digitalliteracy

On the Power of Inquiry and Language

#DigiURI Reflections (Part 1)

On ancestry and identity [Street art in Providence, RI]

The 2019 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy (#DigiURI) was a five-day, immersive workshop experience which took place in the Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, in the University of Rhode Island, Providence. The program is the brain child of Julie Coiro, who joined forces with her dyad partner Renee Hobbs to bring to life one of the most intense and insightful learning experiences I’ve had to date. And mind you, dear reader, I have had my fair share of deep learning experiences. Lucky me 🙂

There is certainly a lot to process still. And I must say that I was privileged to have been accompanied by a group of brilliant Brazilian educators, all engaged in the promising Educamídia program, set forth by the Instituto Palavra Aberta and supported by Google.org. Educamídia was created to empower educators and educational organizations, as well as to engage society in the process of youth media education by developing their communication potential in various media.

This week, my dyad partner Carla Arena and I had the chance of sharing some of our most powerful takeaways from our experience at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy (video above). We chatted in Portuguese then (we are Brazilian), but I would like to begin sharing my most compelling insights with you in this post.

Inquiry at the Core

I had already been made aware of the fact that inquiry-based learning approaches are truly in the center of powerful learning experiences. My experience in DigiURI really drove that home for me. I found myself fully immersed in thinking, creating, communicating and building meaning, both on my own and collaboratively. The constant sharing among all participants was very powerful. The digital artifacts which we created as the outcome of our collaboration were purposefully designed because they were a natural result of the powerful process in which we engaged, in constant reflection and feedback loops from our dyad partners. Inquiry-based learning is the pedagogical pathway that naturally pulls in critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. It also naturally elicits the meaningful use of technology. It’s the pathway to follow for ‘minds on – hands on’ learning.

Inquiry at center – the sketch I created and that served as inspiration for our DigiURI project

Use Language to Change the World

Inspired by Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, Kristin Ziemke struck a chord when she talked about literacy development in young learners, and how powerful it is when kids begin naming the world – their world. Kristin made us aware of the power of visual literacy, and also of the meaning making process that we engage in when learning to name our own worlds. Therefore, changing language is part of the process of changing the world. And that, my friends, is exactly what happens throughout the inquiry-based learning pathway. Language is used to empower, to set high expectations for students, to reflect, and to communicate learning to the world.

Kristin Ziemke in her keynote (photo by Carla Arena)

…to be continued soon

Still more on the power of images, how it connected to leadership for me, and digital empathy.

Books – them selfish creatures #rhizo14

Indian Headdress

Indian Headdress by John Dalkin (C) all rights reserved

Beauty is in the mind and soul of the bereader
Although reading a book might be a different experience every time you read it, it is still an alone experience. The different perceptions and insights we might have when reading the same book at different points in time are conjured up by the reader’s subjectivity, the fact that we are ever-changing creatures – inside and out. It is, nonetheless, an alone process. We could compare the experience to that of listening to a song being played in a very small room, and the sensory experiences that will ensue, and then playing that same song in a very large room, with entirely different acoustics. The sensory experience will certainly be a different one. The same music resonates differently in each scenario. Therefore, it could be said that it is the reader – the human element engaging with the print – that is dynamic, and not the print itself. In that sense, books are indeed limited/ing.
The old becomes the new again
There is a significant connection between ancient oral traditions and internet technology. Both systems operate via networks. There is something about the power of the eloquently spoken word. And its power exponentially increases when individuals experience the spoken word collectively. When a tribe elder gathers the young ones around a fire to tell them stories of their ancestors, I can’t help but wonder whether giving each of them a book containing the same stories would be as rich an experience. You see, it’s not just about the story itself, it’s also about the making of the fire, the way the young ones distribute themselves around the circle, with maybe the older ones sitting right and left of the tribe elder, it’s what they eat or drink during the gathering, it’s what they wear, and maybe, most importantly, it’s the coarse voice of their elder, telling them their own story almost musically, the tempo of the words, one after the other, and the curious questions that the young ones might ask, generating an increased understanding of their tribal identity, of their unity as a group – a network of people.
“As he looks back at archived tribal pictures and sees his young face in the crowd of elders, Pinkham, now 30, understands. ‘I realized it wasn’t something I waited for, it was the development of the mindset that goes along with our people,’ says Pinkham, tribal ethnographer for the Nez Perce Tribe.”    Wyatt Buchanan
Books – them selfish creatures
It may be that the internet – the inter(action) via the net(work) – purports just that connectivity among people, and that can be as powerful as the tribe gathering around the ritualized fire. It might be that once people truly realize how extremely powerful and transformational a tool the internet is in its core, the more digital literacy will become a reality in people’s lives. And that’s where ‘books’ is making us ‘stupid’. If we consider the ability to network, to successfully connect with other individuals and have one’s brain expanded by the learning that results from the engagement, as a critical element of digital literacy, then books might really be doing just that – making us ‘stupid’ in our isolation, alienating us from networking and (re)acquiring all of the necessary skills to thrive in today’s global tribe.
print books = linear  / person <alone>
networks = rhizomatic / people >together<
240px-Chief_Joseph-1877
“…let us put our minds together and see what future we can make for our children…”.
Nez Perce Chief Joseph
Reference nodes:
With much gratitude to photographer John Dalkin, who kindly granted permission for me to use his astonishingly beautiful fractal/photo. Thank you, John!