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).
ICT in the PYP Framework
As the Education Technology Coach at my school, it is my role to support teachers and students in using technology in authentic and meaningful ways. Thus, for this course, I will focus on the transdisciplinary learning in a primary classroom using the International Baccalaureate programme.
With the IB, there is no set curriculum, rather it is a framework of learning. Within our school, we have a scope and sequence for the various subjects that is integrated into the units of inquiry. Our school has no specific ICT curriculum. Rather, the units integrate technology where appropriate.
From this perspective, the curriculum is often taught using technology for teaching and learning. My focus though, is teaching transferable skills using technology. For example, communication skills like viewing and presenting are taught through the use of technology. Students construct visuals using technology tools such as Google Drawing, Pixlr or Paper 53 that convey meaning to an audience. Students need to use design elements and principles as they create their visuals. Another example is having students choose the most appropriate technology tool to show their understanding and demonstrate their knowledge. Sometimes that might be a Google Document, other times it might be using iMovie to create a video or Piktochart to demonstrate their statistics in a visual.
With the IB, there are 6 overarching elements of ICT in the Primary Years Programme: Creating, Collaborating, Organizing, Becoming Digital Citizens, Investigating and Communicating. Through these, students develop their skills to become digital learners using technology tools as one of many resources in their learning journey.
Technology: One of Many Tools
As part of a podcast with Future Tense (Funnell, 2012), Greg Whitby suggests that you can't just focus on the technology when it comes to education. There is an abundance of technology within our reach with new advances and releases, such as the iPad Pro, becoming available to consumers each day. Our students have more access to technology than ever before and they can choose to interact with it even outside of school. Therefore, focusing on getting technology into the hands of the students isn't enough any more - the novelty of 'using technology in classrooms' has worn off. Beyond that, just teaching students how to use a particular technology tool doesn't promote the type of learning environments our students deserve to have. Rather, as educators, we need to be more cognizant of creating meaningful uses of technology integration to enhance the learning process.
As an educator, one aspect of my role is to focus on the providing the best teaching and learning to my students. As Bill Gates once said, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important." If they don't have a teacher who is able to use best practice in integrating that tool effectively into the curriculum and teaching then, the tool is not meaningful. Teachers continue to upskill their own technology abilities with the purpose of utilizing it within the curriculum when approach. Teachers need to not only be able to use and integrate technology but decipher when it is best to actually use technology and when another strategy or tool is more effective to achieve a specific learning outcome or experience. Teachers continue to write curriculum, teach content and assess their students choosing the right tools for each learning experience to provide students with a quality education.
I would argue, that while technology is a tool, it is a powerful tool. It is a tool that can connect classes from across the globe to contrast and compare lifestyle, schooling and interests. It is a tool that can help students access information from various sources in a click of a button. It is a tool that can enhance the learning experience by allowing for experiences that were not possible in reality such as travelling to the bottom of the ocean to explore wildlife. It is a tool that can help students organize their lives through notes and calendars. It is a tool to communicate in a multitude of ways. It can be a tool to document learning and reflect on their educational experiences. Utilizing technology can help engage students while also developing social, self-management, thinking, and communicating skills. Students can create, collaborate, and curate as they develop transdisciplinary skills that can be drawn upon at any time to use.
In a 21st century classroom, the technology still does not replace the teacher, hands-on learning, visual thinking and planning on paper or face-to-face interactions. But what it does achieve is creating an endless supply of learning opportunities for students to engage and experience if integrated in an appropriate manner.
Funnell, A. (2012, Aug 19). 21st century education. Future Tense [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/21st-century-education/4197700#transcript
When It All Comes Together...
Sometimes when you start out a project, you're not sure of where it will end up. For our personal projects for our inventions unit, this was very much the case. I had an idea of how to go about it. But how it would actually unfold, that was a big question mark.
On Friday, I was a very proud teacher of my students. They showcased their personal projects including their process journals and a variety of ways to present their findings as products to parents, students and administrators.
Before we shared our work with the wider school community, each student had the opportunity to share to their classmates. Was I ever blown away by the level of thought and effort my students had put into their projects. As each student stood up to share their work, there was a very evident sense of pride in their work. They each shared their work with confidence in a way they hadn't done before. They spoke about their research, their findings, their passion for learning.
No two projects were alike, no two students had shared the same learning journey but yet the amount of knowledge and understanding was phenomenal.
I loved seeing the students so excited to share their work with their parents and the parents were just as proud of them as I was. One of my favourite moments of the day was when a mother approached me with teary eyes to tell me how incredible it was to see how much work her daughter had done on the project and how much she had grown through the process. It made my heart warm.
My students are so proud of it that they don't want to stop sharing and we are going to continue to share with our buddy class on Monday.
This project has made me come away with some important lessons:
1. Student choice is a way to get students to buy-in to learning.
When students choose what they learn, how they will learn it and how they will present their findings, they often do more and to a higher quality. When they feel the internal want to learn, it doesn't even feel like work. Sometimes simply giving students a framework is all they need. I told them they had to pick a topic, show their learning process and create a product in the end but beyond that, their learning choices were completely in their hands.
2. Focus on skills leads to better results.
This unit of inquiry, I spent less time focused on content and more time on skills. My students learned about different ways to gather research and the importance of process vs. product. They explored different technology tools and ways of presenting their work. We discussed time management, organization and how others can be critical friends for each others. We looked at making small manageable goals each day and each week rather than taking on the project as a whole. We focused on gathering research questions that drive your learning, rather than just looking at everything. Through all of these conversations and discussions, not once did I say you have to tell me the past, present and future of your invention or why we need that invention or who invented it or when was it invented. While a lot of those things were discovered through the project, so was a lot of other information.
3. An unknown direction can work.
I've always been taught plan with the end in mind. However, this time, I wasn't sure what the end would look like or even what the project would be like week by week or even if it would be a multiple week project. This project became larger than expected and better than expected. It never meant to be an exhibition or a project the students spent hours on. Sometimes its okay to go with the flow and have something evolve as you go. Sometimes I don't have to plan everything (which I feel more comfortable doing) and still know that the final result will work out in the end.
After 5 weeks of learning, it all came together on one day in one room. Everyone left that Friday beaming with pride and excitement. Not every day does what you are doing make sense, but on that day, the final piece of the puzzle as we ended our unit fit perfectly.