The iPad Summit Boston is finally here! I have been attending the iPad Summit since its beginning several years ago. This is one of my favorite ed tech conferences. The keynote speaker is Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum21. This blog is live, so please excuse any typos or inconsistent writing! It’s tricky to get it all down.
Heidi’s work on building 21st century curricula is at the forefront of 21st century pedagogical and curricular development. I’m excited to hear her ideas. I’ve been following curriculum21 for years and been inspired by many of the tools and ideas that they highlight. Heidi’s talk is entitled: “Integrating the New Literacies: Digital, Media, Global Into Every Classroom.” Heidi tells us that this is an incredible time to be a teacher. There is so much going on in the world of education. “You’re not learning, if you’re comfortable” – Piaget.
“How do we prepare our learners for their future?”
Heidi tells us that any point we raise on instructional time, professional development, curriculum, schedule, use of space (physical and virtual), student grouping, etc (all practical choices) should be in our students’ best interests. In schools, we seem to forget that. None of us would take a child to a doctor using the same tools and practices of the 1970’s, yet in education we are comfortable with old practices.
“What year are you preparing your learners for?”
Are driving principle in schools is assessment. What the assessment is can be standardized tests like state and federal tests, APs, SATs, ACTs, etc. These are event based – one day and time, on a schedule. Schools very rarely prepare their students beyond 1990. Having tools doesn’t ensure a contemporary education. You can do “dumb things” with “smart boards.” You can use an iPad with dated content or as a digitized worksheet processor. We shouldn’t be fascinated with tools, but with the teaching and learning. We are in sedentary rooms, don’t encourage collaboration, ignore play, etc. Our schedule is 19th century, our curriculum the 20th century, and our students are 21st century. We need to elevate the practice.
Are we ready for the Class of 2031?
As we design schools for the future, they need to look very different than they do now. We need to modernize our standards. United States standards are similar to those around the world. Many developed countries, around 2010, began changing their standards. They all reference digital media and digital applications as well as global standards and concepts. However, just because methods are “Classical” doesn’t mean they are worthless. “Classical is timeless.” Quality teaching is timeless. There is a reason why the Socratic Method is still used in classrooms today (we just call it a “curriculum of inquiry”).
Learners Create & Share Knowledge Differently
Students need direction in being self directed. The tool isn’t enough! Students have new needs. This means that we need a new kind of school. We also need a new kind of teacher. This means we need learning environments that keep the classical concepts and respond to modern learning. Our teachers need to be digitally literature, media savvy, and globally connected. As we examine, we need to keep two things in mind: beware of “habits” (they are not classic) and imagine possibilities. Design teams in schools need to think not only for needs in “the now,” but what the needs of the future are. Heidi says that she’s against “reform” because it simply tweaks things. She advocates “new forms” of school. We have to think about space both physically and virtually. We need to work on multiple levels.
Heidi now shares a few examples of school designs from Fielding Nair International. They are building schools that are both exciting, but incorporate different spaces for different types of learning activities. This means seminars, reading nooks, gardens, workrooms, etc. Not only is the focus on creativity and innovation, but sustainability, collaboration, and engagement in a variety of ways. This means that we have new names, such as: Town Square, Learning Students, Classics Academy, DaVinci Lab, Interactive Gallery, R & D Garage, etc. By shifting our terminology, it gives us new vision about our curriculum. So an old space can be transitioned into a new learning environment. Institutions are changing structures that inhibit us with new and interesting physical spaces. Heidi states that she believes that these also have parallels in virtual spaces. She says that our thoughts about space are what limit us. One concept she highlights is MakerSpace environments. These are environments where you can create and design.
Looking at new literacies, Heidi thinks our problems is that we tend to be too generic. Instead of online learning, we need to consider on-line courses, events, point-to-point, games, viewing video and live-stream, blogging, networks, etc. Each of these have distinct meanings and value sets. Just choosing an app is not enough.
Heidi states that there is a new type of teacher emerging; an Independent Practitioner Leader. This has democratized education. You don’t need to be on the school board to impact educational ideas and pathways. Now you can broadcast and share a myriad of resources and tools. Even if you are working in a traditional environment, you can breakthrough, broadcast, and share. Teachers are not only working in their classrooms, but in new ways of collaboration with their peers.
How do we help Support a new Type of Teacher?
Heidi states that there are several myths in this: technology = 21st century environment; Innovation is a step by step sequential process; and We are victims of “the system” and are powerless to modernize. It’s not the technology; it simply allows us opportunity for advancement. Innovation is organic; you have to make decisions, go through trial and error. Prefabricated coverage of curriculum does not allow this. Heidi says that the last one, that we are victims, troubles her the most. It is critical that we step up how we can. Even working in a traditional system, there are other tools available to you. You can push for innovation in your school.
