Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Election and 21st Century Literacies

NCTE defines 21st Century Literacies as:
Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to
  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology 
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally 
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes 
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information 
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts 
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
On my Twitter feed, I have seen a couple of educators post about having their students or wanting to teach a lesson with their students on watching the different news feeds (including digital and social media) to compare perspectives.  No matter your politics, I think it would be a great assignment.  And it would address the following literacies: develop proficiency with the tools of technology; manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information; create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts.

The question now is what should the assignment be for students to demonstrate their learning?  Should it be a class discussion, a project such as creating a website to deliver the news of the presidential election, or a piece of writing such as a blog, or some combination of all three, or something altogether different?  

I know this post is a little late in prompting a creative lesson around the election. However, there are plenty of other events that occur throughout the year that could prompt this type of lesson design addressing 21st century literacies.  The bottom line is that whether you are an English teacher, Government teacher or a teacher of another subject, I encourage you to think about how to get students to think critically (Ten Takeaway Tips for Teaching Critical Thinking)  about who is saying what, who do you believe and why, and what is the evidence.  The final piece to this type of assignment is deciding, or allowing students to decide, in what medium will the students present their learning.

What are your thoughts?  Did anybody do a lesson addressing 21st century literacies around the election, or have an ongoing assignment about Hurricane Sandy, or another current issue?  How is it going?



Friday, November 2, 2012

Technology Overload 

After being geeked up on technology and attending ITSCO almost a month ago, I took some time away to disconnect from blogging and tweeting.  When I returned, Google reader was filled up and of course I had missed many tweets and a handful of RT's. I have read a few blogs about balancing technology in education ranging from Will Richardson's debate on twitter with another educator to a blog post from the mindful classroom to watching our library director run PD on technology for our faculty.  It is easy to get overwhelmed with all that is out there.  

(Image courtesy of Yash Bhatia @ http://yash1229.wordpress.com/2011/04/09/future-of-technology/)

I am a person that likes technology, but I am also not the first to jump in either.  I watch, read, listen, and probably many other things before I leap.  It is great that many teachers are trying to figure out avenues to utilize technology, but it needs to be transformative.  In other words, how do we leverage technology to create a rigorous and relevant curriculum that promotes collaboration and creativity?

I do not believe that technology is a panacea for education, but there is a lot of value and it is certainly re-shaping the conversation in education. Take a moment to watch Seth Godin's recent TED talk:

I found parts of his talk to be very interesting and poignant.  We do need to examine our teaching practices.  Students do have information at their fingertips.  I do disagree with his statement that there is no need to memorize anything.  For instance, I would prefer that my doctor has a certain medical procedure memorized inside and out before operating.  Or an example more at the educational level, is the idea that there is some foundational information for learning in order to work at higher levels in a discipline.  In essence though, Seth Godin is asking for a rigorous and relevant curriculum that promotes collaboration and creativity.  Technology can no longer be planned for as nice to have in a lesson design, but it needs to be planned for intently.  To get beyond the time issue, educational leaders need to continue to share with each other so that educators are not overwhelmed.  Additionally, focus on two or three tech tools that are being utilized in better and more transformative ways.  The K.I.S.S. philosophy,  Keep It Simple Stupid, is an important phrase to remember.