New Literacies

As teachers, we are responsible for making sure that our students are fluent in the methods of discourse they’ll need beyond the classroom.  In the last decades, these necessary literacies have changed drastically with the arrival of the digital era.  No longer can students thrive in the real world without an understanding of how to use digital tools in a collaborative, meaningful way.

Digital tools, by nature, make readers into more active participants in the text.  “Traditional printed texts such as books are written for readers to proceed from front to back, reading from left to right.  However, readers of electronic texts have the option of clicking on any one of a number of hyperlinks that can take them on a path that digresses completely from the path that other readers might take” (V,V,&M 33).  Just the act of reading a digital text is inherently more active than reading a printed text.  Also, in the digital world, readers have the opportunity to interact with other readers and writers through commenting and social networking.  This leads to the participitory learning that creates an “self-correcting, collaborative environment.” (Henry Jenkins)  As we’ve experienced through this class through blogging and commenting, digital tools allow us to be more active readers while helping us learn collaboratively.

The concept of learning collaboratively has been around for a long time, but the today’s digital technology has provided it so much more potential.  The theory of connectivism suggests that we learn best from making connections between our learning and the learning of others.  According to George Siemens, “we can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections.”  As I mentioned before, I would not have had nearly as an enriching experience in this class had it not been collaborative in nature.  If I had to be entirely autonomous in my reading and learning, it would be very shallow and unrewarding.  Instead, when learning in a community and making connections to the learning of others, a deeper and more complex understanding of a concept is attainable.

As Jenkins points out, unfortunately teachers and administrations often place self-imposed limits on the kind of 21st century literacies they can teach their students.  It was refreshing to read about the environment that Eric Sheninger fostered in his school, and it’s these kinds of risk-taking efforts that lead to a rich learning environment in the new century.  It is a shame that YouTube, Twitter, social networks, and other potential learning tools are banned from many schools.  It is true, as Jenkin says, that harnessing the digital tools for necessary for collaborative, participitory learning can be scary because it takes some power away from the teacher and puts it in the hands of the student.  But the risk is worth the reward, because when students have power and can develop respected voices in collaborative conversations, they become stakeholders in their own educations.  Which is what we want, isn’t it?  RCA2011

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “New Literacies

  1. Hannah,
    It is great to read your blog! I do not believe I have ever commented on one of yours, I enjoyed reading what you had to write about.

    Like you, I agree that literacy today is much different than ‘yesterday’ in so many ways. Therefore, students need to be fluent in 21st century teaching methods. I have seen a tremendous amount of motivation occur in my students when I use technology. Realizing this, I wish there were many more opportunities for my students to use the technology. However, with the limited resources it makes it challenging. You bring up a good point, which I have read in our text, that digital text requires students to learn to ‘read’ differently. Rather than reading from left to right, they have the liberty to start and end anywhere on the web. However, I question how this impacts student learning. While I see it can open many doors for students, it concerns me that students may become confused or easily frustrated with all of the options. Therefore, I find it to be so important that technology teachers and classroom teachers, instruct students on how to learn from digital text. This is a skill, I know I often assume the students are well versed in, but they need more help in understanding how to comprehend information from different areas of the text. You have done an excellent job on your blog post. I have enjoyed reading what you had learned from this previous week’s reading. Great job! Good luck with finalizing your projects for the week.

    Kylie

  2. I really liked how you summarized how learning new literacies will make students more active learners. By teaching them how to appropriately use them in the classroom, we should see a drastic change in student attitudes toward school. I also liked how you reflected on how it has changed you in this class as well. I completely agree with that statement. By reading other’s blogs I have obtained ideas about what to use in my classroom, and the feedback I am getting from others has also been very beneficial. The risk is most definitely worth the reward, as you say. Again, I really enjoyed reading your views on new literacies!

  3. I really like what you have to say about collaborative work. Using electronic resources we can make our students reading so much more meaningful. When students know that someone other than the teacher, mainly their peers, will be reading their response to a reading they tend to put more time and effort into what they are going to write I know that I have through this process of blogging during this semester. It also makes it more meaningful for the students because they are able to have dialogue about the text through responses from other students. It is nice to have someone comment and agree with what you are saying, it makes students feel as though their writing is validated and worthwhile.

  4. Nice point about Jenkins. How do you think that we could stop from doing this? Is it a systematic problem across national/state/county lines or a controllable feature of individual teachers, etc? I struggle with this, because as a teacher I vowed a revised Hippocratic oath to “do no harm to my students” therefore it breaks my heart to think that teachers, including myself, are actually playing an active role in “de-skilling” or “de-tooling” students by not allowing them to use their full learning potential through new literacies. Thank you for your thoughts.

  5. I agree with just about everything you wrote in this post. It really is frustrating and disheartening to know that a fear of or misunderstanding of technology and digital tools is keeping them out of the classroom. I thought very seriously about doing a lateral entry program so that I could begin teaching immediately after graduation, and there have been numerous times this summer when I have been thankful that I decided to do this instead. I agree that the collaborative classes that include digital tools have been incredibly enriching, and I think they have made me do more learning and questioning which leads me to see the value technology can have in my own classroom. With any luck, those of us learning to sing the praises of technology will be able to take a stand for digital tools and revitalize the classroom!

  6. Cris

    You’ve made such a compelling argument for a new kind of classroom, Hannah, where learners have a new sense of ownnership and self-efficacy that come from learning that is connected and collaborative. My goal for creating a networked, participatory learning environment this summer was that you’d experience the power of digital tools for learning and take that into your teaching. Because you need to experience this kind of learning and develop it as a professional lifeline before you can begin to model for your students.

    Andrew asks about how we can follow Jenkins’s advice and create a more open environment for learning. I think it’s teachers like you, new and idealistic, and like the 30-year veteran teacher in my spring class, forever open to new ideas, will help us reach the tipping point. I see really positive signs of change with more systems giving teachers and students more access to online resources.

    Thanks for an inspiring post.

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