Monday, July 14, 2008

Technically proficient or digitally literate?

There has been a lot of discussion around the concept of "digital literacy" in recent times. Whilst the terms may be relatively fresh, the underpinning principles have been present in explorations or educational possibilities throughout time. It is however a very important and relevant conversation.
I took the time to attend to a presentation by Grainne Conole from Open Univerisity UK regarding the pedagogical use of web 2.0 technologies. The presentation is available here -

Grainne explores the idea that the advent of web 2.0 technologies present a significant challenge to educators and administrators. These technologies, which are appearing at a very quick pace, contain a range of great potential uses that can enhance pedagogy if we as educators pay particular attention to plannning their inclusion in learning experiences. She states that these new technologies can be so exciting that many of us can be driven by what the technologies can do, neglecting the pedagogical potential. This is a fear I have expressed in portfolios I have developed for accreditation within my employing organisation. If you are interested in how I see this, navigate to this site and use the log on details below. This is a portfolio I submitted for accreditation with the ICT Pedagogical License Advanced as part of the Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework.

username - shanerobe001
password - password08

In my Belief Statement I express the fear that ICTs can often be relied on as entertainment within classrooms, which can have a valid place in education with specific planning and linking to pedagogy. Any teacher can get a student to blog, but it takes work to use blogging as an educational tool with specific pedagogical outcomes. After completing my portfolio for the ICT Pedagogical License Advanced I can now appreciate that this is something my employing organisation is attempting to address. The professional development framework requires teachers to use ICTs with pedagogical function.

I agree with Grainne's statement that effective learning does require some dedicated time for reflection that is not catered for in the fast-paced web 2.0 existence. Does this mean we need to have some time "unplugged" or do we use the tools in a manner that serves this purpose?
The main benefit of the presentation to me is the demonstration of tools to map use of ICTs to pedagogical principles. This forces us to ask what we deliver, how we deliver it and how we assess it. This assessment of web 2.0 application is something I am doing a lot of thinking about lately. Within my educational system we are constrained by set syllabus criteria for assessment and application of achievement ratings. These criteria do not necessarily provide opportunity to assess the skills of collaboration and knowledge creation. Within my pet subject of Health Education I am aiming to develop a method to include these in assessment. This will need to satisfy external review that happens for year 11 and year 12 work within our system. I'll let you know how I go. This fits with the concept of digitaly literate as it will require the use of web 2.0 technologies specifically integrated with pedagogical principles.

I have recently been provided the opportunity to work with other ICT innovative educators within my region to provide professional training to teachers in pedagogical use of ICTs. This has shown me the tension between "technically proficient" and "digitally literate" exists at the heart many teachers. Many teachers believe they need to be technically proficient before they can develop digital literacy. Is this so? My thoughts on this are still not clear enough to share here. What do you think?

Ultimately, we need to move from a concept of "technically proficient" to "digitally literate" to enable the inclusion of web 2.0 tools and skills in evidence and assessment. This may begin with training of teachers but also requires education of students. They may be technically proficient with a lot of web 2.0 tools, but we can still teach them how to apply these for their own development.


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Craig said...

It is something that bothered me at school. Many teachers seemed to have little or no appreciation of the value of the new communication tools us students were so used to using.

It was frustrating to hear them say that things like myspace and facebook were a waste of time. There is a place for them all in education.