Emerging technology// Lifelong Learning

Thinking back to week one, I was really looking forward to this subject. I was very eager to learn more about making an app, data visualisation and editing Wikipedia. From the outset I assumed that we would be taught how to make these things in our workshops, however as we advanced through the semester I realised this was not the case. We were given a scaffolded learning experience, but ultimately we went out there and worked out the technology for ourselves. This is my absolute favourite learning environment, as it encourages you to try things, make mistakes, fail, try again, use your prior knowledge but also to use things in unexpected ways. Like when One Laptop Per Child gave illiterate children from two remote Ethiopian villages tablet computers with pre-loaded English programs, Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android. I hope that the culture of the self-motivated exploration of technology, the community of hackerspaces and making small contributions towards a bigger goal will be part of my library practice into the future.  

The learning environment in IFN612 suited me perfectly, however found it very hard to feel part of the learning community especially as an online student. I tried to start conversations on other students blogs but it was quite difficult to keep track of the conversations, identify trends happening across the website and build a social network with the stop-start nature of the comment approval process. As an online student, increasingly working asynchronously, this felt like my only way into the community and that I was constantly turning up late to the party, so I engaged less and less. This experience, although it wasn’t positive, demonstrated the importance of the learner community to my engagement with the content and made me think about how I could create this kind of community for myself and others in the future. Last semester in another subject, there were Twitter Chats every fortnight, which were really helpful for creating a sense of community. This meant that the online forums became a place to continue conversations that may have begun in Twitter and it felt like we were building knowledge and developing ideas together. In this subject, I felt like I was learning very independently. I’m sure Twitter Chats would be very resource and time intensive for the teaching team, but it would have been another place where discussions could begin, especially involving the wider library community.

The weekly activity I found the most challenging, was completing the Wikipedia entry. It wasn’t that the task was particularly difficult or time-consuming, but that I felt like an imposter, like I wasn’t really qualified to be contributing. The understandable levels of bureaucracy around editing a Wikipedia page were very intimidating for a newbie. Before I edited the Wikipedia entry I knew that there was a huge gender bias in the Wikipedia content and contributors, but I didn’t really understand why. It’s not just that there’s simply less documentation on many accomplished women and minorities throughout history — they were often ignored, after all, or forced to make their contributions as someone else’s assistant, but sometimes just the overarching structure of the systems behind the technology can be daunting. This experience made me think about many of the technologies and spaces I use and inhabit everyday without thinking.  For someone who is unfamiliar with them or in a new community, their experience will be very different to mine. As librarians it is part of our role to think about who is not being included and think of new ways to be more welcoming and inclusive.

Leading on from this, the most interesting topic for me was open data and open access, especially as this coincided with the release of the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s draft Report about Australia’s Intellectual Property arrangements. Online open access collections like the Flickr Commons and the many libraries and museums that have made their digitised collections available, are examples of what scientific papers (and more) will be like in the very near future, as last week the European Union member states agreed that European scientific papers should be made freely available to all by 2020. I think that although the European Union has made this commitment to open access, this doesn’t mean everyone will be able to access them due to the digital divide.

The least interesting element in this subject for me, was the gamification. This came as quite a surprise because I love to play games outside my studies and I even use games as a motivator for study. In an academic context, I find gamification incredibly infantilising. I really enjoy learning and working out how to use something new, so the idea that I’m being tricked into learning seems like a superfluous layer as I’m already motivated to learn. I would have preferred to have spent this time learning more about arduino and makey makeys as these technologies are in many libraries now and experience using this type of equipment would be very beneficial. This semester, I feel like I haven’t really been introduced to a technology I didn’t know before I did the subject, but I was. The knowledge of new technologies I learnt this semester have already been assimilated into my previous understandings of other technologies. This continuous building of knowledge of different and emerging technologies and being ready for whatever comes next in that space, by building on my prior knowledge would be one of my two key learnings for this subject. I will never be starting from scratch. The other would be the power of cloud-computing. Completing the Persona Poster assignment forced me to assess and acknowledge how dependent I am on the flexibility of working from the cloud. Working entirely in the cloud isn’t for everyone, but I think that moving into the future, the lower entry price on cloud-based will open up access to the internet for even more people.

Featured Image is titled Finish line during collegiate track meet, Harvard Stadium  by Boston Public Library is licensed by CC BY NC-ND 2.0.

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