Posts Tagged 'participatoryCulture'

Competing copyright curricula

A recent eSchoolNews article about dueling copyright curricula couldn’t have surfaced at a more opportune time, seeing as how I literally just days before had utilized some materials from one of the curriculums in question.

On the one hand, the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (CAEF) recently published Think First, Copy Later, seen by some as slanted toward the interests of copyright owners.

On the other hand, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), unveiled Teaching Copyright. The EFF is characterized as an advocacy group that serves the interests of users and consumers of digital media.

Admittedly, I was not aware of the CAEF curriculum when I recently selected and distributed some of the EFF’s support documents to a group of pre-service teachers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But I am inspired by the prospect of having access to and using “dueling curricula,” if and when I teach about copyright again in the future.

What an opportunity for teachers to exercise professional discernment! What an opportunity for students to see copyright law presented from two different perspectives — owner versus user, industry versus consumer! What an opportunity to engage higher-order thinking and some good, old media literacy skills, such as evaluating audience, authorship, message, and meaning!

Teachers need these resources now more than ever. It was not too long ago that teacher training on the vagaries of fair use doctrine were conducted in the faculty workroom, usually between classes, as we waited in line at the photocopier. We traded in stories, myths, and half-truths and competed for bragging rights to the title of “Greatest Copyright Infringer.” We made half-joking references to a sinister, Gestapo-like “Copyright Police” waiting in the wings. (I know. I was one of those teachers.)

The surge of web-based information and communication technologies makes it easier than ever to facilitate content creation and sharing in our classrooms, but we must first be equipped to engage students in conversation about content creation that is safe, ethical, and legal.

The alternative is to do nothing for fear of violating the law. This phenomenon was documented by Hobbs, Jaszi, and Aufderheide in their 2007 report for the Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy. In 2008 the Center published the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, which states that fear and confusion about copyright:

detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning.

Check out the accompanying video:

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?

From analog girl to “digimom”

My mother thinks I should hang a calendar in the kitchen so my son can learn his days of the weeks and months of the year.

He is two years old.

“Well, maybe not now, but in the next few years you should consider it,” she said.

I told her that in the next few years, I fully expect my son to be able to turn on a computer and launch an Internet browser, much in the same way he can now turn on the TV and even navigate TiVo. At that point, what’s to stop him from accessing the web-based calendar my husband and I currently use to organize work, church, and household events?

“Well, it’s still an analog world,” she said.

No. It isn’t, I say.

I am about to be graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a master’s degree in instructional technology. Had the above conversation occurred at another time and place, it likely would have ended differently, with me earnestly shopping for the perfect calendar per Mom’s suggestion.

The 2008 Land of Liberty calendar by Thomas Kincaid looks nice, with the added benefit of exposing my first-born to a bygone era when subtle Christian imagery and blatant patriotism intermingled to form resplendent, light-filled tableaux.

Yechhhh.

If I were going to buy a wall calendar to support my child’s intellectual and cognitive development, I would choose one with more transparent instructional value. How about a calendar that not only reinforces concepts like time management and days of the week but also promotes responsible citizenship, the democratic process, and important mathematical problem-solving strategies, like counting down? A civics lesson on every page!

It is an election year, after all.

The point is, my child is not developmentally ready for a calendar, and in the next few years when he is, paper-based calendars will be even more irrelevant than they are today. I haven’t owned a calendar or date book in close to ten years since the acquisition of my first handheld PDA, and I don’t expect my son will ever have use for one.

Although, I suppose that even by 2010 when he starts Kindergarten, I can count on him seeing and using plenty of analog calendars — at school.

I joke about being “an analog girl in a digital world,” in part because I love the Guy Clark song, but I am serious when it comes to the “unfolding ‘literacy dialectic'” described by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel in New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning, 2nd edition.