So Heidi highlights that literacy is communication, accessing language, and making meaning. To be literate, an effective communicator, is to have a solid command of language. Heidi says that “literacy is a coin with two sides.” One of the sides is phonemic awareness, the ability to decode signs and symbols. That doesn’t make you literate in and of itself. The flip side of the coin, making meaning, cultivates literacy. If you can translate and make responsive meaning, you are literate.
You can apply these concepts to new, digital literacies. Just because you can access tools, doesn’t mean that you are literate. I run into this all of the time. Just because a student can craft a tweet or send a text message doesn’t mean that students are digitally literate. We need to cultivate digital, media, and global literacies. Heidi believes that one of the problems with schools is that we are mooshing these together and not examining them independently.
If you want a student to be digitally literacy, he needs proficiencies in keyboarding, touch and effect, and voice tools. Heidi believes that touch and effect is the most prominent today, especially with smart phones and tablets. What she doesn’t see happening is enough policy work on access in early childhood. Students need to learn how to touch and interact with a tablet. At what point do we start to work with early childhood students? While keyboarding is dying, Heidi says that it is still important, especially with coding. Voice activated technology is becoming more prominent and will likely become self directed.
Selection Capability & Cataloguing
We need to teach children to curate. They need to know how to strategically select and tag content. We are faced with a glut of information and nee to learn to categorize and organize. Students should be able to make annotated judgments about tools and content. We already do this with our own iPads and Smartphones (all of my social media tools are in one folder labeled “Social”). When a student reads material (in a classical environment, like a book) and a teacher asks them to play “fetch” (What is the name of the main character of a story?). That learning isn’t theirs. However, when a student reads material and categorizes it on their own, it’s theirs. They are becoming literate. Self-navigation is a powerful tool of ownership. Heidi highlights her own website curriculum21. It highlights a clearinghouse of tools which are catalogued and tagged. As an educator, you can have students create their content and submit their tools for the units they are working on. We need to look at creating curriculum with new tools and concepts. One of the most popular methods of employing this in educational environments is student curated Digital Portfolios. Students must curate and design a website, select various modules of work, and then match them to individual standards.
The Power of the Adverb “independently”
If you put the word independently at the end of any standard, it’s a game changer. You want students to be able to play music, draft an essay, and perform research without you. When we are developing modern learners, we are cultivating their independence. Students can create their own apps, navigate social media for learning, and develop their own learning models.
Receptive and generative capabilities. Students need to be able to critique media, question sources, recognize bias not only in text, but in imagery, framing, and audio. Students right now Google and then go to one of the first few sources like Wikipedia (which is actually pretty good) and a paid resource. Not only with online content, but television literacy is important. Someone chooses what we see and what we don’t see. This includes not only adds, but news resources. Students need to learn more about film and quality. Students need to see quality films, documentaries, etc. Film should be a formal area of study.
After students are able to consume content, they need generate high quality content. Many teachers, however, have no training in creating content, which makes them uncomfortable asking their students to produce it. They need to learn the difference between quality and mediocre content is having students engaged in creating a collaborative rubric. We can all think of a podcast that is good. So choose your favorite and then deconstruct it for content and design. If you want high quality, then be tool specific; e.g. “What makes a good iMovie?” There are many media making tools, but we need to use them with our students.
Instead of faculty meetings, take the time and give it to teachers to explore tools like iMovie, Movie Maker, or Blogger! We don’t have time, we have to make it. A quality digital media project should be an assessment. Instead of a report, we’ll use voicethread or vimeo, or other tools. The media that you create should be a replacement for more dated forms of assessment. You can’t add content to your curriculum, but you can replace it.
Heidi says that she is most worried about developing Global Literacy. Americans are highly isolated and we do not explore the world around us. The overwhelming majority of Americans will never leave this country… ever. Not everyone is comfortable with it and it’s pricy; even though we are bordered by three countries. Students don’t have a realistic perception of how the world views our country.
If you look at the job market in a global economy, we have problems. Digital literacy is content free. However, Global Literacy is not. Too many people view this as a “social studies” issue. We need to put the term “geo” in front of our curriculum, geo-economics, geo-ecology, etc. We need to expand the portals. We need to explore our tools in exploring this topic. Heidi believes we need to be aggressive about this. Schools are not working on this. We do not study the BRIC countries, most don’t know who they are. We need to use our digital tools to explore these concepts in a curricular driven environment. Global literate learners have four competencies: investigate the world, recognize perspective, communicate ideas, and take action. Heidi recommends Facing the Future, which incorporates contemporary queries with repurcussions for the future. These are inherently interdisciplinary. We need to deliberately globalize our schools and communicate these ideas. Not only connect our students with others, but our teachers and administrators as well. You can find tools for doing this on curriculum21.
Heidi finishes up with a thank you and encourages us to cultivate our own digital and global experiences.