Multi-tasking in multi-layered conversations in multiple contexts

This interview is actually a nice bit of introduction to what I’m trying to do in my Introduction to Distance Education Systems course. I’m trying to situate the technology (and a fairly wide variety of technology) in meaningful practice. I’m trying to encourage people to be creative and generative and to reflect on both their generativity and the technology they used to accomplish it.

Where I’m still struggling is how to really encourage them to use the “cultural practices that have started to emerge that help us to navigate though those new technologies, and to engage more fully in participatory cultures” in a transparent manner so we can all learn and reflect on them together. Things like:
  • deciding where it makes sense to pay attention
  • scanning the environment looking for relevant data, digging deep, and engaging with it as needed
  • seeing that we communicate information across multiple channels and in different information contexts
  • working with multi-layered conversations, reading across multiple topics and trying to learn how to connect pieces of information together

Jenkins points out that:

those people who come to technology as adults are going to learn how to use technology when it is meaningful for them to do so, when it is embedded in a community practice that allows them to use the technology as a vehicle towards a set of meaningful goals.  They’re not going to learn how to use technology when they’re asked to use technology in the abstract, and that’s where I think the panic comes in, “I’m not very good at technology.” And I have the same problem as most of the people I work with: If I presented a machine and said, “Learn how to use it,” my first question is, “Why? What is it I want to use it to do?” And that’s a totally legitimate question to ask. So for many of those people, it’s that they haven’t been exposed to something they meaningful want to do using this technology.

I’m seeing that reflected in some of the reflections the students are writing here at the end of the course.  Some of them didn’t think they were “good at technology” but when they diagram their personal learning networks they see there’s a lot more virtual interaction and digital information mining going on than they realized.  As they lay out what tools they’re using they also see how some tools have expanded from the academic area into other areas of their lives as they see the utility of it in various contexts.
I’m hopeful that one thing this class has done for most of the students is to provide a safe opportunity to explore some of the many options for researching, creating, collaborating, and learning that can be used in  elearning.
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