In this episode, Kay Oddone speaks to Laura and Doug about digital literacies in education.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Kay’s website – Linking Learning
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:21] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society, and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Doug Belshaw, Laura is away this time around, so it’s also up to me to say that this podcast season is currently partially unfunded. You can support this podcast and other open projects and products at Open collective.com forward slash. We are open. Now today’s guest is Dr. Kay Oddone, course director and lecturer for the Master of Education Teacher Librarianship Program at Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia. Kay’s research interests centre around open and connected learning and postdigital perspectives. So welcome Kay.
Kay Oddone: [00:01:06] Thank you so much for having me.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:09] Our first question to guess is always what’s your favourite book? Now I know you’re a librarian, which makes this especially hard, but maybe you can sneak a cheeky extra one in there. But what’s your favourite book would you say?
Kay Oddone: [00:01:21] I guess as my favourite book is The Great Gatsby, but my favourite book right now, and my favourite book for the last few years has been Catching Teller Crow, which is actually a young adult novel, but I just was stunned by it and learned so much from it that I just want to share it everywhere I go. It’s by a brother and sister, Amberlynn Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. And it’s this part ghost story, part thriller, and it’s told by from the perspective of two teenage protagonists. They’re both Aboriginal, one has just recently passed away and one is alive, but can see the girl, Beth, who has just recently passed away, and the only other person who can see her is her father. And it’s this really, it’s really awesome because it it swaps between prose and verse, and it jumps from being a story, a regular kind of young adult psychological thriller where she’s trying to solve this recent crime because her father is investigating it and he can’t move on until this crime is solved. And so it’s all very, um, regular young adult novel, but then it swings into these verse sections where there’s all this Aboriginal storytelling and connections with Australia’s colonial history, and Isabel catching is, is that we don’t know whether she’s absolutely crazy or whether she’s telling this story that is has really got major implications for this crime that Beth is trying to solve. It’s it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. And I’ve read a lot of books as a librarian and a lot of young adult books and pictures, picture books, and as a school teacher librarian. So it just really blew me away. I learnt so much about Aboriginal culture and spirituality and things that I’d just never even heard of before. It was really interesting and it was still wrapped up in this murder mystery.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:49] I’m going to I’m definitely going to add that to my my list. So as regular listeners know, we have a book club at Literal Club. So we’ll add this one catching Teller Crow to that. Um, I was trying to think, you know, when you try and make connections to your own reading habits and the stuff that you’ve read. So first of all, The Great Gatsby, read it for the first time last month. Read it again. Yeah.
Kay Oddone: [00:04:12] So it’s it’s one it’s one that I’ve loved since I was a teenager. But really it’s like my standard. It is my favourite book. But then others come and go and this catching teller crow has been holding strong for a few years now.
Doug Belshaw: [00:04:27] Well, the Catching Teller Crow obviously I haven’t read it, but when you were talking about it, I thought that sounds a little bit like American Gods or Spider Boys. Anansi boys sorry, by Neil Gaiman.
Kay Oddone: [00:04:38] Yes, it kind of. It’s a little bit like that. I love Neil Gaiman’s work. It’s a little bit like that. I think it’s you cannot separate it from the Australian and the indigenous peoples culture. It’s. And in the same way as like American Gods and Neil Gaiman’s connects very much with those sorts of cultures, American Native American cultures and things like that. So there is there are connections in that sort of respect. Yeah, but I couldn’t I’d never read anything like this.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:12] Well, the only other thing I was thinking about, because it sounded like the narrator a little bit unreliable. Yes. And I was the only book that I’ve read where. Like like that that I can think of is drive your plough over the bones of the dead.
Kay Oddone: [00:05:30] Oh, I haven’t heard of that one.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:32] By Olga. Toca toca toca toca. She’s a Polish author, so it’s called drive your plough over the bones of the dead. Wow. And it’s about an old woman. And people die around her and stuff. And you’re not quite sure what’s going on?
Kay Oddone: [00:05:49] Yes, but it’s it’s incredible.
Doug Belshaw: [00:05:51] Yeah.
Kay Oddone: [00:05:52] It sounds like there would be similarities in the fact that the the character speaks in, in rhymes and puzzles and, and it takes you a while to draw out where she’s, what she’s trying to get at and what she’s actually saying. But the language is really lyrical and beautiful, so it’s really enjoyable to spend that time trying to work out what she’s saying. And then you go, oh, I see.
