Tag Archives: digital literacy

Naplan our benchmark? Why not “The Horizon Report?”

Our school is in the process of an external review. As learning enhancement coordinator, I was reviewed as part of a small group which included the learning support and transition coordinators.  During our meeting the reviewers focused on the NAPLAN results, and asked us how we used this data. We were encouraged to drill down into specific data which would allow us to address the specific issues. For example, if our students’ weaknesses were revealed in the area of writing, we would make it our business to find out if the weakness resided in the mechanics of writing, the critical thinking component, etc.

At some point during the meeting I started thinking about how we came to put so much emphasis on NAPLAN testing, and if we had any other criteria with which to evaluate our teaching. Surely there were more contemporary skills to base our assessment on – beyond spelling, grammar, numeracy, reading and writing? It’s pretty obvious that, although all these things are important, we’ve come a long way in terms of essential skills in the last few years.

Just look at The Horizon Report. Its discussion of technology adoption highlights critical challenges, and these include digital media literacy, new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing and researching (eg blogs and networked presentations). These trends and challenges are indicative of ‘the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn and even socialise’.

And yet how many schools are engaging in conversation about these challenges? Or are they still looking at spelling, reading and writing. During our meeting I was disturbed to hear educators blame the introduction of one-to-one notebook computers for the decline in writing standards. Don’t get me started on that.

Back to my original point – who looks at the Horizon Report in schools? At best it’s read as an interesting or challenging extra piece of information. Is it too challenging? Considered irrelevant? Too far from what we are doing so we just put it away since it isn’t seen as crucial to learning and teaching? Or is it that we refuse to acknowledge how ubiquitous technology has become and think we can prevent the adoption of things like mobile phones? And yet, The Horizon Report states: “Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more”.

We are still focusing on the problematic nature of digital and mobile technologies – problematic because they disrupt our orderly, nineteenth century classroom. They create chaos. But we need that chaos, we need to shake up the traditional lessons to re-engage students and help them connect to and take ownership of their learning.

I see the problem residing in the disconnect between school and life. How can students be engaged in an artificial construct which separates knowledge into rigid compartments, knowledge which is delivered in a way which students find foreign and unengaging. Shouldn’t we look at how our students find what they need to know, how they create things, how they organise events within their networks? We still see this as separate from learning. We are convinced that young people’s online socialising is superficial, a waste of valuable time.

Howard Rheingold’s post, How does digital media impact youth political and civic engagement?says otherwise. Rheingold points toJoseph Kahne‘s very important empirical study about young people’s use of digital media and how it impacts their engagement — or lack of engagement — in civic affairs and politics.

That research, Kahne says in an interview, punctures some core myths about online activism, and strongly indicates that the virtual world nourishes youth engagement in real-world issues.

What we found is that young people were more likely to volunteer offline when they were part of online networks.

The question becomes, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for social enterprise and civic engagement?

And I would add, how can youth’s embrace of digital media and enthusiasm for the Internet be leveraged for what happens in terms of teaching and learning at school?

Online, young people are gaining skills … how to work in a group, how to negotiate things, how to get organized, how to organize other people… We also found that their online participation increased their exposure to diverse viewpoints… 

How diverse are the viewpoints students are exposed to in the classroom? I really think, not diverse enough. Rather than shut down possibilities for our students to connect outside the classroom out of fear, we could enable connections and guide our students to behave responsibly and maturely. I would even go so far as to suggest that we encourage young people to join specific online groups to broaden their range of experiences. If we take students out on excursions then we could do the same online.

Does anyone teach in a school which formulates its strategic plan while looking at The Horizon Report?  

Here’s the full interview with Joseph Kahne taken from Howard Rheingold’s post.

Does social media and the Internet fuel youth political engagement? from DML Research Hub on Vimeo.

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TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.

I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!

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Filed under 21st century learning, network literacy, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

The yeast to activate learning

Jabiz Raisdana, AKA @intrepidteacher, shared an interesting post a few days ago, which he entitled Singing Hearts, in which he wrote about how a group of eighth graders in Missouri connected with his 3 year old daughter in Qatar.

Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning.

After reading The last child in the woods , which spurred Jabiz to increase his daughter’s contact with nature, he and his daughter went outdoors with their cameras to explore their surroundings,

even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse. 

The result of this little expedition was a photo essay which Jabiz shared with his twitter network, and which then resulted in @wmchamberlain sharing the blog post with his class and receiving more than 40 comments which you can read on Kaia’s post.

In this little expedition, Kaia not only connected with the outside world in a physical sense, but also the world of people beyond her immediate environment.

Hello from New Zealand.
Kaia
We really liked looking at the pictures of the backyard and the desert! Amazing stuff, you did a great job with the descriptions. We thought that it must be very hot in the desert, its been raining here in New Zealand today so the desert seems exciting and interesting. (Room 8 Melville Intermediate School, New Zealand)

Those pictures were awesome. You did a great job speaking in your first photo essay. You took ordinary things that everyone passes by and made them look wonderful. I like your blog and I will visit it more often. You can visit my blog at jacob-everybodysbog.blogspot.com Thanks and keep up the good work. (Jacob)

With her father as her guide, Kaia has connected with people in his learning network, people who are interested in learning from others, regardless of location, age or race. A simple photo story has been of interest to others who have contributed their thoughts and a little of themselves.

 Although, at such a tender age, Kaia would not fully understand the meaning of her experience, she has surely felt, to some extent, the power of connecting beyond her home and immediate family.

She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Jabiz reflects on his feelings as a father who has shared his young daughter’s experiences with his online network:

… having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her…

… I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.

Jabiz’s blog reflection on the positive and negative potential consequences of his experiences ends in questions he poses directly to his readers:

What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?

