To quote, unquote and requote – 21st Century illiteracy?

Alvin Toffler is often quoted as saying “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

Numerous powerpoints, wikis, documents and articles use the quote in order to talk about digital literacy and management. Many cite his book “Future Shock” and “Rethinking the Future”. In the latter for he co-wrote the forward. You’d be forgiven to think it’s ‘his’ book when in fact it is the compilation of many future-thinkers, edited by Rowan Gibson in 1997.

Amazon promote the the book as being authored by Alvin Toffler (Author), Heidi Toffler (Author), Rowan Gibson (Author). However, in 3 pages the Toffers did write from 275, I wonder if the quite often cited is taken from the line

“Not since the dawn of the industrial Revolution have managers had more to learn (and unlearn) about the art of business leadership”

In Future Shock, we talks extensively about the changing nature of society and our move from describes as

“We are moving from bureaucracy to Ad-hocracy (pp123) … Ad-hocracy, the fast moving, information-rich, kinetic organization of the future, filled with transient cells and extremely mobile individuals (pp131)”
and
Accelerating knowledge acquisition, fueling the great change engine of technology, means accelerating change (pp31)”

Future Shock is jam packed with predictions that have been re-worked into the digital-age context by many talking about shifting and changing nature of education BUT I cannot reference to the 21st Century specifically, let alone this actual quote. It is highly frustrating as we (Judy and I) wanted to use it in print — and have been earnestly reading though Future Shock, Powershift and Rethinking the Future … but with no success.

I wonder if someone out there in the meta-verse — perhaps someone who has quoted or adapted it … might give us the actual reference … as we’re thinking it’s either an adaptation or perhaps in some other media that he said it.

Kevin Kelly says in Rethinking the Future (1997), pp 253 … “The curious thing about technology is the way it resolves complexity into simplicity”. In this case – what seemed easy has become quite a chase. What may be true is that it was simple to copy and paste. I’ll let you know if we find it … or if you find it first …

5 Ways to create spectacular classrooms

I am a firm believer that asking teachers to do more with technology is the wrong approach to renewal, unless you are removing old habits, old methods and genuinely improving outcomes. In sessions I run for teachers, I believe that it’s more effective to change the culture and narrow the participation gap between autonomous and co-operative learning. By establishing a few simple norms – for spectacular results – especially in 1:1 technology situations. To achieve this, I’m proposing 3 tools, and  dropping some old approaches to get a performance gain.

1. Use reflective, self-reporting activities

The internet is a complex and diverse environment – simplify it for students. Use technologies that accurately reflect classroom activity and narrow the gap between what you want them to do and what they actually do – and save a heap of wasted or off task time. Diigo is the tool for this. Use it to model resources for students (lists); ask them to justify their own explorations (bookmark); and reflect on group learning (forums). Diigo is not a bookmarking tool! – It’s a learning management system and should be central to online learning.

2. Students must believe their choices and opinions matter

Probing questions in online spaces, allow teachers to discover student opinions; use a weekly question in your Diigo forum to ask them a probing question that allows them to express their feelings. Encourage participation by engaging in socio-centric conversation with students in the online space – as an aside from the rigor of the syllabus routine.

3. This week matters, because there’s another one following it.

Use TodaysMeet to create a simple question and answer page that expires after a week. Let them know that information is not persistent; but needs application to become knowledge. Encourage them to take turns in using it for passing notes and asking questions. Allow them to answer them and then at the end of the week, ask them to write a weekly journal entry – by asking a driving/probing question. Students are often poor a daily journal writing (you just get recounts) – make each week a process of leveling up to a Friday summit question. Base your assessments on summit questions.

4. Make authentic connections

Bring external voices to your classroom via technology, even if it as simple as using Google Chat, or finding a voice from YouTube. Locate an authentic dimension to problems. One great way to do this is to find your schools entry on Wikipedia – and make it better!

5. Build Vocabulary Bank

Each week a student is asked to find one word that relates to the week learning. Make one page in PBWorks, and ask them to add to it – alphabetically.

•    They have to give the meaning and how it relates to the discipline.

•    They should locate a web-reference of this being applied

These two actions provide continuous formative assessment of their ability to learn, comprehend and apply – digitally and conventionally.

What does this do for learning and engagement?

These 5 things, as a norm, repeated over a semester, promote socio-disciplinary learning. For the teacher it represents a very small change to promote the read write process in their learning and welcome students with a positive approach to learning with technology. Students will begin to select when and how best to use these spaces and  replace some of the tiresome activities of writing in Word, printing it out, collecting it or transferring it to flash memory or via email. Rather than think about ‘new’ ways, this appraoch blends existing, successful practices that allow technology to augment learning, keep students on task, be accountable, and interested in working online – though teacher facilitation and communication in those spaces. Doing this over and over, insisting and persisting; will create that norm – and may take several weeks to embed in student behaviour. Don’t fall into the trap that many another technology might work better – after all for the last decade, students have used little more than office automation and Google Search. Give them and yourself time to adjust and to be confident.

