Posts Tagged 'informationLiteracy'

Wikipedia in the classroom?

This is of interest to classroom teachers and anyone else who cares about teaching and learning information literacy. If you are one of the lucky ones who gets to evaluate (and teach the evaluation of) online resources in the classroom without arbitrary content filters or system-wide bans, then here is some good advice regarding Wikipedia, framed in terms of curriculum:

If the curriculum is a closed body of information and skills to be transmitted to students, you should ignore Wikipedia and direct students to proven resources such as textbooks. Wikipedia—with its uneven quality, vandalism, and distractions—will disrupt this transfer. If your curriculum is an opening into critical thinking and knowledge construction, however, teachers must use flawed sources such as Wikipedia, alongside more authoritative texts.

It comes from the Point/Counterpoint column in the March-April 2009 edition of Leading and Learning with Technology from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The author is Thomas Hammond, a former classroom teacher and now professor at Lehigh University.

Some might take exception to Hammond’s reference to “proven resources such as textbooks.” Textbooks, along with all classroom materials, reside somewhere on a continuum of accuracy and authority and should be judged accordingly. They are not immune to critique.

Overall, I think Hammond does a fine job of cutting through the fog of fear and apprehension that shrouds Wikipedia. Quite possibly, educators could use his suggestions to teach about and through not just Wikipedia, but other collaboratively constructed knowledgebases and online communities as well.

And, no, that doesn’t make me feel all “warm and fuzzy,” as suggested by counterpoint author, David Farhie. Instead, Hammond’s argument gives me hope and a glimpse of the kind of classroom where I would like to teach again some day.

What do you think? Is there room in your curriculum for Wikipedia?


What is literacy advocacy?

Photo of child engaged with book

Support the youngest literacy learners

Cross-posted at Media Literacy.

April is Literacy Education Advocacy Month, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

What is “literacy advocacy”? Check out NCTE’s advocacy calendar for March and April 2009. I like how it breaks down advocacy into manageable steps for the novice agitator, er, I mean advocate.

Each day on the calendar contains a small, simple act we can perform to gently persuade our colleagues, legislators, and other education stakeholders about the NCTE 2009 legislative platform.

You can start being an advocate by simply reviewing the calendar. Check it out!

Media Education Week: coming soon

I am passionate about media education and media literacy. Although, of late, I’ve happily drifted down this path of web-based social and participatory software, I have not lost sight of this passion.

It started, I guess, when I was a student journalist, first in high school and then later in college, where I minored in journalism. It continued as I advised student publications for three years in the early 90s at a high school in Texas.

And it blew wide open over two recent summers when I completed coursework in Dr. David Considine’s media literacy strand within the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University.

And today, when educators, technologists, parents, and those in mainstream society decry a lack of information literacy, digital citizenship, and ethics among users of the new web, my mind always returns to the overarching principles and paradigms of media education.

I’ve posted about the connection between media literacy and social software before. I invite you to read and comment!

So, in the coming days I hope to devote some space at ThinkTime to celebrate the second annual Media Education Week, Nov. 5-9.

Although the event is sponsored by the Canadian-based Media Awareness Network and is intended to raise awareness within Canadian homes and schools, media education has universal value.

In the United States we have some excellent organizations and resources to advance the practice of media education. Their web site is undergoing a redesign and may not be easily navigable, but the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA) sponsors the National Media Education Conference (NMEC) each year.

For online resources, try the Center for Media Literacy (CML), which hosts a vast archive of free and downloadable classroom materials and readings on every aspect of media education, from faith-based studies to health and body-awareness issues to student-produced media.

Why not watch this CML slideshow illustrating the five core concepts of media education and tell me what you think?

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Pardon my ethnocentrism!

I think it’s time to have my ethnocentrism surgically removed. It is getting in the way of my ability to communicate effectively!

Actually, I’ve recently had two pleasantly humbling experiences that serve to remind what it means to be a digital citizen in this postmodern world. My new virtual stomping grounds are truly global. (Click on the link for an explanation of the English idiom. You see, I’m learning!)

First, I experienced some confusion playing with the Tapped In calendar. (Tapped In is an international online community for learning and networking between educators and their students.) I had the calendar open in two windows in my browser, and for some inexplicable reason the same event appeared to be on two different days, depending on which window I viewed. So, I shot off an email to the event facilitator asking her to clarify the date. The facilitator explained that the date depended on where I lived. It is on Thursday for those who live in my time zone; it is on Friday for her, as she lives in Australia.

Lesson: always check to see if the time converter at the top of the Tapped In calendar is set to your time zone!

Along those same lines, my new favorite web gizmo is the time converter at, which is integrated into the K-12 Online Conference schedule. I love how each time I open the time converter to check on a conference event, a different international location appears in the drop-down menu — Lesotho; Bahia, Brazil; Novgorod, Russia; and so on. It’s fun to scroll through the menu looking for East Tennessee among all the world locales.

My next encounter occurred only yesterday when a new contact at the Ning in Education network asked me to clarify a reference I made to a friend in Georgia. You see, he is based in Istanbul and has friends in Georgia, Eastern Europe. To which “Georgia” was I referring?

Oh. My.

It’s good to be jolted out of my U.S-centered stupor! Now, on to learning all those pesky international spellings!

