The Quest for Digital Literacy

Learning in a 1:1 Classroom

Technology vs. Education*

I do not make a distinction between education and technology. For me, for my students, they are inseparable. Technology is integrated naturally into the lessons. No one says, “Wow! we get to use the computers today!” We just use them, and other tools, as natural parts of our studies.

I remember visiting the one-room school house my mother attended in Pennsylvania. I remember the hole in the far right hand corner of each desk that held the ink well for their pens. Pen and ink was her technology. They used it as naturally as you and I used paper and pencil in our school days. Paper and pencil was our technology and still is for many.

My students’ “paper and pencil” is made by Dell and communicates in ways paper and pencil never could. We all know from brain research that multi-sensory experiences improve learning and memory. Technology INTEGRATION does exactly that.

The key is the integration. Technology cannot stand alone. Neither can content. Neither can pedagogy. Today’s education, evolving in a world of expanding technological capabilities, must include content, pedagogy, and technology. All three must be naturally blended by educators who are masters of each.

Technology integration with content and best practices excites kids about learning. They are engaged. The technologies my kids use in school are tools they have know for as long as they can remember. They key is that I must teach them HOW to use it to learn. All they had done when they first come to my class is play games. I get to teach them how to create. I get to teach them how to collaborate. I get to show them how to take the linear learning of their textbooks and look deeper into the content and make meaningful connections. And as I do those things, they begin to take responsibility for their own learning. They discover that within themselves is a newly found desire to explore. I have that marvelous privilege of being their guide.

Now, knowing and believing those things as I do, perhaps one can understand why I find it irritating and unacceptable that our State’s Technology Plan is outdated and unfunded. I want to believe that the people on the committee worked hard and brought a lot to the table. I just wish that people who actually teach with tech integration had been part of the process. When I see that the committee is staffed mostly by politicians and businessmen, I wonder how in touch they are with children of their constituents and customers. Where are those who know children and how they learn? I don’t think that is too much to ask when the next committee is formed.

If we are to be preparing students for responsible roles in a technologically advanced society, why is our DOE’s technology website fraught with dead links, unfinished pages, and antiquated information? It speaks to the importance our DOE places on education and educational technology.

Some in our group have decried the length of the Virginia plan as too long. I certainly respect those opinions. It is long. But it is thorough. I did not find it to be redundant. It spoke to me of hard work and purposeful planning. I believe the committee members took their responsibilities seriously and did not simply echo the National plan.

Does all this mean that I want to throw the Hoosier tech plan baby out with the bath? No, not really. I have very high hopes. I believe that we can affect change beginning at the grass roots level. We are currently writing a Technology Plan for our school district. I am pleased to have an active role on that committee. While I cannot predict outcomes, I know that my voice will be heard. I know the voices of others, both like-minded and in rebuttal, will also be heard. And I know, most of all, that each member wants the kids to win. We want them to learn and have the best opportunity for successful, purposeful lives.


*Note – This post is taken from a document I shared in a Technology Policy class I am taking in the Graduate School at Ball State University.


January 28, 2010 Posted by | Best Pracitces, Technology Issues | , , | Leave a comment

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