Saturday, November 13, 2010

Personal Learning Networks Necessary to Accomplish Digital and Media Literacy

I am glad to report that we have our own library groupies who have an interest in how social media and web 2.0 tools shape our worlds and the education of our students.  Within the United States there have been 1,266 page views for the previous month (Oct 14 – Nov 12, 2010) on this blog. Looks like we have a few followers from other countries as well! Page view counts from abroad:  South Korea -37; Singapore -36;
Australia- 34; Canada -33; Jordan- 23; Estonia -22; United Kingdom- 22; Russia -20; Germany -18.
Most of our blog traffic comes from our New Trier Library Homepage (79%) but I am glad to see that 7% of our traffic is generated by Twitter.  The most viewed posting was Bob Edwards Discussion on NPR relating libraries to student achievement. (163 views).Surprisingly, the 2nd most viewed blog post (90 views) was: If You Can Type, You Can Make Movies which features the simple animator Xtranormal.

In this same time period, our librarians have posted 23 times to this blog (almost once per day). We do have perspectives to share which people are reading.  This leads me to respond to the previous posting by librarian Linda Straube.  She was listening to a 2 hour discussion online with Renee Hobbs who recently released the important white paper Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan for Action. A U.S. Department of Education representative asked, “How many of us got professional development to use FaceBook?”Administrators don't seem to understand the pedagogical value of teaching students the most basic things about social media. This doesn't make any sense.  What percentage of schools block Facebook?  One thing I know for sure is that students know how to get around this anyway. It takes about 30 seconds on Google to find a work around:  If your school blocks a certain site, use Google’s translate feature to get around it. Go to there and “Translate” the site from German to English. I am sure resourceful students can also find another dozen ways to get access to YouTube and any other site that's blocked.

Nicholas Bramble from Slate magazine writes:
"A hundred years ago, John Dewey warned that when teachers suppress children's natural interests in the classroom, they "substitute the adult for the child, and so weaken intellectual curiosity and alertness, suppress initiative, and deaden interest." By locking social networking out of school, teachers and principals are making exactly that error. Instead, they should meet kids where they live: online."
Another thing that doesn't make any sense is that we, as educators in the State of Illinois (and most states elsewhere), get no professional development recertification credits for the hours each week we spend learning, reading, sharing, discussing, and reflecting within our own personal learning networks.(Twitter, Facebook, nings,blogs) Departments of Education at the State and Federal level are not in sync with the findings of Hobbs' white paper where she reports on what successful instructional practices should include:
"Digital and media literacy education activates independent thinking, authentic dialogue, collaboration, reflection, creativity,and social responsibility as applied to the practices of responding to, creating and sharing messages". (NAMLE, 2007; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010)

Why don't we have more library spaces like  the Chicago Public Library's YOUmedia program? This  dedicated space of 5500 sq. ft is a place in which teens can learn digital media skills and also find out about other library resources. Or media spaces like Barrington Public Library? I'm sure the answer is partly funding, partly lack of professional staffing, and partly lack of vision. However, even with dramatic budget cuts our public libraries seem to be ahead of the school libraries. In school libraries, the better funded IT departments absorb the library media centers' traditional 'Audio Visual services' and librarians lose control.

While our school prides itself on "not jumping on fads" in education, I would respond that digital and media literacy is not a fad. Reading online is not a fad. (Just as using calculators in math class is not a fad.) ebooks are it or not.The Hobbs white paper argues that digital and media literacy "is a fundamental competence not only for the young generation but for people of all ages, for parents, teachers and media professionals."
According to Hobbs we need to recognize:
  • Although children and young people are using digital media, they are not necessarily becoming either smarter or more digitally literate. 
  • We must not confuse just owning technology, playing video games, or using online social networks with having the habits of mind, knowledge, skills and competencies needed to be successful in the 21st century.
  • Reading online is now a fundamental dimension of digital and media literacy.... [not a fad]. 
People running our schools often make fear-based decisions; they mostly block social media, sticking their heads further into the sand so that they don't have to deal with change.  Most administrators have bought into the scare tactics about the dangers of the Internet. Apparently they are not reading the Hobbs paper nor the recent government (June 2010 report:  Youth Safety on a Living Internet ) report which concluded that  blocking access to social-networking sites can do more harm than good.

What does this mean for librarians and teachers? It's time to develop your personal learning network to absorb as much as you can about social media and digital literacy because it looks like it'll be years before the schools get around to training us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re your comment: Another thing that doesn't make any sense is that we, as educators in the State of Illinois (and most states elsewhere), get no professional development recertification credits for the hours each week we spend learning, reading, sharing, discussing, and reflecting within our own personal learning networks.

Could it be that the intrinsic value of learning is the reason you do those things? Does it make sense to tout the intrinsic value to students and look for extrinsic value for yourself?