It has been a while since I last posted on this blog. Quite frankly, I missed it. It seems like life managed to get in the way, but I now have a good excuse to get back at it–I get to reflect on my learning in ECMP 455. I am very excited. I hope you are too! I promise that this blog post won’t be nearly as dry as the title makes it out to be.
So today, I have the privilege of reflecting on a presentation by Karl Fisch, who spoke with us on impact. He started off telling us about his “little presentation” that ended up having well over 40,000,000 views. Holy. I hope that one day I can make even a fraction of that impact.
I found it interesting that Karl posed the question of what literacy looks like now. It has certainly changed. He brought up the topic of multiple and malleable literacies. Literacy to me means being able to function within the social world in which we live. Several years ago, the social world consisted of being able to write a letter to a friend and read the response or hold a conversation at the town hall. Hmm.. that sounds a lot like reading and writing.
I’m going to venture to argue that in the last fifteen years, typing has emerged as a form of literacy. It is yet another way to communicate. Even though the typewriter has been around for quite a while now, the need for typing in today’s world is like knowing your multiplication tables–yes you can scrape by with kind of sort of having knowing how to multiply, but it really is an essential skill because it leads to so many other things. Same goes for typing. It is a given in today’s world.
Typing leads to interpretation of all the forms of communication in this very social age. Facebook, twitter, cell phones, even the now “primitive” email, and anything else that keeps you connected requires some sort of computer knowledge that has all stemmed from typing and understanding type-written language. Basic computer use is essential to surviving in today’s world. Heck, even my 88-year-old grandmother types up her Christmas letter.
Part of this computer literacy leads to yet another interaction. This one is not with friends, but with the world. Youtube enables anyone with a video camera, which most people have on on their phones, and internet connection to instantly upload anything they like. Karl told us that Youtube content in past month is more than if the three major American networks could broadcast for 63 years all day every day. Pretty amazing to think about now. The power that every holds in their hands at any given moment is tremendous. The ability to create, share, and critique content has never been so simple or accessible.
The constant debate is whether or not Youtube is acceptable in schools. That debate is filled with landmines. On one hand, why would we limit our students? Ninety percent of our students will use it for good, but the other ten percent will misuse the privilege. Do we benefit the ninety and deal with the ten, or do we focus on the ten and limit the ninety? It might be a little harder to do as a classroom teacher, but I think the choice is clear. Why limit our students?
Part of letting our students have access to tools such as Youtube requires that we, as teachers, can guide our students to be savvy with these tools. Guaranteed my students will be up on the latest technology and I might be a bit behind, but it is still my responsibility to guide my students how to ethically and effectively filter, understand, and consume anything they come across. My future students will undoubtedly be bombarded by new technology. Knowing how to use that technology to their advantage for education, entertainment, efficiency, and any other purpose needs to be innate in today’s curriculum.
Part of our job as teachers is to educate today’s students. I agree with Karl that we are not teaching students from 1985. I wasn’t even born then! I have a strong belief that educating our students on how to carefully negotiate all the media they have in their lives is important. One of the greatest things we can do for our students, in my opinion, is educate them about facebook and the power it has. I don’t mean how we can use facebook in school, which I still would like to do, but how to use facebook in a productive mannor to create content, upkeep connections with friends, and how to keep that environment positive for everyone. Cyber bullying is a huge problem. I think this is largely because students feel that teachers, parents, and the like are too far behind the times to even know how to handle cyber bullying. While non-cyber bullying is still a big problem in schools, cyber bullying is almost untouched with regards to finding a solution. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if there even is one. But, the first step would be to take the taboo off of facebook, chat rooms, IM programs, and such. Educate our students on how to use them positively. Use them in school. That might be a good first step to finding a solution.
I loved what Karl said: “If you have an internet connection in your classroom, then you are no longer the smartest person in the room, and you need to get over that.” Those words have rung in my ears for the past two days. He is in essence saying that I have this mega-tool, a fantastic opportunity to enhance the learning of my students. I need to use it. With data plans on Smart Phones, many students don’t even need an internet connection. Society right now has an amazing power that have never existed before: we know everything. There is always an answer. If you don’t know something, google it. If you don’t understand something, google it. If you don’t remember something, google it. I think this also leads into the questions of whether or not we need to test students in a setting where it is just them, their exam, and their number 2 pencil. Why not let them have access to the internet? Instead of scratching the surface of something, we can get into amazing depths by letting our students use the tools they have in their daily lives and, quite frankly, will have in the workplace.
Speaking of which, publishing in the workplace looks very different now. No longer are reports printed, photocopied, and distributed en mass. That is what email is for. Wait! What if you need to reach a wider audience? Put it online. Start a blog, have a company website, or work with a wiki. Karl mentioned that his school is doing something called a “wikified research paper.” This is the same concept as a research paper, but it is online. Now, there is no need for reference list — you can link directly in the paper. Content is published online, is continually editable, multimedia can be added if required, and so much more. The possibilities are endless, and the same curriculum standards are met. In fact, this probably exceeds the curriculum standards. Clicking “print” is not a curriculum standard, so why not save a few trees and enhance learning at the same time. What a good deal. This is not to mention that the feedback they will get is immense. The whole world (or a subset of that depending on the accessibility set by the teacher) has the opportunity to read, comment, critique, and compliment the student is far better than one teacher reading and providing feedback.
Opening the possibilites for conversation can enhance learning so much. The best example of this, in my mind, was on Monday night during Karl’s presentation. Our class used the chat box almost like footnotes for us to add comments, bounce related ideas off of one another, and such all while Karl was speaking. It seemed like we were annotating an article almost, except in real-time and with 16 authors. I cannot believe how powerful that was. Karl was an outstanding presenter, but he was 10x better because we had another opportunity to interpret and understand concepts he was discussing. We were forced (in a good way) to critically consume his presentation, rather than sitting back and watching it like a movie.
This got me thinking about my own teaching. What would happen if I had a class where talking was perfectly acceptable? I bet my students would get so much more meaning out of my class if they had the power to have quick conversations about what I was talking about? Maybe this would be in the form of a chatbox like we had, or maybe in small groups whispering. I don’t know. I don’t know if it would work, but I am certainly willing to give it a shot. I hope that they can get as much meaning from me as I did from Karl.
Well, I think that’s all for now. I’ve typed my fingers off, so I’m off to get a warm cup of tea.