I was amongst the commenters following Jabiz’s post, and so was John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama.

John Strange says:

My response was you will not get the yeast to activate a closed system. They must engage the world. It is so important to energize learning through the techniques you, Mr. Chamberlain and others are using. I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives. I think it is absolutely essential if we are to move forward with true learning, for all of us.

If I hesitate  when reading ‘ I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives’, then I only do so momentarily, because the example of Jabiz supporting his little girl’s learning is an excellent model for us as educators and parent. If we hold the hands of our young and vulnerable students and our own children, and then still go outside of our private little worlds, then we learn to navigate the richness of connections with what is beyond our step.

For me, personally, every day spent reading what other people share online, in the form of blogs, Twitter posts or photos on Flickr, opens up a new window to the lives and experiences of others. There’s no way I could go back to what I had before. Could we even go back to pre-Google days?

I like John Strange’s concept of networking being the yeast to activate learning – it surely is.

Just in reading this one post, I’ve learned so much, and connected with so many people. It’s disappointing when someone contributes a comment and doesn’t provide a link. A blog, for example, provides knowledge of the author, and we can ‘know’ each other through our contributions in writing or pictures. We share what we think is appropriate, while preserving our privacy, and I think this is what we need to teach our students. Their digital footprint can be modelled on ours, and this not something we can do theoretically.

Apart from learning about Jabiz and his daughter, Gaia, I’m happy to have discovered John Strange who shares so much of himself online through blogs, points of contact and photos. Take a look at his page to see an excellent example of the richness of digital identity.

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Teaching 21st century literacies

Howard Rheingold  has written an article for City Brights on 21st century literacies.  His opening paragraph asks essential questions for the future (and present) of education:

Will our grandchildren century grow up knowing how to pluck the answer to any question out of the air, summon their social networks to assist them personally or professionally, organize political movements and markets online? Will they collaborate to solve problems, participate in online discussions as a form of civic engagement, share and teach and learn to their benefit and that of everyone else? Or will they grow up knowing that the online world is a bewildering puzzle to which they have few clues, a dangerous neighborhood where their identities can be stolen, a morass of spam and porn, misinformation and disinformation, urban legends, hoaxes, and scams?

And here in a nutshell is the definition for 21st century literacies in plain English. What concerns me, and many others, is that the shift from traditional literacy to these 21st century literacies is not occurring in schools on any significant scale. An understanding of the critical need for a focus on these literacies isn’t happening from the top down, nor from the bottom up. And it’s not going to happen unless we, educators, step out of our teaching role and immerse ourselves in the 21st world as learners.

As far as I know, on the whole Australian schools still view online involvement for students as ‘a dangerous neighborhood where their identities can be stolen, a morass of spam and porn, misinformation and disinformation, urban legends, hoaxes, and scams?’ This is part of the reason for inaccessibility and filtering; for the rules prohibiting the use of online games and mobile phones at school. We talk about integrating technologies into the curriculum, but we still view these technologies as the enemy.

Perhaps many of us are uncomfortable about using new technology. We figure our students are naturals, that they’ll figure out the technology thing by themselves, better without us. Howard Rheingold questions the term ‘digital natives’ applied to our students:

Just because your teens Facebook, IM, and Youtube, don’t assume they know the rhetoric of blogging, collective knowledge gathering techniques of taggers and social bookmarkers, collaborative norms of wiki work, how to tune and feed a Twitter network, the art of multimedia argumentation – and, by far most importantly, online crap detection.

Rheingold makes it very clear how urgent it is for our students to be educated in 21st century literacies:

If you think that forgetting to teach your kids the facts of life is dangerous, wait until you witness the collision of a global superempowered infrastructure with a population of illiterate users.

There’s no mincing of words. According to Rheingold, our students will be illiterate if we don’t redefine our concept of literacy. What literacies are we teaching our students at present? Are these in line with the world in which they will live and work? We may not like digital media as much as our students, but isn’t our job as educators preparing them for their future? Their future is digital, global and networked. Digital literacy is not so much about the mechanics of digital tools; it is much more than that:

The most important critical uncertainty today is how many of us learn to use digital media and networks effectively, reasonably, credibly, collaboratively, civilly, humanely.

One of the commenters identifies the importance of teaching critical reading skills. Howard adds that ‘some, perhaps many, view critical thinking as a frivolous distraction from “the basics”… Others say that there is nothing new about this requirement’.  For teacher librarians, teaching critical reading and critical thinking has been part of their role for some time. As a teacher librarian,I find this problematic –  not the fact that we are delegated this teaching role, since we are ‘information specialists’, and our role must evolve in line with developments in the world of information – but that this teaching is seen as somehow separate from ‘the real curriculum’, that we come in for one lesson or two at most, and teach ‘information skills’ as discrete skills. We all know that this doesn’t work, that the integration of critical, digital literacies must be integrated fully in everyday teaching, and that curricular material must be selected with this teaching aim in mind. Our choice of medium must support the teaching of these literacies. If we use blogs, wikis or nings, it is not because we are ticking off our use of Web 2.0 technologies for the sake of being recognised as Web 2.0 savvy, it’s because we recognise that a networked learning  environment is the best way to prepare our students for their future. If we teach our senior students to critically evaluate newspaper articles and advertisements, shouldn’t we finally take the leap to teaching them the skills they need to navigate the deluge of online information?  They’re not reading editorials as much as they’re watching YouTube videos. Will they continue to get their news from newspapers? Or will they prefer real-time, real-people news reports on Twitter?

What are your thoughts? Let’s have a discussion.

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Filed under 21st century learning, Education, internet, network literacy, teaching, technology, Web 2.0