Doug Belshaw: [00:06:19] That’s fantastic. Right. So that’s definitely going near the top of my reading list. Wonderful. So we’ll dig into some of this because obviously being based in Australia, you bring a very different perspective to like a European perspective or a North American perspective or anywhere else for that matter. Um, we’re asking the same questions to begin all of these interviews and the the one after your favourite book, I guess, is there just to mention that this season of the podcast, of course, this season eight, is looking at the future of new literacies, and that’s part of a submission to the Winter 2023 edition of the Journal of Media Literacy. Or as you might hear us talk about it. And the essential question for the podcast series is how might we define the future of media and information literacy in theory and practice, which is a little bit dry. Um, so let’s try and make it more exciting, and let’s talk about the work that you’ve done and are currently doing in this area, which will give some context, bring it to life a little bit, and just situate you in this kind of landscape as well.
Kay Oddone: [00:07:25] Sure. So I’ve been an educator for over 25 years now, which is a bit scary. I started teaching in the 1990s, teaching grade one, and when I was teaching grade one, and back then in Queensland, we didn’t have prep a prep year. So my little ones were in their first year of school, were encountering letters and numbers for the first time basically, and I was teaching them how to read and how to count what the curriculum was, count to ten and began to be doing very basic additions and things like that. So since then, I’ve taught all through primary school, all through secondary school, and now I’m teaching postgrad students who are all teachers who are studying to become teacher librarians. And so I’ve been involved in teaching literacy of some sort or another for a very long time, because teacher librarians obviously were focussed quite heavily on media literacy, information literacy, um, and traditional literacies as well, because a big part of the, of the role is to be promoting reading and books and developing a reading culture in the school. So I guess the work that I’ve been doing most recently is taking that background and looking at the impact and influence of generative AI, which is where I think a lot of people are at at the moment, and a lot of educators are thinking about, and I really believe that teacher librarians, I’m going to call them TL’s. We call them TL’s. They’re teacher qualified teachers who also have a qualification in librarianship. In a lot of other places, they are school librarians or there’s lots of different names for them.
Kay Oddone: [00:09:10] Uh, I think TL’s can take a really big role in developing their own and other teachers and their students literacy. And all of that goes with that. I sort of see AI literacy as. At one more spoke under the big information literacy digital literacy sort of umbrella. And so when I think about this, these new forms of literacy, they new and they’re not they’re we’re using new words to describe them. But a lot of the capabilities that we’re thinking about when we talk about them hark back to information and digital literacy, in my opinion, although there’s just so many different ways to define them, it’s difficult to put your finger on. But I think about the context and I see generative AI really impacting significantly. But I’m worried that it’s being overlooked in a, in a school setting and in a school context, and that we’re getting carried away with how we use these tools. Um, in our practice, but not necessarily how we develop those greater understandings and that sort of meta understandings of of why we’re using them, where they’ve come from, how they operate, all of those sorts of things. We’re getting swept away into just how we how can we use them in our in our practice and in our lessons? And how how might our students use them? Should our students, you know, how might they use them in their tasks and things like that? So I think getting back. Sorry. So, so.
Doug Belshaw: [00:10:53] Right, right now what’s what’s kind of if we take TL’s and teachers and maybe lecturers at university and obviously students as well, um, in some parts of the world, the answer as ever, with anything that’s new that comes along like mobile phones or whatever is, is to ban them and to hope that they go away. Um, is that the case in your context or is there a bit more use? Like are there any directives or are there any policies that you know of what’s going on?
Kay Oddone: [00:11:29] It’s it’s kind of a moving feast right now. We have some because Australia is so big. We have every state has its own education department run by the state government, and each one will make their own decisions. And then there’s also systems of private education which make their own decisions. And so there is such variability in terms of whether they’re being banned per se or whether they’re being embraced. From what I see, quite a number of the state systems, state government systems have banned it, banned ChatGPT, at least, um, which basically is banning one tiny little sliver of, of the whole thing. But I feel that that decision has been made because they are aware that the government are working on different frameworks, and they’re kind of saying, let’s just put a halt on it until we know more, until we have a plan to move forward. And then there’s other South Australia has gone right ahead and said, no, we’re not banning these things. We’re we’re acknowledging that they’re tools that we need to think about how we use them and how we develop. A student skills using them and teachers skills. So so there differences across the states and across Australia.
