Digital Literacy Comes Home

When my son brought out his report on 9/11 facts, I was again reminded of how important it is to teach digital literacy.

You see, when he typed 9/11 facts — he found a conspiracy theory website(s) and came out of it thinking someone had bombed the building.

Yes, he is in seventh grade, and Yes, I’ve talked so much with him about verifying sources, however, kids so often think if it is “on” Google that it is right.

In fact, Google doesn’t verify for veracity but kids often think so.

Just another practical reason for teaching digital citizenship.

We have practical real things that need to be done in classrooms around the world.

And while many debate the theories and thoughts about what is happening, as a teacher and mother I know that our global society has fundamentally changed.

There are real trails to be blazed here by those who understand those changes and can leave the hype and acronyms behind to civilize this new digital society with citizens who have discernment and civility.

With the industrial revolution came problems, long factory hours, child labor, and things that did not need to happen. It took time to sort out and civilize factories around the world, and still, there are sweat shops.

Likewise, the digital revolution has its own problems… largely due to an educational system that is plugging its ears and denying its existence, leaving children to self-educate themselves. (A formula that rarely works.)

Self Education Doesn’t Work
We would never leave kids on their own to “figure out” math or literature but we know that in order to speed their learning, we should educate them on the principles that work.

Likewise, leaving kids to “figure out” effective digital citizenship is equally preposterous.

As I read the blogosphere, I get frustrated. We have practical things to do and many theorists are arguing semantics and theory … and many of those have never set foot in a classroom, I would think.

Let’s work towards digital citizenship instruction for every student! Let’s build bridges that the society of our future can walk across.
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35 thoughts on “Digital Literacy Comes Home

  1. This post views ‘self education’ through a polarizing lens, one that depicts the choices as being something like ‘being taught’ and ‘leaving kids to figure out things for themselves’. The reality is nothing like that.

    I don’t think that anyone, anywhere, is writing about casting kids – or adults, for that matter – adrift in a sea of information with no anchor or support. A kid can be ‘not taught’ and yet still not be left to ‘figure out’ thinks on their own.

    This becomes evident when we look at specific examples. Take 9-11 for instance. Yes, we could teach every kid that 9-11 was caused by terrorists in airplanes, not bombs. But there are very many similar conspiracy theories. Should we also teach kids that there are no aliens in Area 51?

    At some point, they have to make the call for themselves. At some point – very quickly – they have to, as you say, ‘figure it out’ – because there will be no way we can teach them all the fact about what they may or may not encounter online.

    What we want them to do, of course, is to be able to make those calls. The problem with the person who comes away thinking the WTC was bombed isn’t that he wasn’t taught the right things about 9-11, but that he doesn’t have the tools to ‘figure it out’.

    Indeed, a person who reads a website and concludes that it’s true, no matter what it says, is dangerously illiterate. He has been raised by people who believe that he should be ‘taught’ – and should not ‘figure it out’ for himself.

    The fact is, when a student encounters a website like that, we want him or her to *get* support – we want him, or her to verify the facts on other websites, or to consult with peers or elders for verification.

    We want the student to know that, even when he is not being ‘taught’, he has not been cast adrift – he is not alone, he is not without support. Indeed, the very essence of media literacy is understanding that there is a supportive net of information surrounding you, even when you’re not in the classroom, and that (therefore) you should never rely solely on those who purport to teach you.

    This is not merely a matter of semantics.

    The alternative to ‘being taught’ that I am sketching here is misrepresented pretty much every day by people, usually teachers, who assume that students are simply incapable of learning on their own.

    It is misrepresented in exactly this way, by suggesting that the only support and guidance a student can get is from a teacher.

    This is not merely false, it is also dangerous, because it leads to a sense of dependency – it leads exactly to the sort of behaviour depicted in the original post.

    The best thing a teacher can ever do for his or her student is to achieve that day when the student can say to the teacher, “I don’t need you.”

    That’s why, for better or worse, we release them after 12 years or so.

  2. Vicki,

    Downes and Hoffman both make good points and add to this conversation. They are simply not factoring in the philosophies of learning and teaching that you have espoused for years.

