Category Archives: Digital Literacy

Why communication is important…

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Found this story via Darren Kuropatwa’s blog. It’s called “Safety v. Panic“, a powerful, personal experience about what can go wrong with the use of technology for teaching and learning when people don’t communicate. I fully agree with Darren’s comments that

Maybe if everybody tried talking to each other before they started pointing fingers they might learn from each other, understand each other better, figure out a way to meet everyone’s needs better and maybe, just maybe, the kids would have really learned something … and it would have stuck.

This is exactly the stuff I wrote about in my recent Innovate article (free registration required) on building relationships with technology and kids, but on a much broader scale. It’s easy to point fingers, ban, sue, and punish. This type of attitude also takes up a lot of valuable resources (time, money….) that would be better spent on, say … educating?

Read the original post and the comments, read Darren’s comments, and let me know what you think …

Image Credit: “Purpura”, Danella manera’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/143760074/

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Pay Attention!

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Following Karl Fisch’s series of presentations that have fostered a lot of discussion (see e.g. Karl’s blog), Darren Draper ( Technology Curriculum Specialist in the Jordan School District in Utah) has come up with “Pay Attention” and an accompanying list of resources. Much has already been written about this video, as it has circulated on the web for about a month now (that tells you how far behind in my reading I am!).

Karl Fisch calls it a “conversation starter”, Vicki Davis calls it “powerful and amazing”, etc., etc.

The thing that really caught my eye were a couple of very small parts of the presentation, namely student comments:

We have learned to ‘play school’. We study the right facts the night before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student. 

I’m not attention deficit, I’m just not listening (and we wonder why!!)

When I go to school I have to power down.

I really like this last one as it speaks volumes about what kids are capable of and what we do with them in formal educational settings. Kids want to learn, kids love technology and it’s an essential part of their lives (another student quote from the video: “When you lose your mobile, you lose part of your brain”).  How hard is it to put the two together? Or to put it in Darren’s words, Since most of today’s students can appropriately be labeled as “Digital Learners”, why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices?

I think a lot of it still has to do with issues of control and fear, as I’ve discussed in my recent Innovate article (open content, but free registration required), David Warlick talked about in his post “Fear & Death! Fear & Death!”, and is a focus of danah boyd’s research. I will be hosting a webcast on this very subject on May 8, 2007, 12 PM EST. If you’d like to talk about this some, please join me then.

Image Credit: “Warning! New Stop Sign Ahead”. laffy4k’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/206251599/

4-16-2007 continued

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Just a couple of additional sources that shed additional light on the role of new media sources in the coverage of major news events, and the ways in which news reporting is changing. Paul Bradshaw writes in a short but interesting post in his Online Journalism Blog that

Unlike previous user generated content milestones like 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, this story took place in the heart of the new media generation, and the resulting coverage is more comprehensive, more accessible, and takes in more new media forms, including social networking.

Via this same blog, I came across this post on Poynter Online, which provides an interesting collection of “user-generated content” of the Virginia Tech tragedy, from a journalistic point of view. Lots of interesting stuff; and like Bradshaw says in his post, roles are changing:

1) the need to develop the awareness of, and skills to find, this material; 2) in the face of such comprehensive and accessible first-person reporting, the need to develop new roles, perhaps as gatewatchers, facilitators and filters rather than reporters.

And by the way, this doesn’t hold true just for journalists ….

Image credit: “One Day Blog Silence”, David Leggett’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/theleggett/463068884/

4-16-2007

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What happened yesterday at Virginia Tech University is awful beyond belief, and I’m sure the event will be analyzed out the wazoo by the U.S. and global news media. When I started to follow the story (not really until sometime last night), I started drawing parallels to a similar event that happened at the University of Iowa on November 1, 1991. I lived mere blocks from where that shooting happened and was home at the time of the event.

In 1991, we learned about the event from the local television stations, and a more in-depth write-up appeared in a special edition of the university’s newspaper the next morning. Compared to the deluge of information that will come from the Virginia Tech campus and beyond within the next weeks, the amount of information released immediately following the 1991 shooting was fairly small (even the wikipedia entry for the Virginia Tech shootings is already larger than the one for the University of Iowa shooting).

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the facts too much here, as plenty has already been written and will be written by the major news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. However, what is interesting is that had this event taken place before the advent of the Internet like the shooting in Iowa City, my information sources (and therefore my take on the tragic events as they unfolded in Blacksburg) would have been very different. I didn’t really watch TV news channels yesterday. In fact, I picked up on the story via a few different blogs in my Feedreader. After a cursory look at the headlines on MSNBC, I got quite a bit of information (and links to a variety of other sources) from this post on Boing Boing, which led me to images on flickr here and here. I also found some videos on YouTube. In addition, quite a bit had already been written in the edublogger community by the likes of Anne Davis, Vicki Davis, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and Wes Fryer.

