Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Digitize It!

Becoming a digital prosumer....

The advent of digital technologies requires a new set of literacy skills in order to become competent productive citizens in a global knowledge based economy. Digital literacy, the ability to effectively perform tasks in a digital environment, is a vital 21C skill. The pervasiveness of the digital environment requires the ability to decode and interpret multiple media (text, sound, images) in a variety of formats.

Pondering the explosion of modalities of information. Information literacy is the skill which transcends grade levels and curriculum areas. Information literacy is the mastery of a process. My job as school library media specialist requires that I ensure that my patrons:

1. Access information

2. Evaluate information

3. Synthesize information

Whatever format the information takes. In a media rich environment, the prevalent format is digital. Which brings me to the multiplicity of digital formats. The ease of digital production. Web 2.0 tools.

Members of my school community frequently ask me “are we not going to have any books?” My response about books:

Books will always exist. It is the FORMAT of books that will change. What is important is the CONTENT of the book, not the format. My job, every educator’s job, is to enable students to access, evaluate and synthesize the content of the book. I as an individual have absolutely no control over what format books take. That is solely decision of authors and publishing companies. I can only modify and adjust my practices as an educator to juxtapose the necessary skills my school community needs with the format(s). The bound codex to which many of us are accustomed is only ONE format of a book. Centuries ago, I am sure many people felt the same attachment to scrolls, but the general populace does not access information from scrolls.

Digital formats abound. The multitude of Web 2.0 tools with which authors can create content is mind-boggling. For me, the beauty of the read/write web (as Will Ricardson describes Web 2.0) is the plethora of digital formats. For educators, no matter your personal teaching style and no matter the learning style of the student, there is a tool that “speaks” to that format. Sun Joo Woo developed a research project which attempts to correlate learning styles with Web 2.0 tools. The results of this study enable us as educators to align Web 2.0 tools with the needs of our students based on both the instructional outcome and the learning style.

As an educator, I need to be a producer of content in digital formats. While the varied digital formats can be overwhelming at first, I have found that I naturally “gravitate” towards some tools while I have to “make” myself use others. I believe I need to have basic competencies in a wide variety of formats, but I do not use each format on a regular basis. Like my search engine preferences, I have my “go to” tools which I use on a daily basis. I utilize other tools as I need them or want to use them. My “need” to use many digital tools is driven by the needs of my students. Just as I developed a repertoire of differentiated learning activities in the pre-digital age, I develop a repertoire of DIGITAL differentiated learning activities as a 21C educator. Not all digital formats “fit” all students. Diversity is the key to successful integration of digital media. I was originally inspired back in 2007 by Alan Levine’s 50 Ways to Tell A Story which has since metamorphasized into a collaborative wiki site (reflecting the globality of collective knowledge and experiences). The multiplicity of modalities available on the Web for my school community, the availability of resources 24/7 inspire me introduce my school community to these tools and challenge them to become information literate while establishing digital competencies.

And I am modeling my expectations.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Multi-Modal Literacy

One of my frustrations with education as an institution is the resistance to change within the institution. Twenty-first century citizens require a unique set of skills heretofore unavailable. Enabling students to acquire and establish competency in these skill sets is a daunting task for most educators. I have to ask why?

I contend that literacy, information literacy has always been the primary purpose of education. The ability to access, evaluate and synthesize information in whatever format the information takes. Throughout the course of history, technological advances have changed the formats of information. Aural to visual to printed formats. Tablets to scrolls to codex to digital. Which brings me to format. Multi-modal. The varied modes of the communication (sharing) of ideas and information.

The plethora of information available in digital format requires judicious and planned instruction in the skills necessary to navigate the maze of resources. Information literacy and fluency becomes tantamount in importance in a global knowledge-based economy. The ability to effectively and ethically seek, use and create ideas and information is vital. In a variety of formats. The digitization of multiple formats enables universal access to the ideas and information, it does not limit the creation of those ideas and information.

The concept of multi-literacies was first developed by The New London Group in 1994. This group of global educators met with the intent of challenging the traditional concept of literacy. They proposed that in an increasingly complex and global society, the diversity of information necessitates an expansion of the definition of literacy. No longer limited to the ability to read and write in standard codex format, literacy now encompasses the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies. This includes understanding and competent control of representational forms that are becoming increasingly significant in the overall communications environment, such as visual images and their relationship to the written word” (New London Group, 1996).

Wow. 16 years ago. Inconceivable to me is how little the educational experience of students has changed over the last decade. One glaring reality from The New London Group is that “new communications media are reshaping the way we use language”. The multiple formats of language, the rapidity in which the formats change necessitate a change in the nature of language learning. Competent citizens must be literate in multiple formats of information, multi-literate.

Educational practices which are mired in 20th century pedagogies and technologies are ill-equipped to prepare our students for the world they will enter. Instruction in literacy in multiple modalities is necessary for multiliteracy. The dependence upon and continued instructional emphasis on text limited to a formal bound page is not instruction in multimodal literacies. I, as an educator, find it disturbing as well as unacceptable that common teaching practices do not incorporate existing and emerging technologies, literacies and modalities. Michael Wesch does a superb job of challenging us as educators to question archaic practices. Are we prepared to meet that challenge?