    What concerns me, is that education is part of the problem. We prefer to teach from highly packaged information products (textbooks and other learning materials) so that we can teach from authority. We teach kids, and depend on them to believe what they read and class and to believe what we say. We are teaching them to assume authority.

    Instead we should be teaching them to prove authority, and teachers can fairly easily model that practice — as habit.

    Instead of starting with a web page, displayed on the whiteboard, they should start with Google, demonstrate how they found the page, the considerations and decisions they applied to select that page, and include in the presentation, the evidence that what’s being presented is valuable.

    When we model authority, we shouldn’t be surprised when students look for authority in every piece of information.

    A great post!

    BTW, I believe that digital literacy and literacy are the same thing — using information to accomplish goals.

  3. Stephen-

    I think perhaps that you are misunderstanding what I am saying and forgetting my model of “teaching.”

    Teaching does not mean prescribing one’s thought, it means educating one to be able to effectively formulate one’s own opinion.

    My son took literally the first site he came to. That is a problem. Yes, he hasn’t had dear Mom as a teacher yet, however, teaching digital citizenship is important.

    This includes: verification of sources, digital literacy, online safety, and many other things.

    In fact, I “teach” what I call an intuitive learning method — a method of how to learn software.

    I believe that you have completely mis characterized me and what I represent with your comment.

    What I have a problem with is the debate of “What is Web 2.0” etc. I think it is truly irrelevant to what we should be doing in the classroom.

    The problem I have is that these skills are LARGELY NOT BEING TAUGHT. And I honestly think that many of the debates that are happening in the edublogosphere are somewhat irrelevant to what really needs to happen in the classroom.

    I am a person who has “figured things out” all of my life and there is a place for that. However, someone taught me how to effectively use the library, it saved a lot of time.

    Digital citizenship is an important category of information that should be taught. It doesn’t mean imposition of opinion, it means education of the person making the opinion about how to verify sources, etc. BAsic digital literacy is important.

  4. I don’t see what makes this “digital literacy.” Aside from a basic understanding of how to follow a hyperlink, the research skills I was taught 25 years are sufficient for assessing the quality of this source. Check the source’s references. Confirm information by looking at multiple sources. Read carefully. What’s the first thing my now retired mother covered in the first class she taught at Juniata Valley High School: evaluating sources.

  5. Tom–
    Yes, digital literacy is akin to literacy. However, we have taught kids that if it is in a library that it is to be believed. We must teach students to evaluate their sources. It is paramount.

    I am in a classroom at a school with a strong technology program and I work with my own children — except my son did not research his source.

    The facts are, this is a typical response. It is easy to look down one’s nose, however, I am finding that all students come to me almost digitally illiterate.

    Point at my school if you wish, however, I have found in talking with other teachers that this is the CASE.

    Schools must look at what is being done to cover digital literacy in addition to basic literacy.

    I doubt many teachers will be surprised by what I’m seeing.

  6. David-

    Yes, you so eloquently put it — we need to teach kids to PROVE authority. We need to intentionally model that (and I do in my classroom.) By watching me and other teachers model searching and selecting sources and evaluating those sources.

    I too believe that digital literacy is part of literacy — however I categorize digital citizenship to include more than literacy, online safety, privacy protection, civility, and what I call techno-personal skills.

  7. My son took literally the first site he came to. That is a problem. Yes, he hasn’t had dear Mom as a teacher yet […]”

    Why wait? Isn’t parenting inclusive of teaching?

  8. I think that all of these points are valid…from an ADULT perspective, or at least HS and beyond. I think Vicki’s concerns as a classroom teacher and a parent are quite valid. But I think it is important to think about learning as a process.

    Vicki, you & I have talked about how important it is to teach kids digital literacy (how to read and evaluate information online) and digital citizenship (safety, privacy and ethics). Digital literacy needs to be embedded into curriculums across the board and implemented early on in order to ensure that kids obtain the skills that Tom and Stephen mentioned as well as enable them to “prove authority” as David suggested.

    Stephen, I repectfully disagree that kids can be “‘not taught’ and yet still not be left to ‘figure out’ things on their own.” I would NEVER leave my kids in a kitchen full of all the food they can eat, with a big screen tv, nintendo, and a shelf of books and expect them to figure out that they will feel best if they eat healthy and read books…my kids would never figure out on their own that chicken with broccoli and book reading is better for them than video games, the Disney Channel washed down with Cheetos and soda with out some modeling and instruction early on. Kids need to be taught, teachers need to model so that kids can apply those skills when relevant.

