Tag Archives: literacy

Seeing is thinking, feeling, understanding – let’s not neglect visual literacies

Pablo Picasso

The SLAV conference, ‘Transliteracy, multiliteracy, makerspaces: how can you participate?’ I attended recently (16 August) gave me much to think about, as they always do.  The featured address, ‘Ways of seeing’: The visual in Australian curriculum by Helen Kent and Catherine Reid from Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, highlighted an often neglected area of  focus on important visual literacies at the secondary level.

There does seem to be a stronger focus in schools on the analytical responses, and I am concerned that students are missing out if we ignore the visual aspect in favour of what we see as the more important textual analyses. I agree with Helen and Catherine that we need a response to the aesthetics, not just analysis, in our approach to the curriculum. Visual literacy is extremely important in the 21st century, and is particularly engaging to students, and must include affective responses if we want to develop emotional intelligence.

What happens to children who are surrounded by rich visual content in their early childhood and primary years who enter secondary school where this is suddenly cut off?  My guess is that, firstly, engagement decreases, and secondly, they miss out on developing the essential skills that come out of visual analysis. It’s not realistic to pretend that we live in an exclusively text-centred world, especially with the immediacy of images and multimedia at our fingertips now.

Are we mistaking visual literacy as being tied exclusively to the Visual Arts? The occasional comic prompt in an English paper? I realise I need to look again at AusVels to see where exactly I can find opportunities for students to articulate an emotional and aesthetic response – History, Civics and Citizenship, Maths and Science, for example, offer the opportunity for aesthetic responses, so I need to have a closer look.

Some takeaways which I’ll follow as leads for futher investigation:

  • First We See: the National Review of Visual Education which recommends  a whole new pedagogy to deal with visual literacies
  • the term ‘wreading’ – interconnected fluid process of learning reading and writing
  • Do we need a new term ‘Visualcy’  which describes the connection between literacy and numeracy ?

What we should be looking for is a pedagogy that enables emotional response to visual prompts. We have the Arts and teachers of the Arts to look to in learning about how to develop visual literacy in our students.

One of the questions which arose from the session was ‘Can we assess students’ emotional responses?’ I would be interested in a good conversation about this with people who have a keen interest or experience. In any case, as our speakers said, what is curriculum for? If it’s to guide us in addressing goals and skills acquisition, and if ‘viewing’ is one of the strands, then we should seriously develop this more in our curriculum to align ‘viewing’ with the other strands. Interesting to note that the rationale doesn’t emphasise enough the importance of visuals in Indigenous culture.

                                                                                                                    Rene Magritte – Ceci n’est pas une pipe

I haven’t summarised the entire content of the two talks, and I don’t intend to. I’d like to share resources I’ve been creating that might be helpful for anybody thinking about resourcing Visual Literacy in their schools. At this stage, my resources are targeted at English teachers, but I’ll make an effort to keep my eye out for visual prompts for different domains. Some of these below may possibly be adapted for others but I haven’t looked at this specifically yet. The images can be deconstructed, used as writing or discussion prompts, but these are just some of the suggestions – it’s really up to the focus of the teacher in deciding how the images can be used. Often they can be used for more than one purpose or approach. So, it’s over to you to think about how some of my collections can be used. Don’t be shy to share your ideas in the comments section of this post. It would make my day.

An old blog, Storyteller, with various writing prompts, including visual.

My Pinterest boards (selection) –

Art Inspiration

Awesome

Banned books

Bigger Picture

Clever

Imagine

Looking out

Lost

Maps

Mathematics

Old stuff

Photography

Story

Visions of the future

Words

Well, that’s it from me. For now. Hope you’ll share your ideas – look forward to the conversation.

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Network literacies are essential – what are we going to do about it?

Being netsmart is something Howard Rheingold has been talking and writing about for some time. In this video, he very recently presented a keynote on this topic at Utrecht University.

Howard talks to the audience about network literacies: attention, participation, collaboration, crap detection and network know-how.

