September 27, 2005

Literacy? Fluency?

A friend asked

Libraries and librarians are quite taken with this whole Information Literacy jag, particularly since some universities seem to be rewriting mission statements to include some mention of a goal of producing students who are "Information Literate". I am therefore trying to use this fixation on information literacy training as a springboard to promoting the idea that libraries should be promoting "spatial information literacy" through a mix of direct instruction, online mapping services, and curricula development. I am curious as to where you would see spatial information literacy vis-a-vis information literacy - merely a subset, or perhaps almost a superset, since spatial information literacy seems to involve skills that go beyond the searching/evaluating/assessing that figure prominently in the descriptions of information literacy that I've read. Do you have any words of wisdom on this that you'd be willing to share?
So here's what I came up with (and I've opened up comments on this one, in case anybody wants to engage):

I guess the first thing I'd say is that "literacy" is a convenient label, but something of a misnomer and clichéed besides. "Fluency" seems a bit closer to the mark to me, the central idea being that people need to have/develop ease of movement among media, and around the continuum of data-information-knowledge. The objects that people manipulate and construct with are often digital, and more and more they seem to involve MULTImedia: images AND xyz spatial data AND texts AND sound files. It just takes a few examples, like Jon Udell's walking tour of Keene NH, or various Google Earth mashups, to make the light bulbs go on. The problem then is: HOW can people learn the bits of connective stuff to make it possible for them to do their own mashups? How do they learn to make use of the APIs that are proliferating?

I see this as Web 2.0 fluency, and as at least as important as the somewhat ho-hum ideas of "information literacy" that have more to do with how to use conventional media. I reflect that the term "mashup" was scarcely current a year ago (probably well understood in hiphop culture, but tyhat's a loooong way from library culture... alas...), but now it's clearly understood as a facet of fluency. Likewise podcasting: not even NAMED a year ago (or maybe just), but a truly revolutionary technology for creation and redistribution of materials. "Information literacy" is too stodgy and slow-moving to have room for either of these, but I'd argue that they're absolutely at the center of what's happening now, and where things are going in the realms of digital communication. In another year I'm sure the landscape will look different again, but the point is that we (those of us who really care about the evolution of infospace, more than ...erm... its Intelligent Design...) need to be thinking about the growing edges, the apical meristems of Information.

I'll have to confess that I dispair of getting the plodders to even look up, let alone to become enthused enough about the possibilities to start thinking about how to become active in their development. But that shouldn't dissuade US from building stuff, and from trying to get people to GET IT via examples and prototypes and such. At some point we fling up our hands and retire to Maine, hopefully in Low Dudgeon...

Looking back over my accumulated stuff, I find things I'd still say which are relevant to "fluency" under and and all over

So: superset? subset? I think neither. It's all one big something, and where there are data to be dealt with, it's often a visualization problem/task; where the data have been chewed and swallowed and digested into information, it's maybe more a management problem (how to find what you know/knew); and once the information is under control, and one heads toward the realms of knowledge, it's a matter of how to communicate what you've discerned/discovered/divined. I don't think anybody is putting this into course-based pedagogy, though there are plenty of materials out there that would be highly relevant --Tufte's books, Mapping Hacks from O'Reilly, the stuff in the maphacks corners of the blogosphere-- if one had the opportunity to mount a course or two to impart these ways of thinking about stuff.

Probably lots more to say about this, and I'd be interested in your comments and yes-buts.

ADDENDUM: A highly-relevant posting from today'sConnectivism Blog: "the real value of blogs and wikis is not the tool itself. It's what the tool enables"

Posted by oook at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005


Much as I admire George Siemens' work, exemplified in passages like

Our changing learning context is axiomatic. We see it in any form of information - from newspapers to radio to TV to the internet. Everything is going digital. The end user is gaining control, elements are decentralizing, connections are being formed between formerly disparate resources and fields of information, knowledge is developing rapidly, and everything seems to be "speeding up"...
I can't help feeling that these essentials of Constructivist learning aren't as much to the fore as they deserve to be:
  • managing the Information one has, and finds --so that it can be retrieved, repurposed, reorganized (the management tools are pretty ad hoc and idiosyncratic, and not very well interlinked)

  • constructing and distributing the Outcomes of the searches one does, the learning one experiences, the insights one encounters (this communication activity is arguably what the Web is really for)

Not that I've been so very systematic about either myself... but that's exactly what I mean to work on, now that my time is much more my own. And not that I know just what I'm after building, though lots of the fragments slide in and out of focus as I unpack boxes of books and files and maps and images...

I really do mean to explore and construct and distribute, and I aspire to doing something exemplary with hyperlinked materials, with the primary objective of encouraging others to do likewise.

Posted by oook at 02:05 PM

September 10, 2005

Moving and unpacking

The last 7 weeks or so has been liminal: a time of disrupted routines, with the house sold, housesitting for vacationing friends, commuting over the Blue Ridge every day, and now finally relocated and unpacking, reconstituting spaces and finding that many of those routines are no longer necessary or relevant. Every bit of unpacking is a skein of contingencies: where to put what, which to banish to the barn as less than essential, how to create spaces for things that are essential... and where did I pack this or that necessary item? My former life is fading rapidly, but the new is just beginning to define itself. I expect to use this space for all sorts of things, but I'm not quite ready to define them yet. Maybe after the rest of the STUFF is dealt with...

Posted by oook at 03:33 PM