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Etherpad – Live Text Collaboration

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One of the common comments people make in workshops about Google Docs is ‘what if two people are editing’. Well in reality that doesn’t happen that often, and even so, Google Docs informs you … but in a real time classroom, it can be kind of annoying. Etherpad, is fantastic for classroom collaboration. It has been in closed ‘beta’ for a while and has always looks good. The ‘real’ deal is even better. Being able to work in real time, with ‘live’ text significantly changes the interaction between students when collaborating. Not only can you ‘see’ who is doing what, but the digital text needs negotiation by the group. Knowledge is therefore being constructed in real time, using Etherpad at the centre of mutli-modal activities. Students could be using text books, visual resources or recording live events and dialogue. It bridged the gap between live blogging and chat, where time is the publishing criteria, to a live activity that allows students orgnise it. Best of all, there is nothing in ‘Etherpad’ that puts students at risk – it is a great tool, and will enable many classrooms to engage in ‘live’ activities – especially if the collaboration is over distance, cultures or disciplines

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Wikipedia is near enough good enough

97338266_ed37f724dfWhich is more important – getting the answer right or learning how to get the answer right?.  Rather than run PD on skills, maybe you need a U-Turn?

Googling the word ‘solar energy’ at the time of writing responded with  23,500,000 references. That is a lot of reading, which may be one reason that students often favour Wikipedia in which thousands of people try to define and classify the term in just a handful of pages. They don’t see the value in understanding how that summary has been arrived at. Its just there to use.  Learning to how to get the answer is the part of learning that should be teaching with ICTs.

Wikipedia is not always right (as students will often tell you), but they do think it is ‘accurate enough’. For so long, they have been copying and pasting its content into essays and presentations that teacher in-action has made it acceptable.

But what are teachers doing to guide them though the critical thinking processes to evaluate information? What formative scaffolds are in place to be able to show the development in understanding though critical analysis of information from a wide range of sources?

Jenny Luca spoke recently in an online discussion in the Powerful Learning Practice network meeting. As a teacher librarian in a girls secondary school, she has noticed that non-fiction borrowing is almost nil because students turn to the internet for faster ways to get ‘facts’.

I don’t see this as a problem with ‘the internet’ or that books may become redundant,. I see a problem with assessment.

Assessment has been based on repeating ‘content’ back to the teacher in classrooms since back in the day. Mapping student response to syllabus ‘content’ and therefore meeting a learning outcome is the accepted method in most classrooms.

But there is no new learning in using the Internet to do this. It is simply a searching task. Wikipedia is as students say ‘accurate enough’ to give a matched response to question, and pass. When students present an essay or PowerPoint – teachers tick the ‘ICT box’ and the ‘content’ box. Teachers accept that is ‘near enough’ too. Seriously, how could any 14 year old not be able to present a graphical, accurate slideshow to explain ‘solar energy’.

A teacher will say ‘yeah, but I have a test – so if they don’t learn it, then they will fail’. Is that the point of learning to pass a test at the end – or to develop and support them in the process of learning. Testing is not a ‘digital insurance’ policy just in case your students Googled the answer.

Use a test to check to see if students learned ‘enough’ at the end seems to be an acceptance that what you did in the process of learning was not sufficient to gauge the depth of their learning without it.

Teachers need to learn how to use ICTs to develop independent critical thinkers and devise formative strategies that demonstrate a continued effort and growth in student understanding. This is academic not technology skill development.

Professional Development needs to be a three step process.

Firstly teachers need to become ‘media’ and ‘network’ literate and understand how technology and people impact learning. Secondly, they need to want to stop teaching. They need want to become designers, mediators and facilitators of the process of learning. They need to develop ‘media’ aware formative assessment methods that demonstrate how students derive meaning and answers, not just repeat them. Lastly, they develop greater awareness technology itself in order to learn about and select the appropriate ‘tools’ to achieve these goals. They won’t and can’t do step three without the first two.

I worry that the term Web2.0 immediately means ‘software’ when talked about in staff rooms and PD sessions. In order to begin to understand how to use any of it effectively to change learning, it is critical to start at the beginning, not the end. ‘Looking at Web2.0 tools’ is the end of the journey, not the start. It all starts with curriculum renewal, which leads to professional development onto effective classrooms, engaged learning and better outcomes – for students. It’s academic development just as much as it is technological.