A while back, I opened a staff development institute for a school district someplace in New England. I delivered my contemporary literacy thing where I uncover Nazi conspiracies, built maps of the world with tabular data, construct historic tag clouds, and showcase amazingly inspiring student video productions. It’s a great magic and I confess some thrill in performing it. I’m old enough to remember when it would have been magic.
But on this particular day, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction got up after my talk to dismiss the faculty for the dozen’s of breakout sessions available to them. But before he did, he said, “I know now how illiterate I am.” It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard that, and in itself it indicates a reflection about his own information skills. But he didn’t say, “I’m going to learn how to do some of these things, because they are important.”
I’m afraid that there may have been educators in the audience, seasoned and new, who were looking for an excuse not to pursue contemporary literacy skills, and he may have given it to them. The fact is that learning to work digital content to accomplish goals is not hard to do, and you don’t have to learn to do all of it. There is always someone nearby who can show you, and there are always your students. Give them the chance to see you as a master learner — a life-long learner.
It isn’t something that can be solved with workshops or lesson plans. They aren’t skills that must be learned, and then “problem solved.” Learning it is easy. Being in the habit of learning and using it is hard.
It can start simply. Make it your practice to add something new to every lesson that you teach. It doesn’t have to be digital and it doesn’t have to involve your students touching technology.
But it has to be something that you learned by teaching yourself — by utilizing learning literacy skills.
“Learning Grid University of Warwick.” Jisc_Infonet’s Photostream. 15 May 2006. 15 Feb 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/jiscinfonet/146842296/>.