What struck me is that pretty much everybody who mentioned the event mentioned the wikipedia entry. Wes made an interesting observation:

From an information literacy perspective, following the comments on the history page of the WikiPedia entry for this incident is illuminating. What are the authors discussing and commenting on?
– What is the reference for that?
– Are included details and links relevant to this situation?
– Is accurate language being used, or are unwarranted exaggerations being made?

These types of discussions about information posted online and its accuracy are extremely important skills for our students to master, as it is easy to just believe what’s posted online because it is online. There’s an obvious danger in this kind of blind faith, and it surfaces even in tragic situations like this one, as this follow-up story from Boing Boing shows. An excerpt:

Blogs and online discussions yesterday misidentified 23-year-old Wayne Chiang (above), a VA Tech student with a penchant for guns, South Park, and bummed-out blog entries, as the shooter responsible for the VA Tech massacre.

Mr. Chiang’s “wanusmaximus” livejournal (“Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”) and Facebook profile include many photos of heavy weapons, and vanity shots of him posing with quantities of those weapons.

Mr. Chiang is Asian-American, and early reports indicate the VA Tech shooter was, too — which added to many internet accusers’ certainty that he was the killer, even though investigators still have not disclosed the name of the actual VA Tech murderer.

Comment fields on Chiang’s site soon filled with racist lines like “so u are the asisan that shot up the school. i hate u and your people.”

But, news alert: lots of LJs look like Chiang’s. Gloomy web poetry and a gun hobby don’t prove a dude is a mass murderer. After dozens of “j’accuse!” blog posts linked to his journal like so many pointed fingers, Chiang finally posted an update late last night:

Coming out. I am not the shooter. Through this experience, I have received numerous death threats, slanderous accusations, and my phone is out of charge from the barrage of calls. Local police have been notified of the situation.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the nature of news production and consumption is changing (see e.g. this post on SmartMobs), and major news events such as the tragedy at Virginia Tech are prime examples. What it means for education is that we need to seriously rethink how we teach our children to examine news, showing them the importance of not only accessing information, but carefully analyzing it, juxtaposing different points of view, and trying to construct the most accurate and comprehensive story from a large number of very different sources.

As for all of you at VT who have been affected by the shootings, know that my prayers are with you…

Image Credit: “Prayers for Virginia Tech”, from busiguy6’s photstream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/busiguy6/461741757/in/pool-va-tech-shooting/

Is MySpace Really Mine?

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Here is a scary thought: Banning MySpace – at Home. According to this post on KairosNews, and the orignal article here, St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic School in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is banning students from using MySpace, on campus AND at home. “Those students who have existing MySpace.com accounts must delete them if they wish to continue going to school there. Students who do not delete their accounts cannot attend the school, Van Velzen [the school’s principal] said.”

Protecting students from the evils of the web is one thing, but I’m waiting to see when the first lawsuit is going to come about for violation of First Amendment rights. The scary thing is that according to the article, most parents seem to be in favor of the new school policy. Is this because it is easier to ban the use of MySpace than to learn about it and educate students on responsible, ethical, and safe use? Also, who is going to check to see whether students delete or keep their accounts, and how will the school be able to prove whether a student has an account or not? I’m sure students are already thinking of ways to circumvent this new policy.

 Instead of banning out of fear, schools and parents are better off learning about the web tools that kids are going to use, forging better relationships with kids AND technology, as I argue in the latest issue of Innovate that focuses on the Net Generation. I especially would like to point out the first comment on my article, made by Elizabeth Igarza from South Texas College within hours of the article being posted online. A couple of excerpts:

School districts across the globe are scrambling to keep up with blocking the newest social networking sites that pop up online seemingly overnight so as to safeguard our children while at school. Why then, like any other educator who cares about the well-being of our children, would I advocate unblocking these potentially dangerous sites? Simply put, because when we block our portals, we close our eyes and leave millions of our kids are out there alone, vulnerable, and unprotected. We have a duty to un-block access to social networking sites and get in there to help them understand this new connectedness, make informed choices, and lead the transformation toward a greater good. 

We could, however, just continue sitting behind blocked content warnings and let the next generation stumble in the middle of the information highway without so much as warning them to look both ways before crossing into a new digital neighborhood. Or we can get logged in, lead the dialogue and the content, and guide them in building social networks that will benefit their lives and our increasingly interconnected world. If we don’t, the headlines are full of terrifying stories of who might.

As a former social studies teacher, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Please read the entire comment at Innovate, and thanks for commenting on my article Elizabeth!!

Image Credit: MySpace.com for the MySpace logo. The rest is PhotoShopped.

