In a past life, chalk, talk and marking essays was my trade as a school teacher, so I was more than a little intrigued by Mark Pegrum's new book From Blogs to Bombs - The Future of Digital Technologies in Education. I also wondered if the book might offer some insight into the future of digital technologies in journalism.
From Blogs to Bombs did not disappoint and proved it's not just a book for teachers or academics. In fact, I'd recommend this very readable book to anyone trying to make sense of the implications of digital technologies in our lives. Hacks too. And yes, that includes dear colleagues who might still be struggling to attach a document to an email or who haven't quite got around to all that social media and collaborative Web 2.0 stuff.
Mark Pegrum is an Assistant Professor at The University of Western Australia and lectures in e-learning. He stresses that education and digital technology is not just seeing education through digital technologies but must encompass education about digital technologies and their effects.
To help do this, Pegrum offers the reader a model of five "lenses" to view digital technologies - technological, pedagogical, social, sociopolitical and ecological. When teaching about digital technologies, Pegrum says educators have a responsibility to help students appraise new tools through these lenses - each lens revealing different storytelling possibilities and different limitations.
However, it was his chapter on the many forms of digital literacies and the technology skills both students and teachers should develop that made me sit up and see plenty of overlap from education into media and especially journalism training.
In education, Pegrum says there's an opportunity to combine the "greater technological literacy" of more "tech-comfy" students with the experience of a more "tech-savvy" teacher.
"To borrow two expressions from Gavin Dudeney, we need to distinguish between being 'tech-comfy' (which we might define as having the technological literacy to use a wide array of digital tools, especially for everyday social and entertainment purposes) and being 'tech-savvy' (having a grasp of technology's implications together with the range of digital literacies necessary to use key tools effectively for educational and professional purposes)."
Pegrum goes further (pointing to Mark Prensky's Programing is the New Literacy) and sets out the case for teachers and students to become familiar with reading, writing and modifying computer code. Those without code literacy Pegrum says, may well find themselves restricted to commercial or prepackaged options on web applications instead of being able to customize open source alternatives.
"This isn't about IT teachers and IT students. It's about IT as a core skill for all teachers and all students. It may well represent the biggest challenge yet for today's teachers and more than a few of today's students, but the literacy landscape of the future will be shaped mainly by those who can adapt - starting now."
One could well say the same for journalists or anyone contemplating a career in media. And membership of the Generation-Y digital tribe doesn't always mean you're an instant digital media ninja.
Flicking through apps on my mobile phone, and wondering about what digital tablets or the iPad has in store for journalism, From Blogs to Bombs has made me think again about what skills I may need to be "tech-savvy" as a journalist, content creator and trainer. Even more so as a freelancer - professional development is in my own hands.
From Blogs to Bombs is well referenced and covers Web 2.0 tools and significant events and the big discussions involving technology and social media up to mid-July 2009. It is also due to be released as an e-book and will be available for Kindle. Fortunately for updates, Mark Pegrum has a E-language wiki and tweets via @ozmark17 .
(Book cover UWAP)