Of Cats and Computers(or Patterns of Access in the Digital Age)
As Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein state in Sparks of Genius, “The most critical part of research is not getting the data, but making sense of it.” (p. 105) Pattern recognition is a vital skill in the quest to make sense of data, both for the identification of what is there as well as what is missing.
Specific visual or aural patterns related to digital citizenship were somewhat difficult for me to identify. Within my topic, I kept coming back to patterns of behavior: for example, a pattern of overuse of digital devices, or a pattern of inappropriate texting (particularly in gaming environments), or a pattern of illegal downloading of files, or a pattern of online bullying. But I had difficulty translating any these patterns of behavior into something I could share visually or aurally via my webspace. Eventually I considered the issue of digital access: awareness that not everyone has the same opportunities when it comes to technology and the importance of equal access to maintaining a healthy and balanced society. Here was a concept I could represent as a pattern on a map.
Again as the Root-Bernsteins note, recognizing patterns takes practice. With that specific thought in mind, I wanted to give students an opportunity to practice recognizing how patterns of digital access relate to other patterns worldwide and explore what those relationships might mean. I began with a map indicating every internet connected device in the world. Rather than changing this pattern (which, I believe, would render it meaningless since the ideal pattern of digital access would simply be a trivial representation wherein access and population are identical), I added more maps with patterns related to other kinds of data including education spending, religious freedom, population density, internet freedom, the number of cats per country, fiber connectedness, YouTube access, and network readiness. I even include an animated map depicting countries first according to land area (a normal map) and morphing into a map where country sizes are depicted according to population. With ten maps in all, I removed map titles and map keys as ways to identify what the patterns on the maps describe, and I scrambled the order. Now the task is to examine each map and try to match the pattern on it to the proper map label.
01 every internet device
02 world population density
03 internet freedom
04 religious freedom map
05 fiber connected countries
06 public expenditure on education
07 YouTube access
08 land area to population
09 networked readiness worldwide
10 number of cats
Find the correctly labelled maps here.
Once all the maps have been labelled correctly, an examination of patterns that align with the digital access maps may ensue. How is education spending reflected in digital access? How does religious freedom match up with access to YouTube? Is there a relationship between spending on education and the network readiness of a country?
The hope is that by examining and comparing these patterns as well as looking for patterns within the comparisons, students will come to recognize that the digital access may mean something more than simply having a computer available. And with that discussion may come the recognition that digital citizenship is not all that far removed from citizenship in general.
Root-Bernstein, Robert S.; Root-Bernstein, Michele M. (2013-08-26). Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.