Might as well share this on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration….
It’s a post to talk about my contribution to the book: “Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications” edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version). The book has a long list contributors and many are names that folks in the field of digital learning will instantly recognize: Terry Anderson, R. S. Baker, Angela D. Benson, Amy Collier, Alec Couros, Michael Dowdy, Margaret Edwards, B. J. Eib, Cassidy Hall, Katia Hildebrandt, P. S. Inventado, Royce Kimmons, Trey Martindale, Rolin Moe, Beth Perry, Jen Ross, Andrew Whitworth. It is well worth a read and I feel bad for not having promoted it sooner.
Ever since the book became available late last spring, I have actually been afraid to re-read the chapter that I had co-authored with my colleague, BJ Eib. And without having done so, how could I promote the book? At the time the book came out, with Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, I was already feeling low about human rationality. I was afraid I’d find our little book chapter had expressed too much optimism about internet connectivity and the human ability to filter and learn (and ultimately make good decisions) from the information available online. Like everyone else, over the past year I had been witnessing horrifying examples of falsehoods and illogic on social media. And it was appearing that not enough was happening to counterbalance the misinformation. It certainly didn’t get better over the summer and of course we all know what happened in the fall…. So, remembering that the Eib/Wellburn chapter had been enthusiastic about the online world as a source of learning, but not quite remembering how deep (and perhaps narrow) that enthusiasm ran, I felt apprehensive about checking it out, in case the chapter had been part of a naive belief-set. I knew that in our chapter we had talked about new roles for teachers and learners in this information-rich era and I knew we had written this because we were excited to explore the types of online environments where amateurs and experts could learn from each other and where authors and audiences could exchange roles and connect with each other. Had we been too “rah-rah” about these possibilities, which were often based on the very social media that was now allowing the widespread proliferation of “Fake News”? Had we neglected to consider the critical thinking and filtering abilities that are important to make the online environment a worthwhile place to be?
Well, today I have taken the plunge and re-read the chapter! And I certainly feel better to know that we *did* address the cautions (things I have always considered to be important but haven’t always felt sure I’ve expressed completely) along with the enthusiasm I felt, (and actually still feel). When we first wrote this chapter around 2009 (and even when we revised it in 2015) “Fake News” and “Post Truth” were not phrases we heard on a regular basis, but there were plenty of authors writing to warn that new literacy skills were going to be required in order to make sense of all the incoming information. And, thankfully, yes, BJ and I did acknowledge and share the ideas of those authors!
Here’s one quote from the chapter that gave me a bit of relief (and there are others):
“How do we ensure that breadth and immediacy do not replace depth and analysis? A new responsibility seems to be upon us: to ensure that our learners have the opportunity to develop skills and literacies that are appropriate for deep learning from (or in spite of) the published but unfiltered information they are currently encountering.”
So… the chapter did include a call to promote information literacy skills. As recent events have shown, the challenges are more pressing than ever. AND the exciting potential is still there as well.
In the conclusion of the book, George Veletsianos states: “Scholarship should evoke change, and academics, particularly academics in schools of education, should strive to improve our societies in meaningful ways.”
In an era where “Post Truth” is the Oxford Dictionary word of the year…(Nov 8, 2016)…
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/word-of-the-year/word-of-the-year-2016 I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with what George is saying.
Here’s some history of the book and of the chapter that BJ Eib and I created.
Here’s the link to the current 2016 book:
Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications
edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version).
And here’s the title of the 2010 book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (also including a freely available e-book version).
- Our original chapter title in 2010
Imagining Multi-Roles in Web 2.0 Distance Education
- Our chapter title in 2016 (a re-write of the 2010 chapter)
Multiple Learning Roles in a Connected Age: When Distance Means Less Than Ever
And here’s my blog post about the 2010 chapter:
Around that time I also blogged about all the other chapters as well, so if you explore my blog you’ll find those posts 🙂
For more, read about Wael Ghonim and the role of the internet in the Arab Spring revolution. It’s a fascinating viewpoint: