Now I know I link to just about every one of Barbara’s posts, but she’s just so darned smart and articulate when it comes to the whole blogs in the classroom thing that it still amazes me that she only has 45 subscribers on Bloglines. And today’s post is no different, though I feel myself heading down a bit of a different path than I normally would when writing about her reflections. Regardless of what follows here, read her post…it’s great thinking about blogs.
What has my interest today, however, is the following quote from Elmine Wijnia which Barbara cites:
To me that is the biggest challenge the educational system faces in the next few years. Schools are not dealing with the way teenagers learn. They are taught by people that grew up and finished their education before the internet era. Lots of teachers still lack the skills to teach current teenagers in the way they are familiar with and can understand. Loads of information is coming to them via the internet and everything they do is through the screen: the learning, the reading, downloading and listening to music, writing, designing and most importantly: communicating with the world. And if everything teenagers do is through the screen, why then is there so little taught through the screen??? It’s time for a change, it’s time to blog! (or to use wiki’s or whatever you prefer as long as it’s screen wise)
Yesterday’s quiz about the state of education stemmed in part from the reminder those facts gave me about how divorced from reality my school is when it comes to graduation rates and college. I don’t teach in the real world, and I think I need to remember that more than I do. This is especially true when I think about the level of technology use and the natives/immigrants discussion that I write and speak about so often. In my zip code, kids do have the access, the computers, the iPods. (You should see their cars…) But my zip code is not the norm, and by and large, kids who go to college are not the norm either according to the numbers.
Which begs the question, is it really the norm that “everything teenagers do is through the screen?” A bit ago, David Warlick left a comment here that this idea was a myth, and more and more I’m thinking he’s right. It’s not a myth at my school, but nationally, it’s a lot more complex than the digital natives description offers. And so the answers about blogging and technology are more complex as well.
I’ve been drafting a type of ed-bloggers credo, for lack of a better description, and I think the first tenet on the list has to be about working first and foremost to get people access. It was a point Pat Delaney made a long, long time ago, back when he was one of only a handful of educators who was exploring blogs. It’s one worth remembering.
Tom Hoffman says
I need to come down to your school for a visit sometime, Will.
David Warlick says
Thanks for the link. I’d like to put in 2¢ more. I agree with the fact that schools are out of touch with the needs of today’s teenagers and their future. Most teachers still think in the two-dimensional world of paper. Even younger teachers who go home and IM their college chums and play EverQuest till 10:00, come back to a paper-based classroom and continue the schooling heritage that they were brought up with.
What our students understand (and that we, as teachers, seem blind to) is that the very nature of information has changed. It’s changed in what it looks like, what we look at to view it, where we find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. We live in a brand new, and dynamically rich information environment, and if we are going to reach our students in a way that is relevant to their world and their future (and ours), then we must teach them from this new information environment.
But that’s not the most bottom line. At the heart of our classrooms must be literacy, not technology. If information has changed so much, which I believe is undeniable, then our definition of literacy must also change. We must expand our notions of what it means to be literate, but answering four questions:
What does it mean to be a reader when information is increasingly and almost exclusively networked (coming from anywhere and anyone)?
What does it mean to be a processor of information when information does not come as a dozen numbers on a piece of paper, but as thousands of numbers and they’re digital?
What does it mean to be a communicator when there are so many messages out there that the only ones to be read will be those that compete for attention?
And what are the prevailing ethical implications and responsibilities when the world of information ties us together in ways that makes us more interdependent than we could have dreamed ten years ago?
Well, I have the makings of my own blog article here.
Thanks for the forum, Will!
David Muir says
(New reader here and new blogger too, so be gentle with me!)
I found a Canadian study a few years ago that I thought was interesting. It said that, 99% of Canadian kids have used the Internet. Eight in ten access it from home, and five in ten use it every day. (Source: Young Canadians In A Wired World Survey, Media Awareness Network, 2001 – I saw first saw it summarised at the Media Awareness site.)
Does it depend on our definition of “screen”? If we are only talking computer screen, then yes we are limiting the number of students we are talking about. (Although I believe that in the UK at least, households with teenagers are significantly more likely to have broadband Internet connection than households without.)
What if we include mobile phone screens? Sorry – cell phones 🙂 How much communication and information access are we talking about now? More than just computer screens? What about games machines like Playstation 2 and XBox that have network connections. I know my children’s Playstation has an EyeToy that can be used for a video conferencing? Does that increase the number of children we are talking about? And finally, what about the TV screen? Almost universal? I would guess this is the prime source of information for the Internet excluded.
The point is, as David Warlick says above, for most teenagers paper is not their prime source of information.
Just a thought.