Digital Literacy: Don’t let them learn it on the streets!

The ubiquity of content is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it has created greater freedom, enhanced transparency and put the focus of education on matters of higher order. It can be a curse because there is just so damn much of it! I often find myself overwhelmed by content, not really sure where to start or how to process.  I came across this great slide from Steve Wheeler that says it all:

If adults are confused when searching for information, how do you think our students feel? 

As tech integration moves full steam ahead in our schools, we have to step back for a moment and prioritize. The access and proliferation of tools are key aspects of building infrastructure but they do not represent 21st century learning alone. The priority in education must be on teaching our students how to handle the deluge of information that they face daily.

Many people of my generation (shout out to the Gen Xers!) learned about the birds and the bees by osmosis. We learned about the mechanics through playground whispers, urban legend, contraband reading material and our older siblings! Only the few progressive schools and parents had “the talk” with their children. I fear that much the same is going on when it comes to digital literacy. Students are being taught about privacy and personal safety on the web but they are being left to fend for themselves when it comes to interpreting and using the vast amounts of information available to them. This is far too big of an undertaking for them to face alone.

Students struggle to determine the credibility of sites and content. How many times have you had an intermediate or high school aged student present you with ironclad proof that 9/11 was an inside job? It happened to me at least a half dozen times. One or two Youtube videos later, the conspiracy minded become experts in covert operations and structural engineering.  Students equate a well-polished site as “the truth”. Sadly, they don’t recognize that a polished turd is still a turd! It is only through a focus on digital literacy leading to digital fluency that they will develop the “crap detection” of which Howard Rheingold speaks.

Take a look at the picture below. What do you think?

I showed this slide to a few of my best and brightest students (a few colleagues as well!). Their immediate reaction was to agree with the quote. I got responses like “Yeah, the internet is full of garbage.” They were so quick to agree with the quote that they did not take a look at the whole slide. They completely ignored the fact that the quotation was attributed to a man who was long dead before the internet was even a dream! Proof positive that digital literacy is still in its infancy. Knowing how to search for information does not equate to knowing how to process or interpret information.

The goal then is to help our students learn how to handle information. We must also recognize the need to support our fellow educators through this process as well. In the slideshow at the bottom of this post, Alex Couros (an outstanding Canadian Ed Tech educator) presents the case for digital fluency. The argument being that we need to go beyond “knowing how” to the deeper stage of understanding “why”. This diagram pulled from his presentation provides a nice overview:

Digital fluency brings students into the realm of “knowledge wisdom”. At this stage, analysis of the information can occur. Students will have a framework to judge information, organize it and categorize it. Steve Wheeler provides us with this excellent summary:

When our kids get to the stage of digital fluency, they become much more self-sufficient. Controlling content allows them to be better at creating, curating, remixing and sharing content. Collaboration becomes more effective and networks that much stronger.

How do we get there? What are your strategies? What works? What doesn’t?

FULL SLIDESHOWS from @timbuckteeth (Steve Wheeler) and @courosa (Alec Couros)

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Crafting Social Media Guidelines for your School

Social media represents the best and the worst of this digital generation. It can create strong collaborative cultures that serve to flatten traditionally hierarchies or it can become a marketing tool for businesses to shill their products.

In her book, “Get Bold”, Sandy Carter (IBM Vice President of Social Business) brings us the concept of a social business. Social business differs from social media in terms of the level of integration into the heart of the business. Social business should be a way of life that promotes openness within an organization and with its customers. We can adapt her concept of a social business to that of social organization in an educational concept. All schools must make use of the best aspects of social media to create an open environment that connects all stakeholders together to promote student success.

The darkside of social media means that schools must have a carefully crafted policy for social media integration. Steven Anderson, prolific blogger from “Blogging about the Web 2.0 Classroom” put together a comprehensive set of guidelines complete with resources to help both schools and boards create guidelines of their own. I have embedded this document into the image below:

Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner

I found this video on YouTube on the channel macfound.The MacArthur Foundation provides grants to help determine how digital media is changing the way that young people live. The goal is to find answers and provide data to social institutions to help support the needs of our young learners.

This video presents a tremendous amount of thought-provoking ideas in such a short amount of time. This video would a great resource for a school leader looking to garner support for deeper integration of digital media into daily practice.

Core concepts include:
* gaming elicits learning because it demands improvement to advance
* students should be free to use tech devices when necessary BUT educators must teach students when they should be put away as well
* children may be born digital consumers but they need support from teachers to become digital creators
* content information is easily available but the ability to use that content must be taught and developed.

Great ideas and very slick production value. Macfound is a worthy YouTube subscription.

Drag On Tape

As the concept of “Flipped Classrooms” continues to take root, teachers must find ways to more effectively use video. Frustration sets in when only 2 minutes of a 15 minute video is relevant to your lesson. We end up saddling our students with 3 or 4 full length videos just to get the appropriate content across. Drag on Tape allows you to edit YouTube videos and grab the clips that you want and splice them together. You can use the native YouTube search to find videos or cut and paste a URL. The main feature of Drag on Tape is the ability put YouTube videos together to create a mixtape of content. Instead of overwhelming them with excess, we can engage our students even further by targeting video content to meet specific needs.

Click on the picture to take you to the site:

Iconbug.com

There was a lot of interest in the “Icon Archive” post from yesterday. I found another image and icon site that might have even more potential for educators. Icon Bug provides free images for download in a variety of formats. All images are licensed and like Icon Archive, the type of license is given for each image. The big advantage for Icon Bug is the ability to download single images. On Icon Archive, you end up downloading collections. The site design is also much cleaner without the shady looking advertising.

Click on the logo to have a look:

Icon Archive

As we teach our students to become digitally responsible, it becomes a struggle to find images that are usable under copyright law. I came across this amazing site on Twitter yesterday that will help to solve this problem. Icon Archive is an icon and image resource bank. All downloads are free and have creative commons licenses. The extent of each license is listed with the image. The quality of the images is really quite amazing.

www.iconarchive.com

The pictures below are examples of the quality that you can expect to find: