Sunday, June 12, 2016

The First of 50,000 Steps

Dear Teachers,
In my last post I wrote a little about the 50,000 foot plan for digital skills to be addressed better in the curriculum, and for kids to have a hand in that process by becoming content creators.

Earlier this week I met with elementary curriculum writers to take the first step in getting that plan to come into being. I've been working with our district's wonderful Elementary Science coordinator to get digital literacy skills embedded into the curriculum. In my experience, these digital skills are learned haphazardly, if at all, for a number of reasons, and my goal is to take some steps to address that problem by getting some of these basic technology skills listed in the online planner that teachers use every day. Some days, no digital skills will be needed; other days and activities are ripe for a "just in time" delivery of a quick reminder about how to cite a source, or how to open or close a single tab, or how to use the shift key to make a capital letter. I talked to five out of six of the elementary grade levels, and I'll meet with the final grade next Tuesday to discuss the plan that I jokingly refer to as "my plot to take over the world."

I have to say, it was very gratifying and affirming to hear these teachers' comments. To a person, they all enthusiastically agreed with my anecdotal observations that teachers either don't have the time to teach these skills, or just don't know them in the first place, or some combination thereof. They seemed to love the idea of having quick mini-lessons on digital skills within the context of lessons that they would be doing anyway, and they also affirmed my observations that these lessons need to be in context and not "in some other part of the planner" - because then teachers would just not do them.

What would you add to this image? What kinds of statements would kids at your grade level understand, and how would you convey to them the importance of digital literacy and digital citizenship?

There was agreement that a vertical alignment of skills would be great, and that some conversation is warranted about what each grade level would want to see from an incoming class as far as digital skills. For example, Fifth grade teachers might want their students to possess some basic information literacy skills like not just copying and pasting online information, whereas First grade teachers' goals might include having their students to be able to log in to a computer independently. We want to take steps to build this vertical alignment so that these basic technical tasks are addressed in a more purposeful way.

Finally, all agreed that having students create content is a great idea. I even had a couple of the teachers suggest that they would be contacting their past year's students' parents about getting the kids to start making some videos. I still love the idea of having kids across our district learning from each other, whether it's a fourth grader learning from someone in high school how to create a pivot table in Excel to a new fifth grade ELL learning from a first grader how to search for information more efficiently.

Now, in addition to all that good energy, I had to do a literature review of my selected project topic for that "Disruptive Innovation in Education" class I'm taking. I found it very challenging to synopsize all that information, but as one of my new Twitter friends told me earlier today, there is something pretty cool about looking at a bunch of information and finding connections that maybe no one has noticed before. We information geeks love that kind of thing. If you're interested, you can check out my literature review here.

For those of you who are on summer vacation, I hope you're having a great one! My nose will be back to the ol' digital literacy grindstone again tomorrow. ;-)




  1. Maybe I just missed it, but a question I have is who will curate the content that gets posted? Or rather, who will be the site manager? I could see this being a beneficial task for an older student working on a capstone project like our seniors are required to do. It would be interesting to see how they put such diverse entries into a cohesive product at the end and the discernment required to do so could lead to some very authentic and transferable skills now that so many careers are focused on sharing content via technology. And hooray for vertical thinking!!!

    Your lit review is very well put together!! I remember doing one for my masters and agree that it's so rewarding when it all comes together in the end.

    Still pondering on names...

  2. Stephanie, that is a great question and one that I have thought about too. I am kind of thinking that the overall initial setup should be done by an adult with an eye for information curation/UI and that kind of thing (think: librarian), perhaps in collaboration with some students. I, too, would love as much ownership as possible to be in the hands of the students once it takes off. For the project to get off the ground, though, teachers might have to drive it a bit at first, especially for the younger grades.

    Thanks for the comment about the lit review - 16 years since I completed my first Master's and I feel oh so rusty!