Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Beyond Books: What is Literacy in the Digital Age?"

The October/November issue of NEA Today poses questions regarding the use of Web 2.0 in the classroom:
1. What does it mean to be literate in today's society, and how do we provide more than a superficial understanding of moving about on the internet?
2. How do we overcome the obstacles (financial difficulties, bureaucratic problems, misconceptions and image issues)?
3. What needs to happen to make teachers comfortable with using 21st century tools to teach 21st century skills?

Regarding the first question, I think our understanding of literacy is constantly evolving, so it's tough to pin it down. But if I'm doing my job right, on our best day in my class, my kids will learn how to collaborate with people from all over, articulate themselves clearly, and wade through the mass of information (and misinformation) out there to find valid sources for what they need. And what they do in any virtual environment can only enhance their real-world interactions.

The obstacles are out there, and they are myriad. But I think some of the biggest problems we face can play key roles in the solution. Every teacher I know is looking for a way to combat the negative effects of No Child Left Behind and a hurting economy. Technology may not be a silver bullet, but free online tools that genuinely bump up student engagement should be tough to pass up for teachers driven to make a change, creative enough to develop new ideas, and brave enough to break from some traditional practices.

As for question number three, I get to spend my day talking with other teachers about this one. Sounds like a good day :)

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