Literacy Worth Investing In

'Clock' photo (c) 2005, Simon Shek - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Cross-posted at SmartBlog on Education

Learning isn’t analog any more

When I think of analog learning, I think of something static. I think of content that doesn’t change and is quickly outdated. I think of a textbook that I can’t interact with. Would you agree? If so, what do you think our students think? Is this normal to them? Do we want it to be normal to them? Do they have a say?

Learning opportunities that exist today are far from analog. The evidence of content is in abundance. That doesn’t mean we just send our students freely to the web without important conversations about things like proper digital behavior and critical consumption. This cannot be treated as a skill that we have students pick up in 8th grade from a particular course. How to deal with the flood of information and tools available to our students must become a literacy. We have a responsibility to our students. If we claim to be doing what’s best for students, yet we keep our resources and methods in the 20th century, our students are losing out.

We. Need. A. Plan.

Getting our students to a place of digital literacy begins with us. It’s a matter of modeling what we expect. It’s a matter of teaching the way we would want to be taught today if we were students in our classrooms. We must make this literacy a priority for teachers before we can expect to get our students there. Teachers: this isn’t meant to be seen as “one more thing”.  Your students want you to go with them on this journey. Let them help. Let them teach you. Grow together. Leaders: it’s not a matter of finding the time for your teachers to learn; it’s a matter of making the time.

This is why a plan is important when beginning to venture into these new horizons of literacy. We have national standards for administrators, teachers, and students to help guide us in our journey to increase our digital literacy. Be sure to check out the Essential Conditions too. All are great places to start.

Does every teacher, student, and administrator need to have X, Y, and Z mastered straight away or even by the end of one school year? I don’t think so. What we expose our students to; learning that fosters creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking provides them continual experiences for them to build on year after year.

For example, In my district, our department is working closely with our Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Instruction to plan out a year-long professional development plan to our elementary principals. Using the NETS-A as a guide, we’ve created learning opportunities that allow administrators to experience new tools, ideas, and resources they can take back and use with their teachers (modeling), which will (hopefully) have a trickle down effect. Teachers will become interested and want to learn more, which leads to teachers using said ideas and resources with students which leads to students being exposed to new tools and resources to foster the “C’s” mentioned earlier. Teaching and learning is happening in new and different ways. It’s an exciting plan to be part of and our team can’t wait to see what happens next.

Making a move from the “analog” is an important step. One that’s hard to make by oneself. Planning and support is essential. Stick with it and don’t look back. You can only get better.

Thanks for reading.

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Content Curation with PearlTrees

Note: This post is also cross-posted over at the EasyBib blog

I’ve written and spoken before about the essential skill (a literacy according to Howard Rheingold) of students not only being able to collect content from their network(s), but to curate what’s collected. Just like a museum curator pours over artifacts to find the very best to display, we should also do the same not just for our own professional resources, but see it as an obligation to model it for our students.

I came across a new resource recently (I believe the hat tip goes to Alec Couros for this find) called Pearltrees. After you sign up for your account, you can start building your own Pearltrees. Pearltrees are made up of “pearls”, or sites you want to curate into particular the Pearltrees (topics) you’ve created.  Give this 40 second video a watch from the PearlTrees site called “Why Pearltrees?”

Once you’ve signed up for your account, you will already have your “root” Pearltree created for you with your username. You will also see a couple of Pearltrees waiting for you. One is called Getting Started and another is called Pearltree Videos. You can see them in my main Pearltree page here.

You will also see there that I have created a Pearltree called Digital Citizenship. I added “pearls” to the Digital Citizenship Pearltree by using the “Pearler” tool, which is a browser extension that’s available for both Google Chrome and Firefox. When I came to a site I wanted to add to a Pearltree, I clicked the Pearltree extension (I was using Chrome) clicked on the Pearltree I wanted to add it to, and it was instantly there. Easy enough.

As you noticed above you can share links to specific Pearltrees in your account and also embed any Pearltree you’d like on your own website, blog, LMS, etc. It’s also easy to share directly to Twitter and Facebook.

I also like the emphasis on sharing of your Pearltrees. They call themselves a social curation community.  You can even give it a try by importing your Delicious bookmarks (I’m a Diigo user so I did not try this feature). So not only does this site give you an easy way to curate great content, but it also recognizes the importance of being social about it by making Pearltrees easy to share and they can also be built collaboratively.

Here’s a few of the more important features that I believe Pearltrees offers:

1. Easy to use interface

2. The browser extension works nicely for quickly adding content to different Pearltrees

3. They are easy to share

4. Pearltrees can be created collaboratively

5. It’s a web-based application, allowing students to access content from anywhere, including the free iPad app

Think of Pearltrees as a content curation meets concept mapping tool. I had a great time learning how to use it and I think it would be great for students as they curate content they need for various classes. I look forward to watching it improve. Have fun!