Doug Belshaw: [00:12:52] And have have you. So we’ve talked about the policy decisions and stuff. Sometimes the the least informed, but the most vocal people are parents like myself, you know, who have an opinion and that affects school policy or what the kids do at home or whatever. Do you have a sense of kind of popular opinion and what parents might think about this?
Kay Oddone: [00:13:21] I really wouldn’t feel comfortable making a comment overall because in my position, I don’t really engage with parents. I do see faith. I follow a lot of Facebook groups just to get a sense of where people are at. But again, they’re mostly teacher Facebook groups rather than parent Facebook groups. My kids are growing up, so I would feel like an interloper in a parent Facebook.
Doug Belshaw: [00:13:45] Of course. Of course. I’m just asking the question. So the in the Facebook groups, I’m just interested if the kind of vibe is similar to to kind of elsewhere in the world, kind of whether there’s particular parts of the world which are more likely to want to embrace these technologies or think, oh my goodness, thank. Thank the Lord that something’s come along, which is going to help me mark and assess things more quickly or plan lessons more quickly or whatever.
Kay Oddone: [00:14:10] Sure, there’s definitely a vibe of this could be the answer we’ve been looking for. And I know that in Australia, and I’m pretty sure it’s similar in other parts of the world, but we have a massive teacher shortage and we have a lot of unhappiness in teaching profession in terms of workload and the demand that is placed on teachers from all sides. And so there’s a lot of discussion about how these tools might be able to be used for lesson planning, for constructing comments and reducing marking load and things like that, for differentiating to because we have big classes in our schools and many different levels of of learners within the same classroom that teachers are trying to support. So there is certainly that discussion. There’s also a bit of discussion about how do we respond to students using these tools to shortcut the writing of the essay, or do we need to bring everything back in house and do paper and pencil tasks? And let’s just go.
Doug Belshaw: [00:15:17] Back to the word differentiation. Sure. It’s a word which is used all the time in kind of educational and circles and things. But there might be some people listening to this who haven’t come across this word. Could you just explain differentiation and then how I might be useful in that regard?
Kay Oddone: [00:15:34] Sure. So differentiation is basically an acknowledgement that all students learn at different rates and that they are all differently abled. And so the teacher, rather than teaching one curriculum that’s aimed at, say, the average age of the students in the group or the average grade level of the students in the group, they differentiate that curriculum to make it more advanced or more complex for students who are more able, and then to make it more developmental and to scaffold and develop students skills at a lower level for some students. So they are basically providing the content, but at a range of different levels of, um, complexity and planning tasks at different levels. Sometimes they need to they need to plan completely different lessons and focus on content that’s come before, because students haven’t already haven’t been able to engage with it for a number of reasons. So using a generative AI, you can put a text into, say, ChatGPT and ask for a simplified version, or ask for the text to be generated at a more complex level. You can give the content, put the content in and ask to have generate questions at various levels of complexity. Um, it’s it’s really interesting. Huge time saver. I mainly have concerns, though, that we again, we need that literacy underlying to understand. A how the tools are doing this differentiation for us, so that we understand whether or not we can rely on what’s being created in terms of quality, and also the how these tools work. Because if we’re inputting content, we don’t necessarily own that content. And so it’s actually potentially breaching copyright, breaching privacy, breaching other sorts of regulations to just input data that we don’t own in into an upload it onto a server that another company owns and making it available in that way. That’s really.
Doug Belshaw: [00:17:59] Interesting. I wonder if, I mean, you might not know of a particular example of this, but I can definitely imagine that it would be very tempting for a teacher to upload. Potentially private student data. Yes. So that so that the I could differentiate for this particular kid. But then as you say that that is putting quite personal information onto a big tech server. Yeah. So to put.
Kay Oddone: [00:18:30] To generate feedback on a task, you would imagine you would need to submit some of the task, which is the student’s own work. And, and the teacher doesn’t necessarily have the permission from the student to do that. And the other concern is there’s a number of different apps that you can upload a document. So for example a research article and have it summarise. Or you can ask questions of it like what are the three main points this article makes? Which would be fantastic in terms of simplifying a document for a student or simplifying lesson planning. But there’s a lot of. Journal articles that are behind paywalls or that are on databases that people pay a lot of libraries pay a lot of money for. And so while ethically, in many ways, I can see this is why I love open, open source and open publishing. And, you know, this is why I think research needs to be made much more open at the moment. It’s potentially making, you know, a serious breach of the agreement. If you’re uploading these documents into an international server to have it analysed.
