26 August, 2016: Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies.

This 1-hour webinar, Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies, was produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice (COP) for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  The goal of Digital Literacies ANZ is to provide a forum, or space, in which to explore the skills and abilities required in today’s digital world; and how digital literacies can be developed and improved in their organisations and communities.  Digital Literacies ANZ has monthly webinars scheduled in 2017 from March to November.  The webinars are free to attend or view later.  Each of the webinars I have viewed from 2016 included a presentation component, and a questions/comments component for listeners / viewers to interact with the presenter.

This webinar, from August 2016, was presented by Eng Ung, Senior Coordinator Digital Experience, LaTrobe University Library; and in it she discusses the game she developed to help orient new students to the physical space of the library.  Ung went into detail during her presentation to describe:

  • the background and rationale for creating a game with online and physical elements to replace the library tour (i.e. to increase student engagement)
  • the key design elements used (e.g. use of engaging puzzles, building in tasks to demonstrate navigation, reinforcement for successful task completion, immersive storyline, use of tactile elements)
  • the creative process (i.e. how the game was made), and took the webinar participants through an ideation activity
  • data collection and evaluation
  • “pain points”
  • The ideation process

Ung had a number of outcomes that she wished to achieve, including:

  • that as many students would play the game as had signed up for the traditional library tour in the previous year
  • that students would learn something playing a game using problem-based learning principles
  • that students would have fun doing it.

Ung’s results indicated that students who played the game did learn and had fun, but unfortunately fewer people played the game than had participated in library tours the previous year.

I was interested to view this presentation because of my interest in gamification, sparked by covering the topic during the subject, IFN612 – Emerging Technologies, in 2016.  I wrote a blog about it, and the entire class also had the opportunity to play “the game” one week, completing a series of tasks in order to gain points or rewards.  What was interesting to me is that some people were completely engaged by the gamification of the play activity that week, whilst others did not engage at all.  As someone who was completely engaged, I was surprised that others were only mildly interested in playing the game, and some were completely turned off by the idea, and chose to engage in a different play activity that week.

Clearly, gamification works to engage a proportion of the population, but does not work for everyone.  There was a competitive element to the game (rewards, points and winners at the end), as there is with all games, and I wonder if some of the people who were not engaged by the game did not like the competitive aspect to playing.  There could be any number of influencing factors and explanations, however, including time pressures, competing obligations and interests, mood, etc.

I can’t help but wonder if people would engage, if the conditions were right, and the motivation was right for the person.  I am a firm believer in making a person’s participation “worth their while”, and making learning fun by offering incentives, rewards and reinforcement.  It is the behaviourist in me, from many years of doing speech therapy with young children who need the right motivation to encourage their participation. The trouble is that the “right motivation” is different for different people, and without individualisation, not everyone will be engaged.  Whilst I can see how gamification strategies could be used effectively with the student population to increase their engagement and learning outcomes, and I think it highly likely that I would implement strategies such as these in any digital literacy programs I run with students in the future, I understand that not everyone will be engaged by such strategies, as their individual motivational needs may not have been met.

Image attribution:

“Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”, by Duncan Hull.  CC BY 2.0

Digital exclusion – what is it and what can we do about it?

Digital Divide #4

Digital Divide #4, by Barry Dahl (CC BY 2.0)

On Monday night, the IFN614 class engaged in a thought-provoking and wide-ranging Twitter chat  on Information and digital literacy, which spanned many issues from digital exclusion to e-safety, to how much technological knowledge librarians should have.  The issue that resonated most with me, and which will be the focus of this post, was digital exclusion, and the risks it carries to individuals’ ability to participate in everyday life, as increasingly, services are moving online.

In answer to the first question of the evening “Why are information and digital literacy programs important?” I commented that:

More everyday and essential services are being moved online (Medicare, Centrelink, banking, looking for a new house)”.

