Monday, March 26, 2012

Considering Digital Literacy

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn’t need to be reformed - it needs to be transformed.   
 ~ Sir Ken Robinson in The Element
My last assignment for my CET course was to create a video in response to the following questions:
  • What is digital literacy?
  • What is an area of digital literacy that could be improved upon in schools?
  • How might we improve in this area?
774-Neuron Connection-Pattern by
zooboing on Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0
And so, in my effort to worker 'smarter not harder' I have included the transcript from this video below as a post (the video is below).

Our world has changed and the environment students’ live in is vastly different than the one their teachers experienced as children. It is electronic and digital; media rich, fast, engaging and dynamic. By the time our students graduate they will have spent as much time online as a professional pianist would have spent practicing.

Marc Prensky describes this generation as one that operates at ‘twitch speed’. It is their accepted norm to have instant access to information, goods and services at the tap of a screen. They expect to be able to communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime. More importantly, there is strong indirect evidence that these digital natives think differently, that in fact their brains are physiologically different from those raised in the pre-digital world.

And so, as educators we must ask how are we preparing these digital natives, our students, for the 21st century? What does it mean to be digitally literate?

TheInternational Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, has developed National Educational Technology Standards ~ commonly called NETS, that provide a widely accepted description of the skills and knowledge students need to be digitally literate. These digital literacies have also been defined by the International Baccalaureate (IB) to promote the integration of technology to support teaching and learning in their Primary Years Programme.

Both organizations have similar ideas about the attributes of digital literacy; collaboration, communication, digital citizenship, yet it is the need to create that strikes a chord with me personally. The ability to create, while an important digital literacy, is also a higher order thinking skill. When students are asked to create in the context of real time, creating solutions to real world problems and then share these, teaching others, research from institutions such as the National Training Labs, tells us that the retention of students’ learning is dramatically improved.    

And so the question becomes what do our students need to become creative problem solvers? How have we changed to facilitate this?

In Sir KenRobinson’s book, The Element, he states that the mistake made by many policymakers in education is to believe that ‘the best way to face the future is to improve upon what was done in the past’ (p 235). But we know this is not working – our world has changed and so have its inhabitants. We need to transform our education systems to meet the needs of our digital children.

We need to rethink what learning spaces might look like – do they encourage collaboration – both locally and globally? Do they provide for the use of appropriate tools for our digital age? Do they empower students to create content, solve problems and share their findings, teaching others in the process?

Many educators worry about keeping up with technology – which is understandable as the rate of change makes this a futile exercise. Students today will be better served if we focus our energies on designing spaces that facilitate learning in a digital age. We still teach children and as always, we must consider the needs of people and how to best support meaningful learning.

Works cited:
Churches, A. Educational Origami. <> March 2012.

Fenton, J. ADE Application Video. <> 2011

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. 2011.

Jukes, Ian & A. Dosaj. “Understanding Digital Children (DKs)” Teaching & Learning in the New Digital Landscape, The InfoSavvy Group, September, 2006. Prepared for the Singapore MOE Mass Lecture.

Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” On the Horizon. NCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001.

Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?” On the Horizon. NCB University Press, Vol. 6 No. 1, December 2001.

Robinson, Ken. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. London: Penguin Books. 2009.

The Role of ICT in the PYP. International Baccalaureate Organisation. 2011.

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