Hyper-vigilence required

I’ve been doing some research recently for a report I’m writing on digital literacy and came across this video showing two hunters posing with a lion they’d just shot… watch to see what happens!

My initial reaction of disgust at seeing this beautiful creature having been shot for pleasure by the two hunters then posing with it changed to surprise and shock to see them attacked by (presumably) a second lion that comes on the scene. Exactly what the video was designed to do – for it is a fake!

It’s the product of a small Australian video company who have made a habit of creating such videos in recent years – illustrating just how susceptible we are to the ‘first impressions’ fed to us by the media and the torrent of online digest services. It’s an increasing problem in the digital age where the problem is not with the scarcity of information, but with its abundance and over-supply!

The issue of ‘fake news’ isn’t new – there’s always been the need to differentiate between truth and non-truth in our lives. From the distortions of perspective shared in cliques in the school playground through to the arguments made by politicians trying to persuade us to vote for them, we’ve always had to exercise our judgement about what constitutes fact from opinion – or just straight lies.

The challenge today emerges as the consequence of our ‘hyper-connectedness’ – exposing us to an unrelenting onslaught of data, facts, information… and falsehood! Throughout history, we have been inherently social creatures with human connectivity being derived from the various groups and communities we belong to. Many of these communities are now being substituted with virtual structures. We are now living in a world that comprises not just of virtual human connectivity, but of accelerating hyperconnectivity enabled by technology.

Which brings me to the focus of my research – the question we must ask is “how best do we prepare ourselves and our students for living in this hyperconnected world, where they can remain ‘human’ and make wise and informed decisions that will impact their own and each other’s lives for good?

In the course of my reading I’ve unearthed a myriad of suggestions, strategies and frameworks from around the world, including this one from the DQ Institute which provides a common framework for digital literacy, skills and readiness.

The DQ Institute describe their framework as “a comprehensive set of technical, cognitive, meta-cognitive, and socio-emotional competencies that are grounded in universal moral values and that enable individuals to face the challenges and harness the opportunities of digital life. DQ has three levels, eight areas, and 24 competencies composed of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values.”

The important thing for me about this framework (and there are others like it) is that the notion of digital literacy sits within and alongside the other seven elements here – we cannot take it as something to focus on alone and ignore the other things in the list, such as digital identity, digital us, digital safety etc.

A key point made in the DQ research is that we must acknowledge a shift in the focus of a human’s worth – shifting from mind, including knowledge, emotions, and relationships, to spirit, including wisdom and values. This wisdom, together with contextual understanding and insights, has become more important than practical knowledge and skills, which can now be easily aggregated through the Internet.

So while it might be a great idea to use a video such as the one at the start of this post as a way of engaging learners in thinking more critically about what they see and hear, and how they discern between fact and fiction etc., the longer term benefits of such discourse in our classrooms will only emerge when it is happening in contexts where attention is being given to the full range of responsibilities we share in the digital age, and where we are able to expand our focus from being purely about academic achievement (which remains important!) to include authentic ways of including the development of wisdom, values – and critical consciousness (which will be a blog post for a future time 🙂

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