Innovation, informational literacy and lifelong learning: creating a new culture


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This article reflects on the impact of informational innovations and their interdependence with lifelong learning. Today, the object of knowledge and learning is increasingly based on digital information, which means we need to make serious efforts to construct a new culture of lifelong learning.

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Innovation, informational literacy and lifelong learning: creating a new culture

  1. 1. Innovation, informational literacy and lifelong learning: creating a new culture María José Hernández-Serrano University of Salamanca (Spain) Barbara Jones University of Manchester (United Kingdom) Summary This article reflects on the impact of informational innovations and their interdependence with lifelong learning. Today, the object of knowledge and learning is increasingly based on digital information, which means we need to make serious efforts to construct a new culture of lifelong learning. On the one hand, technological and informational possibilities are generating new opportunities for learning by offering access to a world of open, flexible knowledge. On the other hand, it is of utmost importance for individuals to learn how to approach such open knowledge. It is clear that this context reveals significant challenges for education; apart from new skills, an innovative lifelong learning culture demands new roles in the learning process. This new reality points to substantial changes for educational actors, situating informational competences as key competences for lifelong learning. Reflections on the roles of teacher and learner lead us to a re-interpretation of the traditional teaching triangle. In this paper we attempt to address a new pedagogic understanding that relies on the internet's possibilities for generating and sharing knowledge. New relationships between teacher and learner are conceptualized, based on the idea of a self-sufficient student and a supporting teacher, who guides students in successfully accessing and using online information. We are convinced that innovating in lifelong learning goes hand-in-hand with the successful exploitation of new informational possibilities. For that purpose, changes to the roles of educators and the construction of a culture of lifelong learning will be essential. Keywords: informational technologies, digital literacy, teacher and student roles New economy and innovation culture for learning In the mid-nineties the Delors vision (1996: 24, 173) referred to a "learning society" as an evolution from the access society or the information society, towards a learning culture, where economies and societies are globalised (Jones & Miller, 2007, Collins & Moonen, 2001), and where expectations are that learning can also become globalised. Innovation in the new economy model is increasingly perceived as based on the process and results of learning: so value chains are seen as consistent with chains of knowledge. Success depends on the richness of social capital (Coffield, 2003) or human capital (Becker, 1964; Ridell, Baron & Willson, 2001). Even though informational capital (Castells, 2001), and eLearning Papers • • 1 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  2. 2. information itself, are still valuable importance now focuses on what individuals know and, increasingly, on how to participate and interact in Web 2.0 (O'Reilly, 2005). In this context, learning as a process throughout life is envisaged as the bridge between human capital and innovation in societies. Innovative technologies and a culture for learning throughout life Fryer defined lifelong learning culture as one where “learning is a normal accessible productive and enjoyable (if demanding) feature of everyday life for all people throughout their lives” (1997:24). Later, in the European Memorandum, lifelong learning was defined as “all purposeful learning activity, undertaken on an ongoing basis with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence" (European Commission, 2000: 3) within a personal, civic, social or employment-related framework. It is important to observe that these notions lie both in local learning opportunities and restricted forms of participation. Only in recent decades, by means of scientific and technological development, will lifelong learning acquire a global application, as a key driver in shifts towards knowledge-based economies (European Commission, 2006). Nowadays, with technological and informational possibilities it is possible to recharge the notion of lifelong learning culture. Consequently, new ways to deliberate on learning are required, along with the reassessment of the vision of what lifelong learning is and the role of education. Informational and technological innovations expand meanings and dimensions of learning, which are not only confined to educational institutions (in space), nor are limited to specific or static training (in time). Dissolution of existing boundaries has reinforced the importance of informal learning, valuing intangible knowledge, often generated in no explicit exchanges in unstructured settings and unrepeatable, changing situations, because such individual internal knowledge is more difficult to replicate (Jones & Miller, 2007). Buckingham (2005) tells us that informal learning settings are able to offer more active relevant and flexible forms of learning, preparing subjects more efficiently for the challenges of modern society. The importance and role of informal learning demands a broader view of how innovation takes place and in this context by moving towards the creation of a genuine culture of lifelong learning, which consolidates actions that maximize learning opportunities. Innovative technologies and extensive opportunities for learning construct new cultures, demanding a shared responsibility for learning from different parts: actors, knowledge generators and participation promoters. In line with Jay Croos (2006), a new culture whose fundamentals are based on: pro-activity, flexibility, self-service and informal learning: a culture, where subjects have an active role, since they are responsible for their own learning "knowing how to learn and wishing to go on learning" (Coffield, 2000). Considering that technological innovations are distinctly ubiquitous, in this paper we confront the informational possibilities, as a new reality, where new and evolving informational codes begin to be constructed and expanded fundamentally from hypermedia channels. This new environment implies significant efforts in the construction of a new culture of lifelong learning, as the object of knowledge and learning is more and more based on digital information and the process of accessing, managing, using and sharing of online information. At the same time, this reality entails substantial changes for educational contexts and actors, situating informational competences as key competences for lifelong learning. eLearning Papers • • 2 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  3. 