As I listened to his talk – nothing new for those who have been following his thoughts and writing, but certainly always worth listening to – I thought again about the need to recognise the importance of teaching network literacies to our students. And I don’t mean the once a year session snuck in by a teacher librarian, I mean a recognition by staff and leadership that we need to seriously work on a plan to integrate network literacies into our curriculum.

I’ve been working with others on a plan of attack for helping our VCE students who are having problems with study – time management, literacies, etc. Howard’s first identified literacy in the networked age is attention, and this is something I’d like to spend some time unpacking with the students.

Howard recounts a realisation during his lectures that students were not looking at him but multitasking online. He quotes statistics warning us that multitasking is disrupting our attention span more than we realise, and that only 5 or 10 percent of people manage to multitask without losing attention. What is it about these students? I really like his term, mindfulness or metacognition – being aware of where you’re putting your attention. I agree that we could identify for students attention probes which would encourage them to be aware of their use of media during class, lectures or while doing homework. Since trying to be more aware of my own online habits, I’ve had to admit that my attention is dispersed and that I’m addicted to following that little sound that alerts me to a tweet or Facebook message. I realise I need to exercise self discipline, knowing that these things can wait until I’ve finished what I was working on. This is what I plan to discuss with my students.

The aspect of manners is an interesting one in an age when private phone conversations are heard by everyone on a train, or when tweeting during a conference means you might look rude to others or even the speaker. As Howard says, maybe in the future it won’t be considered rude not to pay attention to the lecturer, but as far as I’m concerned, there are times when I ask students to close their devices and look at me, and other times I’d like to allow them to be productive online and take notes or do some on-the-fly research while listening. Listening without doing anything can be difficult. Why do you think people doodle? Still, we do have to make decisions all the time about what we are going to pay attention to. Are we going to look at that cat meme right now? Oh, why not! What was I saying again…?

So what Howard is recommending is that we take that unconscious process of multiple distractions and our behaviours and make it conscious so we take some control. Do I follow this link or email now? Why might I want to? What else am I supposed to be doing? Am I going to pay attention to it later?  How am I going to make sure I find it again? (This is where I couldn’t live without Diigo). This is a conversation I’d like to have with my students. Howard suggests that we could modify our attention behaviour and make it automatic, following strategies instead of impulses.

He’s right when he says that you’re the only one who knows what you need to get done today, and your priorities need to be your own. This is why I won’t conduct the study skills sessions with students in a rigid way recommended one way of doing things. Howard recommends establishing new habits, finding a regular place for these and repeating them. A simple act of writing down 2 or 3 goals on a piece of paper, away from the computer with the space to think, can make a difference when you keep those goals close to your sight while you work as a reminder, to help you refocus and assess your productivity.

As Howard says, attention can be trained, and we know this from thousands of years of contemplative traditions and also from neuroscience.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, some of our English teachers have started using Goodreads for wider reading. Yes, I’ve been pushing it a little – well, maybe a lot. It is about the reading network but I also believe it’s going to provide many opportunities for teaching network literacies. I expect students will feel so comfortable within this platform that it won’t be all deep and meaningful conversation about literary things. But, as Howard points out, casual conversations may seem trivial but help people get to know each other and trust each other, and understanding how networks work is part of esssential literacies these days. We do live in the age of social media, and the information society is becoming more of a network society, with the interconnection of all sorts of knowledge from different disciplines. Do you agree that diverse networks are more important than expert networks? That they are more likely to come up with better answers?  

I really do believe that we should teach our students the importance of switching off regularly, and I say this as a person who has problems switching off. I assume it’s very difficult for our students to not be connected all the time. It’s not common to be alone for long – does that mean we lose our ability to feel comfortable in silence, in our own heads, with our own company?

I really think we, as educators, should have this conversation and then do something about creating the regular opportunities to talk to students about these things.

I’ll leave you with Howard’s minicourses.

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What exactly does a 21st century teacher librarian do? A list of curated topics in Scoop.it

This has been reposted from my school library blog.

