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Tool literacy as a new process
I’ve been thinking a bit about the notion of app smashing and the way we introduce learning challenges in our classrooms and libraries. And I am thinking there’s a thinking process going on that we’re not thinking about nearly enough.
Introducing a tool and saying you are going to use this tool to tell this story is kinda like saying go to page 347 and do exercises three through five.
I think the word process is important.
We need to learn how to leverage the tools on our new desks. We need to make conscious choices about the way we manage information and communication workflow in a way that is entirely anti-worksheet. For any of the tools we use, we need to master notions of their affordances and constraints.
Affordances are the possible ways a tools could be used by an individual in a particular context. Affordances change with the individual and are affected by our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs, as well as our imaginations as they relate to a particular technology. Consider your own phone. In how many ways have you found ways to use it that may not have been intentionally considered in its original design?
I’ve been engaging in a bit of metaphorical thinking around tool literacy:
It’s a bit like building a piña colada out of Jelly Belly jelly beans. But, better . . .
It’s a bit like the difference between the cook who works off recipes and the creative chef who knows what each flavor can contribute to a dish and plays with their combinations and continually makes discoveries.
It’s a bit like conducting an orchestra rather than playing one instrument. It’s about knowing when to bring in the violins or the oboe or the snare drum. It’s about knowing how to manage tone and tempo, and phrasing and interpretation. It’s about teasing out musical nuance and bringing a musical composition to life.
Why think about smashing as process or as tool literacy?
- To inspire creative, individual thinking and innovation
- To build understanding that tools need to be evaluated/tested for affordances & constraints
- To inspire more individual products of learning
- To understand app categories/genres and affordances
- To play, experiment, make discoveries
- To engage learners in thinking workflow as process
- To inspire kiddos to build dashboards to manage their information lives
- To engage learners in problem solving
- To enable kids/teachers to recognize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts–that one app or platform on its own may not magically serve our every need
- To push the creation of seriously original work created in ways never before possible
The notion of tool literacy does not replace other processes, the inquiry process, for instance. I think it runs parallel, perhaps as secondary to them.
(Here are some images I shared in a recent presentation.)
And I believe librarians are critical in understanding tool literacy as a creative process. Beyond making content and tools discoverable, I believe we are responsible for helping learners create their own dashboards and palettes, and new types of desks that encourage choice and promote innovative and personally directed workflow.
Here are a few of my other posts on rethinking smashing or curation
- Why it’s important to smash a few apps (or what’s on your palette)
- Dealing with dashboard decisions
- Lesson Flows: app smashing instructional design
- App Smashing Tag Team Tech VOYA October 2014
Gibson, J. J. (1977). The concept of affordances. Perceiving, acting, and knowing, 67-82.
About Joyce Valenza
Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza
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