacy which is emancipatory, realising the potential benefits of digital technology for marginalised and indigenous communities. Instead we need a contextualised definition of digital literacy, liable to reveal the material inequalities which shape the situational challenges people face as well as the capacity of digital competency to help realise benefits for them within these contexts.

    Unfortunately a dichotomy between production and consumption in existing definitions of DL gets in the way of building such an approach. This implicitly valorised production, relegating the rural and the marginalised to the status of mere consumers. If we can retain a sense of the context within which digital activity takes place, we can resit the reduction of digital literacy to mere competency. This helps us recover the critical aspects of learning (problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and self-regulation) and the contextual features (social, economic and cultural) which shape the use of digital technology within particular social contexts. This leaves us with the social model of digital literacy rather than the competency model.

    As well as the aforementioned advantages, the social media also helps us recognise the variability in how social and digital factors interact, leaving us with a much more refined empirical picture of the the reality of digital technology use (or its absence). In doing so, we can grasp the uses that are made of a technology ‘on the ground’ which might exceed or trouble the intentions of its designers and those with a material interest in maintaining it. This opens up the question of how uses of digital technology might be empowering or otherwise, defined in the terms of the individuals and groups taking it up.

     
  • Mark 5:43 pm on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , platform literacy   

    Developing platform literacy from the ground up can be a bulwark against corporate power 

    There’s an interesting piece by Alastair Creelman in Elm Magazine on platform literacy and the collaborations which will be necessary to develop it as an agenda. While transnational initiatives have their value, their efficacy is likely to be dependent upon their mediation by professional stakeholders:

    There are excellent guidelines and initiatives from the EU Commission aimed at raising awareness of media literacy issues and digital literacies in general but these need to be implemented at national level and downwards. Teachers need to work with other professions such as journalists, publishers, media specialists, librarians, researchers and civil servants to offer a wide range of training resources and arrange workshops, meetings and lectures focusing on media literacy.

    https://elmmagazine.eu/articles/towards-platform-literacy/

    Building the space for these collaborations is important work. But it is costly and requires resources, creating a temptation to accept support from wherever it can be found. However with tech firms increasingly effective in shaping the implementation of digital citizenship, even if a much broader conversation continues around it, the risk is that these spaces are captured to institutionalise an anaemic, individualised and instrumental citizenship devoid of platform literacy. The collaborations between professional groups described by Alastair Creelman could function as an important bulwark against this agenda and it is important that they resist co-option, even if it comes in the shiny and appealing guise of a friendly tech company bearing gifts.

     
  • Mark 7:24 pm on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , platform literacy, , , ,   

    What is platform literacy? 

    In the last couple of years, I’ve found myself returning repeatedly to the idea of platform literacy. By this I mean a capacity to understand how platforms shape the action which takes place through them, sometimes in observable and explicit ways but usually in unobservable and implicit ones. It concerns our own (inter)actions and how this context facilitates or frustrates them, as well as the unseen ways in which it subtly moulds them and the responses of others to them.

    This understanding seems increasingly crucial to me because the alternative might otherwise be a diffuse paranoia. As knowledge of data brokerage and data politics expands throughout society, it generates a certainty that we are being manipulated but an unknowability about precisely who is doing the manipulation, how they are doing it and what the effects might be. Platform literacy helps ground this in a concrete understanding of specific processes and their implications for our agency.

    Any recommendations for reading on this are much appreciated! Particularly those with a pedagogical focus. I’ll be working my way through the Digital Polarisation Intiative’s work and the Polarisation MOOC in the meantime.

     
    • X. Li 2:15 am on November 10, 2018 Permalink

      Hello Mark!
      Thanks for sharing. I’m teaching a “Cross-platform” class as a part of a Graphic Design BFA curriculum and have been thinking about the topic.
      I found the article “The politics of ‘platforms’ ” really informative. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/12774/pop.pdf?sequence=1

      We might have a different focus in this but I’d definitely love to follow your thoughts on this.

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