How do we think about and make sense of education, technology and creativity? “Learning Identities in a Digital Age,” Avril Loveless & Ben Williamson
The book “Learning Identifies in a Digital Age: Rethinking Creativity, Education and Technology” is thought provoking and rich with concepts and research about the relationship between education and technology, and its influence on learner identity. Released in February 2013 as part of Routledge publishing’s ‘changing times in education series’, I’ve been challenged by this book. It brings forth the issues that I don’t always consider, but should when reading and writing about the technological applications and platforms that education institutions are embracing and promoting, i.e. MOOCs, machine grading, social media in education etc. I am not opposed to progress and innovation by any means, but I am concerned about the long-term implications for learners, and high school and higher education in general. I’ve found this book helpful for guiding my thinking about these issues; it focuses on one important aspect, learning identities. It examines how learners see themselves, and how they are influenced and shaped by factors not within their control.
The authors take a ‘backward gaze’ perspective, where they approach the subject matter “as a historian from the future might, looking back at our present time and seeing vast numbers of unresolved issues, differences of interpretations and general confusions….” (Loveless & Williamson, 2013). The authors’ approach rests on the idea described by Nigel Thrift in his book Knowing Capitalism (2005). Thrift suggests this method prevents what he calls ‘historical atrophy’, where past events often are packaged up in order to move on and embrace modernity (Thrift, 2005, p 3). This sounds familiar. Though I do find that the book emphasizes more of the ‘now’, and promotes thinking about how policy decisions of governments and curriculum choices made by education institutions impact our students. Rather than provide answers, Loveless and Willamson aim to stimulate deep thought by treating education, technology and creativity as objects of thought, which I believe they do quite successfully.
Digital Identity vs. Learning Identity
I’m familiar with the term digital identity, yet learning identity, I discovered is more complex. Digital identify can be described as one’s persona that is displayed and shared online through social media sites and other platforms. Learner identity in the context of youth and young adult learners encompasses their online persona and another dimension—identity that is created through academic learning and pedagogy. For the most part, these latter factors are not within the learners control but are shaped by programs and methods driven by policy, an institutions curriculum, educators and even society’s use of, and attitudes towards technology. For readers interested in learning more about digital identity for students, I’ve included links to resources at the end of the post from Catherine Cronin, an educator with considerable experience in teaching digital citizenship.
Big Picture Overview
An interesting fact about the authors, is that they are two decades apart in age, which according the preface, promoted differing viewpoints that led to different types of questions and arguments within the book.
The scope of the book is guided by these three questions:
- How is the future of education being through and re-thought in relation to new technology and media?
- What kind of learning identities are presupposed and promoted by the merger of new technologies and media with education?
- How are those learning identities to be organized in emerging models of learning, curriculum and pedagogy?
Content is divided into two sections, Part I, Reconfiguring education and technology, and Part II, Thinking, curriculum and pedagogy. You can review the specifics of each of the eight chapters by visiting Routledge’s website here.
I highly recommend this book for educators that work within K-12 and higher education settings, and I’ll go so far as to suggest it is a must-read for individuals in either of those groups that teach or support online education in any capacity. Decision makers in education public and/or institutional policy would also benefit from the book’s topics and arguments—it could provide a basis for promoting constructive dialogue among stakeholders about learner identities. The book is dense with ideas, addressing through the topic of learner identity how technology is interwoven with education and its effect on education and students. I do hope that this book makes its way into the hands of educators and decision makers sooner rather than later.
Resources on Digital Citizenship:
- Enacting Digital Identity, (2012), Catherine Cronin
- Catherine Cronins’ Slideshares
- Digital Citizenship, ISTE Wikispaces
- Digital Identities: Who are you when you are online? (2013), Danya Braunstein, Huff Post