On the topic of the teacher librarians’ role and exactly what it is we TLs do in our jobs, I wanted to share this article in The Guardian: Beyond books: what it takes to be a 21st century librarian.  We all know that there’s more to being a librarian than stamping books, as the subtitle of the article states. How bothered are we by the fact that a large proportion of our school communities have little idea what we do?

If we stopped the next person walking by on the street and asked them what our jobs as librarians involve, we’d be willing to bet that their first answer would be stamping books. This is because many people’s experience of librarians is of the frontline, customer service staff.

I think the same can be said of school libraries although it varies greatly depending on the interaction between teacher librarians and teaching staff. What the article says about librarians is surely relevant to teacher librarians, librarians and technicians –

If anyone ever thought they’d become a librarian because they liked books or reading, they would be sorely disappointed if they did not also like people too.

Of course, in the digital age, in fact, in the global digital culture in particular, teacher librarians play a vital role in schools. What exactly is the role of a 21st teacher librarian?

It’s not something which can be answered in a simple sentence. For this reason, I want to share links to curated websites on this topic. I am including a list of Scoop.its which have been curated by various people (including me) on the topic of the 21st century teacher librarian. I hope you find this list useful; it includes all things relevant to the 21st century librarian in the broadest sense.

My Scoop.it – What is a teacher librarian?

Curation and libraries and learning – Joyce Valenza

e-Books – Carmel Galvin

Create the web and learn to live – @pipcleaves

21st century libraries – Dr Steve Matthews

Educational technology and libraries – Kim Tairi

Embedded Librarianship – Buffy Hamilton

Graphic Novels in the classroom – @dilaycock

Information coping skills – Beth Kanter

Information science and library studies –  Joao Brogueira

Information fluency, transliteracy, research tools – Joyce Valenza

Inquiry and digital literacy – Shawn Hinger

Internet Search – Phil Bradley

Learning – Darren Kuropatwa

Libraries and ethnography – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries and Tumblr – Buffy Hamilton

Libraries as sites of enchantment, participatory culture and learning (what a title!) – Buffy again

Livebinders – Peggy George

Multiliteracies – Vance Stevens

New librarianship – Karen Burns

Personal learning networks for librarians – Donna Watt

QR codes – libraries – NairarbilUCA

Readers’ advisory for secondary schools – Marita Thomson

School libraries – Nickki Robinson

Social media content curation– Guiseppe Mauriello

Social networking for information professionals – Judy O’Connell

The library technician – Dawn Jimenez

Student learning through school libraries – Lyn Hay

Weird and wonderful – for librarians and booklovers – Jean Anning

This selection is only a small fraction of what’s being curated by people passionate about their topic on Scoop.it. It’s overwhelming but also a fantastic way of keeping track of evolving scoops on searchable topics. The fact that the list relevant to teacher librarians is so broad indicates the breadth of the teacher librarians’ focus and involvement. Of course, we can’t do everything but it’s a good idea to see potential involvement, and having seen the bigger picture, delegate to team members (assuming you have a team) the most pressing areas according to their interest.

By the way, Scoop.its are very easy to make and make reading enjoyable in their magazine-scoop-style presentation. It’s easy to follow, to search, to share and to recommend Scoop.its and articles. It’s also a brilliant way to build your Personal Learning Network by investigating the curators, checking out their bio, looking at what else they’ve curated or what they themselves follow.

You’ve got to start somewhere! Happy scooping!

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How do you explain a ning without sounding silly?

This is cross posted from my other blog, English@wfc

 ningvideos

Following our school’s involvement in Powerful Learning Practice, our team has been asked to present to the whole staff next Monday. Maria and I will be talking about the ning in our English classes. We decided to present collaboratively, with Maria doing most of the talking and me driving the ning tour. Our idea was that teachers would find the ning more relevant and convincing if a classroom teacher presented. Sadly, I think that they would be less likely to listen if a teacher librarian was presenting, because we’re associated with the library (which means we’re seen as chained to the library circulation desk and focus on books).   Today we got together to decide how we were going to proceed.

The most difficult thing is deciding what is essential – we don’t have more than 10 minutes or so. We don’t want to overwhelm everyone but if we don’t present in some detail, it won’t make much sense to anyone.

