Blog Post

The Future of Thinking: Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg on Learning in a Digital Age

It's been an exciting and interesting morning so far "attending" the HASTAC 2010 Conference... I really appreciate being a part of the conversations, even when I'm hundreds of miles away from the presenters and participants. I love how participatory and open the conference has been (despite some of the Google Wave boo-boo).

Thought I'd post some of my tweets here on Cathy Davidson and David Theo Goldberg's talk on "The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age." To start off, here are some of my notes and tweets about their conversation. I reckon another blog post will likely come out of the notes and tweets about the session, perhaps in a post-conference reflection.

I love what Davidson and Goldberg say about digital literacy -- to be digitally literate means being able to be more self-reflexive about the assumptions one makes in the use and capacity of technology, and that self-reflexivity is "what the humanities contributes to any conversation." Davidson argues that, without self-reflexvity, we can't really talk about technology: we need understandings of technology and of our place in the system. 

In thinking about learning and thinking in the digital age, I wonder: in what ways can we foster and encourage self-reflexivity and critique in the university classroom? What digital tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, etc.) can we use -- and how do we use them -- to foster self-reflexivity? In addition, what kinds of activities will foster such critical self-reflexivity within the physical walls of the classroom, and how does collaboration among peers work towards forms of reflexivity and critique? 



Some notes I jotted down from Davidson and Goldberg's session (most of which are paraphrased or verbatim):

Traditional forms of literacy and digital literacy:

  • Goldberg: Some of the necessity of traditional forms of literacy (such as reading, writing, arithmetic, content-based knowledge, historical knowledge, and so on) are being eroded by the new technological facility and access that make the reach for content knowledge easy -- one can go online and find something... but assessment is an issue (who and what you can trust) 
  • Shifts in literacy:
  1. Knowing how to look up content (not simply knowing the content) -- knowing how to be facile with the technology and how to put it into good use
  2. Learning with wise judgement -- what sources/authorities to trust, and which are better than others 
Contemporary students and ways of thinking and learning:
  • Davidson: Students nowadays cannot imagine the world of knowledge without the Internet -- having digital sources is deep in the grain of students' thinking, and to have no digital sources at all scares them
  • Davidson: self-reflexivity is what the humanities contributes to any conversation; without that, we cant really talk about technology - we need understandings of the technology, and of our place in the system.
  • Howard Rheingold begins his class in computer literacy and attention by telling students to shut their laptops, cellphones, and eyes, and he has students sit there for 5 minutes just to track their own minds and thoughts -- Davidson observes that it provides a great moment of self-reflexivity for any subsequent discussion for what it means to then open your laptop, your cellphones, and of course, open your eyes.
Collaborative Learning in a Digital Age:
  • Davidson: Weve always worked and learned collaboratively
  • What is distincitive and new is how you do collaboration with people who you know coincidentally online, and whom you know by online interaction -- what is unique is also the sustained fashion of such interactions separated by thousands of miles, diff ages, and whose identity you may not even know
  • How do you collaborate when the basis of collbaboration is access to the Internet?
  • What to add to the formation of collaborative communities: critique of institutions (which is an integral part of institutions)
  • Goldberg: Engagements bet. the local and the extended, the there and elsewhere, the virtual and the physical... the fact that thinking is going on as production is 24/7
  • Institutions have to respond to these kinds of challenges; inevitably, otherwise, the institutions themselves will be out of time
Testing and Assessment:
  • Davidson: Standardization is a cry for help 
  • Goldberg: How do you assess collaborative undertaking?
Davidson also recommends the Mozilla manifesto (and that the document is interesting to consider in comparison with Hobbes, Hume, the Declaration of Independence, etc.).

And here are the tweets I posted in relation to their session:

Highlights of Davidson and Goldberg's talk: self-reflexivity, collaborative communities, critique, assessment, digital literacies. #hastac10



This is really fantastic that you posted your notes.  Terrific. 


I hope you all don't mind this long comment...

My tweets from this session went to my FB page and spawned some interesting discussion about using technology in the classroom, especially as it relates to assitive/adaptive devices.  Here are some highlights:

Jana Bouck Remy Q:should students be allowed to bring any kind of technology into the classroom? #hastac10

Friend #1:

I can see arguments for both sides. On the one hand, facebook is a huge distraction. On the other, it's just Note Passing 2.0. I don't think it's any MORE of a distraction than doodling or note passing. Also, pens are "technology"…

Friend #2
When all the students are using technology, it's less conspicuous who's using assistive/adaptive devices. Is that iPad for fun, or for communicating, and does that matter so much anymore?
Friend #3
i've yet to meet a student who used his or her laptop for productive work in class, let alone any kind of PDA or cell phone any other such thing. Even when I see people doing work on a laptop, that work is not related to the material at hand. This is as true or more in graduate courses as it was in undergrad courses. I frequently see people ... See Moreworking on their own writing instead of commenting on the work of others like they're supposed to. I'm sure such a diligent and disciplined student who can employ electronics successfully to enhance his or her learning experience exists, somewhere, but I have yet to encounter him or her...

Find me the data that shows that people use this technology in a productive way and I will try to set my personal experiences aside. Until then, I think technology in the classroom is pretty much a dead end. I'd go back to the ancient Greek model of people sitting around in circles and talking as a model for classrooms, if I could.

Friend #2 replies:
A quick visit to the Disabled Students Association or the office that serves students with accessibility needs would give you quite a few examples of  students who use laptops and other devices in the classroom to communicate, take notes, organize materials, receive transcripts of audio material, get larger-print versions of visual presentations, etc, etc. If it works for students with identified differences, the same supports probably also help a much wider range of students.

You're very welcome, Cathy! It's a pleasure and I hope that it is useful for those unable to watch or listen to the video.

Thanks for the comment, Janaremy! A friend of mine had just recently posted similar questions on Facebook about technology in the classroom, about which I'm kind of torn. I think it's a two-way street: as much as teachers and instutions have much to learn from the new media literacies, students also have much to learn from attention literacy skills, etc... That's why I think Cathy's example of the way Howard Rheingold begins his class in computer literacy and attention is so apt. There is value in the "old" ways of doing things: focusing on one thing at a time (for instance, closing your laptop, cellphone and eyes allows you to focus on your internal thoughts and the way your body feels, etc. -- instead of being engaged in six things at once). I think it's challenging for us to be silent or still for more than a few minutes or moments these days, and I find the balances between online and offline worlds, as well as new technologies and traditional technologies, so valuable and important. 

Speaking of Facebook, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's session on "Using Facebook and Web 2.0 Tools"!