Thinking Digitally

Importance in the World

Students now entering college have never known a world that is not connected by an extensive, continuously-expanding digital infrastructure. They've grown up with its capabilities and pitfalls. Those of us who are old enough to remember the analog or pre-digital era have a unique vantage point, from which to evaluate traditional technologies and practices which can and should be retained, considered, fought for, and perhaps, introduced to students for the first time.  To think digitally is to carefully – even critically – consider technology adoption in an era of rapid and accelerating change where the distinction between digital and analog, social media and real life, my body and my personal gadgets has become impossible.

Surprisingly, digital thinking begins not with examinations of technology, but with deep reflection upon the human goals and social contexts within which we are teaching, learning, and conducting research. By adopting a human-centered and critical approach toward digital tools and infrastructures, we are better able to determine when digital technologies truly add value to learning experiences and where analog, pre-digital technologies remain critically important options. We may discover that a blend of pencil-and-paper journaling combined with high-definition, smart-phone photography and social-media sharing proves to be the ideal combination of old and new  and intimacy and collaboration to produce a deep and deeply satisfying learning experience. Likewise we may find, a face-to-face, hands-on brainstorming session with peers in the classroom can stimulate and contextualize an enthusiastic digital collaboration with student partners a continent or two away. Digital technologies will never replace teachers, classrooms, or the residential college experience because it is in the interplay of creative energies, accessible technologies, and high-caliber pedagogy where learner interest is engaged, motivation is sparked, and new ideas are born. 

Importance to Campus

Digital thinking is making its way into U of I life in literally dozens of different ways. Whole colleges and departments are devoting more faculty and staff time to developing resources and encouraging new ways of thinking. The iSchool and University libraries are at the forefront of digital initiatives, with the HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) group, the Learning to See Systems program, the Hathi Trust Digital Library, resources such as the Scholarly Commons and Media Commons, and many other innovative programs and groups. 

How CITL Can Help You Think Digitally?

We have years of experience partnering with faculty and staff across disciplines, contributing a broad and deep understanding of educational technologies ranging from decades-old learning-management platforms to complex, state-of-the-art technologies like augmented reality platforms and intelligent teaching systems parsing big-datasets. We're still keeping our pencils and drawing boards, as we move toward thinking digitally about the place of old and new technologies in teaching and learning.