education, technology, and everything else

Posts Tagged ‘digital literacy’

Learning Communities

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2008

And more.. From the Thetford Academy Newsletter (via email)

SNAPSHOTS: In and around TA classrooms…

• Just before the break eighth-grade Computer Literacy students were
exploring the concept of “learning community” as it develops in
online formats, with classmates in the computer lab, and more
generally in the school at large. Here is a sampling of the
definitions they wrote, summarizing the idea in their own words:

“I feel that a learning community is a place where students come
together to the same conclusions after being together for some time.
They learn what the others think about a particular topic and combine
that with their own thinking.”

“:Learning Community (noun): a place where nobody is really in charge
of what people are learning, but instead are all learning together
and helping each other out.

“To me, a learning community is a great way to hold a class. It’s
different from all my other classes where the teacher is basically
helping you along the way. Here, we are given our assignments with
the general knowledge given, and we sky rocket from there. We help
each other when we have computer problems and we also help each other
out when we have questions. The good thing about a learning community
is that the kids are teaching kids and the kids are learning from
other kids, but in more of a casual way rather than being “proper”,

like the way you would approach a teacher. Personally, I like being
part of a learning community because it’s a great way to interact
with other kids in the class and maybe even start new friendships
from communicating in class. “

“A learning community is a place where everyone learns. The teacher
is more of an instructor, and the students can teach the instructor
things too.
I like being a part of a learning community because it
is a lot less stressful. It’s like we are a big group, all learning
and teaching from each other. Everyone in a learning community plays
an equal roll [sic] and respects each other, and I feel happy and
respected in a learning community.”

“A learning community is a place were you can learn and feel safe, so
you can get a good education and not be bullied. I like being part
of a learning community because I get to learn safely.”

“A learning community is an enviroment [sic] in which someone can
feel comfortable asking questions and discussing difficult topics
with their peers. At Thetford Academy, I am a part of a large
learning community. I like being part of such a community because it
provides a sense of comfort and makes me feel that I can accomplish
many things by myself and with my peers

For more on electronic learning communities, these students and their
teacher recommend visiting the online resource
center at

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Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2008

How apropos! Toward A Definition of 21st-Century Literacies from the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)

Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

• Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
• Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
• Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of
• Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous
• Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
• Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

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digital literacy requirements

Posted by Miranda on February 23, 2008

Digital Literacy:“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks efficiently and ethically to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

I’m still mulling over the digital literacy requirements that kids ought to have when they leave our school, but I’ve come up with a preliminary list.
First, the tools. I think everyone ought to know a little something about the tools they use. There’s no reason to think the computer as we know it will remain the main tool forever but it is now so kids should know:

Mechanical literacy

    Relationship between hard drive, processor and memory.
    Basic security: virus protection options, configuration of virus updates and scans
    Basic maintenance: disk tools such as chkdsk (PC), disk utility(Mac)

Basic software literacy:

    File types: should know some basic file extensions, such as .doc .jpg, .gif .xls .tif .txt and what they mean
    Should know how to save a document in different file formats
    Should know basic word processor formatting: page and section breaks, page numbering, headers and footers

Internet literacy:

    Basic search techniques – the use of quotation marks, Boolean operators
    Should know how to read a URL
    Should know how to validate a website and assess it for reliability (whois, wayback machine, external links, domain extensions
    should have an understanding of copyright and the concept of fair use
    Safety and Privacy:
    should understand that content published to the web is not private and survives forever
    should have basic training in recognizing and avoiding cyber bullying, trolls and predation
    Should know the concepts of basic HTML code, enough to recognize it anyhow
    Should know how to view the source code of any web site (this can also yield clues to the site’s validity)
    Should know the strengths and weaknesses of blogs, wikis and other “2.0” tools
    Should know how to format graphics for the web – understanding of graphic file formats and file size

Doesn’t seem like a lot does it? Yet many, if not most, of our students don’t know these things.

