So what is Literacy? Why, it's about readin' and writin' of course. Right?
Actually I think the answer is yes, but I was intrigued by the points brought out in the blogs I read and the videos I watched this week. First of all, before I define 'literacy' I want to define 'technology.' Because there seems to be some confusion in the EdTech community at large. One person in the video seemed to suggest that technology equals computers. That is wrong, in my opinion. When the pencil was invented, it was ground-breaking technology. At one point, overhead projectors were 'the latest technology.' Any tool that teachers use in the classroom is in some way 'technology.' 'Modern technology,' or '21st Century technology' refers to the tools we are talking about in this class; and the tools we need to master to obtain the degree we are studying. That's fine, but let's not dismiss older tools just because they are not cool enough.
So using technology to teach means something much greater than putting MS Word on the computers, upgrading to Windows 7, or buying an iPad for all of the students. 'Using technology' is the art of incorporating all of the available tools in the classroom, in a way that expands knowledge, differentiates between learners, and involves the parents and community. After all, that is what the students will need to do in their adult lives, right?
Sometimes, a book is the perfect tool to use. Sometimes, a worksheet is the most efficient way to involve everyone. Other times, one would be crazy not to use web tools to help students collaborate effectively. My point is there is no one tool for every one task. In fact, relying on modern technology to do our teaching for us is a critical mistake, in my opinion.
Personally -- and my experience is limited -- I like to keep the students guessing. I might use the web for a certain task, but revert to the textbook for a similar task in a different unit. To me, teaching literacy is helping students learn to use all of these tools.
Still, the foundation of reading and writing must not be overlooked. Students in the 21st Century have no lack of social media experience. They need no help in sending email, uploading graphics or commenting on posts. In fact, they need no help in searching for whatever their wondering eyes might be tempted to see on the Internet. But I digress. What students do not regularly receive are prompts on reading, comprehension, and writing skills. They know how to text, but they cannot write a simple essay. They know jargon, but too often they do not know how to communicate, especially one-on-one.
Computers draw us away from each other, into our own little worlds. This might be cool, but it can easily become unhealthy. Although we must sharpen technological skills for our students, we must make sure they are learning and understanding the importance of those foundational skills that will help them stand out from the Facebook crowd.
Yes, I'm talking about readin' and writin'. The 21st Century model would suggest that those skills can be learned on a computer; and since that is the tool they will use as adults, that is the best way to prepare them for the real world. Well, they can learn to read on a computer, but should we get rid of all books? Students can learn to type, but do we dare abandon the pencil and paper? Are these the trends of the near future? Are they healthy trends?
I think those questions need to be seriously asked and debated in the EdTech community.
Finally, I have very few man-crushes in my life, LOL. My wife tells me I have a man-crush on Adam Bellow. He is a EdTech guru from New York that is possibly the most dynamic and informative speaker on the subject. Here is 15 minutes of brilliance from Adam at a conference he spoke at in 2011. I saw his keynote at METC last year, and I was blown away. If you want to know the EdTech guy that influences me the most, it's Adam Bellow.