Archive for December, 2020


Class 11: Team Project presentations

December 17, 2020

We were delighted to be joined by a select audience for the Team Project presentations this week. Valibrarian Gregg, Gentle Heron, Mook Wheeler and Sitearm Madonna supported us with comments and questions about the topics under discussion.

John was most impressed with both presentations. He remarked on the quality and depth of the research conducted by each team, the professional delivery and the ability of each team member to address the questions that came from the audience in a thoughtful and reflective way, demonstrating the engagement you had with the details of your subject.

The Red Team opted to go first and gave us a link to a YouTube video which we all watched in our browsers. The video was very well scripted with appropriate and insightful content. Team members took turns narrating and performed exceptionally well. The images, diagrams, layout and typography all combined to support the main contention of the presentation which nailed the brief. In the follow up Q&A session you demonstrated a command of the subject and responded with confidence and a convincing level of detail.

The Green Team presented live in SL. The original intention was to show slides on a screen in SL but, wisely, it was deemed more effective to provide a link to a set of Google Slides. Once again, the presentation was delivered in part by each team member, handing over to each other with ease and professionalism. The team dressed professionally for the occasion to complement the content. The design and layout of the slides was excellent, even down to the specially designed Green Team logo with stylised leaf motif. This team also engaged with their Q&A session in a professional and confident manner – this was borne out by the reflective nature of their responses to questions and a clear understanding of the content.

Following the presentations John wrapped up with some general comments and our guest speakers also contributed, complimenting the student teams. The full brief for the Team Project – Fresh World was well researched by both teams. Assessment criteria can be found on page 6.


Class 10: Warning!

December 9, 2020

We have reached the final week of teaching on the module and it seems to have flown by. John began by thanking you all for engaging with the content so well and for full attendance at every class for the first time since the module commenced!

We discussed the two addresses to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland in 2018. The nonagenarian David Attenborough and the sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg delivered what was essentially the same message but in very different ways: each in their own distinctive style. Overall, the message, echoing the warnings from world scientists, is not positive: in fact, the prognosis for our planet is a cause for grave concern brought about by the unsustainable manner in which we have been exploiting our natural resources. The term anthropocene has been proposed by scientists to describe the geological era in which humankind’s impact has changed the planet in ways that were previously only caused by geological forces. In trying to establish when the anthropocene might have begun you proposed the atomic era, or perhaps it was as far back as the industrial revolution, or even the dawn of humankind. emck1999 shared the conclusions of a recent project in which she considered the impact of our unsustainable use of the earth’s resources, making her feel old and cynical, she said.

Nevertheless, John suggested there may well be more positive indications recently. HannahSimoneNathalie referred to the Attenborough documentary A Life on our Planet, 2020 currently showing on Netflix; in an interview with the Radio Times (and in the context of the current pandemic) he says hope may emerge ‘from the whole world having experienced a shared threat and found a sense that we are all in it together’. He speaks of ‘encouraging signs’ of an increased trust in science, adding ‘the time for nationalism is over. ‘In the end,’ Attenborough says, ‘it’s not really about saving the planet. It’s about saving ourselves …. It’s simpler than you might think, a century from now, our planet can be a wild place again.’

The second cause for hope is in the very existence of Greta Thunberg. The sense of opportunity and potential that is natural in youth, but which tends to dissipate with age, should not be dismissed. The problems facing humanity are so grievous that the older generation simply may not have the imagination nor the stamina to conceive of a solution whereas those with less ‘experience’ can approach the future with the ingenuity and determination that is a hallmark of human beings at our best. This seemed to resonate with you as a reasonable expectation, from your own experience.

The third factor in providing hope is technology itself. Often demonised as the cause of our problems technology is, in fact, somewhat neutral. The French intellectual Bernard Stiegler, who died this year, proposed that technology should be understood as a pharmakon, a Greek word that means both ‘poison’ and ‘cure’. Technology is the poison that has brought our society to its sorry state but it could also be the cure by which it may be saved. Stiegler also believed in taking practical action and established many projects to prove that there are alternative ways of developing communities and society that does not result in the destruction of our environment. This understanding of technology is surely influenced somewhat by McLuhan’s belief that ‘we shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us’.

John attempted to tie together the threads of our weekly discussions suggesting that a core theme emerging is that of responsibility. Our personal responsibility was explored in the classes about McLuhan and the true nature of the ‘self’ and ‘being’. The importance of professional responsibility emerged during our discussions on blogging and community relationships. The Le Guin story about Omelas and concepts of digital citizenship considered last week, along with the discussion in this class, raised questions about communal responsibilities and the shape of our society. At the heart of all discussion on responsibility is the ethical dimension. Without an ethical framework there can be no sense of responsibility and life is forced to play out in a constant struggle for survival. The challenge for each one of us is to engage with our multiple responsibilities, consider what we can do and to play our parts with deliberation. Above all: do not simply follow the general flow of events blindly.

Before concluding the class John dispersed the princely sum of L$200 to each of you so that you can upload images and photos to SL for your presentations next week. He also warned you that the conversion rate meant this is equivalent to less than a singe US dollar. It was also agreed that the Red Team will present first with the Green Team following. John will be available if there are any issues with your projects between now and next Thursday.


