I finished taking my first MOOC on Understanding Video Games (#50by50 #32 – Complete a MOOC – Understanding Video Games) and next on my list was one related to Metaliteracy – Empowering Yourself in a Connected World. The description was pretty good, talking about being a bit more reflective about our online work, and it was offered through Coursera. The downside to that is that I’m really only interested in “passive learning”, watching the videos, etc., not actively engaging online with fellow students. That might seem like a cop-out of sorts, but I like the idea of a curated course that pulls together interesting material in a professional manner. It would be nice to be able to afford all The Great Courses library and work my way through those, and I have managed to snag a photography course through them (still in progress) plus two new astronomy titles (they were having a sale!).
But, as I said, the Metaliteracy course looked interesting as a stepping stone, just as the video game was…I used the video game MOOC to get my feet wet in the world of gamification, and despite the fact that I time-shifted it over the course of a couple of years, I got a lot out of it and gained a foundation to understand gamification in a very different way than if I’d just started with gamification. For online engagement, I wanted to step back a bit and look at the online world through a more objective lens. The Metaliteracy course might do that, although I hate the term literacy being used that way. The course is offered as a collaboration between SUNY Empire State College and the SUNY University of Albany.
Enrolling in the Course
When I wrote this post the first time, it was December 2018, just over 18 months ago (it is now May 2020). I had enrolled in the course, and there were 10 weeks or so of classes. I did the first 5 weeks of classes, but I struggled to find enough other students to provide peer-reviews of my assignments. I found the material interesting, but it was a challenge to keep it “going”. I would stall, the other students would stall, I’d reset dates, it would languish. I didn’t get very far.
Fast-forward to 2020 and I wanted to reboot my interest. Except the course has radically changed from 10 weeks with lots of topics to only 4 weeks! Some of which it thinks I’ve already done (because it was part of the other course). It looks to me like they have removed a lot of the assignments and peer review interactions.
From 2018: The original Introduction for Week 1 started off bad for me…the hosts/leaders are a librarian and a vice-provost for academic programs. My fear is that often these types of approaches are about trying to do something “different” i.e. “we want to do a MOOC, what should it be about” as opposed to having a vision for a course and delivering it as a MOOC. Time will tell, right? And my initial reaction is part of the course itself — how I am evaluating the info without full context.
The course will involve this week’s intro, plus three sessions on digital citizenry (identity, IP, ethics), modes and formats of info sharing, creating info, participation in global community, curating and metacognitive awareness. And the end will focus on how students move on to being teachers. Okay, it’s got a decent structure.
One thing I liked in the intro was the idea of a metaliterate learner (meh) having different roles all woven together…communicator, translator, author, teacher, collaborator, producer, publisher, researcher, participant, etc. I would probably add curator in there too as a separate heading, but this week probably isn’t the week to quibble too much. As an active blogger, I experience all of those roles, so I’m curious to see where the course goes from here.
Originally, I thought I was going to hold myself to just the videos, having downloaded them so I could timeshift more easily when I didn’t have a live internet connection. Instead, I realized that the readings are still available to me as I did “enrol” in the course, and thus still “live”. I went in to check something, saw the readings, and have now gone through the readings for the first week. The excellent chart mentioned above was included (i.e., not just in the video), and more importantly, they have a great article about what metaliteracy is compared to digital literacy, etc. Here is an excerpt from their paper:
Several competing concepts of literacy have emerged including digital literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, and information technology fluency, but there is a need for a comprehensive framework based on essential information proficiencies and knowledge. New media literacy and transliteracy have also responded to the rapid and ongoing changes in technology. As part of a metaliteracy reframing, we argue that producing and sharing information are critical activities in participatory Web 2.0 environments. Information literacy is central to this redefinition because information takes many forms online and is produced and communicated through multiple modalities. Information literacy is more significant now than it ever was, but it must be connected to related literacy types that address ongoing shifts in technology.(Source: Mackey, T.P. & Jacobson, T.E. (2011). Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy. College and Research Libraries, 72 (1), 62-78. doi: 10.5860/crl-76r1))
Over the course of the article, they compare it to information literacy (too research-y), media literacy (too narrowly focused on media writ large, not the digital and technological world), digital literacy (a little bit too narrowly within digital environments), visual literacy (heavy focus on visual design), cyberliteracy (participatory aspects only), and information fluency (like info literacy, but with extra techno bent). Metaliteracy, the topic of the course, tries to bring the best of all the perspectives together…participatory, collaborative, critical, more than info as a commodity, beyond skills-based definitions, engagement with the technology, transliterate (“the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media”, Thomas et al cited in the paper), blurring of information / entertainment / economics, and incorporating IP and privacy issues. A rather daunting list.
And yet, having read it, I’m left with two large questions. First, while they talk about the practical issues around doing research in a webbed-world, and how to deal with defining your search environment — are Amazon reviews in-scope? Youtube videos? music lyrics? — I don’t see anything about the time factor inherent in all of it. The more you engage with an everchanging “techno” world as your environment, the more your research is defined by a smaller and smaller snapshot in time. The minute you blink and take your “readings” for your research, not only does that act influence the subject but also the next minute it is gone, changed again by the new info available on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Second, while they talk about the “framework” as being less about “skills” and more about cognitive frameworks, as soon as they apply it to the practical worlds, it quickly becomes very skills-focused, as all applications do. If so, is a “skills-reduced” framework the way to go?
I don’t know the answers, but I like the questions. Let’s call it a promising intro.
Update in 2020: The first week’s focus has jumped to a different article from the course professors about fake news that discusses how “metaliteracy” can help us function better as digital citizens (https://theconversation.com/how-can-we-learn-to-reject-fake-news-in-the-digital-world-69706), including:
- Reflecting on how we process information based on feelings and beliefs;
- Questioning sources of information (formal and informal, validity, packaging/medium, )
- Challenging assumptions, including our own
- Contributing responsibly
For myself, I would say that I do a decent job (as most of us probably believe about ourselves) in questioning sources of information, particularly where it disagrees with my sense of probability. Where it confirms my expectations, I likely don’t challenge it much, but nuances are important to me, so I do sometimes question methodologies even when I agree with the conclusions.
I probably have not reflected as much on how my feelings influence my processing, mainly as I’m primarily an analytical introvert and thus more focused on the cognitive side of life. To the extent that I’ve thought about packaging, I would say for me it is more about how to communicate better (i.e. what are my options in blogging, for example, since I tend to rely heavily on words over graphics).
I do frequently adjust my contributions online to be more “responsible”. As a blogger, and a civil servant, I have a pretty fine line to walk in what I can do on certain subjects, but not so much from a “legal” standpoint as an ethical one. I owe a duty of loyalty to my employer and while I might disagree with certain policies, it’s not really my place to second-guess a political level policy choice unless it is whistle-blower territory.
For me, though, I think the biggest factor is reminding myself that I play those multiple roles (mentioned above) simultaneously when I’m online. Communicator, author, producer of content, participant, etc. And given my own predilections, I would say”curator” tops that list…A guide I wrote for a small audience proved helpful to others, and it has been downloaded from my website over 7000 times in two years despite the fact I have done no promotion whatsoever. People then email me follow-up questions looking for further advice from the expert, which I am decidedly not. I frequently have to add disclaimers about not being an expert…it’s what works for me, their mileage may vary.
Overall, I think most of us view internet content from the perspective of passive consumers, but for me, it is a far more “collaborative” experience with every click or post or share.
I’m determined to complete the course this time!