Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NYS EMTA Spring Meeting & Creating Digitally Literate New Yorkers

Today I attended and spoke at the spring meeting of the New York State Chapter  of Educational Media Technology Association.  The theme of the conference was "Media and Students."  Below are my rough notes and information about my presentation.

Lisa Guernsey, from the New America Foundation (a think tank), gave two presentations:
  • Ebooks: Can They Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension?
  • Media and Its Impact on Students
Her slides will be available on the New America Foundation web site.

She wrote an article for School Library Journal in 2011 entitled "Are Ebooks Any Good?"

Ebooks: Can They Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension?
  • Reading levels have flat-lined.
  • Young children ARE reading ebooks.
  • YouTube video of a children trying to use a magazine like an iPad.
  • Children need reading partners. Can technology provide reading partners for them?
  • NELP Report
  • Study of 30 month old children on TV and learning.  Turns out that TV shows with a strong, linear story line (narrative) are better for that age group. TV shows that are fragmented or require a children to jump from one idea to another are not as good for this age group.
  • There was a study where literacy tips were sent to parents' cell phones.  Result was that parents did interact with their children more (pointing out words, etc.).
  • Can speech recognition technology help young readers?  Could it hear and respond to their mistake?  Give them encouragement?
  • Ereaders can lower the quality of interactions.
  • Parents need help understanding how to use ebooks with children.
  • How do we define an ebook?  What features help?  What features distract?  Is unlimited access a boon?
  • Will ebooks change story time in libraries?
  • Mentioned Tumblebooks and One More Story
  • Raising a Reader
  • There was a discussion of open textbooks and etextbooks. 
  • Bottomline - an amazing number of studies in this area.  There are pros and cons to using media with very young children. It can have a benefit if done well, but doing it well is not automatic. 
Media and Its Impact on Students
  • Proliferation of media
  • Lots of rich content
  • What does Khan Academy (in practice and theory) mean for teachers and students?
  • Minecraft - hot with children.  They learn as they play the game by exploring and doing. 5+ million users and growing.
  • Common worries:
    • Will they learn social clues, etc.?
    • Will they be able to focus?
    • Will they spend time comprehending sophisticated ideas?  
    • Will they develop critical thinking skills?
    • What are the trade-offs?
    • Will they consume or create?
    • Will kids do active learning?
  • Mentioned several people/organizations:
    • Scott Taylor, 360 Kid
    • Common Sense Media
    • Steve Hargadon, Classroom 2.0
    • Joan Ganz Cooney Center
    • Audrey Watters, Mindshift
    • Spotlight on Digital Learning blog
  • Cause and effect - Does playing games cause XYZ or is playing games an effect of XYZ?
  • What young children need:
    • Attachment and a feeling of security
    • Conversational partners
    • Early exposure to new ideas
    • Physical involvement
    • Self regularization (and practice of it)
    • Deeper learning
  • She wrote Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Child
  • Bottom line - I want to hear her again!
Cathy Leogrande, a professor at LeMoyne College and a board member of the National Association of Media Literacy in Education (NAMLE) spoke.  Her research is on effective teaching of new literacies to adolescents with diverse learning needs. Leogrande spoke about literacies and about NAMLE.
  • Some college students have never read a print newspaper.  What does that mean for how the understand the news?
  • What does it mean to be a literate person?
  • She listed a number of literacies:
    • Visual literacy
    • Civic literacy
    • Digital literacy
    • Information literacy
    • Community literacy
    • Personal literacy
    • Social literacy
  • She listed several concepts, but didn't discuss them:
    • Participatory culture
    • Transmedia
    • Producer
    • Consumer
    • Web 2.0
  • Henry Jenkins - Aca-Fans
  • Media literacy - Access, analyze, evaluate, communicate 
  • Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning by Renee Hobbs
  • The branded baby 
  • Interesting content in the comments for the "Three Wolf Moon Shirt" on Amazon.  Obviously people are creative and are willing to share their creativity.  But you wouldn't expect it on Amazon!
  • Bottom line - Wow!  I couldn't have captured everything she said OR how it all tied together.  Clearly teachers and librarians need to be more flexible in order to engage our learners, especially if we're interested in developing various literacies.
Jill Hurst-Wahl (me!) - Creating Digitally Literate New Yorkers

Here are the notes that I had in front of me...

