Blog Post #2 Digital information ecology and knowledge networks:


In this information age in which we live, which is exciting, fast-paced and scary all at the same time a range of definitions need to be examined, elaborated on and finally agreed to by enough educators to be meaningful in terms of our profession and to impact on student learning outcomes.

Much of the terminology being developed comes from quite different areas, for example, ecology is usually a term used by Biologists. When it is applied to Information and Communication Technology those of us working in this sphere need to pause and consider what the implications are for us.

Educators and information professionals view the world through numerous lenses, unlike some professions where the focus can be more one dimensional. This image, of the historical Kingscote Lighthouse light, represents the varied ways educators have to adapt concepts and theories to their role in guiding student learning.

Photo M Simkin

Photo M Simkin

Digital Media and Learning is a phrase used by Gee (DMAL) (Gee, 2010). Gee argues that the “learning” aspect will not evolve until real coherence of terminology and practice develops through collaboration and the ‘accumulation of shared knowledge’. (Gee, 2010, p. 6) He acknowledges the importance of this as:

‘a truly important and yet tractable theme around which the area can organize. Does digital media and learning have such a theme? One candidate would be this: the ways in which digital tools have transformed the human mind and human society and will do so further in the future. This certainly seems a big and important theme. The question, then, becomes whether there are shared tools and perspectives we all can develop to study it and whether it is tractable, that is, whether deep study will lead to real results’. (Gee, 2010, p. 6)

While we are referring to terminology, here’s another example: Gee quotes ‘Ong’s classic 1982 book … started the discussion of the effects of digital media on traditional literacy and said it constituted a form of “secondary orality’ (Gee, 2010, p. 7). Orality resonates with the concept that digital story telling is so valuable for assisting students to make sense of their world. It ties in with the work of Stephen Heppell and his students, which can be seen here: (Heppell, n.d.)

Be Very Afraid


Beyond defining the terminology, there is benefit to educators perusing models and translating words to action in the classroom.

Digital Literacy Model
Digital Literacy Model


(Hague & Paton, 2010)

This diagram reminds teachers of why it is important for them to be present and active in their lessons (whether as sage on the stage, guide by the side, or as co-learner). Students cannot be expected to just know the implications of the qualifying words such as critical, effective, functional and utilised here. In order for projects such as Stephen Heppell’s to be quality educational end products, deep understanding of these 8 areas is necessary. Students may achieve that through effective collaboration and networking with each other, but having the teacher as co-learner is the most effective way of achieving this.


Summey (2013, p 15 cited in (M, 2014) provides a diagrammatic representation of these:

Cited in M's Blog

Cited in M’s Blog


Gee, J. (2010).   New Digital Media and Learning as an Emerging Area and “Worked   Examples” as One Way Forward. Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of   America. Retrieved March 22, 2014, from

Hague, C., &   Paton, S. (2010). Digital Literacy Handbook. Bristol, United Kingdom.   Retrieved March 23, 2014, from

Heppell, S.   (n.d.). About BVA. Retrieved March 26, 2014, from Be Very Afraid:

M. (2014, January   5). Digital Literacy, Social Networking, Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking.   Retrieved March 23, 2014, from M’s Multimedia Blog:




6 thoughts on “Blog Post #2 Digital information ecology and knowledge networks:

  1. Matt

    Aha! An interesting post, Margaret.

    I’m particularly interested in your statement that:

    “it is important for them to be present and active in their lessons (whether as sage on the stage, guide by the side, or as co-learner)”

    This is something I’m grappling with at the moment. Do sometimes as teachers we NEED to be a sage on the stage? When? Why? For how long? Are there just some discrete snippets of knowledge (such as when to use as semi-colon, for example) that students need to know? What is the balance between the three modes of instruction you mention?

    Thanks for the post, you got me thinking!


    1. msimkin

      Hi Matt,
      When I refer to sage on the stage, I am thinking of modelling a process – for example teaching essay writing to Year 12 History students, where specific format and focus is critical for THE EXAM, but which is also a skill for future study. I prefer to keep such sessions to a minimum, but I don’t think they can be totally eliminated. After all, why have we undergone our years of university study if we don’t have things that we know and our students need to know? I think the bad aspect of this is when teachers think they are the only ones who know and spend their time lecturing. Even at universities these days that model is not the only way to deliver content.


  2. Judy O'Connell

    I agree with you both, and am reminded daily now (as I was when working with school students) that the world is large and others know more than I do. But your post covered a lot of different areas, focussing importantly on the ‘mindset’ that we bring to learning. Being a sage can be important – if we recognise that everyone likes to take a turn at testing out ideas or leading a discussion. For me, that is what ‘sage’ in teaching is all about – point of need. All the students in this subject bring so much to the learning experience, that we all leave the engagement the richer for the process. But to start with I was the sage because I had responsibility for crafting the subject. But as the subject unfolds each student takes on the role of sage at points with information or techniques – and thus the subject grows and changes. It will have changed and developed as a result the second time around. 😉 Matt, don’t be afraid of being a sage – so long as you let your kids take it in turns to be a sage too. Perhaps you are Sage Master – in the game of learning 🙂


  3. msimkin

    There has been so much new information being processed that my brain had shelved this:‎ Ross Todd’s zone of intervention is the principle on which I base my work in the secondary library. Worth a quick blog post I think!


  4. apinelli

    I have really enjoyed reading this post and the follow up comments. I have found it a little more interesting having completed the scholarly book review on the curriculum of the future. Have commonly agreed terminology to utilise is an imperative – think it will be hard to achieve but worth the effort.
    I think I am coming to the conclusion that, at the moment, there is conflict between the ideals we would like to see in the learning spaces where we work, the models of teaching that we have grown up with, the curriculum structures that are mandated and the subsequent highly publicised assessment regimes imposed and subsequent results tables.
    I agree with your thoughts about teachers being co-learners. Our students, in so many instances, seem to be able to pick up the technology skills and develop them far quicker than we can. However, we need to guide this development of skills and, at times, steer it into a constructive learning experience. I believe we need to get a better grasp of ‘what’ the curriculum is asking of us. I am starting to worry that we are placing too great an emphasis on content and neglecting some of the skills and, in the Australian Curriculum, the capabilities and perspectives. Is this where we need to be placing greater and really allowing our students to choose their own content with us the guide by the side?


    1. msimkin

      Thanks for your comment. I have just caught up on some the reading and come across Chase and Laufenberg’s Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy, which assesses the where, what, and how of digital literacy, with some very practical, adaptable lesson plans (Chase & Laufenberg, 2011).
      Read in conjunction with Innovating Pedagogy 2013 (Sharples, et al., 2013) I am starting to see some more concrete solutions (while retaining some squishiness) because, as Weinberger says, it really is Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, … (Weinberger, 2011)
      Chase, Z., & Laufenberg, D. (2011, April). Embracing the Squishiness of Digital Literacy. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 535-537. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.7.7
      Sharples, M., McAndrew, P., Weller, M., Ferguson, R., Fitzgerald, E., Hirst, T., & Gaved, M. (2013). Innovating Pedagogy Report 2013; Open University Innovation Report 2. Retrieved March 15, 2014, from Open Access UK:
      Weinberger, D. (2011). Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That The Facts Aren’t Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, And The Smartest Person In The Room Is The Room. New York, New York, United States Of America: Basic Books.


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