Tuesday, April 15, 2008

21st Century Literacy

My last post for the night, I promise. What is 21st Century Literacy? First, and foremost, it is a literacy. Not a skill. When we teach skills, and I know we have to, that is only the beginning. When we teach them literacy, we've set them free. 21st Century Literacy?

Think. Communicate your thoughts. Collaborate with other thinkers. Think some more. Create. None of these are technology skills. But technology makes all of them happen far faster, better, and deeper than ever before.

Literacy starts with reading. A generation ago, the common wisdom was that reading would become less and less necessary. I would argue that reading is more important than ever.

Yes, the cliché is true that we have to prepare students for careers that haven’t been invented yet. But it is also true that we have to prepare them to re-invent themselves and their skill set again at 30, 40, 50; long after they’ve left "schooling." How many of us are modeling this? How many of us are still relying mainly on the skills we were taught? When we need to know how to do something new, what do we do? Ask to be taught or jump in and start learning? (Have you ever heard "I'd really like to learn something about this Web 2.0 stuff, will you offer a workshop?") I know I'm being unfair, workshops definitely have their place, but the best workshops offer just a touch of teaching and lots of discovery and engagement with a resource (me) available for help.

Today in class students blogged their reading books and responded to other blogs. Would reading journals serve the same purpose? Maybe to the teacher, but not to the students. Teens are desperate to talk to each other. We've given them a higher plane to carry on the conversation and they are engaged in discussing, evaluating and comparing books. We had an oral discussion of what makes a blog entry interesting and worth commenting on. Moving on, students used some advanced word processing features to collaboratively analyze the differences between a summary and a synthesis of a non-fiction article. They then pulled up the webs they'd made of their articles (there had summarized one of 10 articles pre-selected) and expanded the webs to include their thinking about their reading (metacognition). Tonight they'll finish their rough drafts. They'll use software to record an mp3 of their synthesis and practice reading with expression. Then they'll listen to themselves as they re-read and revise their draft. Is any of this the "shock and awe" use of technology Sam Morris of Cary Academy describes so well? Nope. Is it powerful? Yes! Transformative? Yes!

1 comment:

Jen said...

Love this!

Questions - is there nothing negative about the impact of technology on literacy? It is easy to agree that technology can make the processes of communicating thoughts, collaborating, and creating - faster, but not always better and deeper. Perhaps sometimes, perhaps often, but not always. Slow process, having to write and mail a letter, having time between thoughts and their communication has merits. Being "alone with your thoughts" can be good.

Having said that -what fun to read your blog and respond here in NJ!