Chris' public learning in week 3

Thursday 14th March

One of the students contacted me re a faulty link in the L@G site. The Net is full of broken links and I began wondering about how to provide support/encouragement for improving the search habits of the group. There is some advice about digital habits in the research kitchen but it might be expecting too much to think folk chase that kind of thing down in abstraction. The paper that went missing was a report commissioned by the MacArthur foundation, Living and Learning with new media. I found the relocated file in about 30 seconds. Most of my searching habits are more or less hard-wired1. I had two options: search for the file by title or search for the file name which is pretty unique2. I did that and discovered that while the file was no longer at MIT Press there were multiple copies at a few sites, one of which at Berkeley where the project was run from. The file name had changed but Google picked up the pdf and the title and gave me the file as the 2nd top hit. Interestingly it tossed up another paper from the same group, same funder: Hanging Out, messing around, geeking out, which I think is for reading later in the course.

I was further prompted by another thoughtful blog post by David Jones prompted by a research report from USQ which claimed that "our students are digitally literate and agile". His blog post: Many of our students are neither digital natives nor digitally literate refutes that claim squarely.

When I have the opportunity to teach face-to-face masters classes, I used to get students to sit in small groups and tell each other how they go about writing. It is an eye-opener for them and me. I might write about writing at another time but the same logic applies here. How do students find stuff? What kinds of search skills do they have. How good are they at playing digital detective?

I may have misread the student entirely3 but I suspect not. Maybe I assume too much of folk. Maybe we need to have a bit of show and tell re some of this?

I've begun to make some notes about the tasks as design work, drawing on Brooks' The Design of Design. Thinking out loud about how I think about the tasks may be useful. I need to see.

Monday, 11th March

I'm having flashes from a long way back as I recall my experience of years of teaching at a distance but without the communication options we now have to hand. Generally, I find that you have some students who enjoy and respond to communication. There are others who simply want to do the course, collect the green elephant stamp and move, which is fine. Then you have a couple who simply like to lurk or stay out of view. I guess my concern is that the course offers an opportunity to develop a few personal skills in working online in a group, something that I suspect will become more commonplace, not just in courses like this but for so much of the work humans do. Maybe I am not good at nudging.

The other mode I'd like to get past is the old assumption that the way to survive/succeed in a course like this is to please the teacher4. What actually gives me a sense of progress is when student thinking shows signs of movement, even if it is more questions and puzzlement. There is a rich diversity in this group. It would be terrific if a few more folk joined in the public conversations on the G+ community site.

What I'd like to do is to explore in as non-formulaic way as possible, some of the useful insights of Brooks about design. Giving them an open-ended task, even with the follow your passion/curiosity line is still a tough ask. It would be so much simpler to have said do X, then Y then Z. These are appropriate for courses in which there is a coherent and perhaps well established body of knowledge to come to grips with. There are a lot of ideas in the digital culture/games space but I don't think you could claim a lot of coherence. There are clusters of ideas and knowing about them is important. The problem we face is that the terrain in which we work is shifting and the shifts are not slow5.