Angela Maiers on Learning Spaces and Digital Whiteboards for Expanding Digital Literacies

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Interview conducted by Howard Rheingold.

Video via


" Angela Maiers, seemed to know a lot about another one of my interests -- broadening the definition of literacy.

In a recent interview with Angela via videoskype, the nonlinear learning expedition continued. Before I could ask a first question, I couldn't help wondering about the way Maiers' office had been arranged, so I poked around her website and saved some tabs for later. The whiteboard visible behind her turned out to be made of something called "IdeaPaint," a product Maiers discovered and blogged about. Another blog post introduced a magnetic paint primer she used on a different wall. "What possibilities for learning and creativity do your walls have in store for you?" Maiers blogged. Ultimately, Maiers saw deeper lessons in her office makeover:

I now understand why people love "makeover shows." It's not just about getting new ideas and great tips for your own redesign projects. That's good stuff, but the appeal goes far deeper. The process of "makeover" speaks to the desire and deeper hunger for transfiguration and transformation.

We tune in and pay attention to what people are doing with a can of paint or a piece of wire because it motivates us. We smile when we see the surface decorations, but we are inspired when we see and hear what these small changes have done for the person.

Our spaces, creative or otherwise, influence how we work, how we think, and how we see what we most long for. Or, as mythologist Joseph Campbell so eloquently stated, our spaces are sacred places where we can find ourselves.

Maiers helps schools and educators understand and implement new media literacy programs and practices, but it isn't hard to see why she describes her role as a "lead learner."

In our video interview, Maiers described the actual content on the whiteboard behind her that had attracted my attention as a broader view of literacy -- "what it means to be in the literacy club."

She wants students to "see reading as a life long endeavor that grows in competence and confidence the more it is practiced across increasingly more difficult and diverse text.”

“In an era of new literacies,” she explains, “we are in a simultaneous state of learning to read and reading to learn. Think about it -- who's in the: Blog Literacy Club? Twitter Literacy Club? Financial Literacy Club? Media Literacy Club? Ning Literacy Club? Aren't we all emergent readers when we encounter new texts and mediums that push the boundaries of genre, form, format, and modes, on and offline?"

Moving to a discussion of how attitudes and habits apply to digital literacies, she uses Twitter as a tool that can be a "representation of what the Web seeks to be," namely a source of personal, customized, community-filtered data -- but only to the person who knows how to use it and approaches it with the right mindset.

Social media in education, according to Maiers, is "a mindset challenge, not a skill set challenge."

Similarly, she talks about literacy and learning in the Connected Age as a “way of being” not “a way of knowing.” (