Doug Belshaw: [00:19:44] Yeah, absolutely. And the the interesting thing is that we, we know because we’ve seen the agreements when, for example, Microsoft has an enterprise agreement with businesses and they explicitly say that your data that you enter won’t be used as training data for our systems. And the other agreements that are not those enterprise agreements don’t have that line. And so we know that these everything that we upload and everything like that is being used as training data to make the system better, which comes with issues like you say.
Kay Oddone: [00:20:20] It’s also an obviously again, no one has time. TLDR but terms and conditions can be surprising when there are some generative. There are some tools that have previously been recommended by educators, and rightly so, to students to use to help them enhance their writing. And now they’ve introduced elements of generative AI into those tools. And when you upload the content in order to get suggestions on how to write, how to express the words more the text more effectively, how to improve grammar, those sorts of things, the text is actually then owned by that company. And these are these are apps or platforms that have been previously freely used by teachers and encouraged, whereas others like ChatGPT people are saying, oh, you know, that’s the scary one we need to ban. But their terms and conditions are actually a lot better for the user than some of these other ones.
Doug Belshaw: [00:21:24] So you’re right that all of these things are going to be in everything soon. So when you put all of this stuff into ChatGPT, like you say, some of it is copyrighted, some of it is student owned and potentially personal identifiable information. If you if you just think, oh, I’ll just copy and paste that you’re a tired teacher, it’s late at night. You know, you need the assessment done by tomorrow morning. You’re copying and pasting stuff in for the sake of time. It’s easily done, isn’t it?
Kay Oddone: [00:21:54] This is the concern that I have, and I. This is why I think that we really need to be really excited about the potential of how we can use these tools, but also really aware that we need to be familiar with all of the implications of using these tools and have that build that literacy and familiarity and fluency with using these tools in the same way that we have with other digital tools in the past.
Doug Belshaw: [00:22:26] So we’ve started talking about kind of Australia. We’re using a series of lenses to help explore this kind of key question about the future of media and information literacy. And those lenses are race, gender, AI and geography. And we’re taking we’re trying to take an intersectional approach to that. So you’re based in Australia, as we’ve already heard, in terms of the book that you’ve recommended and some of the policy stuff that you’ve started talking about. But let’s just dig into that a bit more in terms of how location might impact new literacy, such as as media and information literacy. One obvious one for me is the fact that you do have teacher librarians, which is not the case elsewhere in the world. So maybe let’s just start with like whose job is it in Australia to teach information literacy and media literacy, as opposed to other places in the world?
Kay Oddone: [00:23:20] That’s a really great question. Ideally, it is the teacher librarians job because they are qualified as educators and qualified in information management. They are qualified librarians. They have this dual qualification. And so the aim is that they are able to support teachers to plan effective curriculum that embeds information literacy and media literacy, as well as cooperatively teach and collaboratively teach students so that we have this really well rounded development of skills all the way through from early years right through to year 12, which is our final year of school. Unfortunately, at the moment we have always had a great, strong history of support for teacher librarians, but this is being seen. It’s slowly reducing and at the moment we only have one state in Australia, New South Wales, that actually mandates this role. So every other state, it’s up to the principal whether or not they invest their funds in a teacher librarian position. And obviously, understandably, principals have really big jobs, really hard decisions to make with really limited funds. And if they don’t understand how TLS can support teachers and students and they have that. I don’t want to say old fashioned, but perhaps a less updated understanding of TLS, because previously they were very much associated with traditional literacies only and and a little bit of research, you know, support on the side. Whereas now with digital literacies and media literacy is coming through. That’s such an important part of our of the role. But they may not realise that. And so they invest in a literacy specialist or, you know, an. Teacher, which are all really important and really good decisions, but just at the cost of a teacher librarian because it’s not mandated.
Doug Belshaw: [00:25:29] Do you feel like sometimes semantics are important? Do you feel like and things need to change names as the role changes? Do you feel like the the name teacher librarian needs to?
Kay Oddone: [00:25:40] That’s such $1 million question. It’s so it’s so touchy. Everyone has a different view.
Doug Belshaw: [00:25:49] Yeah.
Kay Oddone: [00:25:49] I don’t think the name is necessarily.