Working towards that time when we as educators say “Students, take our your PLD…”

Friday, September 30, 2011


When I attended USC I had a phenomenal professor (Dan Barron) who challenged us as educators. His mantra was “grow or die”. How many of us in the educational arena are growing and how many are dying? I use my PLN as a means of continued growth. In a global technology knowledge driven society (welcome to the 21st C), not only is it incredibly facile to have an international PLN, but also it is vital.

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) has always been an integral part of the educational community. The traditional “teachers lounge” served as a collaborative, albeit informal, meeting place for the exchange of ideas and information. The proliferation of virtual meeting spaces allows the collaborative brainstorming to transcend the physical geographic boundaries of the bricks and mortar buildings in which the face-to-face interactions occur. Even within the same physical space, schedule differences often precludes the ability to brainstorm with other educators. Add to that the demands of after hours responsibilities and collaborative exchange becomes more difficult.

Welcome to the 21C. No doubt the most effective means of collaboration and professional growth does necessitate the P2P, F2F interactions. Nothing energizes me quite like brainstorming with kindred spirits within my bricks and mortar building. What does occur before the P2P, F2F interactions are the integral piece to my growth as an educator. The plethora of virtual PD opportunities available 24/7 enables me to continuously be exposed to new ideas and information from across the globe. In a global knowledge based economy, the ability to interact with educators from other geographic areas whether across the state or across the globe enables me to have a broader perspective of the educational institution.

Steps to en effective PLN:

1. Find kindred spirits within your building
These are those colleagues who energize you, the ones that put that lift in your step and that excitement about your profession.

2. Subscribe to a listserv
Yes, these have been around for decades, but I do not view them as archaic and outdated. Some of my best ideas and resources come across my listservs (thanks SCASL!!).

3. Search for and subscribe to blogs from educators within your fields of interest. In my opinion, EVERY educator should be avidly developing a repertoire of information in the field of educational technology. These are those “experts” who profoundly impact your educational philosophy and change the way you think and teach. Some of mine:

Alan Levine

Marc Prensky

Joyce Valenza

Daniel Pink

Alan November

John Gatto

Cathy Nelson

Tony Vincent

Kathy Schrock

Will Richardson

Bryan Hughes

Don Tapscott

Ewan McIntosh

Dean Shareski

David Warlick

4. Develop “professional” social networking resources
I have “dedicated” PROFESSIONAL social networking sources which include:

• Twitter
• YouTube
• Google+
• Facebook
• Ning
• EdModo

My SNR allow an exchange of ideas as opposed to absorption of ideas and many of these interactions direct me to other sources of PD and growth.

5. Participate in webinars and online conferences.
Honestly probably the BEST way to expose yourself to new ideas and information as well as a means of affirming what you are already doing. The beauty of webinars is the flexibility. As a single mom, I love being able to be at home with my teenagers and participate in PD simultaneously. Plus, webinars are archived for future access and reference.

Some of the best conferences I have ever attended are Educon. . The first I attended (F2F) was in 2008. . While circumstances have precluded my physical presence in the subsequent years of 2009, 2010, 2011 and the upcoming 2012 , I have been able to attend virtually. Incredible conversations and interactions amongst both virtual and physical participants every year!

Professional development and growth is no longer cost prohibitive. While I am not maligning the importance of the p2p and f2f interactions, it is not necessary to physically attend conferences and seminars in order to develop as a professional.

At the end of the day, (in my AAR), when I evaluate my effectiveness, I am always struck by how necessary my PLN is to me throughout all of my activities. Educators have always developed professionally by first learning from mentors and peers. Digital technologies allow our PLN to transcend traditional geographic and time constraints so that interactions may occur both synchronously and asynchronously. The immediacy in which information, advice and support is available affords educators opportunities to participate in a multitude of personal learning networks heretofore unavailable.

So I pose the question to myself and others…are we learning and growing? We need to move ahead and lead or move aside to let others lead….

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What's My Job?

Pondering the recent blogs of two of my esteemed colleagues (TechnoTuesday and Plays Well With Others) as well as a recurrent theme of our state listserv combined with the (mis)conception my incoming sixth graders have of the school library media center.

I am surprised every year when I ask my (new) sixth grade students what I do. The overwhelming reply (class after class) is some variation of “keeper of the books”.

“Help keep books straight”.
“Check in books.”
“Check out books.”
“Find books for us.”
“Read books to us.”

This year, I posed a new question to them:

“...if all the books in the universe were to vaporize when I snap my fingers, would I have a job?”

And the (almost) unanimous answer is “NO!!”

Really? Unbelieveable! Disheartening. Saddening.

I have the best most exciting job in the entire world! INFORMATION! My job is to teach my school community how to access, evaluate and synthesize information...no matter the format. The bound codex (book) is simply one of a multitude of ever-morphing formats.

Concept Map

Like many dedicated media specialists (teacher-librarians, information specialists) I work extremely hard to remain current in my field in order to better meet the needs of my school community. Striving to be a more accomplished educator, I spend my time engaging in and learning about best practices. I am savvy in current and emerging technologies and their applicability to the educational arena. I am conversant in all curriculum content standards, not just my own. I advocate for collaboration and integrated instruction. I partner with colleagues in multiple content areas across grade levels to impact student achievement. If I am not an integral part of the instructional program at my school, it is because I have failed to make myself that vital piece of the school community. My role is to ensure competencies and success in multimodal literacies.

Who is better poised to prepare our students for their role as productive, global citizens than a 21st Century school library media specialist?