I read New Literacies this spring as part of a semester-long seminar on redefining literacy. The book is largely framed by a “tension” caused by the rapid onset of digital and mobile technologies in daily life and the complex demands this places on teachers and students to merge “old” and “new” literacies — the “dialectic.”

At stake are two divergent worldviews about the role of 21st century information and communication technologies (ICTs) in contemporary culture. Lankshear and Knobel label these worldviews as “mindsets.”

The “newcomer,” or “outsider,” mindset values digital technology for the way it supports old business models and conventional, print-based literacy practices. The “insider” mindset sees opportunity in technology to radically innovate and abandon the business-as-usual approach. The bulk of New Literacies examines insider practices, giving readers a glimpse into the worlds of fanfiction, anime, memes, blogs, podcasts, and mobile computing.

Educators, school leaders, and instructional technologists are struggling to respond to all this change as it relates to the effective integration of technology into classroom learning. More often than not, they “simply end up reproducing familiar conventional literacies through their uses of new technologies” (p. 30).

New Literacies concludes with a challenge to teachers, administrators, and policymakers. Lankshear and Knobel do not advocate unflagging allegiance to wholesale technology adoption that does not honor “insider” sensibilities, nor do they believe schools should be left behind as the exclusive domain of print-based, conventional literacies (p. 259).

Rather, the authors encouraged their readers to just “take a look and see,” to try out the new technologies and experience the new literacies and social practices for ourselves. In doing so, we will begin to understand the implications for teaching and learning. These insights will guide the integration of 21st century ICTs into instruction in a manner that compromises neither the integrity of the cultural practices nor our educational aims (pp. 246-247).

This is my biggest take-away from New Literacies: I don’t have to be a practicing classroom teacher to feel the tension of the mindsets. (Note above conversation between dear, ol’ Mom and me.) The shifts are playing out all around me as I perform in roles as student, parent, and citizen, and I have an obligation to respond.

It’s why I still can’t stop thinking about the Rolling Stone March 20 cover story on Barack Obama’s campaign strategy. It’s a strategy in which the field operations consist of voters organizing themselves with web-based technologies, particularly social networking tools: “In the process, the Obama campaign has shattered the top-down, command-and-control, broadcast-TV model that has dominated American politics since the early 1960s.”

It’s why I helped my babysitter set up a Gmail account and MySpace page so she could stay in contact with her many geographically dispersed cousins. The babysitter, by the way, is a 44-year-old grandmother of three.

It’s why I keep needling my local school board representative to take steps toward re-visioning our school system’s outdated appropriate use and web publishing policies.

It’s why I am determined to master the text-message function on my cell phone. One of these days.

And it’s why I won’t be buying any Hallmark calendars for the rest of my natural life.

What is your favorite online “affinity space”?

Cross-posted at the Classroom 2.0 forum.

An affinity space is any place (virtual or physical) that ties people together based on a mutually shared interest or endeavor.

For me, it would have to be the “mommy” blogs that I read daily. I’ve got about four where I lurk and occasionally comment. I am really inspired by the way these women merge their varying interests in politics, civics, and, of course, technology, with the everyday challenge of parenting. I am even thinking of starting my own mommy blog as the birth of my second child is quickly approaching in mid- to late-June. It’s time to start adding my voice to the conversation, and the lazy days of summer seem like a good time to undertake this project!

What is your favorite online affinity space?

My question is inspired by a book I recently finished reading, New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. It was assigned reading for a spring semester seminar on multiliteracies, and it has given me a lot to think about.

The authors’ basic purpose is to shed light on the concept of “new literacies,” and to invite educators into conversation about “how the new might best be brought into a fruitful relationship with the already established.”

The last chapter is a recommendation or challenge of sorts to readers. Lankshear and Knobel think the first step toward merging conventional schooling and the world of new literacies (remix, blogs, podcasts, social networks, mobile technologies, and so on) is for educators to actively pursue firsthand experience with the social practices of digital “affinity spaces,” a term borrowed from James Paul Gee.

