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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.

Response to Safeguarding and Wellbeing Seminar

Today’s lecture looked at issues regarding the safeguarding and wellbeing of children; be it emotional or physical wellbeing. It also examined the importance of relationships within the classroom and the types of decisions we need to make when shaping our professional identity and the way we interact with children in our class. Resilience was also discussed and the question was raised whether it is our responsibility, as teachers, to promote resilience in the children we teach.    What struck me most about this session, though, were the risks and procedures in relation to e-Safety.

In a world where the use of digital technologies is inescapable and actively encouraged in many ways, it is frightening to acknowledge the types of hazards which can stem from abuse of the systems which now form such a large part of everyday life. Inappropriate content and dangers involving online grooming were what most people would initially connect with the word ‘e-Safety’, but I found the three C’s (contact, content and commercialism) useful in putting these dangers into perspective and actually acknowledging the variety of other issues which can occur from online use (Allen et al. 2012:215) . I had never thought about the content of some online resources as affecting primary school children – possibly because I overestimated the abilities of internet filtering. However, looking at the Martin Luther King website today, set up by a white-supremacy group in America alerted me to the other types of obstacles children face in the use of the internet.

This prompted me to remember an article I read in Education Today, called Drawing out ideas from youngsters rather than imposing frameworks: A strategy for teaching the evaluation of information (Shenton and Nesset. 2013:12) The article expresses the need to teach children skills in evaluating the validity of information on TV, in books, from things they are told and, most pertinently – online. It suggests children are guided to explore the common features of ‘bad information’ (ibid) and that teachers should be ‘furnishing youngsters with a toolkit that they can use in a range of contexts.’ (ibid) This would mean that a new generation of online users could emerge, with the skills necessary to look in to issues in more depth before forming a solid opinion, and so become a critical, open-minded individual. This is interesting in light of the information we have received recently at university – in relation to the same kind of thing; examining our sources of information for underlying factors which may hinder its validity. So, this article has picked out an important point in being able to use the internet in a way which will aid children’s life in the future and help them discriminate potentially detrimental pieces of information. The fact that we, on the PGCE course, are receiving this information now suggests a need for it to be highlighted within the cohort. This may be due to a generational disparity in ICT education – as issues surrounding digital technologies were not so prevalent when I was at primary school. However, with every child now being able to access the internet at school and almost every child at home, it makes sense for them to be taught these skills at a much younger age.

Digital technologies seem to be an unstoppable element of modern life and the majority of people now have an online presence – on social networking sites, blogs etc. With this in mind, I was expecting the lecture to mention user-responsibility to other people. This was not addressed at all though and I was quite shocked. Although cyber-bullying was touched upon, I believe it should be a priority to try to tackle the root of cyber-bullying and the abuse which happens online; and that starts with educating children about the effects of their words. Instructing children on how to protect themselves online and be able to identify potential risks to their own wellbeing is incredibly important. But, what about the potential risk they may pose to others. It is not difficult to find examples of content online which may cause offense or upset – either maliciously, or unknowingly. It is crucial that children gain an understanding that things they say online may be misconstrued and have a serious effect on someone else – whether they meant for this to happen or not. The faceless nature of the internet makes it easy to forget that there is an audience at the end of our Facebook statuses and blog posts, and by teaching children the possible consequences of what they post online – in terms of other people’s reactions to it, we may be able to shape a more responsible and considerate generation of internet users.

In very recent news, ABC News reports of a 12-year-old girl committing suicide in September this year due to cyber-bullying by two other girls aged 12 and 14. BBC News says that the girl took her own life following ‘months of relentless online bullying’. I think this shows, to the extreme, the effect that cyber-bullying can have on others and the dangers of social networking. I also think it supports my point that children need to be educated about the consequences of their online footprint. I don’t think there are many children who would like to think something they said to another person would prompt such a devastating reaction and these risks need to be made clear.

Of course, tragic stories such as this are often brought to the forefront of the media and can serve to present an inaccurate view of the dangers surrounding internet usage. The lecture made me realise the importance of educating children about the risks, but also managing this so that children do not go away feeling scared at the prospect of using online resources. The realities of online risks need to be understood, but with instruction on how to identify and manage these properly and the provision of people (teachers or otherwise) children can turn to if they have worries or issues regarding e-Safety, children can benefit fully from the amazing resource which is the internet and protect themselves from potential threats in the future.

References:

Allen, J. Potter, J. Sharp, J. and Turvey, K. (2012) ‘E-Safety’ in. Primary ICT: Knowledge, Understanding and Practice. London: Learning Matters Ltd. Pp 214 – 222.

