Module 3 Reflection – for EDTC6433

Question for ISTE #3 – How can I model and facilitate digital literacy for my 6th grade ELA students?

“Digital Literacy” – What’s that?

There are several definitions and alternative labels for digital literacy floating around in the education technology conversation.  I am thankful to Karon Dragon and Wasnieswski Ewa of the University of Alberta, who have provided the following summary:

Ranieri,  Calvani  and  Fini  (2010)  would  define  digital  competence  as  “the  capability  to  explore and  face  new  technological  situations  in  a  flexible  way,  to  analyze,  select  and  critically  evaluate  data  and information,  to  exploit  technological  potentials  in  order  to  represent  and  solve  problems  and  build  shared and  collaborative  knowledge”  (pg.542).  Martin (2009)  defines  e-literacy  as  “awareness,  skills, understanding  and  reflective  evaluative  approaches  to  operate  in  an  information  rich  and  IT  supported environment” (p. 97).

Flexibility, source analysis and evaluation, information synthesis, problem solving.  Awareness, reflection, evaluation.  Fortunately, much of this is already reflected in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Digital literacy is the term we’re using to adjust our notion of literacy according to how much more literature there is to be understood and sorted out.

With this definition in mind, he first step toward modeling and facilitating digital literacy should be to acknowledge the skills kids already have. As UCLA professor, Patricia Greenfield, has written,

The informal learning environments of television, video games, and the Internet are producing learners with a new profile of cognitive skills. This profile features widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills, such as iconic representation and spatial visualization.

In other words, the amount of time kids spend on their devices gives this generation a set of digital literacy skills unlike any we’ve ever seen.  Educators can leverage those skills by creating lessons, visuals, assessments and build on and reward those competencies.  To use just one example, iconic representation is useful for routines and other classroom communication.  If we leverage the fact that kids only need a symbol where we previously needed an explanation, we can reserve class time for the other skills involved in untangling a world wide web of ideas.

Untangling is a useful metaphor for what schools have always endeavored to help students do.  We set out the Odyssey, or Hamlet – or, if you teach 6th grade ELA – The Giver.  And we help kids pull out certain pieces to take a better look (analysis) and then arrange them in a meaningful order that will communicate some conclusion (synthesis).  The new literacy is the old literacy; there’s just a whole lot more text.  So we have to start setting out more texts at a time.  Which means that some of the time we used to spend close-reading novels will be spent close-reading the internet.

One difficulty will be keeping their attention.  This challenge of keeping kids on task is significantly altered when the ratio is 1-to-1, but it isn’t necessarily new or unique – or any more difficult!  Fortunately, it is easier than ever to track and respond to student tasks (programs like LanSchool let you monitor student screens).  Feedback is also faster and easier than ever before; using OneNote Class Notebook I can read work submissions in real time, and respond with feedback without shuffling through a pile of papers or a row of desks.

While technology has made broadened the realm of and demand for literacy, it has also provided some tools that promise to help us teach literacy more efficiently than we could before.

Reference:

Dragon, K. and Ewa, W. (2012). “Relationships between Digital Literacy and Print literacy: Predictors of Successful On-line Search.” Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2012. (PP. 1755-1758). University of Alberta, Canada.  Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077567/download

Greenfield, P. M. (2009).  Technology and Informal Education: What Is Taught, What Is Learned.  Science  Vol. 323, pp. 69-71. Retrieved from http://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5910/69.abstract

 

Classroom Tips – for EDU 6136, Content Methods

Gather ’round, my friends.  I mean, if you want to.  Here are a few things I’ve been trying out in order to make my alignment between outcomes, activities, and assessments more prominent for my students.

TIPS Alignment

And here is a page from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, for those of you who may not have interest in the TIPS handout but will likely still benefit from the sage words of a cartoon cat:

walk-long-enough color

Module 2 Reflection – for EDTC6433

I teach a Creative Writing elective. I chose to read Ellen Madden’s article on digital storytelling in search of a tech-savvy (ok, brag-worthy) instructional gimmick that might impress a room full of kids who would rather take their digital tech class again. But what I found was much more practical – and much more exciting – than a gimmick. Madden follows two teachers as they plan and implement a digital storytelling unit on The Outsiders. In this extremely practical overview of how we can use digital storytelling to target English Language Arts CCSS proficiency, Madden describes teacher approach, instructional methods, and the task of teaching the tech alongside the standards and the novel.

Let me explain why this is such a big deal. To start, here’s an example of something I’m trying to squeeze out of apathetic and underserved (but completely delightful) 6th graders in Language Arts:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5 – Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

I want my students to be able to analyze one moment in an unfolding plot, and then tell me how it relates to the bigger picture. To comprehend a novel’s themes, students must drill down into key passages to analyze and make connections. So I might ask my students to analyze one chapter of the novel we’re reading right now, and tell me what that chapter contributes to the novel’s themes. How does the author use Chapter 9 to make some statement about friendship, or culture, or identity?

When I ask questions like this, I’m placing my students across the table from a text or author, in a posture of interrogation. This is great fun for a grown up with an English degree; I know what questions to ask. But many 6th graders aren’t great interrogators – they don’t always have specific questions about plot elements or character change. They aren’t interested in Socratic discovery. They are interested in making stuff.

In 2010, Grunwald Associates LLC reported that, “Teachers value digital media as instructional resources that empower them to engage student interest, promote creativity, and differentiate instruction.” It follows that, when I invite my students to create a digital representation of a text, I’m inviting them to sit next to – not across from – the author. Using a digital storytelling platform (my district uses Microsoft Sway) students look at the text and the author’s strategies as a co-creator.  This kind of creative imitation requires just as much analysis as interrogation, but it’s a great deal more accessible to kids. In other words, it’s fun.

Madden describes how the process of digital storytelling can be broken down into meaningful pieces which more explicitly reveal different elements of the story. The process begins with personal preference and individual goals – students choose the scene they find most compelling, and set out to convey that scene’s unique tone.  Students also manage their own learning throughout the process as they work to meet mini-deadlines, continually evaluating their progress.  Teachers can leverage these deadlines to blend instruction with assessment by explicitly tying all this creative activity to the technical concepts of characterization, setting, and juxtaposition.  Most importantly, students learn literary concepts by rolling up their sleeves and interacting with the text in a personal way.  As students create alongside the author, they confront a sincere need to communicate their ideas well. They are compelled to look more closely at what the author is doing – how the bullets flying in the background highlight the life-giving quality of friendship (or whatever). Re-creating the tone of a scene requires students to choose and consistently fold in repeated contributions to that tone – the way an author does.  They learn what tone is by “doing” tone – this is the very definition of authentic learning!

Resources:

Maddin, Ellen (2013) Teaching Literary Analysis with Digital Storytelling: An Instructional Approach [PDF]. Retrieved from http://encompass.eku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1063&context=kjectl.

Grunwald Associates, LLC (2010). Deepening Connections: Teachers Increasingly Rely on Media and Technology. Retrieved from https://canvas.instructure.com/courses/992608/files/39077531?module_item_id=8641931