As an academic, it’s always good to know that your research and interests are considered “innovative”—or at the very least, relevant and necessary. Which is why I was so surprised that nearly every topic I’ve tackled (or plan to tackle) in my graduate research was featured in this article by GOOD Magazine, a website/publication of which I am very fond. Basically, the next time someone asks me what I investigate under the label of “literacy,” I’m going to show them this article.
The article references “seven innovations changing the way the world learns,” which are as follows:
1. Open source learning – I was so thrilled to see this as the first listing! MIT’s program is excellent (and will be discussed more in an upcoming Open Learning Series installment). As you well know, if you’re reading this blog, there are many other resources besides just that one, but it’s so great to get some media acknowledgement about alternative, and free, coursework. I’m very optimistic that sometime in the near future, Americans will be able to receive an excellent education for free (cue the socialist hate… womp woooommmmp).
2. Gaming technology – About freakin’ time. It’s so nice to see gaming get the credit it deserves, and is acknowledged as an innovative, extremely creative and challenging art form that packs a ton of possibility for learning in every subject. In the past year or so, I investigated the use of open-world games like Minecraft and role playing games like The Elder Scrolls as a tool to inspire and improve narrative writing (guess what… it works. Kids are inspired when they get to play. Who knew?!). I also did a thorough literature review on research involving female students, gaming and physics, and found that the correlation between girls feeling alienated from both video game culture and hard sciences was linked—which means that if we invite young girls into both, they will have a greater desire to become immersed in hard sciences later in life. Cool stuff! This article also references the use of apps, which I honestly haven’t explored much although I am very open to the idea. I really want full immersive games to be researched though since they are such rich opportunities for learning.
3. Social media – I’ve gotten into a few debates with other educators on this topic. I really think that if students are using something as much as social networking outside of the classroom, then we should absolutely be bringing it into it, otherwise we’re ignoring a very prevalent part of their lives. Many teachers are reluctant to discuss this topic but I know of several who have successfully used Twitter, blogs, Facebook, text messaging, etc. to encourage students to discuss and learn on a more casual, familiar platform.
4. Twitter – Although they singled out Twitter specifically, I think it can be included in social networking, although Twitter offers a lot of potential that other mediums don’t. The article highlights the use of hashtags for collaborative discussions, which is an awesome idea. I personally love using hashtags and find it hard to Tweet without them, because I feel like I’m contributing to a conversation on a particular topic. Excited to see where this goes.
5. Tech literacy – It’s great to see the word “literacy” actually used! All of these ideas listed above encompass literacy, but the word is still confusing to many who consider it to be solely about reading and writing. Guess what… it’s not! Literacy is about how people learn, every subject (check out my “What is Literacy?” series for more detailed overviews of different types of literacy). STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) literacy was the focus of this, which is exciting. What I love about STEM literacy research is that it uses many of the other ideas mentioned above. For instance, when I was researching girls and gaming, STEM literacy is directly related. It’s also extremely important that our students who use technology so faithfully have a sense of how it actually works, so that they can use it safely, and also to its full potential.
6. Conceptual and creative thinking – This is such a necessary idea that should be embraced by all educators. When I was in the National Writing Project research program last summer, these ideas came up a lot, especially in the context of STEM learning, writing and technology. It’s important that students—and the public—begin to see each subject as being both abstract and creative. When I was teaching writing, it was interesting how many students consider writing to be solely creative and text-based, when it is actually quite technical, abstract and visual. Same goes for math—it’s not just about an established series of equations; it takes creative, out-of-the-box thinking to come to the right solution, especially when it comes to mathematics-based subjects like computer programming or chemistry.
7. Libraries – Ahhhh! I nearly cheered out loud when I saw this on the list. Thank you, GOOD, for acknowledging libraries and aptly calling it “The Library Revolution.” There IS a revolution underway—an information revolution, where the quest for the truth is what matters to people, and where the role of librarian has once again become sacred as they serve as keepers of knowledge and protectors of it. Once society stops viewing libraries as archaic institutions without outdated information—and has a greater appreciation for the necessary role librarians play in our world—the possibilities are endless. Three cheers for libraries! Check out my past blogs about libraries and librarians.
Thanks again, GOOD, for the excellent article, and for highlighting the many exciting opportunities we have as a society to challenge and grow. I can’t wait to delve into more research in 2012.