3. How can informational possibilities contribute in creating an innovative culture for lifelong learning? Our times are marked by the existence of a new type of digital information, and by the revolutionary implantation of new processes associated with the management and the production of this information. This premise has led us to analyze the present changes, not from the perspective of the innovative information itself, but from the way in which the different processes and actions are modified: specifically how learning is changing by the new informational context. Pedagogical, social and working success does not depend on contents, because these are accessible, ubiquitous, and mutable, but, rather, in the locating processes and a system of information management that will allow individuals to learn in the future. Therefore, what to know becomes less important than where to know, and above all, how to know. This leads to reflections on an essential aspect: the ability to access to information becomes a dynamic factor for subjects’ learning. All this demands new skills related to Digital Competence (DC) and Informational Literacy (IL). DC involves: “the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet” (European Commission, 2006). So we can observe, that the processes of access and management of the Internet information are crucial. According to Declaration of Alexandria (UNESCO/NFIL/IFLA, 2005) Information Literacy (IL):  “Comprises the competencies to recognize information needs and to locate, evaluate, apply and create information within cultural and social contexts;  is crucial to the competitive advantage of individuals, enterprises (especially small and medium enterprises), regions and nations;  provides the key to effective access, use and creation of content to support economic development, education, health and human services, and all other aspects of contemporary societies, and thereby provides the vital foundation for fulfilling the goals of the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on the Information Society; and  extends beyond current technologies to encompass learning, critical thinking and interpretative skills across professional boundaries and empowers individuals and communities” (2005:3). From the last remark, focus on the IL competences is necessary not only to maximise utilization of information, but to the achievement of knowledge or learning throughout life, as stated in the last IFLA’s guidelines (2006). In recent years IL has become a crucial tool for lifelong learning, linked to the use of the immense digital bank offered by the Internet, where criticality no longer lies in knowing how to access or how to evaluate information, but in knowing how to use it, as learning is the most significant use individuals can make with the information they accessing throughout life. Precisely, in the IFLA’s guidelines it has been ascertained how IL and lifelong learning have a strategic, mutually reinforcing relationship with each other. Both improve the set of personal choices and options, the quality and utility of education and training (in both formal school settings and later in informal vocational or job settings), the prospects of finding and keeping a job, and the effective participation of the individual in social, cultural and political contexts. It is eLearning Papers • • 3 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  4. 4. also clear that there is a progressive interdependence: the more information literate an individual becomes, and the longer the individual sustains good information literacy learning and practices those habits, the greater the learning autonomy and self-enlightenment which will take place over an entire lifetime (2006: 12). The most critical connection between IL and lifelong learning is that both can be autonomous and self-activating. The understanding of this idea is twofold. First, to be informed and to learn can be done with any type of mediation: individuals by themselves can make access to information and construct meanings for learning. But second, conversely, to become an effective informationally literate and autonomous learner it is necessary to seek guidance on info-skills, competences and training on reflection and self-regulation (Hernandez-Serrano, 2009). The second consideration has lead us to deliberate on the important synergies need to be created between information sciences –widely linked with the IL development– and educational disciplines –traditionally responsible for the lifetime training and education of individuals. Some access skills in individuals could have been developed spontaneously, implicitly or non- consciously, which affect the learning process. However, reflective and formalised activity is required on how to apply the new tools to bring significant benefits in its informative and cognitive use: in other words, training individuals to use informational technologies for significant purposes of learning and lifelong learning. Here lies the essential concern of this paper; by taking advantage of the informational possibilities it becomes possible to contribute to the creation of an innovative culture of lifelong learning based on promoting a new understanding of the informational practices, along with new roles for different educational stakeholders. New roles for educational actors in promoting lifelong learning If, as we have assumed, IL and lifelong learning are closely linked, then educational opportunities for developing a coherent pedagogical function essential for training, guiding, counselling and mediation between accessible knowledge can be crucial for enhancing lifelong learning. We are convinced that educators, as experts in a subject or discipline, should help learners to select relevant information, verify it, compare it and know how to incorporate it significantly into their knowledge structures, so that ultimately and