Doug Belshaw: [00:25:52] No. Okay, okay. It’s just that I remember early. So in my second school when I was teaching, um, one of my roles, I became e-learning staff tutor. I basically spend 50% of my time teaching and 50% of my time teaching other teachers how to use technology, and that was not a role that existed in any other school with that name, as far as I was aware. Um, but the name of the role made it obvious what it was that I did. Um, yeah. So I was just asking the question as to whether sometimes the name of things confuses people.
Kay Oddone: [00:26:29] I think it probably contributes to the old fashioned view, but I also, I can’t think of another name that adequately, adequately describes all of the things that it does, because they do still have that responsibility to develop reading culture, to support students literacy and their and reading for pleasure to provide that space for students to come. And there’s so much research now saying that’s so important for wellbeing. So there’s all of those things as well. It’s not just a technology role, it’s not just an information based role. And so because it’s such a rounded role and it supports so many different people, it’s difficult to think of a name unless we came up with something completely new. Maybe ChatGPT could come up with something that completely new, but to say information resource manager or to say they they reduce detract from the other aspects of the role.
Doug Belshaw: [00:27:32] And I mean to have a qualification in both teaching and librarianship like you want you want that in the title, don’t you. That’s a that’s a good thing to do. So we’re talking about location. By the time this episode goes out, the referendum on the 14th of October, which is also my wife’s birthday, will have taken place. Yes. That’s maybe a really interesting way to explore the like how location affects things like information and media literacy. So could you just explain for those who aren’t aware what the referendum is about and why information and media literacy is are playing a role in that?
Kay Oddone: [00:28:15] Yes, absolutely. So at the moment as we record this, we’re getting ready for a referendum and a referendum. I don’t know if I should probably investigate. I don’t know if other countries have referenda.
Doug Belshaw: [00:28:27] Well, we had one on we had one on Brexit.
Kay Oddone: [00:28:29] So yes of course. Yes. Well we’ve got a very similar, you know, constitutional monarchy type setup. You know here in Australia basically it’s compulsory to vote in Australia. And everyone who is enrolled to vote must vote in this referendum, which is making a proposed change to the Australian constitution. And you vote either yes in favour of the change or no against the change. That’s basically all you do. You’re not voting for a person or choosing a group, you’re just saying yes or no to these suggested changes. And our referenda in historically are really hard to pass. You’ve got to get the majority of votes in four states, and then the majority of votes across the country, and a majority of votes in at least four of the six states. So you’ve got to have a majority overall and then a majority across, so that it’s not all of the southern states or all of the, you know, you don’t have that sort of.
Doug Belshaw: [00:29:31] Oh, I see. Or or it’s not it’s not 52% and 48%, for example, like Brexit.
Kay Oddone: [00:29:38] Yes. Right. Because our state populations aren’t well distributed. There’s a lot more people in the in the south east corner of Australia. And, and so it needs to be across the whole country because obviously it’s the Constitution across the whole country. So this particular referendum is whether there should be a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, which would be like a committee or a group that would offer advice to both the Parliament and the executive government about laws and policies and decisions that impact our First Nations people. So it’s it’s a really people have really strong views over whether or not it’s. It’s right to vote yes, or it’s right to vote no. And there’s some people who are who are saying, no, we can’t. We need to vote no because of the way that the that the referendum has been designed and the questions that are being asked. And then there’s others who are wanting to vote no because they just don’t agree with the concept at all. And then there’s many, many people saying we want to vote yes. So there’s really a very tense time socially and politically in Australia.
Doug Belshaw: [00:30:47] So I did I did see one thing. And so one thing I found that people who represent the voice of the status quo and tradition and the the right, they tend to be very good at slogans. Yes. And did I think if it was something like, if you don’t know, vote no or something like that.
Kay Oddone: [00:31:07] Yes, I’ve seen that one. Yeah. Yes.
Doug Belshaw: [00:31:10] Which is interesting isn’t it, because it’s basically say if there’s a shred of a doubt in your mind, as you say, because you legally have to vote. It’s not like you can just go, oh, I don’t know. So I’m just not going to I’m not going to take part. You have to vote. So it’s basically saying the threshold for you personally in terms of your knowledge about the situation. If it’s not 100%, vote no.