Technology is continuing to get smaller and faster.

The use of mobile computing devices is growing.  For example:
  • Barbers checking messages in-between giving haircuts
  • People at community meetings referencing documents that they were accessing on their phones and iPads. 
  • Commuters on public transportation reading ebooks, texting, and checking Facebook.
In the United States:
  • 230+ million cell phone subscribers
  • 35% of all adults use a smartphone (Pew)
  • 87% of cell phone users access the Internet or email daily on their phones (Pew)
  • We now have more smartphones being sold than personal computers, including laptops (PC World)
The old digital divide and the new digital divide

The old digital divide still exists.
  • People that do not understand how to use a computer.
  • They need to use computers to:
    • Locate and apply for jobs
    • Find healthcare information
    • Communicate with friends and family
A grant received by the New York Library Association from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is allowing NYLA to develop curriculum for a series of classes that will be offered at public libraries throughout the state.  
  •  Specifically the grant will train 1200 library staff members across the state, who will then train everyday New Yorkers.
  •  Staff will be trained at train-the-trainer workshops across NYS over the next three years.
  • Train-the-trainer workshops are being scheduled by NYLA,
  • The New York State Library’s Division of Library Development has been working with NYLA.
The new digital divide.
  • Smartphones are used more by certain people in our communities for Internet and email access because they do not have access to a computer. (Pew)
  • Those that use a smartphone for Internet access need to be able to afford a data plan.
  • You can't do everything on a cell phone/smartphone that you can do on an actual computer.  For example, file your taxes or complete a job application.
  • The NYLA workshops do not address being literate with tablets, smartphones or ereaders. As those technologies are used more in our communities - and as that hardware is available in our libraries - workshops will need to be developed to ensure literacy with those devices.
Someone asked if there was a definition of digital literacy.  Here is what the Digital Literacy Standards for New Yorkers says:
Literacy represents a person’s ability to read, write, and solve problems using both spoken and written language. Digital literacy is the ability to apply those same skills using technology such as desktop computers, ebook readers and smartphones.
The digital literacy principles are:
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Technology Usage for Personal Development
  • Digital Citizenship and Ethics
{Here is a link to the digital literacy skill set on the NYLA web site.  This was developed knowing that it will need to change over time.}

I asked the group:

If someone stood before you and wanted to know how you knew she was digitally literate, what would you say?

At first, there was silence.  The truth is, we all have a slightly different idea of what being digitally literate is and how to assess it, especially given the technology shifts that are occurring.

I told the group that I want their school districts to create students who can understand how to use a new technology when it is placed in front of them.  Is that being digitally literate?  To me, yes. Is it in the definition above? 

The topic of digital literacy has been a focus of mine for several months because of a consulting project that I have been doing with NYLA. I - and a team - have been creating workshop materials that will be used across NYS by public libraries in order to create digitally literate New Yorkers.  One effect of doing this project has been a keener awareness of how people around me are using technology.  I see the digital divide - new and old.  I wonder if that person checking Facebook on his cell phone, while riding the city bus, is digitally literate.  What questions would I ask?  What would I want the person to do to demonstrate literacy?

I was asked what people in the room could do to help. One suggestion I had was to hold "tech petting zoos" at PTSA meetings or during parent-teacher conferences.  Allow parents to see and touch the technologies that their children are or should be using/familiar with.

I have also been working on the Little Free Libraries project in Syracuse ("Take a book. Return a book."), which has me thinking about literacy from a different point of view.  While much of today's discussion was about multimedia/ebooks, we can't forget that children and adults want access to physical books.  And - yes - sometimes they can't get to a bookstore or library, so how do we put books into their hands?

The bottom line - Literacy is complex.  Improving the literacy rate requires all of our help.

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