This prompted a number of replies, including:

“@micheleas Wow, that is so true! Hadn’t even thought of that!” (Stephanie Harland)

“@micheleas so true! Lack of tech/ability to use it can mean being cut off from the outside world” (Katie Ferguson)

“@micheleas good point. It’s just essential” (Neil David McNaught)

“@micheleas So true! I often wonder how older people navigate essential services that seem nearly exclusively online” (Michelle Dare)

These replies highlight how access to technology and the skills to use technology is seen as essential in today’s society; pointing out the risk of being excluded from society, and also pointing out specific issues that some populations, e.g. older people, might have in accessing essential services if they are only offered online.  Kate Davis continued the conversation, specifically around government services moving online:

“Government services are moving online. What does that mean for people who aren’t technology literate?” (Kate Davis)

“@katiedavis they can’t really access those services” (Neil David McNaught)

“@katiedavis moving services online mean they are harder to access for ppl without access, or knowhow” (Michele Smith)

“@nlmcnght @katiedavis or it takes them forever to deal with things as they have to call or physically go to a govt branch” (Jasmine Darlington-R)

“@nlmcnght @katiedavis or they hope they can still access via older methods – or learn new tech to use those services” (Nura Firdawsi)

“@micheleas i feel like it’s a good way to further marginalise the already marginalised…” (Kate Davis)

“with governments movement, illiterate people will lose a lot of opportunities, employment for example.” (Ibtisam Al siyabi)

“Education and employment opportunities are online too. how do you apply for a job these days? online.” (Rebecca Mutch)

These responses highlighted the disadvantage and marginalisation faced by people who do not have technological skills.  Neelie Kroes, former Vice President of the European Commission, speaks persuasively about the importance of information technology skills, and  describes internet access as a utility that must be accessible to everyone, to prevent digital exclusion.  Ms Kroes describes the implications of digital exclusion as “exclusion from information, economic opportunity, social contact, health, education and government services”, and highlights that those most at risk of digital exclusion are often at risk of exclusion due to other factors, such as being elderly, less educated or poor.

Scott Ewing, a Senior Research Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology, writing for The Conversation in Feb 2016, discusses the digital divide in Australia, and reports on an ABS study examining the household use of information technology in Australia (2014-15)  which revealed that there are still a full 1.3 million households (14%) without internet access in Australia; and that you are more likely to have no internet access, and not be an internet user if you are from a low-income household, are less educated, unemployed, or over 55.  Jaeger, Thompson, Bertot, Subramaniam and Taylor (2014) in their book Digital Literacy and Digital Inclusion, also include people with a disability, and people in rural areas, as those who are likely to be digitally excluded.

Digital exclusion is a social justice issue. Everyone should be able to participate in, and reap the benefits of today’s information and technology rich society in every way; financially, socially, and educationally.  I think that libraries have a primary role in addressing this issue, are well-positioned to do it, and are in fact, already getting on with the job.  Jaeger et al, state that American public libraries are important providers of digital inclusion and literacy, providing physical, intellectual, and social access for members, and Australian libraries also provide these services.

During the twitter chat, there was a rich outpouring of ideas about the types of products, programs and services libraries could offer to support information and digital literacy, ensuring that programs were user-centred, and people had a reason to engage with them.  Many people discussed the need for programs to teach people how to use different kinds of technology; how to use applications such as the internet, email and social media.  e-safety emerged as an important issue to address in the provision of internet programs.  Targeted research and information literacy programs were also suggested. Others advocated for services such as free access to the internet and computers, and technology/device loans.

I am optimistic that with knowledge of the issue of digital exclusion, we, as future information professionals, will be motivated to implement appropriate programs, products and services, informed by user needs, to address the issue at a local level in our own communities and libraries.  However, Jaeger et al also point out that budget cuts and the possibility of library privatisation puts the provision of public library services at risk, so a broader advocacy of the need for digital literacy and digital inclusion for the benefit of all people is also required; through national and international library associations, human rights associations, the World Health Organisation, government and industry.

Participation in our learning community – student, professional, me?

My natural instinct when first engaging in communities is to be quiet, careful and observe my environment: there could be danger anywhere.