Kay Oddone: [00:31:32] And this is unfortunately something that is taking advantage of the complexity of our information ecosystem because it is incredibly difficult to navigate because people are so passionate, rightly so. But then they’re also so many different channels to communicate information and misinformation. It’s really difficult to actually clarify and understand what the implications of each you know of. Yes vote or no vote actually hold. And that no vote slogan is really taking advantage of that doubt and that fear of not understanding. But also, I think, a fear in general of misinformation. People nowadays think everything you read, you can’t trust. So therefore I have doubts. I’m going to vote no, which is really not a very it’s not a good way to.
Doug Belshaw: [00:32:30] No and slogans, I mean with Brexit this is the only thing I can think of which is in any way it’s a referendum. It’s not the same kind of deal in terms of giving a voice to marginalised people, but the the kind of side of the bus kind of thing for the Brexit vote was let’s take back was it hundreds of millions of pounds a week from the EU and give it to our NHS? And that is such a simple message that it almost breaks through that. That cloud of misinformation. Trust the the temptation to to to. So I’m going to add it up. The simplicity of the message breaks through the kind of information landscape, and it’s a very clear message. It means you don’t really have to think any more. Like if you’re the kind of person who likes the NHS, well, this is the thing you’re going to vote for then. And I guess it’s a similar kind of thing in any landscape where there is a lot of misinformation. The simpler the message, the further it’s going to go.
Kay Oddone: [00:33:36] Yes. And I think it really that no slogan, if you don’t know, vote no really does appeal to people’s fear of their inability to understand the the concepts and gives them an avenue to just stop thinking like you said and make a decision to vote no. Which is really unfortunate because we want people to be really considering all perspectives and voting from an informed understanding. But that sort of no slogan really does play on people’s doubts and fears.
Doug Belshaw: [00:34:18] So in a perfect world, if we could wave a magic wand, given that we’re talking about media and information literacy, what kind of things? Let’s just use this as an example. What kinds of things would people do you feel need to be up to speed with as a citizenry to be able to make that informed decision, given that a lot of news and information and stuff from the government elsewhere is coming to them through social media and digital means, what kind of things do they need to be aware of? Is it is it algorithms? Is it the slogan kind of stuff and the the misinformation being spread by memes? What kind of stuff do they need to know about, do you think?
Kay Oddone: [00:35:02] I think one of the most powerful things that everyone it would be wonderful if everyone had an awareness of is that skill of lateral reading. And we are slowly seeing that being introduced in our schools and seeing a shift from the Craap test, which was the old way of evaluating static information that we used to teach in libraries, and moving towards lateral reading as a way of fact checking. So yes, you may encounter a meme, you may encounter a strongly worded argument in social media. You may read government statements, you know, because obviously both sides of the of, you know, the left and the right are are on different sides of the of the coin with the referendum. So you might read statements from each one. And it’s really important to be able to recognise that that’s one source and that it’s important to read laterally and read across a number of different sources in order to develop your own opinion and your own understanding. I think that would be a really important skill or capability that would really help. That way you don’t get sucked down into that. Um. I don’t want to say filter bubble. You don’t get sucked down into that one way of thinking that’s been suggested to you by one source.
Doug Belshaw: [00:36:36] Yeah. And I guess a lot of the time it’s the I think there’s been plenty of studies on this. I remember when what is now called X used to be called Twitter, introduced the ability. Well, it had a pop up. When you retweeted something that you hadn’t, it didn’t think you’d read yet, so you hadn’t clicked through and was like, hey, would you like to read this first before you retweet it? Because people are just reading headlines and straplines rather than the actual article? And why do they do that? Because it agrees with their pre-existing view of the world. It’s or it’s it’s it’s playing on our basest part of human nature, you know, fear of difference, our fear of change and a need to project status or to to get status from a group. There’s a wonderful magazine actually published in Australia, which I subscribed to called New Philosopher, and I was reading that as I couldn’t sleep at 3 a.m. this morning, and there was an interview with with a philosopher who was talking about how when things get very complex and when you are operating in a, in an environment like social media where there’s algorithms and all this kind of stuff going on, eventually everything turns into a signal as to whether someone’s a friend or an enemy. And I thought that explains a lot in terms of how society is developing in the 21st century. If everything eventually boils down to signalling whether this person’s a friend of ours or an enemy of ours, that’s a very tribal thing. Yeah, and I guess that explains some of the referendum decisions and some of the outcomes that have happened around the world.