independently, they are able to search and select the most appropriate content that can respond to future learning needs. For this outcome, educators should understand how learners develop their informational practices and what allows them to find accurate resources. All this requires a basic grounding in information literacy (specifically knowing the most effective search methods and sources). The primary task of teachers is offering informational strategies for learning, by training students to successfully access information, to question it, understand it and convert it into knowledge. Traditionally that has been and continues to be the main task for teachers, by providing mechanisms for learning. It is a task that is now augmented by developing new hardware and software which facilitate the continually evolving informational possibilities. From our point of view, new skills required today are not only to focus on helping individuals to manage information. Innovation in lifelong learning demands the capacity to learn in different eLearning Papers • • 4 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  5. 5. circumstances and through the potential of information technology, improving their ability to self-learn. The only way to view new technologies as truly tools for lifelong learning is by innovating skills and innovating the roles of educational actors. As can be expected, this demands relevant modifications and changes and implies many challenges for learners, and the institutions responsible for educating them, principally, the transformation of the roles of education agents (student and teacher). Role transformation in the learning process involves, fundamentally, the idea of an autonomous learner and a supporting teacher (facilitator). Research about changes in roles is far from scarce, but we can summarize some themes according to tree basics: the implications outlined by Collins and Moonen (2006), the new perspectives which Jarvis provided (2002), and the new learning culture conceived by Cross (2006). From the work of these authors it becomes clear that institutions must achieve an education model focused on a more flexible learning, and based on practical experience and reflective thinking. Students must leave their passive role, as receptors of knowledge, because they need a higher level of self-regulated skills to manage the available information resources. In line with what Collins and Moonen (2006) have stated, learning is less about obtaining material carefully prepared by an expert, and more about knowing who to ask, how to take control of an experience, and how one can match, contrast, and extract useful content for a particular circumstance. Re-interpreting roles and innovating the traditional teaching triangle The need to create and maintain a new culture of learning throughout life emphasizes the idea of a self-sufficient student and gives an important role to information technologies, which facilitate without mediators access to a world of open, flexible and multi-format knowledge. Today a new type of learning is evolving located in the possibilities of access to information through the Internet. However, by the simple fact of being in continuous contact with technologies, individuals do not in reality develop the most efficient skills for a competent processing of digital information. Learning is a process that, in our view, needs to be previously mediated, provided or strategically taught by a teacher, who then relinquishes her control and promotes a self-sufficient and independent use of the Web as a lifetime learning resource. In the identification of characteristics for the interpretation of the learning, within a vast informational context, the main singularities of the process are:  Interactive, because the individuals learning through interactions with an open learning environment (Hannafin, Hill & Land, 1997; Hannafin, Land & Oliver, 2000);  Propositive, goal-oriented or higher cognitive order;  Constructionist, because the subject is active and has a crucial role in learning, and Connectivist, due to the impact of social activities (Siemens, 2004);  Regulatory, as individuals must consider and take effective decisions that will lead them to significant learning. Such interpretation entails important changes to the traditional teaching triangle and the actors involved. Interaction between learner and contents has to be replaced by a broader model, based on the relationship between the three traditional components: learner-teacher-contents, eLearning Papers • • 5 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  6. 6. which are defined on the basis of new roles. These new roles are: [1] the constructive mental activity of the learner; [2] the teachers’ constant support; and [3], the content of teaching and learning (open knowledge), and now by inserting a new component in the process: [4] the use of information technologies for generating and sharing knowledge that the Internet provides, turning it into an essential component of learning. The following diagram (see figure 1) represents the transformation of the teaching-learning process from the traditional to innovative model, according to the new culture of lifelong learning. Figure 1: Innovations in the traditional teaching triangle. Either traditional or innovative processes of teaching and learning are developed in a space- time scenario, since "all knowledge, however abstract and conceptual it is, is built in a space- time scenario, with people who activated under certain conditions and forms of communicative exchanges" (Coll, Palacios & Marchesi, 2002:135). So, knowledge is built from cognitive eLearning Papers • • 6 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  7. 