For me, the essential part of the ning in supporting the English curriculum has not been the technology, but the possibilities for discussion and interactions. Within online discussions, every student gets an equal chance to participate in discussion at his own pace. The authentic audience and connections with others form a community of learners. Instead of responding to the teacher, students interact with each other; their learning is social. Although it’s not exactly Facebook, the ning has provided a Facebook-like platform for classroom learning.

What we’d like to stress is that the teaching is more important than ever. Yes, the ning is technology, but that’s not the focus. The ning is not some technical textbook with multiple choice questions and answers making the teacher redundant. Scaffolding the learning process is even more vital than ever to ensure rich discussion and push students’ thinking towards  critical and reflective responses.

During our planning session,  Maria and I focused on identifying the way the ning enhanced teaching and learning beyond traditional teaching methods.  We anticipated teachers wanting to hear why they should tackle the technology, what was special about the ning. That’s a fair enough question: there’s no point in using technology for its own sake. So let’s see…  Well, as I’ve already said, there’s the authentic, peer audience, and the interaction within that, and secondly, there’s the threaded discussion. When students are asked to write down their thoughts in class, it’s normally just the teacher who collects and reads them. Perhaps a few might be read out in class. The ning provides the transparency for all students to read everyone’s contributions, but also to reply to a specific one. Students can read every other student’s ideas, and respond to any of these.

Apart from the connection to the other students in the class, our class was joined by The Kings’ School boys in Parramatta. The ning has also provided an opportunity to bring in an expert, in our case,  our book’s author, Allan Baillie, who was able to answer specific questions of each boy individually. We provided authentic, engaging learning. The boys got a kick out of having their questions answered by the man himself.

I also love the simple fact that the ning contains everything so neatly – from a teacher’s point of view, assessment is made easy because everything that has been written is easy to find. I imagine it will be easy to see development in the boys’ writing as the year goes on.

Using videos to spark discussion has never been so easy. I embed videos when I come across them (handy for on-the-spot activities), and all the discussion following the viewing is neatly recorded underneath. Students regularly practise literacy without even realising. Somehow they think that discussion of a video isn’t real work. Videos are great for visual literacy -something I’ve noticed doesn’t come easily to young people regardless of what is said about the internet generation. They need lots of practice ‘reading’ visual clues, following visual narrative and interpreting and critically analysing visual messages. Of course, audio is also important, and our class has also enjoyed videos with music.

We plan to show teachers the variety of resources that can be included in the ning. Our videos cover many subjects – even grammar, information literacy (eg. evaluation of websites) and responsible online behaviour. I’ve started embedding TED talks which I think will be suitable for this age group. I’ll be looking to include more TED talks because they’re so inspiring.

I hope our presentation will demystify the ning and similar technology and open up practical suggestions for the use of such technology in the classroom. As long as the internet connection works! Keep our fingers crossed.

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

What would happen if maths and language arts teachers swapped jobs?

bobrobertasmith

Art21 blog has given me an interesting idea in their latest post:

Last year the Guardian asked its sports and art writers to swap pieces for a day. Tennis correspondent Steve Bierley reviewed a Louise Bourgeois (Season 1) exhibition, which Bob and Roberta Smith fell in love with and subsequently made into a text-based painting.

Hmmm…

But how can we translate that into the school environment? I mean, the idea is something I’ve been playing with for a while – wouldn’t it be good if school didn’t separate learning into subjects?

Life isn’t like that, so why….?

In my job as teacher librarian I write a blog to encourage reading – I’ve mentioned it before – well, it’s not only about reading but all that goes with it. Thinking, discussing, idea-broadening, understanding – you know what I mean. Ideally, I’d love for the blog to create a reading (thinking, etc.) community, one that links people within the school through interests and discussion, but also links the school community with the wider community. I’ve also spoken about this before. Yes, I have so far included a couple of book recommendations/reviews by teachers who aren’t librarians. This is good, this gives the students the idea that people outside of the library read and enjoy reading. But …. they’re English teachers.

