New Article: Digital literacies learning in contexts of development

In July of 2018, the International Development Research Centre of Canada invited me to conduct an external review of key findings in a set of 44 reports of research on digital learning. The reports, funded between 2016 and 2018 were incredibly diverse in their methods, questions, and findings. That report (currently in press with the IDRC) can be found here.

At the same time Dr. Hiller Spires of NC State University issued a call for papers for a special edition of Media and Communication called “Critical Perspectives on Digital Literacies: Creating a Path Forward”. My paper, entitled Digital literacies learning in contexts of development: A critical review of six IDRC-funded interventions 2016-2018 will appear in this special edition and should be published online by the end of May, 2019. Thanks to the open access policies of this journal, I can share a pre-print of the article here for anyone interested in reading the full text.

The Canadian Institue for Digital Literacies Learning

The Canadian Institute for Digital Literacies Learning | L’Institut canadien pour l’apprentissage des littératies numériques is an exciting blended learning experience for Canadian K-12 teachers focused on exploration, collaboration and innovation. For me, this Institute represents years of thinking, of working, of building understandings and developing relationships with scholars whose work has inspired me to think, to act, to share. And, it is also a beginning. I hope this Institute will grow into a nationally representative network of teachers learning together and sharing their knowledge about what works in their classrooms to support development of foundational digital literacies knowledges, skills and dispositions. If you are  K-12 teacher working in a Canadian school, I hope you will join us in Ottawa this summer, July 10-14, 2017.

The Institute begins with a week of intensive learning at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa and will follow with a year of online networking and support through a Slack channel.
I am absolutely thrilled to announce the lineup of activities and speakers for the 2017 on-campus institute. Janette Hughes, Canada Research Chair in Technology and Pedagogy will be speaking about her work on digital making and literacies learning; Sarah Gretter of the Michigan State University Hub for Innovation and Learning will be talking about computational thinking and information literacies. Through the week, everyone will learn about video games in the classroom, the maker movement, digital video production as a way to build critical digital literacies, and how to teach in ways that help students become critical evaluators and synthesizers of Internet information.
It is going to be an amazing adventure in learning — please join us! Registration details can be found at the Institute website. Early bird registration is $499 + HST (before May 24, 2017). A special block of rooms in campus residences have been reserved for Institute participants as well. These are the most affordable rooms in town this year! As you know, 2017 is a big year in our nation’s capital — and we are also developing a list of after-hours events (and a mystery field trip) that will allow you to experience the very best that Ottawa has to offer!

Why social-justice oriented digital citizenship matters: Viola Desmond, my tweet and its use by an alt-righter

Things got real for me on Twitter today. The Minister of Finance, Bill Morneau, announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to appear on a banknote. After a lengthy process of consultation and consideration of contenders for this honour, Desmond’s selection lifted my heart. This choice calls on all Canadians to consider the systemic injustices that people have suffered in Canada because of their appearance, culture, and ethnicity. As a white woman, and as a Canadian citizen, I see this nomination as an important call to all Canadians to take responsibility for gender-based and racialized injustices, and to recognize that we have a long way to go before we live in a country where everyone is treated with respect, dignity and fairness.

So, feeling all of these things, I retweeted Minister Morneau’s announcement and then tweeted at him directly.

And a few minutes ago, I received a notification that an account called @dacian_draco had quoted my tweet. This gave me pause. I don’t know this person. My tweets are usually for my students and colleagues. I don’t actively try to cultivate a massive Twitter following. I think about what my community of students and colleagues might find useful, helpful or of value, and I usually keep my communications focused on those goals. Today, though, was different. The Viola Desmond decision matters and I wanted to express my support for the choice publicly. So, I did. And then, it was used by someone else in way, that after careful scrunity, seems completely contrary to my position or reason for expressing my support for the banknote decision. The words Every.Single.Time. were used with my tweet quoted below. What did this suggest or mean? I really cannot know for sure, but other Tweets on this account’s feed express racialized hate. Tweets on this account seem to align with the alt-right movement, and with ideologies that promote white power and privilege.

I have helped many students to cultivate professional digital presences, and have helped many colleagues and students to create social media accounts, including Twitter accounts. During these conversations we have always talked about controlling our own messaging and engaging in respectful conversations that add value to our professional networks. And yet, here one of my tweets has been co-opted by someone whose interests seem antithetical to my own; whose ideas are offensive to me.

So I really had to consider, what should I do?

Doing nothing was a non-option. However, aware that a response on Twitter might lead to a ball of stress that I’m not interested in inviting, I decided a blog post would be my response. Public, but measured, and not limited by the constraints of the microblog.

