Prior to reading Jeff Utecht’s introduction to Reach, I was not familiar with the term,”prosumer.” I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few days, and frankly, the idea of prosuming is completely out of my comfort zone. I like being an internet consumer. I quietly tiptoe around online, gathering ideas and information, re-tweeting other’s ideas, building my Pinterest boards from other’s Pinterest boards, and so on. I love the mass of content available and all the ways it makes my life more simple. Why reinvent the wheel when I can just use someone else’s great ideas? Can’t I just keep lurking? Do I really have to contribute and create? Networks will continue to grow and build with or without me, won’t they?
Despite the protests of my deeply introverted personality, I’m learning to value the opportunity to contribute to a network of ideas. In answer to my own question, “Yes, networks will continue to grow and build without me.” But I shouldn’t let them. I’m recognizing that becoming an active participant is important to my own learning and growth. It’s not enough to just take ideas and implement them simply because they sound good to me. I need to explore, question, evaluate, reflect and continue to adapt to a world that never stops changing. I need to decide what’s important to me and accept that my voice has a place in the conversation. I need to believe that I can be an effective link in the chain and do my part to bring about positive change. I may not have anything earth-shattering to contribute, but even if all I do is reflect and share my perspective, that adds something to the discussion. When we all share our experiences and insights, we begin to see patterns and connections which enlighten our own understanding. Simply asking questions of a network can lead to an outpouring of shared ideas and opinions which broaden our perspective. In other words, becoming an active part of a network takes learning and understanding to a higher level. If this is true for me, than it must be true for my students as well.
I really appreciated the perspectives shared in a Huffington Post article, Educating for Change, by Jonathan Lash. Lash outlines some educational approaches that are necessary if we are going to prepare our students to contribute and succeed in our rapidly changing world. All of the points in the article were excellent, but two stood out to me the most in relation to this idea of networking and connectivism. The first is that we need an approach “in which students build on their curiosity, transcend disciplinary boundaries, follow ideas where they lead, and a join a community of co-discoverers.” The second is a need for creating “lifelong learners who have internalized their own motivations and goals. Education for the whole person creates informed citizens who act to create positive change in the world...”
I really love the idea of being part of a community of “co-discoverers,” and I definitely want to prepare my students to be informed and active citizens who have the confidence to make their voices heard and bring about positive change in the world. So how do we teach them to be co-discoverers? How do we help them to become active citizens? We get them connected. We get them thinking about what really matters to them and help them find the networks that will allow them to explore their interests and passions. We teach them to analyze, evaluate, and reflect on their learning through collaborating and joining discussions. We help them find avenues for sharing their own voice.
I found Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy very helpful in considering specific strategies for getting students to this kind of higher order thinking and preparation for the future. In thinking about my elementary students, I see a strong need to teach them the skills to effectively sift through information online, and then to interpret and summarize what they are reading. So often, they just copy and paste and don’t really process or synthesize the information they have gathered. Frankly, I think this issue carries on well into the upper grades. I think it would help if they learn to start with a question or an opinion that they need to answer or support. They need to be aware of their own purposes for their explorations online. Once they have a firm purpose in mind and begin to locate information, they can go on to analyse it and determine whether it answers their questions or supports their own ideas. They can join conversations and contribute to discussions related to those interests. And eventually, they will be able to use what they’ve learned to create products which showcase their ideas, opinions, and understandings. As the Elementary Librarian, I feel a great responsibility to help our students build information literacy and the higher order thinking skills needed to make the most of the networks available to them. It’s not something I can do alone. So I’m making a commitment to add my voice to the discussion, to be a prosumer and not just a consumer. I’m choosing to link in.