SLANZA conference

I’m in Auckland this week, attending both the ULearn05 conference at the Sky City convention centre, and the School Libraries Association of NZ Aotearoa (SLANZA) .

In this morning’s keynote at the SLANZA conference I was invited to speak about digital literacies. This was a pretty daunting task, given that this group represented some of the most informed and influencial people we have in NZ working in the field of information services and information literacy.

However, the group were in a good mood, having just been informed of the government’s announcement to provide free access for all schools to the The on-line School Cataloguing Information Service (SCIS) for a period of two years.

In my talk I focused on student use of digital technologies, and how this is re-shaping the way young people are engaging in learning tasks, how they are forming and sustaining learning communities, and how they are enabling students to become developers and producers of learning content, not just consumers of it.

One part of the talk generated a lot of heated discussion – when I referred to Wikipedia as an example of the community use of a Wiki, there were some strong feelings expressed about the reliability and authenticity of the information that appears on this site. One delegate reported how her son had deliberately put up an incorrect definition for a term, and that noone had responded or corrected it. This led to a lively debate around how we can respond to this sort of thing as we look forward – whether we wage war agains the use of such things as Wikipedia based on the fact that they contain incorrect information – or whether we put our efforts into empowering learners to participate intelligently in the communities that use these resources, emphasising the development of critical thinking skills as a way of personally determining the integrity and authenticity of what they are reading.

5 thoughts on “SLANZA conference

  1. No doubt by now you’ll have seen Andy Carvin’s Wikipedia lesson plan:
    http://www.andycarvin.com/archives/2005/07/turning_wikiped.html

    being cited all over the blogosphere, but he faced the same concerns and turned them around into the perfect retort:

    …Wikipedia’s flaws actually make it an ideal learning tool for students. That may sound counterintuitive, of course – how can you recommend a tool that you know may not be accurate? Well, that’s precisely the point: when you go to Wikipedia, some entries are better referenced than others. That’s just a basic fact. Some entries will have a scrupulous list of sources cited and a detailed talk page on which Wikipedians debate the accuracy of information presented in order to improve it. Others, though, will have no sources cited and no active talk pages. To me, this presents teachers with an excellent authentic learning activity in which students can demonstrate their skills as scholars.

    Wikipedia’s not going away (thank goodness) so let’s use it (and improve it).

  2. Hi Stephen
    you beat me to it – yes, I did come across Andy Garvin’s article this morning in fact, but I’ve had a troubled day connecting to the internet so wasn’t able to add the link to my blog – thanks for saving me the trouble!
    I agree – Andy’s perspective is one that needs to be socialised a lot more with groups such as those I was talking with

  3. You went down a treat Derek – thank you.

    I agree with others that Andy Carvin’s idea is a really good one – a great way to both combat and usefully use Wikipedia.

    The problem is educating all teachers in the school to become aware of Wikipedia and to check students’ references when they cite sources from Wikipedia.

    Liz

  4. Too true, Liz
    this is our greatest challenge in looking ahead – not just with Wikipedia, but in relation to the whole range of information sources etc. Of course, it could be argued that these skills should have been taught and used in the past in relation to the traditional sources of information. The thing is that we’ve succumbed to accepting the authority of the traditional publishing process without the application of critical thought or inquiry.
    For example, this week I began reading the book “Mao” that has just been released into bookshops. It would appear to be yet another example of history being re-written, and our previous “authoritative” sources of information about Mao Tse Tung being challenged and contradicted.

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