A new type of mentorship

Virtual Symposium Critical Academic Reflective Blog Post: A Requirement for the Master of Arts in Leadership and Technology (MALAT) program at Royal Roads University

In the past few weeks, I viewed several live recordings of MALAT virtual symposiums (2017-2019), consisting of experts in the field of digital networked learning. I was most intrigued with the theme of openness (Cronin, 2017) and was forced to examine not only my personal beliefs about openness, but how openness is related to teaching within secondary schools. Extending past my own limits of openness may be a way for me to expand my current definition of digital literacy and consequently, strengthen my teaching of digital literacy.

Childs (2019) stated that the definition of openness is “a continually negotiated space who’s definition is always a ‘work in progress’” (20:00). As well, openness refers to “collaborative practices which include the creation, use and reuse of OER, as well as pedagogical practices employing participatory technologies and social networks for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and empowerment of learners” (Cronin, 2017 as cited by Childs, 2019, 20:00). Since the 1980’s, online privacy has been an issue that has grown in urgency and importance (Dixon, 2011). Open digital practices expose people to potential dangers. Watters (2015) pointed out that in attempts to safeguard student data from advertisers, unscrupulous people and companies, 170 bills have been proposed in the year 2015 that would regulate student privacy. Most secondary students have their own technological devices such as phones, tablets and computers and choose to connect with others in the digital open. They are doing what humans do; they are seeking mentorship and making connections to ensure survival of their environment. This is normal behaviour since social networks “are an essential part of being human” (Rhiengold, 2010, p. 20). Unfortunately, at my school, administration and teachers have reached a roadblock; and students are left experiencing most open learning on their own. Students are not provided authentic, open digital lessons because teachers are limited due to having to follow privacy laws. After listening to many of the virtual symposium participants, I was reminded of the benefits of openness and my constant battle with extending the limits of my own digital openness. As I thought more about openness, my thinking was directed towards digital literacy. How do we teach life-long skills in digital literacy if we do not allow students to fully experience a complete, authentic version of openness?

Digital literacy “includes a wide variety of ethical, social and reflective practices that are embedded in work, learning, leisure and daily life” (Media Smart, 2012). Using, understanding, and creating are believed to be three main principles in digital literacy and of the three, understanding requires the greatest degree of openness. “Understand is that critical piece – it’s the set of skills that help us comprehend, contextualize, and critically evaluate digital media so that we can make informed decisions about what we do and encounter online” (Media Smarts, 2012). If we are graduating students into a virtual world, why are we not providing students with authentic experiences in digital navigation and developing life-long, critical thinking skills within that world?

Childs (2019) pointed out that openness is complex. Marin Weller once said, “It has never been more risky to operate in the open; it has never been more vital to operate in the open” (as cited by Cronin, 2017, 5:00). Nonetheless, extending past my own limits of openness may be a way for me to expand my current definition digital literacy and strengthen my practice for teaching and learning digital literacy. “Openness is a vehicle for educational change” (Childs, 2019, 9:15) and should not be feared. At the very least, I plan to experiment with extending my personal limits of openness and be ready for the opportunity to form a new type of digital literacy mentorship to my students. In the meantime, I may just sit down, relax and colour Catherine Cronin’s page from the Uncommon Women colouring book (http://uncommonwomen.org/colouring-book-pdfs-now-available).


Childs, E. (2019, April 15). Openness and networked learning in a MA degree. [Video recording]. Retrieved from http://ow.ly/fFHu50qnns9

Cronin, C. (2017, April 20). Open culture, open education, open questions. [Video recording]. Retrieved from https://ca-sas.bbcollab.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2017-04-20.0917.M.260AD3030AD273255B9B9C087E6864.vcr&sid=2009211

Dixon, P., & Gellman, R. (2011). Online privacy: A reference handbook. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/royalroads-ebooks/detail.action?docID=766988

Mediasmarts. (2012). Digital Literacy Fundamentals. Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/general-information/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals/digital-literacy-fundamentals

Rhiengold, H. (2010). Attention, and Other 21st-Century Social Media Literacies. Educuase Review, 44(5), 14-24. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2010/10/attention-and-other-21stcentury-social-media-literacies

Royal Roads University. (2013, September 23). Program Description Key Features [Text]. Retrieved from http://www.royalroads.ca/prospective-students/master-arts-learning-and-technology/program-description

Watters, A. (2019). The web we need to give students. Bright Magazine. Retrieved from https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713

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