Title

Everyone Learns from Everyone: Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Professional Development in Digital Literacy

Document Type

Article

Date of Original Version

5-1-2016

Abstract

Hobbs and Coiro describe a new approach to the professional development of educators, librarians, and media professionals that emphasizes the value of collaborative, interdisciplinary relationships. The authors explore why creative collaboration using digital media texts, tools, and technologies is vital to support the professional development of educators. Creative collaboration experiences generate personally meaningful, transformative learning by promoting personal reflection in a social context. It is important to provide cognitive and emotional support for the risk-taking cycles of experimentation and trial-and-error process that is essential for learning to use digital tools. By using inquiry learning practices through collaborative and creative media production, adult learners thrive by taking on distinct and enmeshed roles that inevitably involve creative tension that stimulates and energizes innovation. © 2016 International Literacy Association. Hobbs and Coiro describe a new approach to the professional development of educators, librarians, and media professionals that emphasizes the value of collaborative, interdisciplinary relationships. The authors explore why creative collaboration using digital media texts, tools, and technologies is vital to support the professional development of educators. Creative collaboration experiences generate personally meaningful, transformative learning by promoting personal reflection in a social context. It is important to provide cognitive and emotional support for the risk?taking cycles of experimentation and trial?and?error process that is essential for learning to use digital tools. By using inquiry learning practices through collaborative and creative media production, adult learners thrive by taking on distinct and enmeshed roles that inevitably involve creative tension that stimulates and energizes innovation. Of course, creative partnerships are vital to the work of scholars and teachers with interests in digital and media literacy. Yet, because reading and writing practices are sometimes conceptualized as solo enterprises, we may practice collaboration without giving it the theoretical examination or bandwidth it deserves. Collaboration as both a creative media production practice and an instructional strategy for professional development is still undertheorized and understudied in education. In this commentary, we describe why creative collaboration with digital media texts, tools, and technologies is vital to support the professional development of educators. Because of our shared belief that collaboration through inquiry and media making can generate personally meaningful, transformative learning experiences, we created the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy and the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy. We wanted educators, librarians, and media professionals to learn from and with one another, using inquiry practices in the design of transformative learning experiences with digital media and technology. This was important to us in designing the summer institute, and it is also why work with a dyad partner is so important for our approach to professional development in digital and media literacy. During the week, we help participants reflect on their particular styles of collaboration and the habits of mind that best support their own ability to learn with and about digital media. Participants come together to design an instructional unit that addresses a particular learning context, creating at least two forms of multimedia for use in that unit using digital tools that they have learned at the institute. We scaffold instructional design using the digital literacy curriculum framework, which we call the flower model (see Figure ). It offers a systematic approach to curriculum development by inviting educators to consider these six elements as they design learning experiences:Context: Start by reflecting deeply on the needs of the learner, considering the context, the community, and your own values and priorities as an educator. Teaching and learning are social practices that are situational and contextual.Purpose: Identify the learning outcomes, standards, or goals of your curriculum.Content: What resources will you use? How will you use print, visual, sound, or digital media texts and tools?Pedagogy: What instructional practices will shape what happens during the learning process?Assessment: What work products will students create? What criteria will be used to assess student learning?Task or activity: What compelling question or scenario will you use to connect your learning tasks to the real world? This component emerges as a creative idea but gets refined and developed by considering the other five elements of the model. As partners inevitably recognize as they work together during the week, the differences between them are a fertile source of creative energy. For example, in 2014, Amanda Murphy, a high school social studies teacher from Rhode Island, collaborated with Kara Clayton, a high school media teacher from suburban Detroit, Michigan. During the summer institute, they developed a project idea: to explore how to best help students use cell phones to support learning. During the 2014-2015 academic year, Amanda and Kara identified the gaps in students' knowledge and skills in the use of cell phones for learning. They discovered that although students use cell phones for social interaction, they are unfamiliar with the many productivity tools that can support their academic work. Then, students identified topics to learn about and worked to create short video tutorials (e.g., how to record a voice memo, set up a calendar notification, scan a document). Finally, students in Michigan and Rhode Island viewed one another's completed videos and offered feedback on them for potential revision. The teachers were pleased that their collaboration helped students extend the authentic audience for their tutorial videos beyond the walls of their school. One thing is certain: Although we both want to support teachers in advancing these practices in K-12 and higher education, we do not want these ideas to get oversimplified into a silly checklist, as sometimes happens in education. Given how fast technology and media are changing, what instructional strategies best prepare people for an unknowable future? Second, dyads provide cognitive and emotional support for the process of learning to use digital tools. Most participants identified themselves as beginning? or intermediate? level users of digital media and technology. Some arrive with fears and anxieties that their skills are not adequate. During the week, participants have many opportunities for low? stakes exploration of digital tools. They have many opportunities to experience success. Quantitative and qualitative evidence from the program evaluation has helped us learn that participants appreciated the mix of theory and time for hands? on exploration; they valued the opportunity to choose which digital skills to develop and to have time for using, exploring, and creating (Hobbs, Coiro, Friesem, Viens, & Jaffee, ). Having a partner nearby and being able to rely on other people to help with problem solving when experiencing challenges can be helpful in dealing with the frustration that can occur when learning to use new digital tools. Third, dyads support the cycles of risk taking, experimentation, creative iteration, and rapid prototyping, which are key parts of the creative design process. Ideas grow out of shared conversation (Riverdale Country School & IDEO, ). We give teachers enough time to get to know each other while learning new digital tools and new pedagogical approaches. We model and scaffold a variety of versatile instructional strategies during the day. Having a dyad partner to share ideas with and explain what has been learned creates repeated opportunities for practice. We surround them with people who have expertise using digital tools, texts, and technologies. Most importantly, participants see us engaged in problem solving when things do not go as planned. Because we demonstrate the ability to work through the inevitable challenges and snafus that occur when using digital media and technology for learning, we think this helps build teacher confidence.

Publication Title

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy

Volume

59

Issue

6

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