True or Not True?

Can we define what it means to be information literate?
I suppose one can define anything. With a new culture like our digital information age, it’s important to discuss emerging labels and definitions. It seems like calling it “information literacy” implies that there’s information illiteracy in which there’s a possibility of being gullible, and danger of believing everything you read on the internet. Is something worthy of being studied and quoted or it is just false information and biased conjecture?

Can we teach our students to have the skills essential to information literacy? Debbie Abliluck seems to think so. In her article True or Not, she puts forth the argument that judging whether or not information is false or not CAN rely on common sense. Routines that have worked in the past to make a quick judgment still work. What makes the author credible? How through is the coverage of the topic? Is it balanced or too one sided? She has some other good ideas as to how to judge if a journal or article is a true accurate one.
Some good rules of thumb are:
Ask: Are these journals peer reviewed? The reasoning behind this is that the more eyes look at the argument, the more reviewers will be judging and looking for accuracy. The new media format encourages readers to weigh in about expertise, objectivity and believability.
Also notice: does the author notice and correct errors as the come up, or at least address them? Error correction is a good way to gauge trustworthiness.
.Ask: How old is the source and when, if ever has it been updated? The newer the information is the better, in some cases. Compare dates and times that the article and facts are corrected as time goes on.
Also ask: What do other sources say about the same subject? If you can find three different viewpoints about original content, you can better judge as a reader if this is good information.

Can we truly prepare students to be effective users of the most powerful medium?
Maybe. Educators can give the students some hints on how to wade through the vast river of information and pick out what is true and what is not. Abiluck’s rules of thumb are good ones. But… will anyone go the extra mile and go through those sets to verify, or will they skim and quick link just any old thing?
Create a culture where it is asked where did you get that information? Create a culture of learning and absorbing where there it is natural to be a skeptic. You will have a reader who will demand that an author give their sources, rather than previous generations where info wasn’t as available and people didn’t question what was in print.

An Argument

In recent discussions of using electronic devices in the class room, a controversial issue has been whether they should be used at all because of digital distraction.
On the one hand, some argue that the digital world is here to stay, that it’s already here and cannot be kept out student’s lives. The technology is around, used in everyday life and is now the primary way young people learn how to read and communicate. Since that’s the case, some argue that it should be used in the classroom. Why not use it to teach? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
On the other hand, however, others argue that it’s too distracting, that it’s used for entertainment and to socialize rather than work. According to this view, it’s too easy to be used purely as a social tool. Access to sites like Facebook, Instagram, or texting on your smartphone in class is no different than passing notes in class, or classroom chatter. Another worry is that, used exclusively to teach, children will never learn to concentrate or to tune out distractions.

In sum then, the issues is whether to use smartphones and other internet technology as a teaching tool or to ban it from classrooms altogether.
My own view is that you can do both. Monitor its use, continue to keep the classroom a controlled environment by using it as study tool, and use it to be more creative. That being said, I believe that there should be time set aside with out them, times to take a digital sabbatical and foster other skills that are important.
Though I concede that it is distracting to do two things at once (play on your phone or listen to your teacher) and I am a firm believer in unplugging, I still maintain that educators can use the new technology for more than entertainment and socializing. If the digital generation is going to be using it anyway, in all walks of life, and as a productive adult, they need to be skilled at learning to use this technology to commutate, do research and to build. For example, use the blogs and YouTube if that’s how you can reach them. If that’s what it takes to get someone to learn, do it. Although some might object that using new technologies will only cater to instant gratification and entertainment and may overshadow other skills kids need to learn, I would reply that we can use technology as a tool to communicate with each other and foster creativity. .Embracing the technology might bridge that might reach a student where old methods fail.

The issue is important because we are on the precipice of a new evolution in how we transfer information and share it. To me, receiving and sharing information is the very definition of teaching. Educators have a new weapon in their arsenal- let see if we can use it for good.

