Author Archives: emmacvernon

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_literacy ).

This session examined the role of digital literacy in primary school teaching and we began by examining how it was referred to in the new national curriculum.  The curriculum makes reference to children’s learning in this area to enable them to “express themselves and develop ideas” through the use of digital media. To me, this highlights the creative element that comprises teaching and learning using digital media, plus the potential cross curricular learning opportunities it presents.  The curriculum document highlights that the learning should be “at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world”.  This part of the statement suggests to me that there is a need to be less prescriptive about exactly what and how elements of this subject should be taught, compared to some other subjects.  The teaching of digital literacy needs to be adapted to keep up with the fast pace of changes and developments in technology.

Next we divided into small groups to discuss what we felt it meant to be literate.  The consensus was that being literate meant being able to decode text of some kind, but also to be able to grasp its meaning. We felt literacy was about having the ability to communicate and to be understood.  We identified that there were multiple layers to literacy and this could also involve learning the language associated with new technologies and grasping associated concepts.  Again in groups we identified a number of qualities and characteristics that a child might need in order to be digitally literate.  This exercise helped to clarify for me that there are specific skills pertinent to digital literacy.  With the wealth of information available through digital media, such as the internet, a key skill for digital literacy is the ability to filter what is relevant and the ability to question content.

We watched a short film clip featuring Doug Belshaw.  He identified what he termed as ‘The 8 Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’

8 elements of digital literacies

http://blogs.ubc.ca/dean/2013/03/what-is-digital-literacy-eight-8-essential-slements/

He believed that these elements are not ranked and completely vary in importance depending on the context.  He emphasises that the context is everything.  I think the way he has presented his concept of digital literacy is useful as it demonstrates that the skills required to carry out a task completely depend on what it is you are doing.  For example, carrying out some internet based research will require criticality, whereas working on a joint animation project with a small group would require constructiveness, creativity and good team working skills.  I do think that Belshaw’s efforts to ensure all the elements he identified began with ‘C’ may have compromised the clarity of his intention.  I would have liked to have seen some reference to team working.  He could have included “Collaboration” perhaps.

The next part of the task involved groups of 3 working together using ipads to do a fun practical task using an app called ‘Puppet Pals’.  This app enables you to do a basic animation using cut out characters on a range of backgrounds, both of your own choosing.  We worked on these for a period of just about 20 minutes then came back together to share our masterpieces.  I was really impressed with what everyone had managed to put together in such a short space of time.  The ‘puppet shows’ were very funny and wide ranging.  I reflected that this short activity had the potential to be a wonderful primary school based activity, with the children working to a brief, but allowed to use their own ideas to create something unique.

Burn, A and Durran, J (2007) focus on the skills needed for some specific digital media projects carried out in Primary Schools.  A year 3 / 4 class were working on creating their own version of Little Red Riding Hood using stop animation software and clay models.  Kerry, a pupil involved in the project explained that she had learned “to be kind and co-operative but be very patient and to move the characters carefully and slowly” (p.51).  Burn and Durran identify that the range of skills needed for this would be broad ranging.  They included problem solving, team working, talk, patience and fine motor skills.

Burn and Durran highlight that when teaching digital literacy, especially through creative projects such as those they write about in chapter 3, children will be “expressive” and at times “anarchic” and “subversive”.  A teacher may need to be prepared for some “unexpected twists”.  What strikes me about this subject is that it presents rich opportunities for self expression, collaboration and cross curricular learning.  From my limited experience of creating our own ‘puppet show’ in the lesson, and the level of hilarity that ensued, I realised the potential for how much the children would enjoy and be engaged with an activity like this one.  They are exposed to so much media content such as films, TV programmes, cartoons, advertisements (the list is endless) that they have a wealth of cultural experiences they can draw on, even at a relatively young age, which they could then adapt and develop into their own finished product.

A final point I wish to make regarding the teaching of digital literacy is that there is a need to be selective about what is taught. There is limited need for schools to focus on the technicalities of how to use email software or send a text message, when many children will have their own computers at home and will learn this from each other, or from parents.  Where the focus needs to lie in this respect is with other literacy teaching themes, such as writing appropriately for your audience.  Where I can see the real benefits of digital literacy, is with the use of media to engage individuals or groups in a creative pursuit that they will enjoy and have fun with, whilst developing a range of other technical and life skills.

References:

Burn, A, Durran, J, (2007) Media literacy in schools: practice, production and progression. Chapter 3. Paul Chapman, London.

First Thoughts on Teaching and Learning – my responses to this session

The session provoked a contemplation of what constitutes good teaching and presented some ideas to challenge misconceptions. The role of ICT in schools was also introduced with some discussion about its role as a learning tool.

We were shown a video of some children in about year 4, who were presented with some objects and asked some questions about how these objects might change state. What struck me was how ‘hands-off’ the teacher was in this session, allowing time and space for children to respond to questions. It was fascinating to see how the children responded to one another and built on each other’s ideas. We discussed the role of teacher as facilitator and that good teaching was not just about being ‘the instructor’. I reflected that a good teacher responds positively to ideas raised in a discussion, even if these are inaccurate. Further skill lies in the ability to correct misconceptions and phrase a question which will help get the discussion back on track whilst keeping their own intervention to a minimum. The learning should be child-led with the teacher as skilled facilitator.

The role of ICT in schools was raised as a discussion point. I was interested to learn that attainment dipped in the first year following the introduction of whiteboards in all schools. In my own experience in classrooms I have seen that the children love to carry out interactive games on the whiteboard. Using them can help children to engage with what they are learning. They are useful tools to demonstrate something that could not otherwise be shown in a classroom. However, in my experience of observing how attracted children can be to using any technology that involves a colourful screen, there could be a danger that it could distract from the focus of the main aims of the lesson.

The lecturer had a video chat via Skype with some children aged about 9 or 10 from a local primary school. He asked them questions about using ICT and whether they thought it made learning easier. The children all agreed that it did, as if they wanted to find something out they could “just look it up on Google instead of looking in a book”. I felt that their responses demonstrated that their understanding of learning was more about finding out the correct answer to a question, rather than learning as a process which involves a range of activities. It struck me that when teaching, it would be important for me to discuss how the class had learned something, linking this to specific hands-on activities, discussions and research, to help them understand that learning is not just about getting the right answer. It is the teacher’s role to ensure the use of ICT forms just part of a varied toolkit of teaching methods and activities.

In the final part of the lecture we looked at how learning takes place in the early years. I reflected on how I had learned to ride a bike aged about 8 or 9. My goal was to stay upright for 10 or more seconds as I had been promised a financial reward if I managed it. It was clear to see the value of having time and space to practice, as well as the benefit of being given an incentive to achieve my goal. In our discussion we related our own reflections to the conditions required for learning to take place at all ages: playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically. We saw a video of a 7-month old girl, Jamie, exploring the objects in a treasure box and could see how her learning was enabled through the environment created for her. I reflected on how our role as teachers is about creating that environment for the children we will be teaching.

We were asked to reflect on how we would grow learning in the children we teach. I feel that I would do this through developing my observation and elicitation skills to understand the needs of the children. I will aim to adapt teaching methods to respond to the children and the situation. I am excited about developing a variety of techniques and tools to facilitate learning. I plan to develop the use of ICT as one of the important resources I can use, but that it should be used within the context of a range of teaching techniques.