What I would really love is if sports teachers wrote about their reading. Yes, sports teachers. Maths teachers. Legal studies teachers.

So what kind of swap could I do? Do you think it would be easier for the maths/science teachers to talk books than the other way around? At first I thought yes. What’s left of my own maths/science knowledge, the little I gained in secondary school? I wouldn’t really like to go there. But then I remembered Sean Nash. He blends Science with the Arts. I was overwhelmed by his approach when I first discovered Sean’s blog, and I continue to be overwhelmed because it’s so inspiring, and I don’t see many educators do it.

Sean’s wife, Erin, shares his way of looking at a blended curriculum. Have a read of Erin’s profile on Sean’s biology ning where she says:

The best thing about the study of biology is:
The opportunity it provides for invoking curiosity and questioning in students and instructors alike. There are so many interesting topics in Biology that, ultimately, bring about questions that just aren’t currently answerable, and this provides so many awesome possibilities for critical thought and analysis. I could have taught English or Biology, and I was drawn to science because of that one big question, “WHY?”

 Isn’t this also the point of literature? The WHY and WHAT IF?  What if a character lived in a particular time/situation? How would that character live out his/her life? And WHAT IF this complication arose? WHY would he/she act in that way/make those choices? Personal choices, ethical choices, any choices.

I frequently reflect on what I’m trying to achieve in writing the fiction blog. Why is it important to stretch students’ – and for that matter, teachers’ – concept of what a reader is like, why we read, why books grab our attention, how books and films get our reactions and lead us into discussion or debate. It’s not a library thing, it’s not an English thing – and yet, it is literacy. The kind of literacy that is important for all of us across disciplines and beyond school. Sean Nash sums it up excellently when he talks about the connection between science and literacy in his comment to my post:

Science and literacy had certainly better go together. We are in a heap of trouble as a species as it is. We can’t afford to continue to create a scientifically-illiterate populace. Where science and literacy are separate, science is but mystery and mythology to even our brightest.

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Filed under 21st century learning, blogging, creativity, Education, learning, Literature, reading, teachers, teaching

Is the book dead? Is reading dying?

dogreading

Photo by Sansanparrots on Flickr

Another article about whether reading – in the way we have known it – has changed forever; and is reading books becoming extinct as we are lured by  online offerings.

People of the screen by Christine Rosen in the online journal The New Atlantis: a journey of technology and society is certainly worth reading. It tackles this subject with a wide net, and even though you may not agree with everything that is stated, it is an excellent basis for discussion.

 The article deals with many aspects of the reading issue. Here it talks about the decline of reading for pleasure:

In 2007, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published a report, To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, which provided ample evidence of the decline of reading for pleasure, particularly among the young. To wit: Nearly half of Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure; Americans ages 15 to 24 spend only between 7 and 10 minutes per day reading voluntarily; and two thirds of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all. As Sunil Iyengar, director of the NEA’s Office of Research and Analysis and the lead author of the report, told me, “We can no longer take the presence of books in the home for granted. Reading on one’s own—not in a required sense, but doing it because you want to read—that skill has to be cultivated at an early age.” The NEA report also found that regular reading is strongly correlated with civic engagement, patronage of the arts, and charity work. People who read regularly for pleasure are more likely to be employed, and more likely to vote, exercise, visit museums, and volunteer in their communities; in short, they are more engaged citizens.

Here is an interesting take on the type of personality apparently suited to online reading:

 For centuries, print literacy has been one of the building blocks in the formation of the modern sense of self. By contrast, screen reading, a historically recent arrival, encourages a different kind of self-conception, one based on interaction and dependent on the feedback of others. It rewards participation and performance, not contemplation. It is, to borrow a characterization from sociologist David Riesman, a kind of literacy more comfortable for the “outer-directed” personality who takes his cues from others and constantly reinvents himself than for the “inner-directed” personality whose values are less flexible but also less susceptible to outside pressures. How does a culture of digitally literate, outer-directed personalities “read”?

