Can Literacy be Taught?

Interestingly, each computer has something different on the screen.  This is probably fine.  Students should be free to use their machines as a thought extensions, utilizing the tools in ways that make sense to them, to help them make sense of what’s being taught. (( Richbourg, Smyth. “What I Do.” Flickr. 23 Apr 2005. Web. 7 Nov 2009. <>. ))

My week is over, with gigs in Raleigh, Long Island, and three full days around Edmonton, Canada.  I take the elevator down in about ten minutes to grab a cab for the Edmonton airport, landing in Raleigh at about 4:40 PM.  So I have ten minutes, and its the first ten minutes I’ve had in a week to think about blogging.

So I decided to check for comments on 2¢ Worth that needed moderating, and was surprised to find a number of them.  Alas, I haven’t gotten anywhere, because the first one grabbed my attention, a comment from Susi, a teacher in Bangkok.  It was a response to my blog post on the difference between Computer Applications and Computer Application (minus the ending “s”), and she implied that to learn a language, such as Japanese, and to become fluent in the language to any degree, it takes more than just teaching it.  It has to become a tool for the learning.
Students who become fluent in reading, do so because they read, not because they were taught the basic reading skills.  Of course, it wouldn’t have happened without having been taught the basic reading skills.  But they become fluent because they are required to read for the rest of their formal education and beyond.

If we expect students to become fluent in the broader and equally critical information and technology skills of being literate in a networked, digital, and abundant (contemporary) information environment, then they should be required to use those skills in all of their formal education, just like reading.  Reading, for education, is a learning literacy.  Reading, processing, and expressing knowledge in a networked, digital, and abundant information landscape are equally important learning skills — learning literacies. 

Our stated goal, right now, in every school and school district, should be for every student to walk into their classrooms with a computer (literacy machine, not a handheld) under their arm.  It’s no long a matter of “if” — it’s “when.”

..because literacy skills are meaningless until they become literacy habits.

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Give me the Ridiculous

It’s probably just me, but it’s the ridiculous that I want to see in a keynote address. 

Large screen photo of 2009 Keynoter Malcolm Gladwell ((Domestic Digerati, . “DSC_0148.” Ddigerati1’s Photostream – Flickr. 28 Jun 2009. Web. 1 Nov 2009. . ))

Ok, let me see if I can retrace the thoughts that led to that conclusion.  I am seeing more conferences, these days, embracing (and sometimes grasping at) collaborative Web applications (Web 2.0) to enhance and extend their event.  The Long Island Technology Summit, last week, announced early on that the Twitter hash tag for the conference would be #litechsummit09 — and to reinforce the point, they displayed a Twitter Camp (left) with the emerging tweets on the main screen as people were ambling into the general keynote presentations.  The result was an archive of 206 (at this moment) short messages about the conference and it’s contents, posted before, during, and after the gathering by people who were there and by many who were following the event from afar.

ISTE is trying something truly bold, and something that truly embraces the spirit of the new Web,

Going collaborative,

Valuing the wisdom of the community. 

ISTE 2010 is employing its community to help select one of its keynote speakers.  In DIGG style, ISTE members have been invited to submit topics for the address, and then to vote for topics, in the same way and through a similar interface, that articles are ranked in DIGG.

The project runs in three phases, as described on the web site:

Phase 1: Topic Suggestions (October 15-November 15)
Submit your ideas for topics and keynote focus. Share your thoughts, comment on suggestions from other ISTE members and educators, and vote on your favorites.

Phase 2: Speaker Suggestions (November 16-December 15)
We’ll set up forums for the top 5 suggested topics from Phase 1, and you can suggest speakers (and vote on speakers) within each of these topic areas.

Phase 3: Final Speaker Selection (January 4-15)
During late December, ISTE staff will contact the top speakers to check for availability and affordability, narrowing the list to a top 5 that will be voted on during Phase 3. The grand prize of “coffee with the keynoter” will be awarded to the first person who suggested the winning speaker.

Now I think that this is a great thing.  It is empowering the conference attendees, it’s consumers, with the authority and the responsibility to select the content to be delivered.  And, again, I think that this is the way conferences should be done, given our ever shifting needs and capacities.  But I am not so sure that the keynote is the best place to do this.

Certainly, ISTE has not completely turned keynoting over to the masses.  It’s only one out of the three keynote events.  But the keynote address is not necessarily the place where I want to learn something that I think I need to learn.  That is for the general breakout sessions, lounges, and poster presenters.  The keynote is where I want to be pushed, where I want holes punched in the walls of my box, and to be pulled out of my comfort level.

This is why I voted for “What does web 3.0 look like and why aren’t we there yet?”  I think it’s a ridiculous question.  If we knew what it looked like, we’d be there.  We won’t know until it’s around us and we realize, just like with Web 2.0, “Hey, this is Web 3.0!”  It’s ridiculous, and it’s the reason why it would be a good keynote address.  It would, in all likelihood, be wrong.  But it would just as likely push my thinking into directions that I would not, under normal circumstance, wander.

I think that this is a wonderful experiment, and we may get the very best keynote ever out of it.  But I have to wander if perhaps the best place to empower the consumer is in the sessions we go to in order to learn what we need to know.  Why not, at some point, open up the full session proposal database to ISTE members, and allow us our input on selecting the presenters and topics we’ll make choices about come June?

Again, this may just be me, early morning, when I should be planning for the sessions I’ll be doing this week on my 5,574 mile trek from here to yonder.

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