Class 9: Digital Citizenship

December 5, 2020

Valibrarian shared some of the ideas from her book on Metamodernism to the the class this week.


We visited the Community Virtual Library (CVL) in SL this week for a presentation by Dr Valerie Hill (aka Valibrarian), the director. Val has taught at all grade levels, served as a school librarian for twenty years and a college professor of information science. She suggests there is now a need for a new look at literacy: metaliteracy.

Alvin Toffler, writing in the late 20th century, coined the term prosumer when he noticed individuals were beginning to create and share content themselves: what we now call user-generated content. This has toppled the information hierarchy and we now have much more user-generated content than traditional formats such as books. YouTube has become the main source of information on the planet. As both consumers and producers of media we have become prosumers. One of Toffler’s well-known quotes relating to changing literacy is:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

This constant oscillation – swinging between production and consumption of media, and between physical and digital media, aligns to our philosophical moment which Val calls metamodernism, a term being widely adopted to describe our era. Acquiring knowledge in the past meant climbing the ladder toward final mastery. Not anymore! In metamodernism culture, we learn new tools and apps constantly while evaluating live information and adapting to new devices and software updates. There is no end to the incoming stream of information. Val’s book Metamodernism and Changing Literacy addresses the challenges we face due to these changes. It is imperative that we each understand our personal responsibility as digital citizens. A term that fits with this personal responsibility (at any age from child to adult) is metaliteracy. Mackey and Jacobsen (2014) coined the term to help us better understand how we can be literate in digital culture as prosumers. This is essential to digital citizenship. For more on this have a look at Metaliteracy and Metamodern Times.

We play many roles as a metaliterate individual, as both consumer and producer of content. The Internet connected everyone… giving a voice to all. Yet, not everyone has anything meaningful to add to the conversation! The Internet has become a flood of information that is impossible to navigate without metaliteracy. Once we understand with it means to be prosumers and participants in digital culture (unless you are a hermit isolated without Internet connectivity) we become aware of the need for digital citizenship. Yes, everyone has a voice online… but not everything shared is good, meaningful or even true. In fact, Mackey and Jacobson believe we live in a post-truth world.

While the many elements of digital citizenship are beyond the scope of this short talk Val suggests they cover ethical use of information, cybersecurity and safety, communication and even emotional intelligence. She suggests looking at the digital citizenship wheel at the DQ Institute website. CVL has built a digital citizenship museum in the virtual world of Kitely and has branches in other virtual worlds besides SL.

Val witnessed the close of the Gutenberg Parentheses (the period in which the printed word was the main source of information) as printed encyclopaedias or dictionaries became rarities. Many of us love the smell and physicality of books which are likely to remain available, but we also use ebooks, websites, databases, videos, podcasts, blogs, apps and more. Juggling all these tools – sometimes simultaneously – is actually changing the human brain. This juggling is a metaliteracy skill and part of digital citizenship. However, one can get carried away by the stream of social media into a self-absorbed whirlpool. Not only must we learn to juggle and choose the best digital tools… we must also juggle between worlds: physical, virtual, or augmented. Choosing the best space for a specific purpose (working, gaming, social interaction, learning) is also a metaliteracy skill. New platforms are emerging constantly with virtual reality headsets and 360 video becoming mainstream. Val is part of a team of educators researching these environments as it is impossible to explore them alone. A major goal for CVL is to bring together digital citizens to share best practices for becoming metaliterate digital citizens. CVL has tools to help accomplish that goal. For example, they are working on a virtual database, a network of ‘office hours in virtual environments’, and a virtual world education consortium.

The Information Revolution has changed literacy forever. We live in a fascinating, fast-paced time. Val has adopted the term metamodernism in discussion of our current philosophical era but there are other names being used: post-postmodernism, for example. She is presenting the topic here today in the metaverse, a place where metadata constructs a simulation of reality – we are inside a metaphor of our world. As you think about that you are using metacognition (thinking about thinking). About… about… about… meta… meta… meta! We have become metamodern and it is now time to become metaliterate.

In closing, Val hoped that we will all ponder our own responsibility for digital citizenship and think critically about our own changing literacy. Metaliteracy is simply a term to address literacy as prosumers. The Metaliteracy website describes it as follows:

Metaliteracy promotes critical thinking and collaboration in a digital age, providing a comprehensive framework to effectively participate in social media and online communities. It is a unified construct that supports the acquisition, production, and sharing of knowledge in collaborative online communities.

In response to Val’s presentation the students suggested that being accessible all the time and being expected to reply instantly to everything is overwhelming. The ‘show location’ tool is scary too. The death of privacy in the age of Google was also mentioned and the need to teach children from an early age so that they can navigate the worlds they are going to inhabit as they grow. Val suggested looking at the Common Sense website for more on this.

John, along with the students, thanked Val for her highly informative and fascinating talk. John also thanks Sitearm for coordinating the event.

Class listens to Valibrarian

The class listening attentively to Valibarian’s fascinating talk.


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