Earlier today I was invited to a conference for librarians to present
some of my experiences from blended learning. It was quite an exciting group to
meet as I have asked myself how to better introduce one of
the seven elements of digital literacy (JISC 2014) in our curriculum. The element
of information literacy. I have been engaged for many years in the social
science libraries, and one of the issues was this issue. Since I left my
direct involvement I have checked in quite often to see how it goes. It doesn’t
do that well. Why so?

In many respects I should blame myself for not better being able to
convince my fellow lecturers and course coordinators of the importance of
information literacy despite many attempts and good examples of how it can be
introduced and used, lending more capable and knowledgeable students. It is
like, seemingly to many, that the library is still a building with books, a lot of dust,
and some strange people using time to catalogue these books according to some
odd system I have never caught up with, really. And, yes, they now how to
search things too, the people working there. I believe we can agree upon that.

First problem brought by ONL171 – embarrassment. To teach is not (or
should not be) about telling someone what I know, that is to give a lecture,
which of course can be part of instruction in teaching. To teach is rather to
facilitate the opportunity for someone else to learn. It may be from a set
curriculum, as often in the university, or it may be less restricted than that,
like organising a class in weaving or something. It requires leaving the
comfort zone, the full control of what is going to happen, and to trust your
expertise in the subject at hand to show when needed. It means that there
will be several things happening that you do not control and you may find
yourself embarrassed due to that. Don’t!

By engaging in blended learning it is sometimes effective to make technical mistakes
and to allow for the companionship with the students to solve them in
collaboration. There are always technical issues as soon as you involve various
forms of digital devices. It is a bit like when the film showings in school years
ago did not work out as planned when the teacher could not get the film in right. To
see this as an opportunity to co-learn with the students is excellent, but in
allowing for this, we must not worry about embarrassment for not having full
control. It may actually work as a positive force for students to feel capable,
thus allowing for them to engage in your class in a better way. To show
slightly vulnerable in some respects allow for expertise to be expressed in
others.

I believe in simplicity and proximity with the students in teaching. Not
always achievable, but rewarded when so. Digital tools allow us to do things,
which are a challenge to achieve in a classroom. We can ask students to share
thoughts in a blog, on love for example, to allow for expressing ideas of
concern, which later can be brought up in class a step away from the actual
experience, taking distance, or to elaborate on expressions made in a small
group to help illuminate what are shared beliefs and not about love. You can of
course do this in a classroom, but the asynchrony of the blog allows for shared
preparation and reflection before class. You can ask for the same thing on
other issues, why not information literacy (not as teasing as love though) and
perhaps tough for us to admit now being that good at.

Second problem brought by ONL171 – social restrictions. The physical
classroom at our department is most often defined by a pedagogical idea based
in a power dynamic of teacher centred education. This type of social
restrictions may be challenged by a blended approach using a digital classroom
to initiate or follow up on themes of importance. Sometimes digital solutions
are used as substitutes for social relationships between teacher and students.
A typical example is digital course evaluations. They are required, but often
useless, unless integrated as a constructive part of course development. The
same concerns education on information literacy often left in isolation and not
followed up properly. This holds an issue of power dynamics as well, where
librarians and lecturers may not be on “speaking terms” when it comes to share
responsibilities and influence on curriculum in regard of raising the
information literacy among students, and us.

Blended learning has allowed me to increase the opportunities for
students to take control over their learning and studies, thus be able to share
the responsibility as well.

So, my final issue here is how blended learning has allowed for less
focus on the goals and their testing in my pedagogical layout and more focus on
how to facilitate the journey towards more knowledge. It has meant more time to
be accessible to the students when they need support, and far more
opportunities to be part of how they achieve set learning outcomes.

In the ONL directions it is said that we shall be creative in our
blogging. I believe it is hard to produce creative ideas. What are they? Who to
judge? The Swedish philosopher, Nils-Eric Sahlin (2001) discuss creativity as
something that requires problem-solving, but not any such, it asks for the use
of new tools, not merely reuse of tools. With such a definition it is hard to
be creative. However, Sahlin also present some ideas of what could be an
environment allowing creativity to exist. The following are brought to our
attention: generosity (share your ideas), community (feel part of), competence
(know your stuff), cultural diversity (allow for impressions), trust and
tolerance (be honest and look for strengths), equality (see others as you
alike), curiosity (ask), freedom (allow diverging thought), and small
scale. Very few environments can live up to this as we far to often are driven
by arrogance, greed, pleasure, envy, indulgence, anger and a doze of
indifference. (Adapted from Sahlin p. 174)

From this I would conclude that our PBL-work this far has been a success
in many ways. We are the creative environment (it is a relationship, not a room) I would argue because it has been based on sharing personal experiences
and allowing them to be reasoned and reflected upon. From that we may even have
come up with some creative ideas, at least the term “learning companionship” as
an illustration of a teacher – student relationship qualified as it surprised me.
However, it is of course not new …..

References

Developing
digital literacies (2014) JISC guide https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/developing-digital-literacies
license CC BY-NC-ND

Sahlin, Nils-Eric (2001), Kreativitetens filosofi, Nora: Nya Doxa