Dr Josephine Fleming
Dr Josephine Fleming

Lecturer, Digital and Youth Culture
The University of Sydney


Dr Josephine Fleming is a dedicated lecturer with The University of Sydney. Her PhD research examined the status of continuing and professional education units in three universities in Sydney, Washington DC and Hong Kong. In particular, she explored the notion of the periphery as an innovative and developmental space and as a marginalised space.

Following a long professional background as a practitioner, writer and teacher in the performing arts, Dr Fleming’s current area of research combines comparative and arts education and have worked on two large national ARC research projects focused on art education. In addition, she is investigating attitudes towards arts education within Australia and is particularly interested in the responsiveness of arts education to the cultural diversity of contemporary Australia.

At the Lifelong Learning Conference, she will be presenting “Learning in the Age of Digital Culture: Challenges and Opportunities,” where she will be exploring the challenges and opportunities of learning in the age of digital culture.

The presentation would draw on the work of Henry Jenkins, Paul Gee, Pierre Lévy, Mizuko Itō, Xiaoli Tian, along with Dr Fleming’s own work and experiences running a unit about youth and digital culture to domestic, international and exchange students who often had to teach her the finer points of breakthrough technologies. 

1. What are the key digital innovations and trends that will drive the future of learning amongst youths?

Educators who embrace digital technology have transitioned the culture of learning away from being teacher-centred and classroom-focussed to a multi-modal learning environment that blends face-to-face and online learning. Online platforms encourage interactivity and allow the provision of timely feedback, both associated with high levels of academic engagement and achievement. Recent theoretical and empirical research has examined and deconstructed video game design to develop a set of principles that are transferable to educational contexts, principles such as user agency, co-design and well-ordered problems. These platforms and current research fundamentally alter how we can design curriculum and teach.

2. How can universities and educators better shape a lifelong learning culture amongst youths?

When you are confronted with new technology in lecture theatres and classrooms and your students step in to assist, you know the dynamic has changed. In such circumstances our ignorance as educators when combined with an openness to learn is living evidence of the need for lifelong learning. Students teaching academics starts to fit what Henry Jenkins terms a participatory culture, where the roles of novice and expert can be fluid. However, educators and their institutions do hold expertise that can positively shape young lives. As such they have a vital role to play.

In Australia, we can begin to see an emphasis on lifelong learning skills emerging – skills that support young people as they transition to life beyond the university. These are often regarded as foundational skills such as creative thinking, reflective practice, leadership and an ongoing commitment to knowledge development.  Their programming is built on the premise that today’s students are likely to have several careers and to need ongoing professional development. To move beyond the rhetoric of lifelong learning skills, however, it behoves all of us as educators along with our institutions to teach these skills in authentic ways that are developed with the many literacies now used by young people. Marketing experts and politicians have used these literacies to both wildly successful and sometimes devastating effect. Surely we as educators, who hold literacy as a core value, must pool our collective intelligence to speak with, for and to our students.

3. What are the key messages that you hope that the audience will take away from your session?

Digital technology infuses most aspects of our lives – it has collapsed distinctions, borders, space and time. As the affordances of digital technology interrupt and disrupt our professional and personal lives so too does our need to stay relevant. This cycle has underpinned a mounting emphasis on lifelong learning, as once-in-a-lifetime education is replaced by just-in-time-education.

My presentation steps beyond digital technology however to consider digital culture – how to respond and thrive in an environment of continual change. For those with access to the technological tools, and this is an important caveat we will consider, digital learning cultures have emerged which are participatory in nature, support learner agency, enable cross-cultural and cross-generational interaction and allow for fluid movement between novice and expert.

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