Thursday, August 14, 2014

Literacies as owned spaces in a changing world #IFLALimerick

More liveblogging from the IFLA Information Literacy Satellite conference held in Limerick, Ireland. The second keynote is from Conor Galvin, UCD Dublin College of Human Sciences, talking about Literacies as owned spaces in a changing world. His session touched on several different interesting perspectives on technology, education, and my post may look a bit disjointed as I pick bits out on the fly. In fact there wasn't so much about literacies in the end, but it was certainly a session I enjoyed. He started by asking us to talk to the few people around you about something that you'd discovered during the morning.
He mentioned work on use of technology in schools, and identified the importance of the approach and attitudes of the teacher. Galvin talked briefly about the European project "The free and safe platform for teachers to connect, develop collaborative projects and share ideas in Europe".
He went on to talk about the tech lifeline of people born in about 1995 (i.e. currently in early years at university), with landmarks like palmpilots, Napster, and iPhones. He said that they have a deep relationship with their technology (which was contrasted with "us" having a less deep relationship - which given the people in the room here I would not say is necessarily a contrast). Galvin said that students' views of institutional technology was critical, and that it did not fit in with the young people's habits although (I am glad to say) he did not buy into the idea of digital "natives".
Galvin then asked us to discuss and identify how our own institutions were doing in terms of interacting and supporting students with technology (most people thought their institutions were somewhere in the middle).
Following on from that he gave a trenchant critique of the current European Union take on higher education and how it has stopped being about a good life, or personal development, but rather employability and service of national economy. This is something I agree with (I mean in seeing it as impoverished, and not actually what education should be mostly about). He identified some virtually invisible leaders who are plugged into the political networks, who may be key people in commercial companies, European bureaucrats, heads of associations and so forth. He put up a nice quote (which I wasn't quick enough to capture) about how if you had universities run on marketing principles you get education that does not enable people to transcend their time (as opposed to cope with it). Galvin saw the increased politicisation, deregulation and managerialism of unversities as very worrying and quoted Habermas who talked about "refeudalisation" of society as people lost their voices and control over things: this is bound to lead to discontent and disorder as well.
He finished by talking about a more fulfilling vision for education, and this is where he came back to spaces and libraries, giving some examples of libraries that are "owned" public spaces where people can learn. In his slide on "Literacies/ Capabilities" he included words like "enjoy" and "values" as well as more concrete terms. Galvin urged librarians to get involved in strategy to help these kinds of changes come about, not as "deliverers" of a service, but rather as advocates, co-researchers, teachers and mentors.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Nora Barnacle's house, Galway, August 2014

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