Author: Shawn Carpenter; Source: https://goo.gl/XYCzyQ License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Danger by Shawn Carpenter; from: https://goo.gl/XYCzyQ
CC BY-SA 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I believe I have done this since I was a small child.  Shy and self-conscious, I didn’t like to ask questions (I would have to talk to someone! And, it might make me look stupid), so I tried to find out how things worked on my own.  It probably took me a bit longer, and may have been frustrating for my parents and teachers who were probably thinking, “Just join in already!”; but it worked for me.  I still do this to some extent as an adult.  I am not as shy as I once was, but you would probably still call me reserved with new people.  As I become more familiar with the community, and start to know what I am doing, I might start to gain confidence and form a few relationships.  It just takes time.

As for my role in this community, I am here as a student, so I am here to learn, but I hope that I can share some of the learning I do, too.

Community of Inquiry Model; by Matbury (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Community_of_inquiry_model.svg

Community of Inquiry Model; by Matbury (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons; Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Community_of_inquiry_model.svg

I would like to model my participation in our learning community on Garrison’s concept of “teaching presence”, in which everyone in the community of inquiry is actively engaged in the learning process, and contributes based on their knowledge and ability.  Within our community, I would also like to demonstrate emerging information professional skills, but still be able to present myself in an honest, authentic way.  I would like to appear friendly and supportive.  I am a low risk-taker, and don’t like to look stupid, so I am bound to be careful with what I post, to ensure accuracy.

I also strive to avoid conflict in my life, so while I love Garrison’s idea of a community of inquiry allowing for assumptions and beliefs to be challenged, and perhaps transformed, I may not be doing any of the challenging; however, I will certainly be observing and learning from any discussions that may take place.

As a professional, I know a lot of ways that professionals could / should behave in communities.  Professionals should:

  • be respectful
  • be competent
  • be knowledgeable
  • be responsible
  • be accountable (this means they should do what they say they are going to do)
  • be organised
  • be punctual (yes, punctual – when I started work as a speech pathologist, (fledgling professional that I was), I was not good with time, and I had a 30 minute window of time in which I found it acceptable for me to be late to an appointment. Over time, this time frame has decreased, so that now I strive to be less than 15 minutes late to an appointment.  People who have a better concept of time than me may still see this as a failure, but I can live with this).
  • be able to work in a team, representing their profession.
  • reflect on their practice, and always seek to learn from experience
  • know their boundaries
  • know and respect the roles of other professionals
  • maintain currency in their profession
  • uphold the code of ethics of their profession
  • implement evidence-based interventions.

All of these professional behaviours are important to me in my role as a speech pathologist, and I do think that a lot of these skills are transferable across professions; but I am still learning the ropes of what it means to be an information professional.  I am definitely a novice when it comes to having an online professional identity, and building an online professional learning network, but I am here to learn and participate.

I think this post is representative of the characteristics I think I should display in the community this semester. I have tried to be honest and reflect on how I naturally behave in communities, discussed how I would like to participate in our learning community, and thought about how professionals should behave, reflecting on some of my areas of weakness in the process.

Twitter and me

As for how I feel about using Twitter this semester, I feel like I am coming around to it.  When I started the MIS (LIP) at the beginning of last year, I remember feeling strongly resistant to the strong encouragement we received to develop an online professional identity; and I remember thinking “Oh no! Not Twitter!”, “Not Facebook!”, “Not LinkedIn!” (I still don’t do Facebook and LinkedIn).

Twitter is not brand new to me, but I have never used it well.  My first foray into Twitter was 4 or 5 years ago when I was working in private practice as a speech pathologist, and I thought it would be good to be connected to a network of speechies to stay up-to-date with developments in the profession. I felt like it moved too fast for me to keep up.  I didn’t understand that you didn’t have to read every single tweet, so I thought I was failing at Twitter, and gave up. Then I started this course, and the teaching staff gave me a better understanding of Twitter.  I realised that you could “lurk”, and that often, good tweets aren’t tweeted just once, and that you could probably dip in and out as you wanted, and not miss too much. So, here was another opportunity to give Twitter a try.