And that’s what I think.

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Two perspectives on learning and leadership

Cross-posted at SchoolMatters (East TN, USA)

Our school system is undertaking a search for a new superintendent. Part of that process includes drafting a job description as well as selecting a head-hunting firm.

A 14-page draft of the job criteria is available to the public. Recently I took this text and created a tag cloud. In a previous entry, I posted the tag cloud as well as a short explanation of how I generated it.

Generally speaking, I’m interested in understanding how we might interpret tag clouds and use them as visual summaries. After reading the superintendent job specs, I was struck by how much it was a reflection of our community — our issues and assets, our values and our priorities — as it was a description of an ideal instructional leader. For that reason, I thought it would make a cool visualization.

But how to interpret it?

Recently at the 21st Century Collaborative blog, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach presented an interesting framework. I invite you to check out her post about “tactical” versus “strategic” perspectives and then take a second look at Knox County’s approach. What are we seeking, stability or change? Where is our focus, inward or outward? What do we value, institutions or people?

What do you think?

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Tag cloud of superindentent specs

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to play with TagCrowd, a tool that instantly generates tag clouds from text you paste, type, or upload at the site’s home page.

I first learned of the TagCrowd application when I stumbled upon these clouds created from the April 2007 Democratic debates. While the clouds are by no means a substitute for actually listening to the debate or reading the transcripts, they provide a glimpse of the interplay between language and human values.

Recently, as part of its search to identify a new superintendent, the local school system here in Knoxville, Tennessee, released a 14-page “position specification” draft document that outlines the traits of an ideal candidate. I used this document to create a tag cloud.

A few word about how I made the cloud:

  • Out of a suggested range of 10-100 tags, I specified 100 tags to show in the cloud.
  • I also specified that similar words be grouped together, i.e. “learn” and “learning.”
  • The generator does not count common words, such as “a” or “the.”
  • I copied the text from a PDF file and pasted it into the window on the TagCrowd home page; I did not include the cover page or contact information on the last page of the PDF.

So, what do you think? What does the superintendent tag cloud reveal to you? What surprises you? What words are missing that you expected to see? What conclusions, if any, can you draw from the cloud?


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Media literacy and classroom 2.0

In the previous post I reflected on Danah Boyd’s article “Social Network Sites: Public, Private or What?” I want to build on the media literacy connection she made at the end of her essay and share one more “ah-hah.”

To review, Boyd acknowledges the challenge the social networking revolution places on educators: how do we embrace these technologies while helping young people to negotiate the shifting line between the public and the private spheres? She recommends educators take the “engage, don’t enrage” approach, to avoid imposing rules on student use and to instead prepare students by talking to them openly about the potential stumbling blocks associated with networking. She writes, “There are different ways to approach conversing with students. The most obvious is through curriculum, under the broader umbrella of media literacy.”

She doesn’t elaborate much beyond this point, except to say that in addition to media literacy curriculum, teachers in other disciplines can stimulate dialogue about the impact of these new technologies on our society. For example, think of the debate topics, writing prompts, or discussion starters a teacher might generate based on this recent report about a high school senior who is contesting a 40-day suspension based on his alleged involvement in the production of a YouTube video that targets a teacher at his school.

Only thing is, I would argue that a classroom teacher who regularly draws on current events and media artifacts to enhance course content in the manner described above is essentially doing media education. In other words, the curriculum doesn’t have to be a separate, add-on course. It’s a big debate in media education circles: should media literacy be achieved through a cross-disciplinary, integrated approach or through media courses taught in isolation?

Personally, when it comes to media education, I wish it was viable for schools to pursue a “both/and” approach. I imagine a foundational class, taught perhaps at the eighth or ninth grade level. This class introduces the essential principles and habits of mind that are the backbone of media education. (Look at this quick conceptual framework at the Canadian Media Awareness Network web site. For a complete introduction, nothing beats the MediaLit Kit from the Center for Media Literacy.) Ideally, this curriculum would be supported by a faculty and school administration who are well-versed in the media education paradigm and continually apply the principles to new media and technologies as they emerge throughout a child’s four-year high school career. Again, I am just imagining the ideal.

Now for the “ah-hah” moment.

Last month when I unveiled my Dreamweaver project site, called Publish Me!, I wrote about my effort to address Internet safety concerns and my fear that, in doing so, I may have degraded whatever shred of the web 2.0 sensibility there was on the site. One question I had pertained to the appropriateness of linking to these “think before you post” PSAs produced by the Ad Council in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice. Do the PSAs possess any instructional value whatsoever, or are they nothing more than scare tactics and hype?

After reading Boyd’s article, however, it occurred to me that the PSAs indeed have instructional value if they are approached through the media literacy paradigm. The obvious solution is to turn the Internet safety buzz (or “hype,” as some would term it) into an opportunity for critical inquiry. Let the PSA target audience, the teens themselves, judge whether the ads are helpful or problematic.

Watch this PSA about posting digital images online and then consider how you might facilitate a classroom discussion about its “constructedness,” its embedded values, its purpose, its intended audience, and so on. You might use this lesson plan template for conducting a close analysis of a media text.

It’s a perfect example of teaching about and through media with the added bonus of integrating web 2.0 principles into the curriculum!


Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy