Digital Learning Day

February 1st was the first Digital Learning Day designed to encourage innovative use of tech in schools. Did your library participate today?

The initiative, sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, was designed to encourage exploration of how digital learning can provide more students with the opportunities to get the skills they need to succeed in life and showcase innovative teaching practices that make learning more personalized and engaging.

While the project is aimed at school libraries, there certainly MANY possibilities for public libraries to have participated. Somehow I missed the promotion for the event having been off the grid for a while or I would have tried to get more activity planned at my own library. I came across it through @ Your Library where one can find tool kits and other resources (as well as a few typos). The Digital Learning Day website toolkits are much more robust including information on Instructional Strategies, which I found particularly helpful since I don’t have a background in education.

Curious to know if any libraries participated and what you did?

Transliteracy in your Summer Reading Program

It’s that time of year again when Children’s Librarians in public libraries all across the nation are busy making their plans for the summer reading program. You remember those, right? Read 10 books and get a cheap prize like a READ pencil made in China?  Aw c’mon,  everyone has those fond memories, nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when the public library was all about BOOKS!
I’d like to share some ideas about ways to incorporate Transliteracy into your library’s summer reading program. Or at least share with you how we are trying to do it at MPOW.
When I started at my library a few years ago, I sat down with the Children’s Librarians and we talked about what the goal of the summer reading program (SRP) was. I wanted us to step back from the traditions and examine the core values we desired in an SRP. We agreed that we wanted it to be about reading, sure, but also about creativity, discovery and FUN. So, we set out to restructure our program to focus on those elements and embrace multiple literacies. At the time, I had never even heard the term Transliteracy. Yet, what we came up with actually supports it! We created a Passport that is filled with about 30 Reading Quests (though not all quests are actually about reading). Quests are activities that ask kids to read, think and create through various platforms. Children record their answers and ideas in their very own mini Library passport. Over the last 2 years Quests have included:

  • picture of child's drawingRead a book set in the future (read)
  • What is the coolest invention of your lifetime so far and why? (write)
  • Draw a futuristic car and name it (draw)*
  • Draw a map of your bedroom. Be sure to include a key (draw – spatial)
  • Take a picture of yourself holding your favorite book this summer and email it to the Children’s Library (digital)
  • Watch a movie about a different time period (visual)
  • Use Google Translate to translate the first line of the book you’re reading into another language (digital)

*in case you’re interested, the cars of the future will have ice cream machines in them, if kids have anything to say about it.  

And so on. Some quests could be done many different ways like Find out when the town of Darien was founded. Some kids read it on the town marker sign, some went to Town Hall, some looked it up on Wikipedia, some IM’d a Librarian – all kinds of different ways to answer! When kids had completed Quests, we stamped their passports and entered them into raffle drawings. The kids wrote and drew in their passports all summer long and the more Quests they completed, the more chances they had to win in raffle drawings for prizes. Instead of spending a ton of money on cheap prizes, we spent our money on prizes they would be willing to compete for – iPod Shuffles, Flip video cameras and this year, an iPad! Everyone got a free book prize just for singing up and we had other ways to win prizes throughout the summer.

The program as we run it now has been a HUGE success. The parents have raved about how their kids are eager to participate, the family can participate together or the kids can go alone. Each family is different. It also levels the playing field. A 3rd grader can zip through series books lickety-split while a 5th grader may take all summer to get through a dense chapter book. With the passport, kids can imagine and create at whatever level is right for them.

We also ask the kids to write reviews and tag items in our catalog (SOPAC). We’ve gotten our school librarians to help us spread the word and all the kids have been shown how to do this simple activity. We’ve shown them how they can use tags to create custom reading lists and ask them to write reviews in the catalog in order to receive an invitation to our finale event where they get to meet a popular author and get an autographed copy of his/her book.

For kids who couldn’t come into the library to check in, they could enter their quests online through a simple form we created using WuFoo to be entered into raffle drawings. I think our web portion of the program has much room for improvement, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you’ve got!

You know who has a GREAT summer reading website that also incorporates the ideas we talk about here? The NYC Summer Reading website. They have the traditional elements of summer reading available digitally, but also include elements of social media and gaming through the use of avatars, the ability to “Like” another child’s review and win badges. I see this activity as embracing a few literacies beyond simple traditional print literacy and have been impressed with it’s first year out and will watch to see how it evolves.

Summer Reading Programs are a great way to experiment with Transliteracy. What does your program look like? Would kids want to participate or do they only do it because their moms make them?

My Tuppence Worth

The heated online discussion with challenges and questions about the term “transliteracy” and it’s place in Library Land seems to have subsided, but I had yet to chime in with my two cents to respond to the request for definitions and desire to see results.

A Brief Background:

When I decided to go to library school, I was drawn to children’s librarianship and found that storytelling was a natural fit for me with my theatrical background. While in the MLS program at Pratt, that interest began to cross into multi-media. My professors opened my eyes to see that Stories exist through forms of media. It wasn’t something that was taught. It wasn’t something that was even discussed (that I remember). It didn’t have a name and I couldn’t identify it, but knew it excited me.

A year or so later I attended a presentation by Bobbi at Computers in Libraries on Transliteracy and it clicked for me. This was a concept that aligned with my ideas! It helps me frame discussions with patrons and staff in my everyday work.

Definitions:

I do agree that there are many similar qualities between the two terms Transliteracy and Information Literacy, but I don’t see them as equal. To me, the term Information Literacy is very academic, with a focus on formal instruction. My work in a public library does not include or require formal instruction. In fact, I am not sure that I know of a public library anywhere that requires continuing education for librarians. What I do know is that there are still librarians who lack basic technology skills (I recently heard a story from a colleague of visiting a library where she had to demo how to cut and paste – no joke) and my thinking is that we have to keep exploring and presenting new ways of thinking about learning and literacy in the hopes that something will click for them too.

girl reading on laptop screen

photo by Flickr user yohann.aberkane

Transliteracy allows me to include fun, art, creativity, playfulness and what brought me here to begin with…Story. The definition from transliteracy.com works just fine for me – “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media…” Sure there are other terms that are very similar like 21st Century Learning, e-literacy, and transmedia, but like Buffy J. Hamilton, I think Transliteracy is an umbrella term that allows us to explore the possibilities of communication and creation through many media forms (not necessarily just electronic) and quite frankly, I just like it!

Results:

Here is where the challenge lies. I don’t work in conducting research and formal studies with large groups. I work with a large cross-section of people, but in small groups. My task is to encourage and assist them in using modern tools to access information and entertainment as well as tools from the past.

My hope through working with this group is that I can share my own projects of exploration in my everyday work and hear stories of other libraries facing this challenge. Clearly formal educational environments provide more opportunities for exploring the concept while the absence of a classroom makes it difficult for those of us in public libraries to measure the effectiveness of an initiative. What a shame since public libraries have the potential to reach the largest audience!

So, I’m curious to know how public librarians are exploring multiple literacies at their libraries? How are you teaching transliteracy at your institution?

Social Media and the End of Gender

In her Ted talk, Social Media and the End of Gender, Johanna Blakley, the Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center, does not so much predict the end of gender but more so the end of media created stereotypes of gender. She believes that social media will “free us from absurd assumptions about gender.” She believes this change is possible because social media transcends the old demographics that media corporations use to sell culture back to us. Through social media, people aggregate according to interests and values rather than overly general categories of age and gender. She points out that, worldwide, women outnumber men in use of social media technology, which could drive a change in the media landscape.

What’s interesting for our discussion is her analysis of how companies are beginning to look at how individuals use social media and the recognition that old media types are being reconsidered in light of how people interact with it. Most importantly, she describes a major culture shift in which members of social media groups, because they aggregate around tastes and interests, no longer needing the help of a media company to navigate the ways in which they spend their time and money.

Part of the definition of transliteracy put forth by Sue Thomas, et al, includes a very similar concept:

The literacies (digital, numerate, oral) may be different, but the transliteracies (social, economic, political) often transect them in similar ways, depending on cultural context. For example,  in recent years we have begun to switch from searching for information in encyclopedias, indices and catalogues to querying the kinds of data collections that existed before books–that is to say, we are asking each other.

In other words: “knowledge networks are inherently people-to-people.”

What Blakley’s talk also gets at is the notion that Thomas, et al, develop based on the ideas of Bernard Stiegler. Stiegler proffered that discussions of technology are “polarized between anxiety and euphoria” and that his response is a refusal “to distance technology from life; and to suggest that human individuation and technology have always had a transductive relationship.”

Social media, as Blakley describes, allows technology to return some level of human individuation. Although media companies still monitor user behavior, they can do so in a more respectful way because they are monitoring actual interests and values and not just making assumptions based on broad demographic categories.

Libraries use social media mainly to promote collections and services, but they can also use social media to aggregate students by meaningful categories, such as research interests, rather than overly broad categories like “millennials,” which may do more of a disservice to students by not exploring a more insightful understanding of their interests and values.

