If you are connected to and participating in a personal learning network, then you understand the culture of today’s connected and public world. Perhaps you have created lessons and projects using Google Docs, a Wiki, or Twitter to collaborate with peers you have never met ( here and here and here ). Perhaps your students have collaborated with other students they will never meet, but have developed a common project together, creating a shared space. ( here and here and here).
What does that mean?
It means you understand the potential of the participatory culture, as explained in Henry Jenkins White Paper: Digital Learning: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture Media Education for the 21stCentury.
It means you understand that our youth today are already joining together in communities online, creating and communicating to solve the problems within those communities. And because they are young, these engaged youth of today may need guidance in analyzing the validity of their discoveries (transparency), in knowing protocols that enhance their social endeavors (ethics), and in providing spaces so all youth can learn and participate (equity and participation).
And it means you have moved well beyond the teaching of discrete skills. As an umbrella of digital literacies includes your skills curriculum, yet students have choice in research and question-creating– and have opportunities to expand their work to collaborate with students in other communities. Your umbrella of literacies encourages and models for them how to strengthen their own personal learning networks.
You see the need to move to this, from Henry Jenkins’s Paper:
“If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, [Creative] and economic life.”
— New London Group (2000, p. 9)
All students actively engage in ways that produce, share, collaborate, and curate relevant content that enhances the communites, real and virtual, in which they participate.
Consider also, these excerpts:
“Fostering such social skills and cultural competencies requires a more systemic approach to media education in the United States. Everyone involved in preparing young people to go out into the world has contributions to make in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in our society. Schools, afterschool programs, and parents have distinctive roles to play as they do what they can in their own spaces to encourage and nurture these skills.”
“Participatory culture is emerging as the culture absorbs and responds to the explosion of new media technologies that make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways.A focus on expanding access to new technologies carries us only so far if we do not also foster the skills and cultural knowledge necessary to deploy those tools toward our own ends.”
“Blau’s report celebrates a world in which everyone has access to the means of creative expression and the networks supporting artistic distribution.The Pew study (Lenhardt & Madden, 2005) suggests something more: young people who create and circulate their own media are more likely to respect the intellectual property rights of others because they feel a greater stake in the cultural economy. Both reports suggest we are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media, toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced.”
“We must integrate these new knowledge cultures into our schools, not only through group work but also through long-distance collaborations across different learning communities. Students should discover what it is like to contribute their own expertise to a process that involves many intelligences, a process they encounter readily in their participation in fan discussion lists or blogging. Indeed, this disparate collaboration may be the most radical element of new literacies: they enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing with large-scale communities that may never personally interact. Schools are currently still training autonomous problemsolvers, whereas as students enter the workplace, they are increasingly being asked to work in teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problems.”
- Keep up with the literacies, not the technology
- Develop an understanding of social capital – in the community: “it’s more important that people learn through me.”
- Focus attention — be aware of and focus one’s own attention.
- Apply skills to empower and enhance them — once students learn to read (by grade three), why continue teaching “reading?” — but rather use and develop the skill while learning.
And in a related webinar from Classroom Live 2.0, I linked from Alex Dunn’s iPad information to this excellent “Inclusioneers” imperative:
…we need to acknowledge that no two students are alike and that changes need to be made to existing learning environments to reach and teach every student; “barriers to learning are not, in fact, inherent in the capacities of learners, but instead arise in learners’ interactions with inflexible educational materials and methods. (CAST Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning, Preface p. iv). http://inclusioneers.com/
Equity in Access and Participation
Since students are already collaborating and creating online, those students are learning the ways through the web’s processes, using whatever technology supports their endeavors. So the technology is not the point, but rather the tool or the process. The point is the social collaboration and community, a chance to participate and be heard in that community and in a democracy. Since I teach in a school with a high poverty rate, it is imperative that my students have access to the opportunities to participate as online citizens; we must develop equity in access and participation so their future opportunities are as open and available as those who have all the resources available to them.
