The Quest for Digital Literacy

Learning in a 1:1 Classroom

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants – Hmmmm

I am taking a class at Ball State University in Digital Literacy.  I am finding it to be wonderfully thought-provoking.  In our opening discussions, I made a remark about being at odds with the terms, “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants.”  No one seemed to question me and I really did not expect a comment.

One the drive home, I continued to wrestle with the terms.  To understand digital literacy, it seemed that those affected by it could be classified as either natives or immigrants.  Though I remained in flux, it seemed that the digital native term was the more accurate of the two.  Digital natives could aptly be described as people who had lived their entire lives in the digital age; that age being as the time of the world wide web circa 1987 and forward.  I am a native American simply because I was born in the United States.  Those born from 1987 forward are digital natives simply because they have been born in that time frame.

As a native American, I am taught and study the information I need to live productively as an American citizen.  I learn about my community, my state and my country.  I learn the processes that help it function to the betterment of each of its citizens.  I learn both its history and my responsibilities as a citizen.  As a teacher, I provide my students with the information they need to become mature citizens.

I believe the same is true of digital natives.  Digital natives is only a term to describe the circumstances of their birth.  The goal for them is digital citizenship.  They must learn how to be responsible, contributing digital citizens.  They must be taught by citizens who have the necessary skills and information to ratify their citizenship.  And there is the rub.  Who will be their teachers?

They cannot teach themselves.  That leads to confusion and anarchy.  Marc Prensky, in his article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), states that, “Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, Digital Immigrants.”  Prensky describes digital immigrants using metaphors similar to mine.  He notes that, “…they  always retain, to some degree, their ‘accents,’ that is, their foot is in the past.”  He points out that some, certainly, have adapted better than others, but places us all in digital immigrant boat.  His description of digital immigrant instructors using the wrong language to instruct digital natives aptly describes what many call the digital divide.

I do not deny the validity of Prensky’s arguments, but I believe he paints us all with too broad of a brush.  There was no “Big Bang,” event and suddenly there were natives and immigrants.  Many of us have been actively developing our digital citizenship from the day we were born.  I believe we are “Naturalized” Digital Citizens.  As a teacher, I did not wake up one morning and say, “OMG! I don’t know how to teach anymore!  The students don’t understand my accent!”

I have been teaching for nearly five wonderful, learning-filled years.  My students have applied technology more effectively than most high school and many college students.  It is because they are becoming digital citizens and are being taught by a naturalized digital citizen.  How am I and naturalized digital citizen?  It is because I was taught the responsible use of the expanding technologies that have grown with me.  Here are some of them:  A crystal radio set, black and white television, color television, AM and FM radio, transistor radios, telegraph keys, reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorders, eight-track tapes, cassette tapes, 78’s, 45’s, and 33 1/3 rpm records, monaural and stereo recordings, wind-up wrist watches, propeller planes, jets, space flight, rotary phones, typewriters both manual and electric, and so much more.

After that, there were no “Dark Ages” and then, “Poof!” Web 2.0.  Technology has been and will continue to grow at an incomprehensible pace.  My point is, many of us continue to take the best of those advances and use them to turn our digital natives into digital citizens.  I know technology far better than my students.  I am the one to teach it to them.  I know chats, blogs, and wikis.  I know Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and Hi5 and so much more.  I did not learn them all at once.  I learned them as they happened.  I will continue to learn, for the rest of my life – naturally.

Am I a digital immigrant?  No, I don’t think so.  I am a digital citizen, naturally digitized and able to speak with many, “accents,” even those of my students.


January 18, 2010 Posted by | Technology Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Are your students engaged in learning?

January 9, 2010 Posted by | Technology Issues | , | Leave a comment

Global Connections for Learning

Friendship Map

Any teacher with a computer, and internet connection, and a bit of determination can offer students some powerful learning opportunities.  You don’t have to look far.  Fact is, plenty of teachers are already looking for you.

When I walked into my first classroom four years ago, I had planned to se a thematic unit on newspapers to help my kids learn about their community.  While Googling for information, I found, a site with many project-based learning activities.  One of those activities was called Newsday.  Newsday helped students from different parts of the world create and share newspapers about their communities.  Our efforts with Newsday netted seven partner schools from around the world.  We created a 40-page newspaper, sold advertising to our community, made a substantial profit, learned a lot about parts of our world, and made some great new friends.  We invested our money in some camera equipment.

In my second year, we continued our Newsday project, making friends with eight more classroom.  We created three smaller newspapers that year.  They averaged about 20 pages each and led my students into a deeper understanding of the workings of our community.  They studied history, culture, government, service organizations, public safety, business, and natural resources.

During that year, I ran across ePals, an organization that helps schools connect by posting their projects on their site.  We did another half-dozen projects with individual schools.  We traded school mascots and stories with a school in Iceland and did a Christmas project with a school in France.  We studied various aspects of world peace with a school in Spain and helped students at a school in Italy learn and practice English.  We traded experiences with learning with technology with a school in India and learned a lot of things about scarecrows from a school in Japan.

Then one day, about midway through the school year, I got an email from a school in Israel.  The teacher’s name was Marsha Goren.  She had seen me on ePals and invited me to do a project with her and her students.  Their school was Ein Ganim School in Petach Tikva.  They had already done projects with more than 200 schools and had their own website,  Their belief was that if they could help enough children around the world become friends, perhaps when they grew up, they would still be friendly. I could write volumes about the projects with did with them, and the days ahead, I probably will.

In my next post, I will write about the Global Virtual Classroom Challenge and the project that earned us, Marsha, and a new friend from Illinois world-wide recognition.

December 16, 2009 Posted by | 1:1 Classroom | | Leave a comment

A 1:1 Elementary Classroom

I am beginning my third year of teaching in a 1:1, technology-rich classroom. I have learned  quite a bit on this journey and I am certain I will learn a lot more.

In this initial post, I simply want to share how this all came about. While schools across the  country are implementing technology programs, I have yet to find an elementary classroom like  mine. My students do not have laptops. They each have a desktop computer.

Four years ago, I was hired as a 4th grade teacher at Harrison Elementary School in Warsaw,  Indiana. I was given two computers; one for myself and one for the school’s Accelerated Reader  program. I knew I had to find more.

I am a proponent of Project-Based Learning. I intended to find global learning partners for my  students and not in a snail-mail sort of way. I went from room to room, asking other teachers if they were using all of their computers. Some were quite generous. In a storage room, I found a cart of ten old Dream Writers. They ran Windows CE and needed new batteries. I found some funds and by mid-term had 17 computers in my room.

My first year was an unqualified success. We created a newspaper with seven other classrooms around the world. I taught my students how to sell advertising and set prices that would ensure a profit. We made $1200.00.

Near the end of that year, my Principal sent out an email that informed us our school’s population had increased to the point he was going to close one of our two computer labs to make room for another classroom. I ran to his office, skipped knocking on his door, and told him I had a crazy idea. He listened.

Instead of sending the computers back to our Technology Department for redistribution, the computer lab became my fourth grade classroom. I immediately began to ramp up the use of technology in my lessons. My room has grown to include a Mimeo interactive white board, a powerful sound system, two webcams, video and still cameras, a VCR/DVD player, and a significant amount of interactive software.

Our global learning continues. We have partnered with more than thirty classrooms on four continents. Last year, we entered an international web-design contest. Along with our two partner classrooms, Lincoln Elementary in Oak Park, Illinois and Ein Ganim School in Petach Tikva, Israel, we won first place in the elementary division.

I look forward to your thoughts and questions. Thanks.

Rick Glass

December 14, 2009 Posted by | 1:1 Classroom | , | Leave a comment