Recollections from Literacy and Learning in the 21st Century

David Warlick in Fredericton NB

After battling a virus I picked up somewhere on my travels last week, it is good to get back in the driver’s seat and recollect my thoughts on last week’s conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick – Literacy and Learning in the 21st Century – designed for teachers who are heading into the classroom soon in a 1:1 laptop environment. This initiative is province-sponsored and one of the growing numbers of schools who are moving in that direction.

Dave Warlick was the keynote speaker and it was exciting to see him presenting to a group of educators who are going out to the front lines of education very soon. I have heard David speak many times before (via podcast and videos), have had conversations with him on a few occasions, but had not actually ever seen him present live. He is so well-organized and sensitive to time issues! This was his second visit to New Brunswick – he had been quite a catalyst for change for many teachers during his last visit back in March. I was fairly familiar with most of the tools and environments he shows off – but even so I am a very small minority in an audience of teachers. He was very kind to use my blog as an example during one of his presentations. I realized then how difficult it was to find the rss link on my new blog layout….. gotta change that!

Dave was experimenting with chatcasting during his presentations and while only a few of the teachers chimed in, some very good ideas and thoughts were expressed and new conversations started. Dave later adds his own comments to those posted in the chatcast which further continues the conversation. I like this idea and hope he (and others) will continue to explore the use of backchanneling in such lecture-style deliveries – it challenges participants to become active, not passive, participants. We have so much to learn from each other – in this situation, we are all professionals with our own sets of valid experiences and seasoned wisdom. Let’s harness the tools we have at our disposal and get them to work for us to share, collaborate and learn from each other.

Vince Jansen
also presented on the topic of virtual school environments. I caught only a few minutes of his presentation, but certainly saw most of it morph from a collection of various ideas and concepts to a well laid out set of concept maps of virtual environments for groups and personal learning environments for individuals. We have had many conversations about web 2.0 tools and spaces in the last number of months and it has been astonishing to watch how quickly he has grasped the significance of these tools for the education landscape. He has been working with technology in education for dozens of years and was very ready to make this move to the new transparency and facility of web 2.0.

I made my own presentation about online international collaborative projects (wiki) and have built on some of my previous ideas. Along the way, I included a description of how each of my own three kids uses the Internet – on their own, apart from educational uses. None of my kids would call themselves geeky; they very naturally use the Internet to find new friends, socialize, share their thoughts (and poetry writing!), and collaborate to accomplish goals (online gaming). This is typical of most teenagers today, I am convinced.

Dave Warlick pointed out the need for an appreciation of this new literacy for the 21st century. He even went so far as to say we should redefine literacy and that we should stop integrating technology and start integrating literacy. I agree entirely! I would like to completely avoid the “T” word, as I call it. The laptop (or such tool) should be invisible and ubiquitous. Our students are not asking themselves what technology they are going to use today – they just pick the most convenient method of communicating and socializing with their peers. They also have discovered that they can be producers of content and long for an audience. Facebook’s popularity is a perfect example of this.

During the conference, I witnessed a good deal of apprehension about what to do about Facebook. Some expressed interest in getting an account, others felt it should be left to the kids, others wondered how to get students to represent themselves appropriately while they were using such social networking sites. While I don’t have much time to maintain my Facebook account, with two daughters using the site, I have decided to be there at least as a presence. I even have a few friends! To me, it points out the pressing need for educators to be using social networking sites in an educational context so that these issues of appropriate representation can come up very naturally.

A special thanks to Jeff Whipple for being a fantastic host and for his invitation to come along to this conference.

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3 thoughts on “Recollections from Literacy and Learning in the 21st Century

  1. Thanks for visiting during the presentation. The morphing aspect in my presentation is a recent skill at best, however it is clear that traditional lines of thought are becoming more fluid or blended into an education framework. This presentation was an attempt to stimualte the thinking about virtual learning in schools.

    Traditional classroom is rapidly evolving with the introduction of 1:1 notebook programs, use of learning management systems and tertiary level frameworks for social computing which are transforming how the education system operates. The work flow process and use of resources is expanding within a community and unless students and teachers embrace this change, learning outcomes be below expectations. The time has come to embrace a new set of literacy skills for the 21st century and this requires a change in thinking for students, teachers, schools and school systems.

    The tools themselves are not the change agents, you are.

  2. Vince, when I decided to address the topic of blended learning environments in my M.A. thesis (just a few years ago), I was one of only a handful of educators who were doing so and recognizing the potential of how these online environments can augment learning and take it beyond the classroom walls. The explosion of web 2.0 tools was not something I anticipated – but it has very quickly taken the potential of professional growth and learning even further. These tools and environments can be seamlessly integrated into many learning situations and, as you have pointed out, can transform the operation of the education system. By ignoring these resources, learning outcomes are not going to keep pace with the changing expectations for skills necessary in the 21st century. Once again, thanks for challenging me to think in new ways.

    Thanks, Reuven, for the compliment. It is always a pleasure to share the outcomes of our projects together.

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