Transparency in Perspectives
Because youth are forming ideas, absorbing information, and may not consider perspectives and motives, curricular considerations must include development of skills in analyzing validity and relevance in the discoveries students find online. If we help them to see through the motives and biases, to search through to relevant and valid information, and to develop their own strategies for doing so, we create a transparency envelope that will enhance their and our future discourse and problem-solving. As we develop curriculum, we allow student choice and provide guidance in detection of validity and relevance.
Ethics as Digital Citizens
As students move to more collaboration and creation together, we have the opportunity to teach, and they have the chance to practice in their projects with each other and with others in their online network, the very essence of civil discourse. I love how my students are learning to suggest alternative ideas to their collaborators with a simple phrase, “I wonder if…” It’s not easy to truly collaborate in person, let alone online, and yet these are the skills needed for today’s workforce and for community solutions. Teams and global connections occur often, and even in small businesses, connections to other communities and agencies demand teamwork and collaboration. Our curriculum must not only work with differentiating for the individual, but also for encouraging the group collaborative skills needed to create team projects; this requires of us the social capacity of cooperation and considerate dialogue.
Literacies as a Continuum; Skills as Foundations
Have you ever wondered how we became so skills-based? I’m wondering if , in reading for example, we began to study more deeply how good readers read. Through experts, in developing dissertations, we learned the complex processes and strategies that good readers employ. Somehow that knowledge, which helps us guide readers, became required skills to teach and test. And yet, to become good readers, a learner must read: read for a purpose (entertainment, research, opinions) and read to learn. Now, we teach reading skills through eighth grade and what do we have? Low Test Scores. What if, once students learned the essence of decoding, we let them read for their own reasons and suggested strategies when they needed them? What if the test were the ability to use reading — not do the skill — but to use reading as one of the strategies to learn and solve problems?
The usable skills needed are more universal– communicate, collaborate, solve, create, revise. The extend from simple dialogue and expression through listening and receptive comprehension. They are the literacies of mentioned by many, including Howard Rheingold’s list: attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, critical consumption. It is these that need our curricular focus. The foundation skills, the reading, writing, research skills, develop in the doing of research and problem-solving. As teachers, we differentiate — personalize — as students need the foundation skill while applying the needed skills of thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving, creating, revising during their choice of projects. The test is the process and product of their project solution, not the discrete skills.
An example of a school that does not test, but does expect demonstration of the literacies is the Science Leadership Academy. I had the honor of listening to students explain their day, their work, their goals, and their successes and struggles. The students articulated these clearly with grace and through examples from their portfolios. They certainly could focus their attention, set and evaluate their personal goals, participate as a team and an individual, and collaborate to solve the tasks. They could evaluate the successes and state the needed improvements. They did more than “explain with evidence the main idea of the topic;” they developed solutions and evaluated the results.
Four years ago I wrote this:
“The word “education” derives from the Latin “educere — lead out.” Education should lead students to find themselves, to strengthen what they do well, to discover hidden talents, and to learn from others who use their talents well so that students, too, become productive, creative citizens. Students don’t need to know everything, and they will learn what they need to know — when it’s needed to learn about themselves or to learn how things work as they create and interact in learning quests of which they have chosen the focus and in which the standards provide background, guidance, and focus.”
And suggested this:
How would educators do that? The standards provide the harbor, a reference point in content and process; the educators and students decide the direction of their journey into the river, planning the places and prospects that contain the current and forge the flow of learning, creating their own ports of explorations and expertise to which others connect. These ports are personal docks displaying each student’s possibilities and proficiencies — a lifelong legacy of learning. Moor to the dock to discover the scope of the scholarship and the compass of the course; a test isn’t required. I think classrooms would be more joyful, inclusive, and active places if we help and connect people in their process of developing their possibilities; classrooms would be places where students WANT to go — to augment and evince their odyssey. Wouldn’t that be something?
Do you think we have finally reached the point where this is possible? That the digital literacies of creation and fluency, participation and collaboration, provide the personal ports of entry and in the doing, they recieve guidance to become expert in process, content, and social diplomacy? Are we willing to be the constellations from which students learn to guide their own education?