Social Cognition: Is It Essential to Digital Literacy?

This week I have not been able to connect live with the #ETMOOC sessions so far, but I was able to access the archived session of Doug Belshaw ( T3S1 – Introduction to Digital Literacies w/ Doug Belshaw (Feb 18, 3pm) – see also Doug Belshaw’s resources).  This is a new subject area to me so I wanted make sure I caught up.

I was fascinated by a very long negative comment in the Etherpad.  It went on for quite a while about all of Doug’s deficiencies as a presenter; with criticisms of his verbal style, his citations, and his lack of referencing to predecessors.  It was up high in the Etherpad document so it was the first thing I saw.  I read it and had a sinking feeling about this archived presentation.  Then I watched the presentation.  Doug stated that he was from the North of England.  That is pretty obvious from his accent.  I admit it took me a few minutes and some increased volume to attune my ear to the rhythms of his speech.  So I thought, fair enough anonymous (as far as I could tell) commenter, maybe you don’t hear well and I can see how that may have been legitimately frustrating for you.  Another criticism was the lack of citations and references to “predecessors”.  Hmmm, look down at all of the links, and listen to Doug’s comments about not getting into details and formal academic references in this particular venue.  So I disagreed with the anonymous commenter’s opinions as well as with his (her) tone.

The topic was digital literacies and the group was invited to consider definitions, to collectively construct their definitions, and to challenge themselves and each other towards deeper, critical thinking.  Doug’s thesis was that there are 8 essential elements: cultural, cognitive, constructive, communicative, confident, creative, critical, and civic.  I loved the periodic table reference as well as some of the discussion around whether these were elements which changed essentially when combined and also whether further concepts were covered if they were thought of in pairs and threes.  This is great fodder for my continued exploration, so thanks everyone who contributed to my learning even though I am accessing it after the fact.

@dajbelshaw tweeted: “digital literacies are plural, subjective and highly context dependent” which connected me immediately to a workshop I gave this morning about social cognition.  Effective social cognition is the ability to share space effectively by adapting efficiently. What may be appropriate or expected in one context may be very out of place in another.  Is there a connection between digital literacies and social literacies? Would social literacies fall under the cultural element or perhaps a combination of that element with the communicative and cognitive? 

To return to my original fascination with the anonymous commenter; I think my main objection and disagreement was the social cognitive gap with his post.  If it was private it may have been acceptable, if it was attributed and further discussion could have been added, it would have been acceptable, if it had not been in the context of #ETMOOC where the conspirators and the rest of us have worked hard to create a respectful space to share ideas, maybe it would have been acceptable.  So is someone who misses on all of those social cognitive fronts considered literate? Not in my books.

Slices & Forkfuls of Pie


I’ve been thinking about my responsibility for learning a lot this week.  Certainly the more experienced online folk here in #etmooc have been influential and helpful, and have shared their tips, tricks and other very practical suggestions.  This sense of community has been invaluable as I start to ponder why I am doing this.

Part of my answer to the responsibility question is inspired by Dave Cormier’s session on Rhizomatic Learning .  He talks about some of the factors that differentiate an online community from an online course, one of them being outcomes. Benjamin Wilcoff’s vlog about learners taking responsibility for their own “slice” of learning resulted in people in the community reflecting about how to actually do this and got me thinking about pie.

How do I figure out which slice of the pie to select?  In fact, how do I even choose which pie?  If I stop to think about all of the different, potentially yummy pies out there I begin to get…yep, overwhelmed.  So I will allow myself to feed my brain and my heart by taking bites from the various forkfuls offered by the people beginning to populate my PLN.  I’ve been doing that.  There is some very good pie out there, and some I’m not so enamoured of, but my appetite is increasing.

One of the “lessons” I took from the Rhizomatic Session was that learning won’t really happen if I don’t figure out some goals and go after them.  I have struggled with the concept, but after exploring that a bit I now understand that I did have to show up with some goals, but I was also perfectly free to expand and change them.

My initial goal when I started this process of #etmooc was to eat as much “pie” as I could.  Now I realize that in order to truly learn and grow (and not just increase my dress size) I would have to start baking and offering some pies of my own and getting some exercise as I move around and offer forkfuls to others. I have commented on some blogs and interacted here and there, but it’s time to step up my game.

