Literacies in a Digital Age
All teachers are responsible for teaching studies literacies whether they are traditional reading, writing and speaking or the new literacies we encounter. The idea of transliteracy was a new term for me. Transliteracy was defined as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” (Thomas, Joseph, Laccetti, Mson, Mills, Perril & Pullinger, 2007).
With these new literacies comes new skills that need to be unpacked and taught to students in order to succeed in this evolving digital age.
1. Critical Thinking & Questioning
As part of digital literacy, students need to think critically in conjunction with their digital tool knowledge (Anyangwe, 2012). Many students feel confident using technology but don’t truly understand the skills they need to be successful. So much of the content online is taken at face value by students and they need to understand who is saying it, why they are saying it and what are the other perspectives (November 2014). Students need to learn how to question the authenticity of content online and using these questions to drive their inquiries further.
2. Creating & Curating
With the rise of Web 2.0, it is no longer okay just to consume digital content. Rather, students need to learn how to create content and curate it. Not only that, they must be able to create content that effectively communicates a message. As a consumer of content, students need to take this content and sift through it, organising what is relevant and pertinent information and what content is not useful (Holland, 2013). These skills take time to develop and should be continually built upon.
3. Collaborating and Connecting
Working with others doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Building the skills and strategies to be effective with others takes time but the outcome of connecting and collaborating is phenomenal. Through collaboration, many ideas can be combined to create something better than any one individual’s ideas. In education, connecting with others allows you to learn from others and better yourself while being exposed to so much more knowledge and experiences that one could ever imagine. It is important to model appropriate ways to connect with others online in a safe and positive manner and how to make these interactions beneficial to everyone (Holland, 2013).
Anyangwe, E. (2012, May 15). 20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education. The Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/15/digital-literacy-in-universities
Holland, B. (2013, November 18). Packing for the digital exploration. Tedx Talks [video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJBwe1HPTtw
November, A. (2014, May 6). Who Owns the learning? Preparing students for success in the digital age. [video] Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOAIxIBeT90
Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: crossing divides. First Monday, 12(12).
Plagiarism and copyright are very common amongst both students and teachers. It is easy to take a picture from online and include it in your presentation without crediting the owner. But it doesn’t make it right. Many teachers struggle to include a teaching component of plagiarism and copyright in their lessons. As teachers, we need to not only be educating our students but educating ourselves on how to credit various forms of media and information to avoid plagiarism and ensure fair use of work.
Plagiarism is defined as taking someone else’s work and claiming it as your own; whereas copyright allows the owner to prevent others from using their material without permission (All Right to Copy, n.d). These ideas are important to understand and be aware of because the owner of the work should be able to control if they give permission for others to use their ideas or work, especially if there are monetary amounts involved in the copyright licenses. A piece of media is copyrighted for 70 years either from the date it was released or the date the owner dies (depending on the medium) (All Right to Copy, n.d). Beyond this time, the work becomes public and anyone can use it without prior permission.
Often there are various stipulations with licenses for copyright. Creative Commons clearly outlines the various licenses using symbols or by including text to explain the type of license. Licenses may ask the user to give attribution, allow the content to be remixed, not use for commercial use or not allow for any variations (Creative Commons, 2014).
There are so many skills that students need to learn other than just ‘do not plagiarize’ and ‘cite your source’. Students need to understand how to find good sources, how to take notes, how to summarize, how to inject their opinion and perspective into their writing and support it with facts. These skills need to be scaffolded throughout the years of schooling so that students can feel confident using information from various sources to create their own content.
Whether you are using videos, text, images or music, indicating when it's’ other’s work ensures that the owner is properly credited and resources are used fairly.
Some resources to support teachers and students about copyright and plagiarism include:
Copyright Advisory Group. (n.d). All Right to Copy? Retrieved from: http://ar2c.smartcopying.edu.au/
Creative Commons. (2014). About the licenses. Retrieved from: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/
One Strategy for Research Notes
When I went to elementary school, I learnt how to write research notes. There was all this bibliography stuff you had to write down for each book you took your notes from, you weren't allowed to copy the words directly from the book and you had to rewrite it all in your own words. My notes would be on multiple pieces of paper and I never could really find the piece of paper I wanted when it came to writing my reports. None of that has really changed, just where we keep track of our notes.
For most, it's no surprise we first turn to Google for our research. With all of the scholarly articles online, websites and ebooks, there isn't as much need to go into a library, dust off an old encyclopaedia and crack it open to the page you are looking for. Where we look for our materials has changed and so has how we record our notes.
For our current unit about ecosystems, where essentially my students were doing a massive research project to gather the information they needed to successfully create an online course for other students, it was evident from the start that research notes was most definitely going to be an important skill to teach.
After we had decided on lesson topics, the students brainstormed all of the questions they could think of initially in one Google Document.
From there, they created and linked a separate Google Doc for each topic. This would help them go back and build their levels based on the different topics selected. The students pasted their questions into the document. As they found information that fit a particular question, they were able to make notes on the topic. Often they chose to research by theme but at times students could jump from one page to the next easily without losing any of their notes.
For their bibliography, they pasted the links into the bottom of each page. We talked a lot about what plagiarism was and how to avoid it by changing it into their own word right from the moment they create their research notes. As Year 5 students, I didn't have them create full bibliographies as they took down their research notes just yet but it was a start in the right direction.
This of course is just one strategy that could help students organise their notes when researching for a project but by no means the only way. I had different groups record their notes using different methods but it was another tool to add to their repertoire.