I am posing this question to the Classroom 2.0 community as well. Classroom 2.0, an international social network of educators interested in collaborative technologies, certainly is an example of an affinity space. But I was wondering about other virtual “hang outs” enjoyed by CR 2.0 members, places perhaps that are not defined by professional interests and obligations but more by hobbies, passions, or guilty pleasures.

And, if you are an occasional or even accidental reader of this blog, the question probably applies to you, too!

So, reader, where do you participate on the Web when you are not consumed with work, school, business, or other obligations? And do your interactions and exchanges within digital affinity spaces intersect with and inform your views and vision for education?

For more reflections on the challenges and opportunities presented by multiliteracies, read my other posts on New Literacies, mindsets, and mashups.  More to come!

YA Lit 2.0

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the last in a series of posts about things we can do in honor of Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is today, April 17.

In previous entries, I’ve discussed book talks and read-alouds and blog-based literature discussions. These and many other activities are featured at the official teen lit day wiki presented by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA).

The wiki offers more than 30 things to do in celebration of young-adult (YA) fiction. Additionally, the YALSA homepage links to a wealth of YA booklists and professional development opportunities for teachers and librarians.

As I first perused these resources, I was reminded of just how influential YA has been in my own reading life.

And I was also struck by the utter transformation that has occurred within the YA genre since that summer, more than 25 years ago, when I made the profound and life-changing leap from children’s author Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume, the celebrated YA author who wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For one, the options, in terms of authors and titles, have increased exponentially. The topics and subject matter are also darker and edgier, with more potential for cross-over appeal among adult audiences.

But without a doubt, the most profound change is technology driven. Digital technologies are transforming the very nature of what teens read as well as how they read. From within computer-mediated environments, youth can discuss, nominate, and vote on their favorite new YA titles, participate in surveys, and even chat in real-time with YA authors and readers from around the country.

I remember reading Judy Blume for the first time. I was maybe 10 years old and felt so privileged and so awakened to the fact that books could serve as more than a pleasant diversion from life. Books could also be topical and relevant to my own life and experiences. Wow!

I devoured Blume before moving on to other authors — Betty Miles, Paula Danziger, S.E. Hinton. My favorite, dog-eared books might have been called “feminist fiction for girls,” with female protagonists in various stages of social, emotional, and physical development — all the typical pubescent pangs.

Good stuff. I was engaged, and I stayed engaged until right around the start of high school when I gave up YA almost entirely to take up the “serious reading” of a college-bound student. I did not resume true pleasure reading again until well after college, in my mid-20s.

How much richer my reading life might have been had I had the opportunities that youth have today to connect, communicate, and form communities around favorite titles and authors, to possibly even interact in real-time or asynchronously with the authors themselves.

In the 2006 article YA Lit 2.0: How Technology is Enhancing Pleasure Reading, author Anita Beaman documents the impact of web-based and interactive technologies on how modern teens read for enjoyment.

Citing the work of Eliza Dresang, who in 1999 wrote Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, Beaman highlights how books for children and young adults have evolved new formats such as novels in verse, screenplays, multiple narrative perspectives, and graphic novels.

Beaman writes, “It was becoming obvious that the mouse-click generation was going to be looking for something new in print.”

She goes on to present evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adolescents are reading, especially when given opportunities to reach out to authors and other teens in media-rich, interactive environments that include email, blogs, iTunes playlists, and MySpace pages.

This is the new playing field — YA 2.0.

Asserting that “YA Lit 2.0 is a sign that books and reading remain relevant to teens in a digital world,” Beaman concludes with advice to librarians who want to develop programs that are relevant to teen readers: download the playlists, read author blogs, create blogs, visit MySpace, and “share the entire reading experience” with teens.

For Beaman, a high school librarian, the implications are clear: if librarians want to be taken seriously, they must revitalize their programs and immerse themselves in these digital environments, right alongside the teens.

Certainly, any literacy educator would do well to heed this advice.

What do you think?

