As teachers, we are responsible for making sure that our students are fluent in the methods of discourse they’ll need beyond the classroom. In the last decades, these necessary literacies have changed drastically with the arrival of the digital era. No longer can students thrive in the real world without an understanding of how to use digital tools in a collaborative, meaningful way.
Digital tools, by nature, make readers into more active participants in the text. “Traditional printed texts such as books are written for readers to proceed from front to back, reading from left to right. However, readers of electronic texts have the option of clicking on any one of a number of hyperlinks that can take them on a path that digresses completely from the path that other readers might take” (V,V,&M 33). Just the act of reading a digital text is inherently more active than reading a printed text. Also, in the digital world, readers have the opportunity to interact with other readers and writers through commenting and social networking. This leads to the participitory learning that creates an “self-correcting, collaborative environment.” (Henry Jenkins) As we’ve experienced through this class through blogging and commenting, digital tools allow us to be more active readers while helping us learn collaboratively.
The concept of learning collaboratively has been around for a long time, but the today’s digital technology has provided it so much more potential. The theory of connectivism suggests that we learn best from making connections between our learning and the learning of others. According to George Siemens, “we can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections.” As I mentioned before, I would not have had nearly as an enriching experience in this class had it not been collaborative in nature. If I had to be entirely autonomous in my reading and learning, it would be very shallow and unrewarding. Instead, when learning in a community and making connections to the learning of others, a deeper and more complex understanding of a concept is attainable.
As Jenkins points out, unfortunately teachers and administrations often place self-imposed limits on the kind of 21st century literacies they can teach their students. It was refreshing to read about the environment that Eric Sheninger fostered in his school, and it’s these kinds of risk-taking efforts that lead to a rich learning environment in the new century. It is a shame that YouTube, Twitter, social networks, and other potential learning tools are banned from many schools. It is true, as Jenkin says, that harnessing the digital tools for necessary for collaborative, participitory learning can be scary because it takes some power away from the teacher and puts it in the hands of the student. But the risk is worth the reward, because when students have power and can develop respected voices in collaborative conversations, they become stakeholders in their own educations. Which is what we want, isn’t it? RCA2011