This recent article at Educause caught my eye. David Parry has created a quick list of three “New Literacies” that we need to be teaching to our learners in the “Late Desktop Era,” or the “Post-PC World” depending on who’s quote you want to use. The three literacies from the article are: Understanding Information Access. Understanding Hyperconnectivity. Understanding the New Sense of Space. All of these literacies are hallmarks of the digital native. They all speak to the importance of understanding the concept of context. The crux of this is teaching individuals to fend for themselves, teach them to teach themselves and become life-long learners no matter the situation they may be in.
Teaching individuals how to know of and leverage their context is difficult. Reinforcing their learning and helping them make proper choices in this situation is one of the most important things you can do in creating mobile learning. For example, think of other similar sorts of learning instill that require these sorts of quick wits and instincts: sports, hunting, bargain shopping… all of these take years to hone. Only active coaching, constant practice and mentoring will help build these sorts of “literacies”. Mastery of these will not be bestowed on people through a degree program or an easy assessment process. The proof in if you know how to run a play, hit your target or buy your perfect new outfit is in the outcome. Did you get what you needed? Did you succeed? These sorts of proficiencies are second nature to those that have them, and like a foreign language to those that don’t.
Recall a time in the post iPhone world where you have been asked a question by someone you know has a smartphone and a dataplan. Did you find the answer for them? Did you let them discover it on their own later? Did you ask them to use their phone? Now, recall a situation where the same person asked a similarly easy-to-Google question months later. Did they find the answer themselves? If so, you can see this person is increasing their digital literacy. If they still languished, well, they may never quite get it. But, you can help them along this path. Pull out your phone next time this happens and search for the answer in their presence. Use the mobile web, or find an app that will provide the content you need. Then, email that link to them right then, and stay with them until they read the answer. Maybe something will click. There are nice ways to do this and some snarky ones. Use a way that works for you and doesn’t embarrass your colleague.
There is a line to be drawn between using mobile devices in a social setting appropriately and inappropriately. You may not want your students or coworkers texting each other in class or in a conference room about idle things or unrelated content, but providing a facility or backchannel for information seeking and collaboration can be very effective. Culturally, does your company frown on meeting participants smartphoning away while a powerpoint is being displayed or a planning meeting is going on or does it embrace the instant productivity enhancer provided by a timely in-meeting search of the corporate wiki?
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