7. mechanism and operations introduced by way of social interaction and negotiations. Nevertheless, in the innovative model coordinates are expanded in time and through virtual spaces for lifelong learning. In addition, actors involved in the process have new roles, which lead to new intersections, and a new info-technological component with great potential for learning. In the traditional teaching triangle it has been a teacher, linked to a learner and contents. Thus, the supportive action of the teacher is focused on aiding learner in knowledge operations (depicted by a green arrow in Figure 1). The new interpretation relies on the possibilities to generate and share knowledge via the Internet and where the subsequent relationships are more complex. Learner and teacher are joined by learning tasks that require both the use of the Internet and open accessible knowledge. New connections are developed because in the near future, some of the knowledge that teachers will offer to their students will not have been previously prepared or selected by them. Students will become more active learners who construct and share knowledge via the Internet, in different spaces and timelines. This makes the relationship between teacher and content not the most important part of the process. On the contrary, what is essential is for the teacher to promote learning tasks that motivate, guide and assist students when they actively seek to generate knowledge on the Internet. Their function is encouraging learning, by adding pedagogical value to the educational potential offered by information technologies. In aiding students, the role of the teacher will be to support the learners’ two interactions, as depicted in figure 1: (S1) those related to how they operate with the technology (Internet), and (S2) those with the open knowledge they discover on Internet. The latter is undoubtedly an essential part of teaching, prior to the impact of new technologies, as a mediator between subjects and content, which is now remodelled by the current flood of information. It must be understood that this excess of information should not confuse the knowledge process, but makes a claim for the figure of a mediator, the teacher, who guides students in finding and selecting the information they need for learning and lifelong learning. Learners may have difficulties in using technologies for academic purposes, as they are accustomed to a model of use based on quickness, low planning and scarcely or null validation (Hernández-Serrano, 2009). Thus, they need to be taught into how to operate within the Internet and the open knowledge made available. Supporting these teacher activities means the development of several skills related to efficient use of the Net. In short, these informational competencies can be divided into four phases, which correspond to different types of activities such as searching, selecting, analyzing and sharing information. In the first phase, related to information search, it is necessary that learners acquire a wider understanding of the Internet services and sources. However, accessing resources effectively also requires know how to plan strategies in order to guide the search process and address the information needed (by mapping different methods or tactics). Once organized the search, in the next phase will focus on the information discrimination. It will require learners to acquire and implement skills and attitudes to select the information that is more important or relevant within the total recovered in the searching. This means consideration of the initial demand (context, topic, depth, format, language) compared with the range of sources found. In a third phase, the teacher promotes a learner’s critical attitude in evaluating the information, by enabling them to assess and compare the quality according to several parameters such as eLearning Papers • • 7 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
  8. 8. origin, accuracy, authorship, update, bias, etc. Critical dimension is indispensable for understanding and processing information. Specifically, the promotion of critical thinking is based on the awareness that part of the information found could be weak in aspects such as trust, veracity or evidence. And finally, the last phase is the effective use of the information, by communicating, publishing, exchanging or sharing. This is a prerequisite for lifelong learning, by managing findings and contributing to generating new knowledge. Teachers should assure and support an ethical use on the information found by the learners. Far from a culture of plagiarism, the legal use of digital information must be understood by learners in order to effectively shape and share information worldwide. These and other skills, attitudes and strategies will contribute to the generation of informational literate learners able to successfully access open knowledge, and efficiently meet the demands of a society that requires lifelong learning. Over time, learner autonomy in handling these informational competencies is expected, so developing critical individuals who value the need to be constantly informed, and who effectively manage information resources, turning information access into a common activity of learning. Concluding remarks Achieving the goals of a Learning Society requires individuals prepared to learn in a changing world together with effective use and habituation to the technologies that enable them to access information. Thus, preparing individuals for effective accessing of digital information is a preliminary step for the generating of a lifelong learning culture. Cultural innovation necessitates new roles for educational actors, where teachers will be able to understand, reformulate and improve the informational process developed by learners, by training them in “self actualised” competences (planning, reflection, regulation). Since information is available on a global scale innovating in lifelong learning means that interest must be focused away from the mere accumulation of information, toward a deeper understanding of the keys for learning, and largely knowing how to use technologies for lifelong learning. eLearning Papers • • 8 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542
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  10. 10. Riddell, S, Baron, S, & Wilson, A (2001). The Learning Society and People with Learning Difficulties. Bristol: Policy Press. Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. eLearnSpace. Retrieved on 2nd, June 2019, from UNESCO/NFIL/IFLA (2005). Declaración de Alejandría sobre la alfabetización informacional y el aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida. Available at: Authors María José Hernández-Serrano University of Salamanca (Spain) Barbara Jones University of Manchester (United Kingdom) Copyrights The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast provided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. The full licence can be consulted on Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers ISSN: 1887-1542 Publisher: Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. Postal address: C/ Muntaner 262, 3º, 08021 Barcelona, Spain Telephone: +34 933 670 400 Email: Internet: eLearning Papers • • 10 Nº 21 • September 2010 • ISSN 1887-1542