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

Matt Richtell, in his New York Times article, “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction,” raises the concern that computers and smart phones pose “a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.” He opens with the story of Vishal Singh, a seventeen-year-old high school student who prefers YouTube to books because, as he says, “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.” Richtell paints the usual portrait of students too distracted to succeed in school, but he also raises many poignant issues.

He writes that

even as some parents and educators express unease about students’ digital diets, they are intensifying efforts to use technology in the classroom, seeing it as a way to connect with students and give them essential skills. Across the country, schools are equipping themselves with computers, Internet access and mobile devices so they can teach on the students’ technological territory.

Richtell does not portray technology as an evil but as a tool that can be harnessed for educational purposes and relates many of the complex tensions that arise between traditional ideas of education and more recent thoughts which attempt to utilize newer technologies.

The article also looks at some of the science behind distractions, pointing to various research, including this finding that was published in the journal Pediatrics:

The researchers looked at how the use of these media affected the boys’ brainwave patterns while sleeping and their ability to remember their homework in the subsequent days. They found that playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also led to a “significant decline” in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words.

The article ends with the story of Singh’s passion for and success in video editing and points to this as his desired career. The article subtly argues that the nature of academic success is changing. He states one major reason why Singh succeeds with video editing: interactivity. Richtell writes, “As he edits, the windows on the screen come alive; every few seconds, he clicks the mouse to make tiny changes to the lighting and flow of the images, and the software gives him constant feedback.”

Richtell’s thoughtful article succeeds in humanizing some of the issues facing students who are exposed to a wide-range of technology and doesn’t shy away from examining the complex and changing nature of how we need to address learning.

Writing as a Community Practice

In a recent post on the Digital Media & Learning blog the topic of Community and Writing in an Age of New Collectives was explored.  The most interesting point was the recognition that writing is a community practice.  This is likely the result of literacy emerging from oral tradition (see Walter Ong for an in-depth treaty on orality and literacy).

Besides the importance in understand that community encourages stronger writing, the post argues that to fully prepare students to write, we need to prepare students for community.   Also, the audience is crucial.

One way to do this is by leveraging the communities that students are already participating in, from those in their local neighborhoods, to online communities such as those around fanfics or social networks. The ability of computer networks to connect students with others in different physical locations provides a fertile ground for teaching students how to interact with new communities of writers.

They argue that this is the responsibility of schools, but I would disagree.  Schools only offer a temporary community for these students, whereas libraries offer a lifetime community.

The Twelve Cognitive Processes that Underlie Learning

So many people are thinking, talking, reading, writing and working towards 21st Century Skills, from what I can see most of them are not librarians and libraries don’t figure into their projections or plans. While I am heartened to see so many groups thinking about our problems, I’m discouraged at the lack of a role for libraries, whether school, public or academic.

I recently came across another group working to ensure students acquires the skills necessary for to be successful citizens in today’s world. Engines for Education was founded by Roger Schank who writes at Education Outrage

Dr. Schank was the Founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where he is John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology. He was Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Yale University and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He was a visiting professor at the University of Paris VII, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Linguistics at Stanford University and research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland. He also served as the Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a fellow of the AAAI and was founder of the Cognitive Science Society and co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from University of Texas.

From Engines for Education (emphasis added by me)

The following cognitive skills are developed gradually over time. This is the stuff that we need to learn how to do in order to function well in the world. . The more proficient you are at these skills, the smarter you appear and the more you can learn:

Conceptual Processes

1. Prediction: Making a prediction about the outcome of actions
2. Modeling: Building a conscious model of a process
3. Experimentation: Finding out for oneself what works and what doesn’t
4. Evaluation: Improving our ability to determine the value of something on many different dimensions

Analytic Processes

5. Diagnosis: Making a diagnosis of a complex situation by identifying relevant factors and seeking causal explanations
6. Planning: Learning to plan and do needs analysis as well as acquiring a conscious and subconscious understanding of what goals are satisfied by what plans
7. Causation: Detecting what has caused a sequence of events to occur by relying upon a case base of previous knowledge of similar situations
8. Judgment: Making an objective judgment

Social Processes

9. Influence: Understanding how others respond to your requests and recognizing consciously and unconsciously how to improve the process
10. Teamwork: Learning how to achieve goals by using a team, consciously allocating roles, managing inputs from others, coordinating actors, and handling conflicts; managing operations using a model of processes and handling real time issues
11. Negotiation: Making a deal; negotiation/contracts; resolving goal conflicts
12. Describing: Creating conscious descriptions of situations to explain them to others in writing and orally

One’s intelligence is typically judged by others in relation to one’s proficiency at five of these cognitive skills:

  • Prediction
  • Diagnosis
  • Causation
  • Describing
  • Planning
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