Saturday, February 24, 2007

David Warlick talks about Redefining Literacy

Today I am sitting with a select group of teachers in Dunedin attending a full day David Warlick Seminar. You would think after attending the Learning @ School Conference in Rotorua where I heard David's Keynote and then attended two of his workshops I would have had enough :-). David presents the importance of literacy and information technology so well that I could sit through quite a few more presentations.

The main part of this presentation that I want to focus on is the importance of 'redefining literacy'. I have always been a teacher who taught children to read through a passion for reading. Students learn when there is an authentic context and purpose for that learning. I have also always tried to get students to engage critically with the information that they are finding. This is even more vital now that students are coming across the wealth of digital information available to them today and I would like to state, much easier.

I see that a few people have just laughed out loud - easier! Ha! I say easier because of the authentic reasons for students to critically engage with information when they are becoming co-creators of information using web 2 tools. Students, as they become creators of information also need to become evaluators of information. Gone are the days when students cut and paste information from Google (or those days SHOULD be gone!). As students prepare their presentations for their movies, podcasts, additions to the wikipedia, etc, they need to ensure that the information they are presenting is correct. They need to think about the ethical issues of the information they are going to share with the world via the web. I say that this is getting easier because of authenticity.

My students have realised through posting their podcasts that if they post something incorrect someone will very quickly send them a comment alerting them to that fact. They learn through this that there may be errors in the information they find on the net and they need to verify their information through many different sources.

It is important that we teach our students to:

1. Verify information in many different ways. Check out the credentials of the author, find the information in other places - books, articles etc.

2. Contribute to the information on the web in an ethical manner. Students need to know that information never disappears from the web. Once it's there anyone can get access to it and use it in any way. If they post something personal about themselves, disparaging about others or just plain incorrect people will be able to gain access to that information in many years to come.

This is what is meant by literacy in the 21st Century. Literacy is not being able to read and write, it is being able to thoughtfully communicate.
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