Kay Oddone: [00:38:27] I think that makes a lot of sense. And it also plays into how busy everyone is. No one feels as though they have time to read the whole article. They read the headline and feel that that’s all they have time to do to get across what’s happening in current affairs. And so that whole tribalism, it’s it’s like we’re just we’re going back to the the ways that have worked in the past in this as a way of coping with the business that we’re currently experiencing.
Doug Belshaw: [00:39:00] Mm hmm.
Doug Belshaw: [00:39:01] Well, let’s turn to some of the the other lenses. So we’ve talked about kind of we’ve already touched on AI a bit, and we’ve talked about kind of the where you’re situated in Australia and what’s going on there and stuff. But let’s go back to AI as a, as a lens. Again, this, this essential question is about the future of media and information literacy. So in terms of AI, what do you see happening? What would you like to discuss around that?
Kay Oddone: [00:39:32] What I would really like to see happening in terms of our future directions with information and media literacy and critical critical literacy, is to understand that these skills develop over time and these capacities develop over time. And it’s more than just a checklist of skills. It’s we want almost these capabilities to become innate so that when you do read a a piece of information, your first thought is, now how can I not not a cynical not a cynical thought, but can I trust this? What’s the source? What are other people saying about this? You know, has this been why did I get this piece of information? Who wrote it and what were they thinking when they wrote it? What was their goal? What was their aim? Whose voices aren’t I hearing when I read this? All of those sorts of questions. We want to be innate in this. And so I really, honestly believe that to get that innate built in sense, we need to start developing and teaching and talking about these things from very early in, in school education and not leaving it until students are, you know, at university or thinking, oh, they don’t have to make big decisions until then.
Kay Oddone: [00:40:54] So we don’t need to worry about it because it’s not about the decision making or the types of information necessarily. It’s about having that inbuilt capacity to just automatically do those things, have those questions and. I. So I believe that we need to shift our focus in schools away from just focusing on building research skills to respond to an assessment task and building seeing it more as a life skill and seeing it more as a a capacity that we want our students to have so that they can independently navigate everyday life. Because that’s how embedded information is and how embedded these technologies are in our engagements. No matter what direction we take or what tool we use, little ones playing on the iPad, watching YouTube are being exposed to, you know, the video that comes up next has been algorithmically decided for them. It’s they’re already being exposed to it and are engaging with it. So building these really positive information behaviours. From very early on. That’s what I would like to see.
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:10] So that’s fascinating to me. Especially my kids are 16 and 12 at the time we’re recording this. And so technology has changed a lot over the time that my son’s been alive. He was born in the same year as the, I think the first iPhone or the second generation of the iPhone or something came out and the year he was born. Then the iPad came out and the year my daughter was born. If you think about everything has happened since then, but I thought it was interesting that you talked about the algorithm deciding what’s coming next. And one of the things which things which really concerns me is that I’ve already found in my life up to this point that people don’t. There are some people who love making decisions, but there are few and far between compared to most people who don’t like making decisions for whatever reasons it might be, they don’t feel like they’ve got enough information. And that goes back to what we were talking about with the referendum. Or it might be emotional or it might, whatever reason it is. I’ve definitely found that people don’t like making decisions. So if you’ve now got an algorithm or a tool or something which can make a decision for you, and most of the time it seems to work out okay. I’m really concerned that we’re going to lose almost as a species over time, the ability to make our own decisions. And that is that’s a fundamental human quality. And I just wondered if you had any any thoughts on on that, especially when it comes to educating teachers and and helping teachers help kids as well. Because as you point out, a lot of the time we’re preparing them for tests.
Kay Oddone: [00:43:50] Yes, I really I feel like the development of these platforms could be a really fantastic impetus for reimagining. The focus that education needs to take school education. And I know that there’s been these sorts of discussions for many years and and nothing really ever changes. And we’re still really have we have industrial era classrooms and curricula in a completely different world. But like you say, these the impact of algorithms and and AI, they could fundamentally change how we develop as people and not just as learners, but as as people who are and how we engage with each other and how society operates and. Unfortunately, at the moment, the way things are being shaped is that all of this data and all of these algorithms are reflecting the social norms of a very small group of people. It’s not even that. The way that we’re being influenced is, is in a way that reflects the richness of our humanity.