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Computer Lit

Posted by Miranda on February 9, 2008

My son mentioned to me the other evening that Thetford Academy has a Computer Literacy class, something I never knew. It’s an elective, 1/2 hour daily. They cover search engines, some basic web design. He tells me there’s a larger unit on cyber-bullying.
Now, the school where I work has nothing like this. In fact we do not offer any computer classes per se. The enrollments for the programming classes were so small that they haven’t run since the first year I worked here. There used to be a basic Office applications course but no more.

Kids that I see often have no idea of very simple search techniques. They don’t know how to add page numbers to a term paper. They don’t know that taking a graphic off a web page, putting it into a poster and enlarging it by dragging the edges will result in pixelated mess when printed. When it does they have no idea why. They don’t know that memory is different from hard drive space. They don’t know how to set up their virus protection to update itself. (Many don’t know if they even have any virus protection.)

Most “computer course” are programming courses. What we need is a technology course. Do kids need to know how to program in order to use technology efficiently? No they don’t. I think they do need to know some things about computers. They need to know that deleting files from a hard drive isn’t going to improve general performance. They need to know how to protect their computer from viruses. Computers are tools and everybody needs to know how to maintain their tools.

And they need some kind of digital literacy, technology literacy, there needs to be some basic stuff that kids leave this school knowing.

The best definition I’ve found for digital literacy comes from a New Zealand government web site

“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

but I’d tinker with it a little, I’d say

“The ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks efficiently and ethically to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

What are the basic skills that kids should graduate from high school knowing?

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teaching digital literacy

Posted by Miranda on January 6, 2008

Just before the holiday break, one of the students came to me with a request. He and a buddy are planning to bicycle across the US in order to raise money for a school his father and others are building in Kenya.
He asked if I would help him construct and maintain a web site on this topic, because he was at least digitally literate enough to know that raising money for his cause would be aided by having a web presence.
I told him I could not commit to maintaining his site but I would certainly commit to giving him the knowledge he would need in order to do that himself.

He didn’t know what a web host was when we started discussing that, didn’t know how to go about getting a domain name registered to him, didn’t know how to code a web page (and still doesn’t, but he’s learning). He did not know that .com denotes a commercial venture and .org a non-profit.

Yes, I know it would be easy for him to get a free blog on one of the hosting sites available. But he wants to do some things with his site that a free blog hosting service wouldn’t provide and a site of his own will give him a little more flexibility.
I have suggested that he think about incorporating a blog. He didn’t know what a blog was.

Last night he got his first page up. Yay!

I’ve also been thinking about my son. He wants to learn about web design and I think he’ll have a much better chance of getting into his chosen (so far anyhow) college, the Savannah College of Art and Design if he has a spiffy online portfolio. So over the weekend I bought him a domain name and an account at ICDSoft, where I have a couple of sites hosted already. His first assignment is to design an index page with links to my subdomain. Because I need a place to play, and my free space at ValleyNet is pretty limited.

Then, this morning, I was doing my usual browse the blogs over coffee and I ran across this at the Fischbowl, from a post in September, Is It OK to be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher:

The more I think about it, the more I think it’s analogous to the 20th century. In the early 20th century, people who couldn’t read or write could be pretty successful. By the middle of the 20th century, that was still true, but it was getting harder to be successful (and certainly those that could read and write had much more opportunities available to them). By the end of the 20th century, there was very little chance of being successful if you couldn’t read or write. (Note that I’m defining “successful” both in economic/employment terms, and in terms of citizenship/personal fulfillment.)

There is no teacher at the school where I work that can guide Peter through buying a domain name, a hosting account. There is no teacher that can guide him through designing and coding a site, optimizing for search, using the Google Webmaster tools.
There is only me and I’m staff and busy staff at that. Most of my communication with Peter has been via email, although we’re meeting for 45 minutes on Monday.
I know this isn’t stuff that is considered important to a student in a high school but in their future lives won’t they need to know how to use the Web? Not just access it, not just read it, but create it?

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