My first lil’ mashup

The assignment seemed a little old-school: simply make a PowerPoint presentation and embed a sound clip. Come on, do I really have time for this?!

But it was a way for our professor to engage us in a rudimentary form of “remix” and “mashup,” common practices among youth that were mostly unfamiliar to us teachers enrolled in this semester’s reading education seminar on multiliteracies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. For that reason, I could appreciate the professor’s pedagogy: giving a purposely unstructured assignment with minimal parameters and setting us free to playfully explore the potential and pitfalls of computer-mediated content creation.

Still, as you will see, my resulting slideshow (or “screencast”), is decidedly teacher-centered and bears that unmistakable corporate imprint that only PowerPoint software can convey — so clean, so slick, and oh so sterile. (The 2-minute, 30-second presentation is designed to be a conversation starter for teens and teachers about the obstacles and opportunities involved in “growing up digital.” It also ties into a thematic, annotated reading list I compiled on the subject of digital literacy.)

Nonetheless, I am proud of my lil’ mashup for three reasons:

  1. Although I did rely on the ubiquitous and wholly familiar PowerPoint application, I prepared my sound clips using Audacity, a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor. Through trial and error, I learned to import and edit music files, cut and paste sound clips, and export a wav file, essentially creating the “soundtrack” for my slideshow.
  2. To push my content out to the wider Internet audience, I used a free Web 2.0 application called SlideShare. SlideShare enables users to upload PowerPoint slides and create a product that is truly replicable, shareable, embeddable.
  3. Before I could turn my uploaded slideshow into a “screencast” with synchronized music, I had to convert my wav file into an mp3. For this operation, I tried a free demo version of Switch Sound File Conversion Software.

Whew! All this without benefit of teacher, textbook, user manual, or live help desk. Just experimentation with a bit of obsession thrown in.

My biggest take-away? The amount of time and dedication it took for me to undertake this style of self-moderated, trial-and-error learning. These are the new literacy practices that many young people regularly engage in outside the confines of the traditional classroom. Amazing!

Overall, I am pleased with the results. What do you think?

“Smart mobs” are great, except in school?

Cross-posted at Classroom 2.0

Today’s top story from eSchool News Online is “Smart mob” tech spurs student activism by Nora Carr. The article begins with the student protests in Jena, LA, and explores how blogs, RSS, text messaging, cell phones, and wireless technology are leveling the playing field and having a democratizing effect at all levels in educational institutions.

Carr cites the work of Howard Rheingold, who coined the term “smart mobs” in a 2001 2002 book by the same title. Rheingold envisioned both the disruptive and democratizing effects of global, pervasive, wireless computing.

I was really enjoying Carr’s balanced presentation of the issue. She even discusses how teachers in various academic areas might use recent events such as the Jena protests and the current presidential campaign to engage young people in a critique of these powerful technologies.

Then, oddly, she writes:

While most school leaders undoubtedly applaud anything that gets young people involved in civic affairs, most also would agree there’s an appropriate time and place for such actions–and that’s typically after school or on the weekends, and not on school grounds.

I am not sure how to interpret the above statement. Is it an endorsement, or is it simply a statement about the status quo? As a columnist, it’s certainly Carr’s prerogative to impose her viewpoint where appropriate, but in this case it just seems contradictory. How can she in one instance encourage teachers to capitalize on the “powerful learning opportunity” represented in cases like Jena and the democratic rebellion in Myanmar, and then suggest that the technologies that mobilize citizens for the greater good still have no place on school grounds or during school hours?

That just doesn’t compute (sorry for the stupid pun).

It would be nice to engage in a dialogue with Carr about her story. But eSchool News Online doesn’t provide any contact information for her, and the site doesn’t provide a means for users to comment on stories either. Apparently the site does host discussions on certain stories for users who register for TypeKey accounts. I registered for an account but couldn’t locate any threads or forums related to Carr’s article.

Frustrating.

So, what do you think?

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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

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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