Information Literacy, Part II

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The recent IDC white paper, “The Expanding Digital Universe” provides some interesting numbers on digital information, as well as some prediction through 2010.  A few examples:

  •  In 2006, the amount of digital information created, captured, and replicated was 161 exabytes (or 161 billion gigabytes, which numerically would be 161,000,000,000 GIGAbytes).
  • Between 2006 and 2010, the digital information added annually will increase sixfold from 161 to 988 exabytes.
  • Digital images comprise the largest component of the digital universe, captured by over 1 billion devices.
  • By 2010, 70% of the digital universe will be created by INDIVIDUALS.
  • In 2007, the amount of information created will surpass, for the first time, the amount of storage capacity available.
  • Growth of the digital universe is uneven, with emerging economies slowly catching up to established ones such as Japan, the US, and western Europe.

The Web Worker Daily Blog provides some interesting comments on the IDC’s predictions in a post called “Information and the web worker“, for example that

2007 is the year that our ability to stuff bits into the digital universe will outstrip our ability to store them. By 2010, the total amount of data will overwhelm the total amount of digital storage by a factor of nearly two to one. Whether it’s that e-mail offering to sell you a timeshare condo, the picture of your niece that you sent wirelessly to your mom, or a show that you recorded to watch later, something is going to be lost forever – and looking at the trends, the proportion of things that get lost forever will keep increasing.

More interestingly, however, are the comments on what this all means for knowledge workers,  namely that the work that these people do can to some extent be compared to switchboard operators:

When I look around I see a world where the real value is in connecting people and knowledge. But doing so in utter secrecy doesn’t scale. We don’t do sellside vs buyside. We do active endpoints. We don’t represent one side or the other. We represent the network. We’re switchboard operators for the digital knowledge economy.

That’s what social networkers are and do. We’re connectors.  

As I said, the switchboard operator analogy holds up only so far, and as somebody else already commented on this post:

There’s more to this connecting stuff than just pulling together the bits that anyone _could_ find: it’s being the people who actually _take the time_ to find the connections in amongst the huge stew of everything out there on the Internet.

That’s one of the places the operator analogy falls down. Operators were pretty much passive connectors: a call came in from person A who wants to reach person B, and the operator is the one who knows how to make the connection, but they don’t have anything to do with deciding what connection to make. The valuable operators in this new economy are those who spot the useful connections and initiate them without being prompted.

So where am I going with all of this? I think it should be pretty obvious from the above that just learning how to read, write, and do basic math isn’t going to cut it anymore, yet that’s what we do in education in many cases. Students need to learn how to search for, aggregate, analyze, synthesize, create, and communicate, and they need to be able to do so in an increasingly digital world (hence also the need for more social studies education in such areas as citizenship and global awareness). We can no longer afford to prepare kids with skills for an industrial economy, those days are long gone. The area I live in, Northeast Ohio, is a prime example, as further discussed in this earlier post.

Literacy is extremely important these days, even more so than in the past. However, as the nature of information is constantly changing, so should the ways in which we teach our students to be literate, and that means going way beyond learning how to read, really!

Image Credit: “DSC04332”, Neil Rickard’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilrickards/141511035/

Intel Predicts a Ubiquitous Mobile Future

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Interesting article I saw today on tradearabia.com, entitled “Intel predicts massive changes.” Among the predictions:

1. Ubiquitous Mobility Will Become A Reality. With laptops already making up around a third of all PC sales, consumers and businesses alike are enjoying the convenience of mobile computing. As the performance, energy-efficiency and ease-of-use of portable devices continues to improve, people’s computing experience will increasingly be defined by what they are doing, not where they are doing it.

2. Carrying Broadband Internet With You. The coming year will see high-speed internet access move to the next level through mobile technologies such as WiMAX.

3. Technology: From Communication to Collaboration. Email, mobile phones and the internet were all about faster and easier communication. And they have had an amazing impact on our lives today. But we’re heading into a new realm as technology now allows us to enjoy a realistic experience through advanced multimedia communication. The results are more immediacy and spontaneity in our communication – making for a much better relationship-building tool – whether you are using video- or web-conferencing, for private or business use.

4. PC power inspires new usage models. Gaming, music and video downloads and streaming, imaging and all multimedia-related applications have become increasingly popular over the last few years.

Interesting predictions, although nothing really earth-shattering. What it does show is that there remains an emphasis on wireless and mobile computing. If technology develops on the scale that Intel predicts though, I think it will continue to push schools to either change or become more obsolete. Either way, the nature of learning will continue to change in that it will become  more:

  • augmented/enhanced/facilitated by digital tools;

  • participatory (with all sorts of implications for social studies education in such realms as civics education, global participation, activism, etc.);

  • equal, meaning that “underdeveloped” nations will begin to catch up because they are skipping the desktop/wired stage altogether in favor of wireless mobile devices, esp. cell phones. That this is already having an impact can be seen for example in Kenya, Venezuela, and the Philippines.

Hence the importance of new media literacy skills as I blogged about here.

(via HandheldLearning

Image credit: “Pimp my ride”. jurvetson’s photostream:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/12396787/