Archive for the “Literacy” Category

How difficult is all of this? 

In diving, there is something called a reverse one and a half somersaults with three and a half twists, in something called the free position.  Me, I’d just do a cannonball. Not a pretty image, I know.

When you go into a high end coffee shop, people can order a Grande White Mocha Frappuccino.  Me, I order a black coffee.  Large.  Not Grande.  Just large, like me, thank you very much.

Ok, so what I’m wondering about is the complexity, and perhaps the unnecessary complexity, of all this Web 2.0 stuff and what it means for schools.  Add in the discussion on skills versus literacy versus fluency, personal learning networks, and the changing landscape of classroom instruction and what is now possible, and for the most part, it’s simply overwhelming.  I’m not discounting the importance of all of this of course, just wondering if we make it all too complex.  But it sure is fun to talk about it, isn’t it.

For those of you deeply embedded in connective technologies, do you think, given the context of the typical school and the “typical” classroom teacher, that part of the resistance to all of this is the “entrance energy” required to take part and become a participant in what appears to be a very fast-paced, rapidly changing, and complex, teaching and learning environment?   After all, there is only so much energy…and for those of us working in schools, we know that these new discussions and the new capacities that ultimately may arise from them, are a small part, and in some cases, a very small part, of the overall job of running a school.

Let’s take a step backward.  Take teaching for instance.  What really is the secret of being a good, effective teacher?  Is this a complex question?  Basically, in my opinion, it’s actually pretty simple:  be prepared, be enthusiastic, be honest, be fair, and get involved in their lives.  Nothing top secret here, but generally if you fit that bill, you’re probably are a pretty good teacher.  Not that complex at all.

But we’ve got 21st Century Skills, NCTE’s Definition of the 21st Century Literacies, the National Council for the Social Studies Statement on Media Literacy, NETS-T, NETS-A, NETS-S, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation’s 2020 Forecast on Learning, PEW Surveys, great stuff from Educause, School 2.0, blog posts, new discussion forums, podcasts on impending revolutions, and of course, the never –ending flow of information in Twitter.  A lot of this is absolutely great stuff, and important stuff. UPDATE:  Be sure to read Ryan Bretag’s excellent post “What is Your Department Discussing and Doing” to see additional perspectives from a variety of groups (ACOT, NCTM, NSTA)  not mentioned in my post.

 But just where do you look first?

So, consider this question.  Is this really that hard?  Do you really need to consider all the pieces above?  Or, is it a more simple set of considerations, and are we smart enough already?  What skills do you want kids to exhibit?  What technology tools can serve the learning processes that help build those skills, and extendthe learning experience to a new place, as a result of the technology being included?  How do we structure the lesson, or lessons, so that these skills can be developed?  How do we assess it so that we know what we set out to do?  And how do we make it all replicable?

It’s time to simplify.  This is not that hard. 

Just order the black coffee.

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Over the next several days, I’ll be writing about different issues that can be viewed through different lenses, and as a result, create different perspectives among educators. Many of these issues are also climate and culture issues, so I’m very interested in where you stand personally, as well as where your school district stands. I’m planning on identifying the endpoints of the spectrum and I’ll ask you to weigh in on where you are at across that gradient. And if you believe that there are different endpoints to the spectrum of positions, please let me know that as well.

The first post in this series is an important one, and addresses a serious fundamental question that I believe schools must revisit, or in some cases, visit. I’ve included this topic in recent presentations, and it always creates a great deal of conversation.

As educators, we are inundated with phrases such as “21st Century literacies” and what does it mean to be literate in the 21st Century. At the same time, other groups advocate for 21st Century Skills. There is certainly a difference between literacy and skill, and how we define the relationship between the two in our schools defines how we approach teaching and learning.

So, what do you believe? Are there new literacies, 21st Century literacies, that are afforded by the new connective technologies at our disposal? Or, is literacy simply literacy, and a timeless concept? Where do your beliefs fit within that spectrum, skills to literacy?

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