Monday, January 9, 2012

Rethinking how students learn - part 2

Sometimes the most amazing coincidences happen.  This morning I was looking on the internet for details about the upcoming ISTE conference in June, and discovered it will be held in San Diego.  This brought to mind the last time I was in San Diego, as a presenter for a new literacies pre-conference for the International Reading Association that was organized by Donald Leu in 1999.  Then this afternoon I was reading another chapter in 21st Century Skills - Rethinking How Students Learn, and I came across a reference to the characteristics of "new literacies" drawn up by Donald Leu and his colleagues several years ago:
  • these include the skills, strategies and dispositions for the effective use of emerging ICT tools, applications, media and environments
  • they are vital to economic, civic and personal participation in a globalized society 
  • they evolve with innovation in technologies
  • they are multiple, multimode and multifaceted
At this point I'm at Chapter 4 in the book which is comparing frameworks for 21st century skills.  Various frameworks have been drawn up by different bodies, such as P21 and ISTE.  P21, for example, focuses on core subjects, 21st century content, learning and thinking skills, ICT literacy and life skills.  ISTE focuses more on the standards for technology use including creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, digital citizenship as well as the technology operations and concepts.  Throughout the past year and a half or so, I've also been working with the SAMR model at school.  The aim of all of these models is to use technology in ways that would be unimaginable without it - not just as a substitute for or an enhancement of what is already being done.

My reading today took me to a different framework too - that devised by Henry Jenkins which doesn't focus on technology but on the intellectual activity that students use when working with ICT.  As I've never seen these before I thought it would be interesting to reflect on them in today's blog post.  Here is a summary of Jenkin's digital literacies based on new media with a few comments added on by me:
  • Play - experimenting as a form of problem solving - I know this is something I've heard discussed a lot at school this year.  Our new Assistant Principal has certainly stimulated a lively debate around the value of play and there has been a big difference in the way our outdoor spaces have been used by our Early Years students who spend the first part of every day outside exploring various activities.
  • Performance
  • Simulation
  • Appropriation - remixing media content - again this is something that I've seen students doing much more of this year.
  • Multitasking - the ability to shift focus as needed - I'm really interested to see this included as a digital literacy since multitasking is often seen in a negative way as leading to not doing anything particularly well.
  • Distributed cognition
  • Collective intelligence - pooling knowledge with others - this has become a reality this year with many of my classes as they are using Google Docs to collaborate on their research.
  • Judgement - evaluating the reliability and credibility of information sources - something we have been able to working very hard on as an ICTL department now that the library and IT teachers meet as a department every week.
  • Transmedia naviation - the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities - in our case we are having students create stories in multiple ways too.
  • Networking - searching for, synthesizing and disseminating information
  • Negotation - respecting multiple perspectives - a very important aspect of what the IB refers to as international mindedness.
I'm really interested to see this list because it validates many of the things I've been trying to do over the past few years as ICTL team leader - it gives me confidence that we have been on the right track!

The above list was drawn up by Jenkins in 2007.  As technology continues to develop we have seen an explosion of Web 2.0 tools for learning in the past 5 years.  While 5 years ago my students were mostly using the internet for finding out, with me publishing the presentations that showed their understanding - nowadays the students are more involved with the co-construction of knowledge directly online.  As teachers have used social media tools to create PLNs, students have been using these tools to create, collaborate and share within their classroom community and, just as teachers have noticed that their skills have been improving as a result of being part of a PLN, our students have also found that their learning has been improving as a result of being part of a connected classroom learning community.

Photo credit: plumnutz via photopin cc

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