Shenton and Nesset (2013) ‘Drawing out ideas from youngsters rather than imposing frameworks: A strategy for teaching the evaluation of information’ in. Education Today 63:3 pp 12-13.

Online Sources:

<http://abcnews.go.com/US/parents-alleged-rebecca-sedwick-cyberbully-blame-facebook-hack/story?id=20583537>  Accessed 21/10/2013

<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24538798> Accessed 21/10/2013

Thoughts on Theories of Learning Seminar

All children learn in different ways, but how we decide to teach them depends on our view of how children learn. The seminar today focused on ‘how learning develops’ and examined how theories of learning can inform our understanding of the key processes involved in learning and the implications that adopting a particular approach has for the children we teach.

The seminar began with an introductory task in which we were all asked to introduce ourselves and state what we had previously studied at university and what experience we had of working within a classroom. Going around the room and listening to each member of the group, the diversity of our experiences was evident. What particularly struck me was that even though the experiences each of us had brought into the room with us were vastly different, we each had a highly valuable contribution to make to teaching. This led me to reflect on the huge variety of knowledge, skills and experiences that children similarly bring to the classroom and the importance of recognising how these enable each child to make a highly significant contribution to the class.

Behaviourist, constructivist and social constructivist theories of learning were examined within the next part of the seminar. We were encouraged to reflect upon our own experiences of primary and secondary school and think about which approach to learning we felt had been adopted within each setting. When evaluating my own experiences, I realised that apart from infant school where I felt a constructivist approach that enabled me to learn and explore through direct experience had been adopted, the majority of my experiences of learning had been largely centred upon behaviourist approaches which utilised reinforcement and reward as the primary means through which to promote ‘effective’ learning. Given that each child enters the classroom with their own knowledge, experiences, capabilities (as mentioned above) and ‘readiness’ to learn (Bruner, 1964), it is evident that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching and learning cannot accommodate to the huge variety of needs that are present within the classroom.

Through discussion, it was concluded that approaches to teaching and learning must be adapted to meet the individual needs of the children within the class and as such, a blended approach is needed. This was a salient point which made me reflect on my experiences of working as a 1:1 teaching assistant in a primary school. Working with a child with autism and emotional and behavioural difficulties, I realised the importance of adopting a blended approach to teaching and learning. Drawing on the principles of social constructivism, I was able to adapt tasks to build upon the child’s prior knowledge and construct a relationship with the child that was founded upon collaborative learning and ‘teaching and helping each other’. Combining social constructivism with the behaviourist principles of reinforcement and reward, I was also able to manage the child’s inappropriate behaviour and ultimately create a positive learning environment for the child.

The idea that a ‘knowing other’ can scaffold and extend the child’s learning and enable them to enter the zone of proximal development (Bruner, 1964; Vygotsky, 1978 pp. 1-10 cited in Hausfather, 1996) was a key theme throughout the seminar. The idea that a ‘knowing other’ can be an adult or a ‘more able’ child has significant implications for how we view ‘ability grouping’ within the classroom. If children learn most effectively through discussion and collaboration with other ‘knowing’ children, then why is ability grouping still so prevalent within primary classrooms? Perhaps the answer is that ability grouping provides an ‘easier’ way to classify children in order to assess their learning and progress. However, viewing and grouping children based on their ‘ability’ can have a significantly negative impact on children’s well being (Ireson and Hallam 2002, pp. 315-318 cited in Pollard, 2002) and distort our view of how children learn and subsequently, how we teach them.

In conclusion, I believe that a blended approach is the most effective way to ensure that teaching and learning enables all children to learn and make a valuable contribution to the classroom. I believe that the social constructivist concepts of collaboration and scaffolding are paramount to promote effective learning and that children should be given copious opportunities to learn from each other. However, utilising behaviourist principles of reinforcement and reward are also essential to promote positive behaviour and create an effective classroom environment. I will therefore endeavour to utilise a blended approach to teaching and learning throughout my own teaching practice.

 

References

Bruner, J.S. (1964) “Education as Social Invention”, Journal of Social Issues, 20, pp. 21-33

Ireson, J. and Hallam, S. (2002) The Effects of Ability Grouping, in Pollard, A. (2008) Reflective Teaching: Evidence-informed Professional Practice (3rd Ed.), London: Continuum.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Interaction between learning and development, in Hausfather, S.J. (1996) “Vygotsky and Schooling: Creating a Social Context for Learning”, Action in Teacher Education, 18, pp. 1-10.

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.

Introduction

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  W.B. Yeats

This blog surrounds the discussions of Emma Vernon, Kayleigh Pemberton and Katie Handscomb throughout their Primary PGCE course. The Discussion Pages menu at the top of this page leads to five key topic areas focused on in the module Contemporary Issues is Teaching and Learning.