One small contribution is that I have started offering some forkfuls to my colleagues at work.  Some of them will be enthusiastic, some will be cautious, and some may even categorically state that they are on diets.  I hope to find myself some people who already love pie, and perhaps stimulate the appetites of others. My goal right now is to become a better baker.

Photo Credit: <a href=””>jamieanne</a&gt; via <a href=””>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Flexibilty for Diversity


This blog posting was inspired by a tweet from Michelle Franz (@lrndeveloper) this morning about MOOCs at universities.

In Thomas Friedman’s article Revolution Hits the Universities,  ‘Daniel’, the young man with some kind of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) described his experience in a Coursera/Penn MOOC as an opportunity to,”…work hard and enjoy being in sync with the world”. As someone who works with other educators and teams surrounding students with ASD’s in schools, this gives me great hope and inspiration.

On a daily basis I encounter teams who struggle with the idea that they know their student has a lot to offer, but they just can’t seem to provide a venue or the tools to facilitate involvement, connection, challenge and empowerment.

But small glimmers of hope are everywhere; newer technologies like the iPad are allowing communication and visual learning to become more accepted, easier and mainstream.  Regular classroom teachers are developing lesson plans and classroom models that can minimize some of the difficulties of having an ASD without separating and segregating our students.

Students with ASDs come in all shapes and sizes.  They have a variety of strengths and weaknesses and what works for one student will be either unnecessary or unworkable for another.  By making classrooms and courses more flexible, we allow for each student to find his/her place and find his/her voice. Flexible classrooms can celebrate diversity, rather than marginalizing it.

MOOCs allow for flexible timelines and flexible participation.  Sometimes interactions are large and synchronous; but for those of us who have trouble focusing on one thing for long periods the backchannels provide an outlet to ‘speak’ when we need to, or to go a little tangential if that is more interesting.  Recording them allows for a revisit if important content is missed.  For those of us who cannot find spoken language quickly or articulately when under pressure, text-based interactions are empowering.  Contributing in a MOOC can be done in so many formats, styles and venues.

I work in the K-12 system.  So how can we take the lessons being learned at the post-secondary level and use them to ensure that the young ‘Daniel’s of today don’t have to wait that long to feel like they are contributing?

Photo Credit: <a href=””>helen sotiriadis</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”″>cc</a&gt;

Being a Contributor

I’m finding that whatever I have the enthusiasm to contribute is accepted so readily among my ever expanding PLN.  I am finding the joy in contributing my support, my alternate opinion, my questions and my heart.  So what will I contribute to ETMOOC? As much as I can.

I was in an interesting place yesterday.  For two weeks I havebeen on a very steep learning curve.  Yes, becoming familiar with how to integrate many of the tools I have already used and learning new ones has been exciting and at times daunting, but the real learning has been about integrated my private, strictly professional (ie my job) and broadly professional selves into one online presence.  So yesterday I was giving a workshop on using Michelle Winner’s Superflex Program within schools and in regular classrooms as well as a sharing session on using the iPad for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  The group saw me as technologically way ahead of them and were every uncomfortable when I couldn’t or wouldn’t give specific, recipe-like answers to some of their questions.  So my role switched very abruptly from being mostly a taker to mostly a giver.  I am realizing that I need to and want to be both in all of my various roles.  It just works better that way.  I can ask the questions and reflect other people’s learning no matter what my role. Integration is my goal for the next few months anbeyond


Haunted by Les Nessman

ImageI admit it. I’m one of those.  I build walls and compartmentalize.  Here I am in a MOOC with all of these open, free, thoughtful, experimental people who are blogging, tweeting, etc about any number of subjects.  Here I sit, painfully eking out my second blog.  I have watched and even participated in the BB sessions, commented on others’ blogs (a bit) and learned, learned, learned!

When I started this process I thought I would pick up some interesting information on technology.  Ahem. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.  Despite often feeling like a complete rookie, I am absolutely and surprisingly (to myself) OK with this. 

My journey, I suspect, will not be about technology, it will be about building up a PLE and a PLN.  Yes, obviously technology is involved, but it is my mindset that is changing. Scary, but cool. 

I hope to banish good ol’ Les and his rules and restricted areas for good.  Thanks for sharing the journey with me.