Have you ever Googled yourself ? Have you ever checked your virtual identity? Do you know that you leave a digital footprint every time you get online? Do you know that whatever you do online is accumulated into a digital dossier traceable by others ? These and several other similar questions are but the emerging tip of the sinking iceberg.One that is packed full of concerns related to issues of our online identity and privacy issues.
What does it mean to be digitally literate? And who can actually answer that question today – teachers, administrators, researchers, students? I’m not sure I can do it justice. I think that’s one of my big takeaways from participating in the #etmooc Digital Literacy topic.
There are a lot of dangerous stereotypes out there. "Asian students are always better at math." "Boys are always better at sports." And perhaps the most dangerous of all: "The current generation are all digital natives."
It is easy to see the danger in the first two stereotypes. They tend to influence the way teachers, parents, peers and society in general classify, justify and treat whichever group is represented by the stereotype. I'm not sure enough people give enough thought to the third, equally dangerous, stereotype.
Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard's Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a "global achievement gap," which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future:
* Critical thinking and problem-solving
* Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
A number of weeks ago, my friend Tom Whitby asked me to write an article for SmartBlogs about literacy. Tom Whitby also inspires me. Among his various activities is facilitating an online community of more than 15,000 educators devoted to the topic of personal learning networks. PLNs describe a range of skills and techniques, practiced by many educators, to fashion personal information networks of people and knowledge sources, from which they can learn.
WHAT IS DIGITAL LITERACY, or literacy in general? Let’s fly way back in time and observe how mankind has dealt with its greatest challenge — understanding the objective world with a subjective mind.
We cannot think about objectivity without being subjective. There’s the rub. Even if one were to think objectively and announce one’s findings, others are free to doubt and contradict the findings, even though the speaker feels absolutely certain of his objectivity.
The problem is that objectivity is a fixed reality but our subjective understanding of it may or may not be accurate. If we begin spreading our subjective interpretations, and they turn out to be wrong, we run the risk of misleading future people who believe us.
To help clarify what that “quality” can look like, knowthenet.org.uk put together the following infographic framed around Dos and Don’ts. While seemingly written for a more general audience than students and educators, the thinking is sound, including “Treat others they way you want to be treated,” “Don’t forget the human behind the screen,” “Listen first, talk later,” and “Use proper grammar.” (Yes, please do.)
Digital apps designed to teach young children to read are an increasingly large share of the market, but parents and educators have little to no information about whether and how they work. Produced as part of a collaboration between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the New America Foundation, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, this report scans the market of digital products and shares promising practices and programs.
The topic of digital literacies was the focus of my doctoral thesis, which is available to read online at neverendingthesis.com. The conclusion I came to after delving deeply into the research was that we need to always talk about literacies in their plurality and that there are broadly eight essential elements to digital literacies. My question when it comes to Web Literacies, therefore, is whether (a) they constitute a subset of Digital Literacies, (b) they are wholly distinct from Digital Literacies, or (c) there is some overlap between the two. These three positions are represented by the graphic at the top of this post.
I have been an elementary-school teacher for more than 25 years and I am always on the lookout for meaningful ways to engage and motivate my young students. I started Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog in 2008 with the idea of sharing class activities with parents. Over time, the blog has grown to be the centerpiece of our third-grade classroom. It has become a true global learning community that offers myriad rewards for students, parents and teachers.
"Metaskills are abstract skills which have to do with other skills. For example, an autodidact is a person who has the metaskill of being able to self-teach him or herself new skills without an outside teacher. A teacher is a person who has the metatalent to teach skills to others; here I speak of someone who is a teacher of a wide variety of things, not necessarily a teacher who focuses on one single topic. Teaching one single topic, like calculus, is a skill, but the ability to learn an arbitrary skill and then teach it to others, that is a meta-skill. Generalization is a metaskill where you look at a wide variety of skills and figure out the common underlying patterns. Specialization is one where you can take a skill and focus it more precisely, to get a new skill which is a special case of the broader original skill.
Training a metaskill is the same. Just because a skill is meta, doesn’t make it any different from any other skill. The difference is that we don’t usually consciously train our meta-skills because most people don’t even recognize them as skills. Besides that, training a meta-talent is more difficult than training a skill, because you can’t as easily fall into a pattern of repetition. Whereas you can do basketball training by throwing a basketball through a hoop a whole lot of times, you can’t, for example, teach yourself calculus a whole lot of times. In order to train the meta ability of being an autodidact, you must consciously seek out new things to teach yourself. If mastering chess requires playing ten thousand games, then mastering autodidacticism requires teaching yourself ten thousand different skills."
Recently, one of the teachers who is participating in our district’s 21st Century Learning grant project came to talk with me about assessing 21 century skills – one of the expectations for teachers in this project. Her observation was that students frequently practice the skills when engaged in research or project based learning. The thing she was struggling, with, though, was how to “grade it.”
Writing teachers like me (and perhaps like you) have been caught in a tight spot for some time now. On the one hand, computing technologies have radically transformed the meaning of "writing." On the other hand, high stakes assessments and their impact on teaching have limited what counts as writing in school.
Jeff Grabill (@grabill on Twitter) is a Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing and Chair of the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department at Michigan State University.