Digital toolbelt

Digital literacy is knowing what technology to use for a specific purpose. This is one of the 21st century skills students and teachers should have in their tool belt. If a task is given to me I should be able to think of a numerous ways to complete it, but be able to choose the one web technology that allows me to complete the work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I said, the tool belt needs to expand for all learners. Expanding it takes a bit of perseverance and determination because trying to search for specific webware isn’t that easy. To really take full advantage of finding resources I suggest doing two things. First, get a Twitter account and follow two hashtags: #edchat and #edtech. Then, learn how to curate the Internet using something like Feedly, Pinterest, Evernote Webclipper, Zite, or Flipboard. These apps or sites allow you to aggregate RSS feeds into one place for you to read as you wish.

Using Twitter and a news aggregator, look for all of the resources that are shared. Choose the ones you feel look interesting to you. Doing this will expand your digital tool belt. With a repository of digital tools tasks like research, presentations, writing, reading, podcasting, video, and others gets to be pretty easy.

There are so many ways to demonstrate what is known. Growing up there were a few ways to make things which usually involved a great deal of time. Given the current nature of technology, and the ease of obtaining content, knocking out a piece of work that shows your true understanding doesn’t have to take that long. For you perfectionists out there, devoting more time means a well rounded product.

The 21st century learner will have a large repertoire of digital mediums to choose from and know when to use them. Put on your digital tool belt.

photo credit: jwcline via photopin cc

My Diigo Bookmarks (weekly)

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Content before cool stuff

I began class yesterday by asking the kids what they felt was really cool to do in technology class. This question was prompted by an email from one of my students. In the email the student asked if he could create a video game using software received from a camp he attended this summer. So, to begin class yesterday, I asked this student if he wouldn’t mind sharing his idea with the class about creating a video game. Post student explanation, the entire class wanted to make a game and I was totally cool with it! Before they can make the game, I had to explain how I view learning.

I view learning as having two essential tools and the two are dependent upon one another. The first tool is content. Content cannot be ignored or pushed to the side. Without content, or what is being taught, getting to the product can’t happen. Teaching content doesn’t have to be boring. Boring is standing in front of the class with the teacher talking, students listening and taking notes. One method of contextual learning that I am a big fan of is Project Based Learning (PBL). The Buck Institute for Education says this:

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking).

Before I move on, another good resource for PBL is edutopia. You will find resources to help plan for and implement project based learning. The other tool a student needs are the products to demonstrate learning. The products are the cool part of what I do because kids can get online and create some really cool stuff, but they can’t create the product without the content, so the two are married.

Threading

As the proliferation of web technology grows, and increasingly gets into the hands of students and teachers, there will be an explosion of educational products to learn from. As it is right now, there is a vast amount of information to choose from, and as mobile devices get into the hands of more people, there will more to learn than we can possibly imagine. How can I have students create original products that show they have curated the content for what they needed? How will kids be able to choose the right web tools to show their understanding? As a technology integration specialist, I grapple with these kinds of questions to help teachers and students make the right choices that accurately portray what was learned. My students today registered for VoiceThread accounts to help them generate authentic products with voice and images as they learn. VoiceThread is one of many web applications that can transform learning.

The typical model in U.S. schools is for the teacher to download what she knows to the student who is supposed to recall, study, and regurgitate information back in almost the original form. Add to this the use of worksheets and the pump is primed for low level, unsustainable learning in the form of factoids that mean nothing. Maybe I went a little overboard there. The question for me as a technology integration specialist is how can tech be put to use to create original works that show a high level of thinking while maintaining the attraction value students love. Using a Web 2.0 app like VoiceThread helps myself and the teacher I work with to energize kids to learn.

Threading is not only about VoiceThread and working to create an authentic product that threads images, voice and video together, but also about the multi-step and multiple pathways that converge and diverge within student thinking. We call it thinking. We may want to call it threading.