Net Smart Discussion Questions

Our investigation of pedagogical hybridity in this journal continually draws us out of narrow institutional discussions and into larger issues, namely whether or how to incorporate digital fluency into our classrooms. We assert that productive hybridity involves teaching the “material” while at the same time teaching our “situation” as digital citizens. Digital and critical pedagogy argues for an awareness of our students’ learning needs, of the content we teach, and of the digital culture in which we all find ourselves.

Howard Rheingold’s new book Net Smart (MIT Press) prepares us for that third layer of awareness, and the introductory chapter (available here as a PDF) introduces an exciting new “field” of study for teachers. Hybrid Pedagogy will be hosting a Twitter discussion (using the hashtag #digped) on this introduction on Friday, May 4, from 12:30pm-1:30pm EST (9:30am-10:30am PST), and we hope you’ll join us.

Rheingold defines five skills of digital literacy in Net Smart: attention, critical awareness (or “crap detection”), participation, collaboration, and network awareness. The introduction examines each one, offers examples, and explains its relationship to the others. It concludes with the narrative of how and why Rheingold has been involved in the framing of the narrative of computing and cognition since 1974.

Here are some guiding questions to frame the discussion of Net Smart in terms of teaching:

  • Rheingold claims that “digital literacies can leverage the Web’s architecture of participation, just as the spread of reading skills amplified collective intelligence five centuries ago.” How is the architecture of participation relevant to your own disciplinary interests and pedagogy?
  • If Rheingold’s specifically defined digital literacies, or any other iteration of them, are important skills for Web users, what institutional structure (department, course, initiative) should be most responsible for teaching them?
  • Participatory and collaborative culture encourage working with source material in new ways. Have you addressed new methods of attribution in the classroom? If so, how? If not, what questions do these practices raise?
  • Rheingold, along with other digital culture advocates like Clay Shirky and Tyler Cowan, sees potential for cognitive evolution in “the outlines of a new narrative” of networked life. Other thinkers like Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr are hesitant to embrace a positive view of digital culture. How can we reconcile ourselves with digital optimism or pessimism as it relates to our curriculum?
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