Are we Teaching Digital Natives Immigrant Skills?

Miguel Guhlin mentioned something in a recent blog that struck me.

Around the Corner – – Courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway. – Mignon McLaughlin:

My daughter has access to a computer, but still does her writing with pencil and paper. This bothers me on some level (although I’ve been careful not to say anything) because she could use the technology. But, then I realize that in her school, she doesn’t have access to technology in such a way as for it to change her work habits. And, that’s a problem. If we lack sufficient access in our schools–one to one–for our students, then we continue to produce children who will grow up to be digital immigrants.

This struck me on a personal level, because when I was in college I took a creative writing class, and realized quickly, that to complete my assignments, I would have to compose my manuscripts directly into the typewriter.  I remember this being a pretty steep learning process, because the thinking I had to do was different, some how.

I’m facing the same situation today, as I have great difficulty performing my podcasts by talking directly into the microphone.  The thinking is different.  So I’ve gone back to writing the script with my text processor and reading it into the microphone.  I guess that’s the same as writing on paper and then typing it into the computer later. 😉

Not to fear, Miguel.  When your daughter starts IM’ing, she’ll learn to compose through the keyboard, no problem.

Bud the Teacher & Machinima

I just love it when the airport has free WiFi. Tucson Arizona. If you want to see what’s become of the shoe box diorama, take a look at this May 30th blog from Bud the Teacher.

Bud the Teacher: A World at His Fingertips:

What happens when your game is more than a game? How about Othello, World of Warcraft style? One of my students produced this video as his final project for my Shakespeare course this year. He chose to involve his family in the project (they help with the voice work) and to shoot the abridged performance via a network of computers in his home.

My son introduced me to machinima a couple of years ago. It is quite intriguing how these kids treat some of the video game environments as much more than a game. It becomes their backyard, so to speak, where they invite their friends to play. They got tired of Halo II after a couple of weeks and started making up their own games, using the environment and its incredible responsiveness to set the rules.

Security has just opened up. Later!

Literacy 21 Conference

It’s 2:45 AM and I’m up, packed and ready to head to the airport. This was typed fast, so please forgive misspellings. Teachin'

I have to say that I had a couple of incredible days in Tucson, where the Amphitheater School District put on a Literacy in the 21st Century conference for their teachers and educators from other Arizona districts. I was quite impressed with the turn out, especially the percentage of educators who had attended all four of the annual events.

The rest of the presenters were exploring new techniques for teaching the more traditional literacy skills. At least that’s the impression that I got from the session descriptions. And this is right on the mark. Nothing of the old goes away. It simply becomes more important than ever before. I appear to have been the only technology (slash) new literacy vision person there, and the interest in a new sense of basic skills in the 21st century was evident by the overwhelming turnout at my sessions. But I certainly didn’t see everyone during the general conference, until the closing keynote address, right after lunch.

I usually dread speaking at a banquet, but this was fine. Everyone was perfectly polite with their silverware 😉 I suspect though, that I rocked the ground of more than a few people, and gave them something to think about over the coming months of R&R and summer jobs. Here are a few of the phrases that may have surprised a few:

  • We need to spend less time teaching our children to use paper and more time teaching them to use light.
  • The future that we are preparing our children for will be the future that they choose, invent, and pay for. We need to be paying a lot of attention to our children.
  • Part of being literate is being willing, able, and encouraged to ask questions about the answers that you find.
  • Most of the time, when we are solving problems with numbers, they are not coming as a dozen numbers on a piece of paper, but a thousand numbers, and they’re digital.
  • We are overwhelmed by information, but the biggest problem is not managing that information. It’s getting our message through all of that information. Students who can not produce messages that compete for attention will not be literate.
  • It is crucial that the ethics of information be an explicit part of our definition of literacy.
  • If we believe that we can better prepare our children for the 21st century by not teaching them music and art, then our schools have become factories.
  • We will have achieved real education reform when no teacher believes that they can teach the same thing, the same way, year after year. We must have an education system that provides teachers with the resources and the time to retool their classrooms every day. Anything less, and all we’re doing is just a better job of preparing our children for the 1950s.

Off to the airport…

Help Me & My K-2 Teachers

OK, the help part first. It’s 3:00 AM. This is not as bad as it sounds. I’m in Arizona and 3:00 AM is the same is 5:00 AM east coast time. So this is actually a good thing, since I reintroduce myself back into eastern standard time tomorrow morning. That’s not the help part. The help part is that it’s 3:00 AM, and the Internet is down, or running extremely slowly — like five minutes to load a page.

I called tech support which was some place on the planet, serving all of the hotels that use RoomLinx. (I must say that I was impressed to see Firefox and Opera among the suggested browsers on the RoomLinx tip sheet.) The support guy asked in which hotel I am staying, and when I responded, “the Westin La Paloma,” he sighed and explained that there is a problem. Someone, in one of the rooms, has a virus on his/her computer, and it is flooding the network, resulting in extremely slow performance. He said that they were working to track down the room, so that they could get the computer disconnected.

Now I know what to tell my K-2 teachers today, when I present to them about contemporary literacy.

Ethics and the new information environment.

It is a measure of how dependent we have become on distant information, that Google is processing a billion searches a day. It means that we’re asking that many questions a day. Since our information infrastructure has become so critical to our prosperity, the ethical use of information has become a critical skill, one that must become an explicit part of what we mean when we talk about literacy.

It really breaks down into three topics:

  1. Information reliability — Can we rely on the information that we’re using. This means that it is our ethical responsibility to evaluate the information that we use in accordance with the goal that we are trying to achieve. It also means that we are ethically responsible for the information that we publish, assuring its accuracy and reliability.
  2. Information property — Are we respecting the ownership of information? We are all becoming information property owners, and we expect people to pay us for our information, in either monetary compensation, or simply by crediting us for our work and expertise.
  3. Information infrastructure — It’s what we live on. It’s the roads and bridges that take us where we want to go, to no less degree than the asphalt roadways outside our homes and places of work. The fact is that planting a virus on a network is no different from planting a bomb under a bridge. They both disrupt our activities, and they can both kill.

None of these topics are really about the technology. They’re about respect. They involve thinking about information in a different way, as a near free flowing raw material with which we answer questions, solve problems, and accomplish goals. We are all readers in this new information environment. But we are also writers, and publishers, artists, and composers. We use information to solve problems and often, that involves working the information. ..and this requires respect — and isn’t that what we teach in kindergarten?

So, I’ll be telling my K-2 teachers today, to teach their students to respect the information. I’ll tell them…

  1. When they talk about information, always work in where the information came from, who produced it, and why it is reliable
  2. When they introduce information, include the search process. Show the students the web page — but start with Yahooligans, and include the search process that found the web page.
  3. When students write something, or draw something, or produce a video or audio something, they should copyright it. Include Copyright (c) by student’s name 2006. Give them the sense of owning information and being responsible for it.
  4. When bringing community helpers into the classroom, ask them, “How do you use the Internet to save lives?” or, “How do you use e-mail to serve your constituents?”

Information has changed. We live in a time where only a few spammers, virus writers, malicious hackers, and unscrupulous corporate executives, can bring millions of people’s activities to a standstill by abusing information. Ethics and information has to become part of the curriculum.

2¢ Worth!