My concerns around using Twitter are that I still don’t really know how to use it to its best advantage – I’m not a “pro-user”; and that I am naturally so long-winded in my written expression that I doubt I will ever be able to squeeze a complete, coherent thought into 140 characters.

I am beginning to see that Twitter could be useful for some functions; e.g. getting a quick question to, and response from, teaching staff. 😉  I can see that a lot of people post links to other content that could also be useful.  I can see its value in staying across happenings in the library twittersphere.

I don’t think I can think fast enough to keep up with a Twitter chat.  I need time to think about what was said, and then work out what to say in response, which can take a long time, as I tend to deliberate over every word.  I will definitely be checking out Kate’s Twitter chat tips.

You can’t rush the evolution

Who am I online? What is my digital footprint?

Apparently, I don’t have a digital footprint.  I have a really common name, and when I google “Michele Smith”, I do not make an appearance, and I am ok with that.

Here is the first page of results

There are quite a few famous Michele Smiths who do appear on the first page of results: a softball pitcher, a politician, an Irish swimmer and an actor.

None of them me.

I am anonymous and incognito online.

  • I have an account on MFP under a pseudonym
  • My Garmin Connect account is private.
  • I do have a Facebook account, but I do not use it socially. I signed up last year because it was highly recommended that we do so for a couple of subjects in this course.
  • I have a Google + account that I use for uni purposes, not socially.
  • I have a twitter account (again, highly recommended by lecturers in this course), but don’t yet participate in the “Twitterverse”.

Who do I want to be online? My answers:

  • I don’t know yet how to represent myself as an information professional online
  • I’m not yet sure what I am ready to share
  • Can I just be a student for now, and have some more time to evolve into…something else?

It takes me a long time to consider and deliberate before I put something online.  This is my default position:

Caution Tape, Eugene Zemlyanskly, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureperfectpose/76138988; CC BY 2.0

Caution Tape, Eugene Zemlyanskly, https://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureperfectpose/76138988; CC BY 2.0

I think it is important to be conscious of a critical audience at all times; and realise that people will not necessarily interpret your comments in the way you intend them to be interpreted.

The written word cannot convey your tone or facial expressions (speech pathologists refer to this extra information as paralinguistics) and is extremely vulnerable to misinterpretation.  When we write, we speak in our heads at the same time, adding the intonation and emphasis, perhaps even the facial expressions; however when we post that comment, we strip away that extra layer that conveys so much meaning, and are left with just the words.  People will read it with their own intonation and emphasis, and it might not sound anything like the way you said it; hence leading to misinterpretation.

Emojis go some way towards remedying misinterpretations.  In her blog, Andrea Ayres discusses how people overestimate their ability to communicate clearly using email, and how beneficial emojis can be in adding the emotion back in.

I think because I am a speech pathologist, I cannot bear the thought of miscommunication, so I think I must attempt to embrace emojis if I am to have a successful time online (insert relevant emoji here).

Although I don’t seem to have many ideas about what I want to be online, I probably have more ideas about what I DON’T want to be online:

  • I don’t want to be someone with a personal brand. Shama Hyder’s Forbes article recommends that you start thinking of yourself as a brand, and lists “7 things you can do to build an awesome personal brand!”

Uhh…no thank you, that’s not how I want to represent myself online.  I associate personal brand with companies and business people; people who have something to sell.  I don’t want to sell anything, online or in real life.

  • Well, I guess that’s really only one idea.

Am I worried about how organisations use my information? 

The short answer is “No”.  But should I be? Maybe. If I could be bothered.

What are they going to do?  Try and sell me stuff? That’s ok.  Steal my credit card details? I can cancel my card.  Steal my identity? I would LOVE someone to go to work in place of me.

Perhaps my imagination is too small; but I can’t truly imagine that anyone would be that interested in me personally that I would need to worry about what they do with my information.  Although, clearly, Identity theft is a thing.

How will I present myself in this unit?

  • I have an idea that this unit will give me the opportunity to express my fledgling student identity in a protected, supportive environment.
  • I will engage in the play and reflect activities and learn all I can about emerging technologies
  • I will present myself honestly, and I will be respectful and supportive of others.