Friday, October 13, 2006

Possums, Tails and Literacy

The last few weeks has had more than its share of ups and downs to last awhile, therefore the blogging was put on the back burner. Now, that everything has quieted down a little I can get back to pushing the literacy agenda again. In my best southern accent I want to say, "Friends, I have a word for you today. That word is 'Literacy.' It's all about giving to our students... giving our students the gift of life long literacy."

Over the past few months, I have written about integrating technology, but in some of the things I have read over the past few weeks, I have been wrong about this. Integrating technology isn't something we should think of as separate from literacy as a whole, it is an integral part of what will be necessary to be considered literate in the world our students will spend their adult life in. So, to quote the Pogo cartoonist, Walt Kelly, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

To clarify what I mean, I think that teachers and the educational establishment have been barriers to the 'new literacy' in our schools. The skills that we think constitute 'information literacy' in the past truly support and enhance what we think of as 'traditional literacy' skills. Currently, we think of literacy as 'possessing' a certain number of facts and the ability to apply them to situations that present themselves to us in our everyday life. In the society our students will live in, it will be impossible for them to 'possess' all of the knowledge that will be necessary to work in the society of the future. The current definition of 'Information Literacy' includes: defining, locating, selecting/analyzing and organizing/synthesizing. It is these last two sets of skills that are the most important to our students.

The way schools have been organized over the last 100 years have been based on the Industrial Manufacturing model, with students traveling from class to class, like an assembly line, to have 4 quarts of History or English poured into their bodies. Henry Ford would be so proud! Educational pundits have recoginized that this model has been flawed when they use analogies that the teacher needs to stop being the 'Sage on the Stage' and move over an become the 'Guide on the side.' So, what will it take for us to move toward a model like this?

Like all 'new' ideas, especially those in education, they usually come into being from some type of business model. And 'New Literacy' models come from business as well. A new theory of collective intelligence and collaborative creation of knowledge comes from a book called, 'The Long Tail.' Want to see a little of what is meant by the 'Long Tail,' check out this video on the Long Tail Blog. David Warlick, one of the most respected Information Literacy authorities (lecturer, blogger, author) wrote about his interpretations of the Long Tail on his blog.

Next Steps:
1) Sign up for a Bloglines or Google Reader account. There is a video on the Google Reader site that will teach you about adding feeds to your reader.

2) Subscribe to 4 RSS feeds and read them at least every other day. Make sure these are feeds you are interested in.

3) Create a Blogger account and write a blog. Your audience could be for you, to get your ideas on paper. Your friends, to discuss the latest ideas, books, the weather, etc. Your class, to identify blog postings or other articles you have found on the Internet that will bring greater definition to what you are teaching in class.

If you need help. You can always contact me... I will come out to help. There have been 5 people that have contacted me about some of the things I have written here and I have either personally connected with everyone, either in person or e-mail, and sent links or helped them set up an account. There is one person I need to get back to and make sure they are ready to go. One of the teachers at Capuchino is currently on leave and living in Hong Kong, before he left he asked me how to set up a mailing list so he could keep in touch with all of the students that want to stay connected to him... I told him to start a blog. Check out the Hong Kong Chronicles.....

Happy Blogging and e-mail me when you create your blog so I can subscribe.

1 comment:

Kendra said...

Dear Mr. Bigue and Mr. Brumbaugh (oh no, I think I might have just slaughtered your name)

Speaking of blogs, I definitely started one about my year in France, so, although it is significantly less sophisticated than yours, I thought you might be interested.

Kendra :D