Approaching Internet Safety in the Classroom

If we are going to be using this technology in the classroom, educators should be thinking about teaching ways to use the internet safely and responsibly. Likely this wouldn’t be the first time a child has been exposed to the internet, and it is hoped that parents have gone over safety concerns with their children. But much like sex education, often this is left up to the education system.
Not only children but all users can leave themselves open to thieves by sharing too much information. Posting dates, vacation pictures and the like on social media might leave one open for getting broken into. Full names, social security numbers, attaching these things to our public internet profile can lead to identity theft.
Assistant Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, spokesman on burglary for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: “Social networking has become a part of everyday life. Unfortunately there are some individuals who use it as a means of gathering information to commit crime. Users of social networking sites need to be aware of this and use caution when telling people where they are, or posting messages about valuables on their possession or in their homes.

There are other dangers as well, more of the kind that can haunt you longer than just having your possessions stolen. Before handing the internet over in the classroom to students, Educators should instill the mindset that what you put on the internet is public  and permanent. This video on internet safety for elementary school children does a great job of warning children that what goes on their devices, as well as their friends devices, can be used for either self destruction or for good things, like communication. The internet needs to be treated respectfully as a tool, much like fire, that can help or hurt.
Remind students that IF you wouldn’t want a comment, action or picture about yourself published in the local newspaper for just anyone to see, then don’t put it on your blog.
Yet…. teenagers. This is a big time for socially, experimentation, sexuality and stupid mistakes. SFgate.com tells us that “From behind their bedroom doors, more than 1 out of every 10 teenagers has posted a nude or seminude picture of themselves or others online – a “digital tattoo” that could haunt them for the rest of their lives, according to a poll being released today.”

There needs to be training for these kids that what you put on there is not as private as you would like. Will an embarrassing or compromising bit of internet foolishness absolutely be spread to everyone you know? Maybe not but it could be! We should all be mindful what the internet is Public, Permanent, but not Private. You wouldn’t want your teacher or your uncle or your mom seeing your nudies, you probably shouldn’t out it out there.

Using Blogs As An Educational Tool

I’ll be working a lot off of the blog created by my professor Marcus Wenzel  for my Education & Technology class. I’ll link it and other weekly assignments here at my blog, to help me along in this endeavor to understand how to use technology in the class room. This will be a record of my journey into learning by blogging as well as my class assignments.

Before I teach it, I’ll have to understand it. This technology is new to me. When I was learning, I gathered my sources from multiple books, and wrote my findings and answers on a mimeographed sheet of paper. Things are more efficient now when using technology. You can get information quickly linked to you, as you’re reading, rather than go to another bulky book.The world has changed the way we consume and share information.  Children are immersed in web culture and if they are to be taught most effectively, educators need to get on board with using that technology to reach them. Will Richardson in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Web Tools for Classrooms makes a convincing argument that blogs are a way to do this. It allows for referencing, sharing, and writing between teachers, students and classmates.

But what do I know about blogging? I’ve done it before, just personal little journal entries, or even role playing between friends using Blogger, or keeping in touch through Facebook. I’ve never been taught or learned through the use of blogging, and I never imagined myself using it to teach others. Yet this is the way of the future, and  is something I’ll have to learn, if I want to confidently teach others to use it as a learning tool.

Continue reading

Reading Other Blogs

If I want to be a succesful blogger, and do well in my Technology and Education class, I need examples. What are other people writing about this subject? I would be very interested in what other students in this class write, and how they set up their blogs.  I suppose in the weeks to come I’ll get a glimpse as to what my classmates are doing, and we can leave comments and get a dialog going.

I was given a list of relevant blogs to get me started and told to pick two to follow.

To be honest, I didn’t delve too deeply in any of ten listed, just browsed a little to get a sense of the author’s writing style and their topics.. Two caught my interest.

One of the selected blogs I’ve chosen to follow is Jeff Utecht’s The Thinking Stick.
He brings up the subject of learning  to read digital text, which is something that I’m learning to do so it’s a timely topic for me.

When I read the  tag line”Making connections where none previously existed” on Danah Boyd’s blog– I was attracted to that. I thought:”That sounds interesting. Like there’s some good analytical writing going on there”. There is an added benefit to her blog too, which may sound shallow but…. I can actually read it without my eyes going crossed and  I can scroll down to read without jumping all over the place.

Sometimes its the little things. All this newness is a bit overwhelming, but small steps will get me there eventually.