Fundamentally, I cannot control how others use my tweets, but I can disagree with their uses by others. As a participant in social media spaces, I understand the risks. I may find the ideas expressed at this account offensive, but I recognize this person’s (or these persons’) right to express ideas on this platform. I will not condemn the use of my Tweet, but I will also not let it pass unrecognized. In sharing my thoughts on the Viola Desmond decision, I added my voice to the national discussion of the choice and its importance. And the response to my Tweet by an alt-right Twitter account tells me a great deal about where my priorities need to be. It tells me that in schools, we must help all children to feel a deep sense of community, to feel valued, to have agency and to have experiences that enable them to know and understand why diversity makes us stronger. This tweet inspires my own resolve to help students and teachers in Canada to become active, engaged, social-justice oriented participatory digital citizens.

If we are to realize the vision that Viola Desmond had for a more just Canada, I’m saying it here — I’m ready to do this work. My sleeves are rolled up.

Postscript: Twenty-six years ago today, I was injured in an automobile accident that claimed the life of a friend. I dedicate this post to her memory.

As part of an open research project on teachers’ uses of technologies to teach literacies in their classrooms around the world, Heather Woods, Ian O’Byrne and I created the Teaching Literacies with Technology Survey. We posted it on our website, last spring and have shared it out, inviting responses for about 5 months. Based on data from our first round of data collection over the past few months, we have created a second version of the survey that targets particular aspects of teachers’ practices and thinking.

If you’re interested in contributing to this research and have about 15 minutes of time, you are invited to submit responses to the shorter version of the survey here. 


Teachers Teaching Teachers @UOttawaEdu

The final week of the teacher education program is upon us at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education — and it is punctuated by a two-day series of professional learning seminars for teacher education candidates. I’ll be presenting to a group of students today on online inquiry. My presentation brings together some of my current thinking and understanding on this issue. The presentation starts by framing the importance of online inquiry for today’s learners. It provides a few facts to frame our thinking about the complexities of the digital literacies landscapes our learners must navigate. It offers some research on the strategies that expert online readers and researchers use as they construct an integrated understanding of a topic using multiple information sources. It provides some information on teaching methods that have been shown to support, at least in part, the development of fundamental online inquiry strategies.

Most importantly, I hope the session prompts students to generate their questions about digital literacies, and gets them thinking critically about how to support digital literacies learning through their own teaching practices.

Here is the link to the presentation:

Using Social Media for Patient Advocacy and Learning: A conversation with Rebecca Hogue

I spent some time speaking with Rebecca Hogue @rjhogue this morning about the e-patient advocacy work she does on her blog

Rebecca is a Doctoral Student at the University of Ottawa and her dissertation will document and analyze the impact of her blog on readers. It’s important, inspiring work that sits at the intersections of several areas of study including, but probably not limited to, literacy, technology, health, community, culture, relationships, learning. And so, I asked Rebecca if she might have 30 minutes or so to share some of her thoughts about the role of social media to support learning for students in my #EDU5287 Class called Emerging Technologies and Learning. 

Interestingly, several students in my class are health care professionals themselves. I hope the conversation is especially supportive of their learning. I hope it helps to expand conceptions of social media and the ways that they might leverage patient blogs to teach, and to inform their clinical practices.

Key points from Rebecca’s talk include:

  • Patient blogs can give clinical professionals access to the ways that patients think about their disease. Rebecca described the example of one physician who reads patient blogs to gain access to the ways that non-specialists describe what is happening to their bodies, or in their bodies. This has helped the physician to understand and interpret patients’ words and, importantly, to diagnose patients.
  • Access to other patients’ treatment plans has empowered Rebecca to attend medical team meetings with a conversation starter. She values the special disciplinary knowledge that her medical care team brings to the conversations, of course, but she has found it helpful to present information informed, in part, by others’ experiences so that she feels all possibilities are explored before decisions are taken for her particular treatment plan.
  • Rebecca offered many insights about how to use social media to tell her story without revealing information that is too sensitive, or might give any insight into the identities of her physicians. This is an important one for all educators to think about. Rebecca has a website called  for anyone considering blogging their lived experiences with Cancer. It is of value to anyone starting a blog, in my view. The issues she explores on the site are germane to K-12 teachers, counselors, and health care professionals too.
  • Evidence of impact in Rebecca’s work often comes in the form of comments that people share. “You helped me to understand my sister’s experiences” or even just “thank you” give Rebecca some perspective on how her social media work is supporting her readers.

Here’s the conversation. Students in #EDU5287 will see this in Module 5 that focuses on uses of social media to support learning. Rebecca summarized the talk at her blog too.

For friends in the digital literacies community, what questions does Rebecca’s work raise for you?