Greetings from my adopted home state of Florida. I was glad to come back to a house that was not flooded or damaged by any wind--I guess that I dodged the bullet on this storm but I also know what August and September are capable of bringing. After an eleven hour trans-Atlantic flight from Rome (and then a connecting flight) with a restless one year old and an energetic five year old I am joyful to be back home. Although shopping at a big box store after being overseas was a bit of a disappointment yesterday, I was grateful for the wonderful customer service that the Stars and Stripes typically has to offer us.
I hope that you all have a wonderful week of the 4th and that you have some time to reflect on all of the great things that our nation has to offer--no matter what side of the aisle you are on. For our Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day! If you are somewhere else on planet have a super one as well.
Part A (Choose 1 question)
Please respond to one of the following questions:
1. On page 35 Willingham writes, "[i]f you want to be exposed to new vocabulary and new ideas, the places to go are books, magazines, and newspapers. Television, video games, and the sorts of Internet content that students lean towards (for example, social networking sites, music sites, and the like) are for the most part unhelpful...Books, newspaper, and magazines are singularly helpful in introducing new ideas and new vocabulary to students."
What are you doing in your classroom to address this issue? In addition, how would you define your role and responsibility as a teacher of digital literacy?
2. One thing that particularly caught my attention was at the top of page 38 where Willingham writes about the school librarian. I have always had a cordial relationship with the school librarian/media specialist but I believe that I guilty of not leaning on her expertise in a manner that would best help my students. In addition, I have seen her role shift from more of a research librarian to that of a tech person.
"The school librarian should be a tremendous and ally in helping children learn to love reading, and she is arguably the most important person in any school when it comes to reading."
In what ways are you working with your school librarian/media specialist to assist your students with literacy? What is the role of the librarian/media specialist at your school?
Part B (ALL)
Based on your reading of this chapter (which focuses heavily on building background knowledge) what is one new thing that you will try with your students in the coming school year or what will you fine tune or tweak to foster student learning?
1. Probably the best thing that I do for my students is an on-line, asynchronous discussion which requires them to read some kind of column or article from either a newspaper (usually the Boston Globe, our better local paper) or from a web article or blog. The first one that we did last year (and will certainly do again from now on) was an blog post from Relentless Teaching entitled "The Case for the Common School." I really believe that this helps all of my students all start the year from the same place in terms of having an understanding of the importance of the public schools in the history of America. This is certainly a new idea for many of them and all of the articles that they read during the year, given that they are reading some of the better writers/authors at or near the top of their profession, should guide them toward better web sites, ideas, and vocabulary, and, hopefully, improving their digital literacy by exposing them to better web sites and information on the web.
2. I was going to start each unit distributing a unit-specific syllabus along with a list of essential questions and key terms/questions to be answered during the unit before I read this chapter, and this chapter only served to reinforce that decision. I know that Willingham would frown on "list learning," but by telling students to watch out for these key ideas along the way, maybe it will reinforce them as we go forward. What I need to get better at (and I think this will be the tweak that I make) is to post the terms and questions specific for that day on the board in front of them and keep them there for the entire class. Then, as I am using Google+ to communicate a summary of what happened that day to my students, I could include those terms/questions and how we answered them. This will help the students who may have been absent that day to have an idea of what happened and support those students who were there by reminding them of our discussion.
Dan, thanks for sharing the article. I breezed over it but will read it more in depth while I am off later this week.
Are you using essential questions? I would love to create a group for developing a bank of some essential questions (and maybe even key terms) by topic, theme, etc. It could be a springboard for teachers to pull from and tweak to meet the needs of their classes.
www.micitizenshipcurriculum.org has three essential questions posted for every unit of study that has been written so far (k-5, some MS, and US, World, Civic and Econ). They are guided by MI requirements but basically could be adapted by topic to suit lots of other state requirements. Really, they go much beyond the requirements are were things we thought at teachers students needed to know/understand/address before moving on; in some cases I think they might be over the head of many students, but I think that;s were adaptation for your classroom is important.
We have usually worked with the idea that the questions are posted for the entire unit and answered as we move along in the unit, either in a journal, or as a class.
I'm not sure it helps build background knowledge, but by the end of each unit they have repeatedly enhanced their answers to the same three questions.
1. I maybe looking at Willingham's statement with too critical of eye but I do find it a bit of an over generalization. To me it sounds more like a rebellion against the technology revolution in how information is acquired. I suppose when Gutenberg transformed storytelling into the printed word - there were storytellers bemoaning the lost of nuance. I agree that active reading and the love of reading leads to a better student. Here I would reference my three children (now long into adulthood) my wife and I made a point to make reading an important aspect of their education development. We made reading part of their everyday experience and we are convinced it gave them the ability to excel academically - of course it started with "one fish, two fish, green fish, blue fish...' hardly a source of deep penetrating thought. We cannot ignore the reality we are moving faster and faster into a digital age and as teachers we need to guide students to be digital savvy students. I think we waste effort arguing about the tools to literacy - digital tools are no less valuable if used properly.