I disagree with the contention that screen reading discourages contemplation; in fact, the commenting in blogs, for instance, creates a string of contemplative replies. That this type of contemplation is interactive is surely a positive outcome.

There is too much in this article for me to cover it in a short post. The advantages and disadvantages of the Kindle are discussed, the attention span of young people, the changing nature of libraries, research and librarians’ roles, as well as the future of literature with the advent of hand-held devices that save books as iPods do with music, creating mashups of the paragraphs within different books.

Have a read. Tell me what you think.

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Digital media is no longer an option – it’s a necessity

John Connell’s post ‘Literacy, Postliteracy, Modes of Expression….and a real Guitar Hero!’ raises the very important topic of digital literacies.  John Connell said that

the process of democratization of expression that is inherent in the development of the Web means that we now have available to us low-cost tools that allow us to express ourselves creatively in media that were previously unavailable to most because the barriers to entry were too high.

 Jenny Luca commented:

I recognise that my students respond to visual media today far more than they do print based.

In response to discussion about what constituted literacy, Hilery commented

A literate person can mediate his or her world by deliberately and flexibly orchestrating meaning from one linguistic knowledge base and apply or connect it to another knowledge base. The definition of literacy is dynamic, evolving, and reflects the continual changes in our society: not least the very real political challenges to the status…

(I love this definition, and wish that I could link to Hilery so I could read more of what she has to say).
Two very interesting things to ponder: what is literacy? and do we need to redefine it? (ok, two and a half);
and is digital literacy just an added dimension, or is it something more vital?
Jess from the United Kingdom put me onto a recent article by James Paul Gee and Michael H. Levine on Innovation Strategies for Learning in a Global Age.  The authors identify a newly emerging digital participation gap, and talk about competencies needed to succeed in a global age which can be developed through the ‘untapped power of interactive media’. The report also states that, apart from the reading gap between richer and poorer students, there is, more recently, another gap – between students who have mastered digital media and those who haven’t. Interesting to see these two problematic areas identified side by side, because both are needed to function competently in the 21st century. I’m sticking my neck out here but in Australia, at least, digital literacies are still way behind more traditional literacies; they’re seen in many cases as an extra dimension, and often as irrelevant in government schools which are not funded for functionality in an online world. In equipped schools, however, teachers’ training for technology remains limited, and they are often reluctant for trained teachers or teacher librarians to provide support. (There are several reasons for this, but I won’t go into them in this post). Or they’re unaware of the need for this support, eg. technology-based activities are unsupported and unscaffolded. The situation baffles me still. The article expresses this very eloquently:

Mastery of digital media for the production of knowledge constitutes a new family of “digital literacies,” since such media, like print before them, are tools for the production of meaning. For a student to fully leverage all the possibilities for learning and knowledge production to be found on the Internet, he or she must learn how to access, assess, and modify the plethora of information available. These skills don’t just develop on their own. They require mentoring and teaching, especially for children who come from families unable to provide this at home. So the digital gap is not just a matter of who has access to technology. More important, it is about who has access to well-designed learning systems and mentorship built around new digital technologies.

There’s so much that’s spot-on in this article. It cites digital media as naturally eliciting problem-solving behaviour and attitudes, and as enabling the solving of real-world problems. Fact is, as acknowledged in the article, we all know that young people’s digital involvement outside of school has been impressive:

In fact, children are already using digital environments and tools to join learning communities and become experts. Many use the Internet, communication media, digital tools, and membership in often virtual, sometimes real, communities of practice to develop technical expertise in different areas. These include video games, digital storytelling, fan fiction, music, graphic art, political commentary, robotics, anime, and nearly every other endeavor the human mind can think of. Their informal process of learning, collaboration, and transforming passion into knowledge is desperately needed in schools today.

Finally, there is the suggestion for a way forward: an indepth examination of the benefits of digital media; tech-savvy teachers training others; literacy assessments measuring problem-solving skills. Is there any research about the benefits of digital media – apart from well written articles? Because if there is, then we need to drag it out of the filing cabinet and bring it to the attention of educators and education specialists.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0