Students, technology and literacy

Students tend to be up-to-date with technology, and increasingly own an expensive range of personal items such as MP3 players, iPods, laptops and widescreen televisions according to a BBC News report last year. This is of course the whole thing about education and teachers – keeping up with the intuititive adoption of technology that earmarks the modern learning.

It begs the question – just how are young people are engaging with digital media – especially when it has not been designed to be explicitly educational. What are they learning in terms of skills, networking and collaboration? The way our students are using technology outside school is changing, and so are the ways they learn. Ultimately schools will need to respond to such ‘informal’ learning with digital media, games consoles, the internet and mobile phones.

The BBC news report March 2006 Experts seek 2020 vision, explains the focus of personalised learning for this ‘expert group’ investigation. The summary of their review charter looks like a brief that any education system can apply to their vision and thinking right now……

  • teaching and learning strategies, especially in literacy and numeracy
  • best use of setting and grouping
  • improving parental engagement
  • how personalised learning can close the achievement gap and boost social mobility
  • addressing the needs of gifted and talented children
  • use of ICT and pupil data to personalise learning
  • the potential for workforce reform to support personalisation
  • utilising flexibilities in the National Curriculum
  • collaboration between schools to deliver educational opportunities.

I find this brief curious and interesting for the possible connections – which I hope these ‘experts’ will make.

Literacy is of course a burning issue for humanity – and has always been so. It is important not to let this priority be swamped by the emerging trends in technology and social networking tools and gadgets.

Tom Peters in his ALA TechSource blog wrote a few posts recently that can be juxtaposed quite nicely in order to inform our thinking re 2020 vision:

Peter wrote:

” I think everyone agrees that reading words printed on paper, in solitude (even though there may be others around us, as in a library or on a subway), and in silence is currently the dominant reading mode. We can call this “PSS” reading: paper, solitude, silence. When youngsters first learn how to read, often they read out loud, even when they are alone, but they quickly learn that reading in silence is more socially acceptable, easier, and quicker.”

PPS reading has been the dominant mode of reading for the last several centuries.

Yes, and now things are changing, and digital media of various kinds are moving in on the reading ‘literacy’ scene. We need to recognise and work with these developments, moving beyond the discussions of the turn of the century years which focussed on ‘visual literacy’ and ‘digital literacy’. We must focus on literacy in various forms and in various access points. PPS reading is not the only true or exalted form of reading. But PPS reading still a core skill or technique – for the time being anyway.

Peter wrote:

” Our collective historical consciousness probably will come to realize and accept that, although the ascendancy and dominance of PSS reading was an historical fact that cannot be denied, there is nothing inherent in reading on paper that ipso facto makes that act superior to all other modes of reading.”

Switch now to PP ICE devices!!

Peter says

” The new age I see dawning is the age of the personal, portable information / communication / entertainment device. Granted, that’s a long gray name for a bright new age, but if you vocalize the acronym—PP ICE Device—it has certain melodious qualities.”

I agree with him – we DO need to take the device era seriously, because these devices, coupled with our technology access, mark (highlight?) our slide/transition into a new global era – which will become as radically different to what what before as the shift in society after the Gutenberg press.

We knew it was coming…Al Rogers and Marshal McLuhen were heralding the changes late last century. But now we can see the shape it is taking with the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and social networking tools and structures. This was not understood or predicted.

The 20th century canvas painted with broad brush strokes is now being refined and defined with images of PP ICE devices!!

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