Digital Literacy

This morning I attended a workshop on implementing Common Sense Media‘s  Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum.  Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that was created by parents, who were interested in providing information and education about media and technology, so that parents and children can make informed decisions. I’ve known about them for a few years, using their reviews of movies and video games (now also apps and books) with my little brother. They now have a really impressive curriculum that they have developed for K-12. What I like most about the curriculum is the positive approach that it takes to using technology, with an emphasis on empowering students as opposed to fear based education. As the librarian and education technologist in my school, I am really excited about implementing many of their lesson ideas next year and have already started talking to teachers about how to integrate it into the classroom.

So many of the educators today, particularly at the high school level, seemed to have a very negative and frightened view of technology. I find myself in a unique position, as I am the first person to develop the technology curriculum at my school and that my population is nursery to 5th grade. I think the key is to establish a really positive foundation at an early age, taking out the taboos, and presenting it in an organic way. This year I’ve been very big on student generated content as a way of explaining larger concepts (ie creating wikis with the 3rd and 4th graders to teach what to look for in a website and how content is created) and I hope to expand upon this with the help of Common Sense Media’s lesson plans next year.

Also, I constantly hear adults talking about kids not knowing how to research, not reading books, having no attention span etc. However, I feel like so much of that is us putting these labels and our own lack of understanding on kids and then panicking about it. As the librarian and tech teacher dealing with young kids, I don’t find this to be true at all. I make a point to present online and print materials in much the same way and ultimately find that my kids choose the format that works best for them based on what they need. I recently put a lot of time in to culling a list of internet resources for the 3rd and 4th graders to use for a small project, yet they all used the print encyclopedia. Similarly, I did a lesson about ebooks where we talked about different formats and then they went around to four stations (Where the Wild Things Are book, tumblebooks on a laptop, iPad picture books, a choose your own adventure maze comic book) and were asked to read the book there and write down some thoughts. They had a lot of really fascinating insights and were completely aware and too much was going on or the were overstimulated. At the end, I asked them to circle which they liked the best and I was surprised to find that it was evenly split between the ebooks and the print books. I think kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and really do know how to discern between formats, if we present information to them early and in a positive way.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I think I’ll stop there for now.