Favorite Quote of the Week

“Technology alone can make us neither free nor self-directed. The key lies with the individual, not the institution.” – Ken Carroll

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week 2 -- A New Understanding of Literacy

Barbara Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne Flannigan say, “Literacy, in any form, advances a person’s ability to effectively and creatively use and communicate information” (2006).  Does “literacy” now include more than just proficiency in reading and writing?  Is digital literacy just as critical a skill to develop in our day and age?  Will people who lack computer, internet, social networking, texting, and mobile communication skills fall behind in our society?  If so, what are the implications for education? 
My attention turns once again to my own children who are growing up in a digital era.  I consider what skills they must have in order to be truly “literate.”  This is something I have not thought of before – how much recent technological advances are changing the way we, as a society, communicate.  In regards to social networking, questions arise as to how communicating via Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, etc. will change the way in which we relate to other people.  Will those who choose not to use these tools for interaction be hindered in their ability to communicate effectively?  Will those who choose not to allow internet usage in their homes deny themselves and their children access to a critical tool for gathering and sharing information?  Does the lack of digital literacy mean someone is “illiterate?” 
Sometimes technology gets overwhelming, and sometimes we are frightened by the uncertainties and apparent dangers that come with them.  I don’t think, though, that fear and intimidation are reasons to leave it all behind.  When we view technologies as tools, our perspective turns from the potential danger to the potential benefit.  People who use advancing technologies and who also have a core set of critical thinking skills and a strong moral foundation can do great things!  
Rather than run from technology, I think we need to prepare people to use it appropriately.  As Karl Auerbach says, “We need to teach ourselves how to be good users of that tool.”  (Anderson and Rainie 2010).  After reading this week’s articles, I have a new understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st century.  However, as I said in last week’s post, my understanding of what it means to be human has not changed.  As with anything else, humans can use technology for good or bad.  Certainly, students need to be taught digital literacy skills.  Now more than ever, though, students need to be grounded in critical thinking skills and strong moral character so that they might use technology in a good way. 
With all of that being said, it’s important to reiterate that literacy also involves traditional reading and writing skills.  We don’t only live in a world of technology.  So, while we seem to be running forward with technology at a fast pace, let’s not forget to teach our students how read and write.  Those necessary skills of literacy will not become extinct in the midst of an ever changing world. 
Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie (2010, July 2). The Future of Social Relations. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Future_of_Internet_%202010_social_relations.pdf

Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flannigan (2006). Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quarterly, 29(2), Retrieved on June 24, 2010, from http://www.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm06/eqm0621.asp

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week 1 -- Mind Boggling Changes on the Horizon

My mind is spinning, my thoughts are reeling, my heart is racing, my adrenaline is pumping….I’ve been reading about the Web 2.0.  I’ve been learning about a myriad of technological advancements that are changing the world I live in.  My own experience with technology tells me that things are changing very quickly.  I fear I may not be able to keep up and I feel exhausted as I consider what it might take for me to stay ahead of the game. 
So, I stop for a moment to gain some perspective…
Emerging technologies are amazing, but they don’t change the core of what it means to be human.  Much is changing, but there are also many things that are the same.  Sorting through the implications of what might be changing and what must remain the same is the challenge. 
One example – Facebook.  Human beings are relational.  Years ago, relational needs were met by people who were, for the most part, geographically connected.  Biological families remained in the same area and strong family ties and communications were built.  It doesn’t surprise me that as people began to relocate and became more mobile that something like Facebook has emerged.  Facebook has opened a door for continued relationship even when people are separated by distance.  The core of what it means to be a relational being has not changed, but the means of expressing and building that relationship has changed. 
As technology continues to emerge at a fast pace, I want to be certain that I am not a slave to it.  Rather, I want to view technology as a tool to further my goals and vision.   To say it another way, I don’t want to use new technology simply to be “flashy” or “cool.”  Instead, I want to use it in a purposeful way.  I also don’t want to be afraid of the new simply because I’m not familiar with it.  Sometimes it might be best to stick with the traditional, sometimes not.  Much depends on what my ultimate goals are. 
Because I am a home schooling mom, my perspective is informed by the educational aims and goals I have for my own children.  As the world changes drastically, I consider how to prepare them for it. 
Technology changes rapidly.  For this reason, I think it’s more important to build confident learners than it is to build tech savvy students.  It is impossible to teach anyone the ins and outs of every technological tool.  Instead, I want my children to know how to learn new technology and how to find answers to the questions they have. 
In this changing world, I also want my children to be critical thinkers.  When such a vast amount of information is available, students today must know how to sort through what is valuable and what is not.  I want to develop thinkers, not just consumers. 
Finally, as the world of education changes in response to emerging technologies, I must consider how the very definition of what it means to be educated is changing.  One author asks, “Will the ability to synthesize information become the primary goal of education?”  (Oblinger 2008). Certainly, new and different skills need to be mastered by today’s student. 
Even so, I still hold to some traditional goals.  I want my children to build character, develop a strong moral foundation, and master the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Some things don’t change. 
So, as I move into a new and open world, I find comfort in those things that remain the same.  Technology is changing quickly and I’m excited to be learning about the Web 2.0 this semester.  I also realize that treading new waters doesn’t mean that all of the old is gone.  This semester, I hope to glean what is good from new and emerging technologies, reflect on what must remain from the traditional, and mesh them together for meaningful education.  I think I have gained some perspective! 
Jaron Lanier (2010, September 16). Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind? NY Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/magazine/19fob-essay-t.html?src=me&ref=magazine 

Oblinger, D. G. (2008). Growing up with Google: What it means to education. Becta: Emerging technologies for learning, 3, 10-29. Retrieved on June 24, 2010, from http://partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/emerging_technologies08_chapter1.pdf