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.
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