Monday, May 14, 2012

Leveraging the digital collection

The NEW access issue

Access to technology is not the issue. The growth and expansive explosion of technology is placing access in more hands. Look around the campus, in the hallways, the libraries, the commons and you will see technology everywhere. The laptops of yesterday are being replaced (or supplemented in some cases) by smaller, more powerful, more portable notebooks, netbooks, the new tablets, and a emerging smartphone or internet device. It’s not the WHAT that is important - if the device can get the job done, it will be used. As newer devices come to the marketplace, older devices are being replaced. In years past, we were concerned about access TO technology: were there “enough” computer workstations for each student was the question of yesterday. Today we are identifying ways to incorporate (or integrate) the devices into learning, whether in the classroom or outside of the classroom. Access to technology is a typical expectation.

Students come with their personal, digital devices. They arrive with a technological skill set that has served them successfully in their educational endeavors. They arrive and begin to expand and explore new, different and related technological areas. They use some of the same social media applications to maintain their connections to communities and to establish new connections to new communities. This is the world they have lived in for years. Technological dependence is their norm. Sending brief punctuated text messages is communicating. Locating content on smartphones is the new form of sifting through a handful of notecards. Tagging resources with their own personal taxonony or folksonomy creates a searchable content area. They create or recreate content almost in a single breath, and revise or reform the content with a similar sense of ease. To this group of technologically savvy individuals multimedia is a norm. No longer do they “just” read text, they listen, they watch: they are immersed and overwhelmed by a barrage of sight, sound and cognitive engagement.

With this new role of technology comes a new expectation for content. Immediate access. On demand access. Location independent and dependent access. These are some of the new concerns. Information once deemed irrefutable has quickly become replaced by dynamically delivered and changed content. The evolution of content requires a new and different skill set. It is now necessary to evaluate a wider range of resources and determine the legitimacy of each resource. Critical thinking and reflective thinking may be as important, if not more important, than the technological skills used to find the resources.

Access to or the availability of technology is not as defined a barrier today as in years past. For some, there is a need to improve and broaden personal technological skills. For others, there is a need to refine and deepen literacy skills in the broad sense. Technological literacy is not the focus. Digital literacy may need to be refined and redefined to improve critical thinking, for example. Information literacy, and the finite skills used to evaluate data, is one of the new frontiers. The creation and re-creation of content is demanding a new(er) focus for teaching and learning. The multi-media (or simply put, media rich) content is altering our typical sense of access.

Access to content is changing. The availability of digital content is becoming the norm. Technology connects to the digital content. Technology also creates and re-creates digital content. People need varying degrees and levels of support and assistance to use technology. We should focus efforts on access to, identifying engaging and challenging content. The wide range of technology available today continues to change, to get “faster” more mobile, and more powerful. We should focus our efforts on content, creating content, “mashing” up content to create new formats, and evaluating content.
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