2. I was fortunate this year to fill in for a two month replacement assignment for our Media Specialist in my high school. It gave me a good perspective of their everyday role. Like most roles there were more mundane functions than one might envision - such as equipment management and inventory. Our Media Center is a balance of books and hard copy materials along with computer stations and computer labs. It was not surprising that most students leaned towards the computers and internet for their work. Most of their questions were directed towards tech questions - like saving Google docs, printing issues, formatting papers, etc. but every now and again you were able to assist a student in a process that incorporated more of a learning methodology. I think Media Specialist would best serve the students by not teaching how to use the tools, but teach how the tools are used to achieve meaningful educational experiences.
I don't believe that it matters whether what one reads is displayed on a screen or printed on paper. Of much more importance to me is whether the reader critically approaches whatever s/he reads - asking and seeking answers to questions such as: (1) what are the author's assertions?; (2) does the author cite evidence that can be checked to verify the truth of these assertions?; (3) what information relevant to the subject/argument is left out?; (4) what bias(es) does the author bring to his/her work? do these distort his/her argument?; (5) how does my life experience confirm or reject what this author says?; (6) are there things I need to change in what I do or believe because of what this author writes?; etc. If a reader is not continually engaging in thinking such as this while reading, then s/he is probably being used by the reading in some way, rather than using the reading to come to a better understanding of the world and our place in it. I'd like to think that is what you mean when you define the role of your ideal Media Specialist in your last sentence.
Yes precisely the meaning I intended - the reader's critical approach is paramount.
I agree with you. We must not over generalize and dismiss the value of online content. As more and more of traditional print mead goes online there is a divide between the types of written sources that we find online. Just as there are clear differences n the types of books that students read. Magazines and newspapers have larger digital followings than they do in print. I for one never touch the print copies of "The Economist or National Geographic anymore. The digital editions make it easier to get more out of each article and to archive and share important ideas. They are valuable resources no less. Along those same lines I can't even measure the effect that twitter has had on my vocabulary and understanding depute the fact that it is "just" a social media network. The internet is a sea of resources. It just doesn't work to label it all good or all bad. An intelligent search of Google using advance search can yield more high level content than was available to any people at any time in history. The opportunities to provide students with a rich background knowledge experience are endless. But like a Magic Eye 3-D picture, we just need to help them look at things the right way.
There is certainly a lot of rubbish printed on paper too. The tools for filtering there are the same as for filtering digital content, and that is what I think we should focus on teaching. There may be differences in how reading in different media effect what we take away, and how the differing experiences effect us; but I don't feel qualified to ID them. Perhaps we should turn to the recent books by Jared Lanier, Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, William Powers, Eli Pariser, John Brockman and others for guidance here.
And then there is research like that referred to by Frank Partnoy in his column for the NY Times online, posted this afternoon, to consider as well. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/reactions-by-nurtu...
A2: Our school media specialist is part of the tech department, which we have been reorganizing - most recently with the loss of my job teaching K-8 tech classes and making her full time. Thus, part of her full time responsibilities will be helping teachers with technology use in their teaching, something she is not real comfortable with but will do when asked. What I have seen our teachers need the most help with under the "library" umbrella is helping younger grades (K-6) find appropriate research. Finding material that meets the reading levels of all students at every grade level can be a challenge. Fortunately, things are getting easier as more sites are catering to this. For example, Google Advanced search helps you do this, as does Twurdy. Additionally, the state of Wisconsin subscribes to various educational resources through Badgerlink and we can access Encyclopedia Britannica Elementary version which has a "listen to" feature. My 8th grade special education teacher loved this when I showed it to her.
The second area that our media specialist helps with, but MUST be followed up on by the classroom teachers is the whole area of creative commons, valid/reliable websites and citing sources. Our students hate following these rules and when all teachers do not consistently require them to do so, they do not get in the habit of it. In my class, the students had to follow these rules for their projects. They could only use creative commons licensed pictures, only 10% of their work could be a copyrighted and they had to formally cite all sources. I gave them the option of using clip art if they didn't want to follow these rules and the majority chose that option as it was easier. When creating a digital story, it is just too easy to grab pictures from Google. A recent change by Google has been they added a large assortment of creative commons pictures through their Google Docs picture search with the url for the picture right next to it. We also use Flickr CC a lot. What I plan to do next year is tell them I would rather have one or two really good sites, with good information, cited correctly rather than a whole page of sites that they just grab from Google. Another area that students need help with is learning how to take notes from the internet/summarizing work into their own words. One teacher uses http://plagiarisma.net/. Her students have to run their work through that and attach the print out.
B: The whole section on background knowledge was a very good reminder to me that I really need to add this to my lesson plans. This was not something I needed to do a lot of when teaching tech classes, but now I will have to. For my middle school geography classes, I was thinking a quick video tour might help provide some visuals of things in each country. Any suggestions would be appreciated :)
As I was reading I could not help but think that the whole topic of Creative Commons would make a great topic for an #sschat. Would you be interested in something like that? I think that all of us could benefit from a greater understanding of the topic?
Fantastic idea! I have learned a whole new meaning of the term "fair use" this past year with developing an online course--a whole lot different than for classroom use only!