Monday, January 25, 2010

Digital Literacy

To Do List
1. Raise test scores
2. Raise test scores
3. Raise test scores
4. Teach students to be digitally literate

Sadly, the top digital priority for administration is the fingers on the students hands, ensuring they can correctly fill in an A, B, C, or D on a standardized test. This is not to say that being digitally literate is not of great importance to educators, it's just not as great of a (political) importance as a test score. Being literate, whether digital or not, requires a great deal of critical thinking skills. The digital part is more of a bonus for the student and even the instructor. When reading any material one should think critically, evaluating the validity of the material, making connections to other knowledge, and synthesizing what is being read, and ultimately learned. The digital part of literacy just means more access and faster access. Students can get their hands (or digits..) on information on just about any topic.

For the past few days I have struggled with this idea of being digitally literate while reflecting on my own class of fifth graders. I have four that are at a second grade reading level and one that can barely write. With over 50% of your class on some sort of intervention plan it makes doing anything beyond the basic R's seem impossible, so teaching digital literacy skills is out of the question. But, the more I thought about it...the more I realized "hey, I'm already doing that" as I bet most teachers are. My kids are all equipped with their own flash drive and some use google docs to submit assignments. One of my classes enjoys reading picture books and a week or so ago I read The Giving Tree and a few days later I had a student making a connection between the book and one of the headlines on Google News about the earthquake in Haiti. I know these are probably pretty basic skills, but they are skills none the less and will be built upon as their brains mature.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The World is Open

First it was flat and now it's open. I just can't keep up. Thomas Friedman first published his book The World is Flat in 2005 and provided an analysis of globalization where the world has now become a level playing field in commerce with the help of technologies such as supply chains, the internet, and outsourcing. Parallel to this idea of flattening is the idea of the world being opened. The internet and personal computer has given rise to personal education allowing users to learn anytime and anywhere almost anything if your fingers type the right search algorithm. This openness has revolutionized education, allowing those to learn who were unable previously (hole-in-the-wall) and enhance the education of many others. I often try to think of a world pre-internet or even pre-personal computing. Would coffee shops even exist? It all seems prehistoric, although it really wasn't that long ago that my mom was typing a final paper on a typewriter in the library at Villanova. She tells me that they had to take turns and I just stare like she's talking in a foreign language.

It can all just be so incredibly overwhelming, the internet that is. I imagine it is comparable to a group of five year olds walking into a candy store and being told they can have whatever they want and howevermuch they want. I bet a few wouldn't even know where to start! And that's how I feel sometimes. Completely and utterly overwhelmed at what I have access to at my fingertips.

And let's not get started on taking the multitude of Web 2.0 technologies and introducing them to a group of 30 10 year old students and expect to still have control. I guess I didn't think there would be such a large technology gap among students. I have some students asking me how to turn the "brain box" on and others while others are recording and editing their own digital videos.

It is essential that educators muddle through the brain box scenarios to help students become life long learners and stakeholders in their own education, considering they harbor the world's knowledge at their fingertips.