Saturday, January 20, 2007

Three Dimensional Contexts: Stick and Spread

I have had a lot of ideas rattling around in my head for a few weeks about the read / write web and the potential it has in education. Some of this goes back to conversations I have had with Kathleen Ferenz at CTAP, other parts refer to Wesley Fryer's presentation at the Macworld Educators Symposium, some come from the items I have gleaned from David Warlick presentations I have attended and Will Richardson blog posts.

So, how can the I take all of this and mash it up in my brain and get something different out of it? Well, mashing things up and remixing them is really what the read/write web is all about to me.

"Stick and spread." I heard this term in a few different contexts, but I really got a jolt out of it when I was talking with Kathleen Ferenz, from CTAP, about professional development and analyzing its effectiveness in changing the ways in which teachers teach and students learn. Part of this idea goes back to the idea of early adopters of technology in education or other fields, where new ideas or methods would 'stick' with some and not with others. The 'spread' would often come from some of these early adopters, who upon becoming energized by their new skill set would assist colleagues in adopting these technologies as well. Evangelism is also part of this process, even though I have begun to embrace the term 'guerrilla' more and more. (Just my personal preference here!)

In the read /write web, the idea of 'stick and spread' also takes on a third dimension as well. As more and more teachers begin to internalize the skills, we are seeing not just a spread to colleagues, but to students as well. I know what you are thinking here... Isn't that what the goal of all of this is? Yes, but in the past, the skill sets usually related directly to teaching and instruction. In this context, the way people access and process information is fundamentally changed and students are right behind the teachers. The gap between teacher and student is slim. This is uncomfortable for some teachers, who want to make sure everything is perfect before using it in class. So, in this sense, the third dimension is when these skills quickly move from teachers to students.

The connotation of 'stick and spread' is changing within a hypertexted world. Wesley Fryer's talk at Macworld, relating to blogging and hypertexted reading and writing, giving depth to the basic writing assignment, the third dimension. The spread to other web sites, defining unfamiliar terms, using other articles that support the authors point of view all support the new Bloom's Taxonomy that Wesley Fryer Blogged on recently. To me this new 'Blooms Taxonomy Pyramid,' takes some of the theory of the older linear Blooms Taxonomy, where students learn to delay gratification and work on longer assignments and Abraham Mazlow's 'Needs Hierarchy' where individuals meet basic needs and move up the pyramid to the point where they become "Self-actualized."

Will Richardson also picked up on this strand in a recent post, where he mentioned using blogging and three dimensional writing specifically, to teach reading. Will says on his blog, "And for me, the biggest reason my reading has changed is because of blogging. I now read with an intent to write, and my writing (or blogging) is an attempt to synthesize and connect ideas, not simply summarize or paraphrase what I have been reading (if I even get to that.)" Therefore, blogging (the synthesis of ideas), leads to a deeper understanding of the material read. The reading and the writing afterwards, with hyperlinks back to the original material read creates our third dimension.

David Warlick also pushes the 3rd dimension forward with his three E's, (Exposing the truth, Employing information and Expressing ideas compellingly) which are part of his most recent presentation. "We are preparing our students for a future, we cannot clearly describe." Therefore, we need to teach students how to teach themselves, and this includes teaching them how to validate sources found on the Internet and to critically evaluate them for opinion or bias. As students begin to 'express ideas compellingly' they draw upon many sources to validate and support their ideas, in most cases these are hyperlinks to other Internet based resources. In the new educational paradigm, information is the raw material that students will use to construct their own ideas, and when they write about them, they will be invariably hyperlinked.

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