This is the subject of Week 1 (which has already whizzed by) of the Critical Literacies online open course. In the course materials on Moodle, cognition is described as:
The capacity to infer, or detect faulty inferences, to use communicative elements in order to describe, argue, explain or define. Including the power of reflection, authority of knowledge, stability of knowledge, communication as conversation or as dialogue.
I am attending the course not only for the content on Critical Literacies, but also because I am interested in how open courses are designed and run. What is so intriguing is that the design of an open course cannot predict what participants will run with, what will grab their interest, what discussions will ensue, who will participate etc. So the quote above outlines what it was expected that we might discuss/engage with, but did we?
The discussion in Moodle about the evolving definition of ‘expert’ generated quite a bit of interest. Rita asked some great questions:
- Who decides what information we can access, and how is it ordered.
- Whose interests are served by providing particular information?
- Does the (sub-)structure of the Web give us access to the ‘experts’, the most knowledgeable others, or to the people who are best at self-publicising?
- Does it really matter? Or is it most important that people gain an awareness and understanding of these structures and the ability to assess sources of information?
- Do people take for granted each word that is written down, or do they analyse what claims and conclusions people draw and if they are based on any substance or on thin air?
This aligns with ‘authority of knowledge’ from the quote above. The power of reflection and the stability of knowledge topics have only been touched on – unless it’s in someone’s blog post somewhere and I’ve missed it – but having this in the quote suggests that Critical Literacies include the ability to judge whether the author has the authority to talk/write about the subject, which is what Howard Rheingold highlights in his video. I haven’t quite got my head round why ‘stability of knowledge’ is linked to Critical Literacies. Are we supposed to be able to judge whether knowledge is stable or not?
So coming back to the ‘open course’ and participants ‘following their own lines of inquiry’ model, how am I to know whether the power of reflection and/or not knowing where ‘stability of knowledge’ fits with Critical Literacies is important or not.
We are already moving on to Week 2 Change – which is described as:
The capacity to reason dynamically, to detect and comprehend processes and flows, to understand the impact of progressions and differences, to reason employing dynamic events such as games and simulations.
As someone who does design online courses from time to time, it’s always very difficult to know how long to spend on each topic and to get the balance between breadth and depth – and of course, as always, you can’t suit all the people all the time!
So far, the course is well worth the time I am spending on it.