Doug Belshaw: [00:45:04] Yeah, that’s that’s a really good point. So we’ve talked about Aborigines and Aboriginal people and Torres Island Street. I’m going to get this wrong. But people who have been. Torres Strait Island, thank you. People who have been marginalised over the last few hundred years in certain parts of the world. And as you say, if they’re starting to use large language models which have been trained on datasets that don’t include them, but they find that, for example, which is quite likely that, you know, they end up doing better in systems that that reward, that kind of knowledge. What does that mean in terms of the loss of indigenous knowledge, of ways of being, of methods of understanding the world, which are human rather than kind of post-human and post-digital? It blows my mind.
Kay Oddone: [00:45:59] They’re really big. They’re really big questions and really important questions that may not have answers at all, but definitely don’t have simple answers. I just keep coming back to and I don’t know whether it’s just because I’ve been so embedded for so long. I keep coming back to education and how we need to make sure that those. Those little ones who are currently in school, who who are going to be developing and continuing the development of platforms in the future. Like this. It may be too late. I don’t know, but that they are aware of these things, of the implications of of what we’re dealing, of the platforms and the and the decisions that are being made now. Um. I just see a need for a shift away from a focus on content towards greater a greater literacy development and a literacy development that imparts skills for living so that we aren’t just focusing on particular chunks of knowledge, that we are arming students with the capacity to make better decisions, to understand why decision making is so important, and the implications of these of of allowing ourselves just to have this information wash over us and algorithms make our own, make decisions for us. And I know that we’re sort of battling against human nature in many ways, but I can’t help but think you’ve got to be optimistic. You’ve got to think, this is how we can do it, you know? Otherwise we might as well all give up.
Doug Belshaw: [00:47:40] I’ve seen some people finding that actually, they can help students be clearer in their writing by making better prompts to large language models, which gives us some hope for the future, I guess. Kay, we’re going to have to come to the end of this podcast. It’s been a fascinating conversation. Is there anything that you feel that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t had a chance to mention so far?
Kay Oddone: [00:48:03] I think that we’ve we’ve discussed a lot of really big ideas and a lot of really important stuff. I guess the only other thing was that I mentioned before about how. All of the platforms that we are basing education on these days are commercial and are for profit models, that we’re signing whole schools up to Google Suites and opening up, you know, student data to platforms where we just don’t know what the ultimate agendas of these companies are. And without wanting to sound paranoid, or I do get concerned that this, again, is that decision making that’s done over because of ease and what’s there, rather than what we should be doing?
Doug Belshaw: [00:48:56] No, no, absolutely. And I think that we’re we’re seeing some technologists. It’s very geeky at the moment, but hopefully they’ll get easier training their own language models on their own data sets and maybe not sending those things off to big tech companies, but keeping them on their own networks and things. And I think that’s happening mainly in some parts of some universities at the moment. But I’m hoping that that will become more common, because what would be amazing would be if we did have indigenous LMS, for example, so that people could potentially question and find out things on a series of data models rather than one to rule them all. And just in the same way, from my point of view, Twitter was this kind of private public square for a few years, but now people are going off to their own places, for better or for worse. Yes, possibly the same things will happen with LMS as well. Instead of everyone using ChatGPT or whatever, or Google Bard or whatever the latest thing is today, maybe we will end up with everyone using more local ones and maybe that’s going to be better.
Kay Oddone: [00:50:07] I really hope the almighty dollar doesn’t win because so much. There’s so much potential with these platforms and so much richness that we can and. And so many achievements we can make moving forward, because they can process far beyond what our brains can. But we don’t want to lose our essential humanity and who we are in that trade off. And I think that if we have that, that spread and of different platforms rather than mass ownership by one company, then we might be able to achieve that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:50:47] Okay. Thank you again. If people are listening to this and they’d like to find out more about you and your work, where? Where should they go? Where can I direct them to?
Kay Oddone: [00:50:56] You can find me on LinkedIn. I also have my own site linkinglearning.com, and that’s a blog slash portfolio space where I like to store everything and then push it out to the to the platforms. But basically I think there’s only one Cardone anywhere, so you can Google me and find everything.
Doug Belshaw: [00:51:19] Just to spell your surname. For those who are listening and might not know how to spell it, it’s o d d o n e.
Kay Oddone: [00:51:25] That’s correct.
Doug Belshaw: [00:51:26] And apologies if I’ve if I’ve pronounce it incorrectly during this podcast.
Doug Belshaw: [00:51:32] Great. Thank you very much!
Kay Oddone: [00:51:33] Thank you!