    I am a former 3rd grade teacher. Third grade was always an exciting year to teach because it is the year kids move from learning to read and start reading to LEARN. I saw how DIFFICULT it was for kids to navigate even written text to gather information. I was one of the few teachers who was teaching the kids how to read to not only read text, but to navigate webpages and compare information from the web with information in books. One example was our study of space. We had information to deliver from trade books copyright 2002, but I also used relevant sites so we could discuss which contained more valid information. We discussed how we drew these conclusions. We looked at sources. So at the same time they were reading non-fiction text to learn, I taught them how to read online information for information and compare, evaluate, judge what was important.

    Teach, Model, practice, apply…

    Notice, I said I was one of the few TEACHERS who was teaching these skills as I was teaching them to read. The computer lab in elementary is used for “fun” reinforcement not “digital literacy” Most of the “research skills” came from the librarian. I was very comfortable with the technology and saw the importance of kids learning these skills. The problem is with out this type of instruction early on, when those same kids got to HS their teachers ASSUME the kids have the skills to do research…WHY…? because they were all taught to read right? They should be able to figure it out. But they can’t because when they were learning how to READ to LEARN these skills were not taught to them and therefore they can not apply them later on.

    I also speak as a parent. I have 3 kids at home. My 2nd grader LOVES to use the computer to “learn stuff” but his “gut” response is to click, and click and click….need I go on…it is “neat” to go from page, to page to page…Hyperlinking is ANOTHER type of literacy that we need to address EARLY ON. I mean seriously, with the exception of choose your own adventure books, when do students ever learn to jump around from place to place when they are reading written text?

    Tom, you mentioned that the basic skills are no different and with this I DO agree. In the ideal world, where kids at the earliest level are taught these searching and evaluating skills…even if the teachers continue model, practice and go to apply the learned skills, the same learned SKILLS that your now retired mother taught in checking sources, I think the DIFFERENCE is in the EASE and AVAILABILITY of information in today’s world. When WE did reasearch…applied the learned skills or “looked up” information in the microfische…there were “several” sources that needed to be weeded through for validity…not several MILLIONS… At the upper level, kids need to be taught HOW to access credible sources…via data bases, advanced google searches and other good search strategies. If we don’t,

    they will continue to go to the first sources available.

    The process of acquiring digital literacy is quite different from traditional literacy in MANY ways. David, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with you that teachers need to model HOW they find information. But I think there are still many adults who still feel like they are adrift without help in this sea of information, THEY never learned how to validate the vast amount of information to which they are exposed. They at least have a wealth of background information from which to draw upon, but could they help students find the resources that the truly need?

    The bottom line, we are all seeking the same outcome…to produce kids that we can release into the world after 12 years or so with the ability to evaluate resources in order to prove authority. We need to continue these conversations to figure out the best way to give the kids a good background by teaching them the skills they need to build on this foundation in the future.

  9. Yes, maybe “we should educate them on the principals that work” but maybe we should educate you first about how the difference between a “principal” and a “principle”. You’ve definitely spent too much time in education. Additionally, so what if your son did stumble across a “conspiracy theory website”. Is that the label you use for any website that doesn’t agree with the Bush Administration’s spin on 9/11? You talk about the need for “citizens with discernment and civility” in the new digital society. Well, discernment is surely aided by not putting all such perspectives in a mental trash can labelled “conspiracy theories”. Oh, and be careful with civility. It can sound awfully like servility.

  10. Peter-

    I haven’t waited. We have talked about this. However, I have not had the time to cover a full digital literacy curriculum with him.

    It is so easy to throw potshots at parents who are open about things they observe in their own children and ignore the problem that IS there. If my son who HAS BEEN talked to and taught about these things (I taught him to blog in 5th grade for goodness sakes) makes these mistakes, I would venture to argue that others aren’t getting at home.

    I see too much dismissal of the problem — not enough literacy in schools, ANY schools and that includes digital literacy — and too much condemning of the messenger.

    Kristin — You and I see eye to eye on this one. Marvelous example with the kids in the kitchen — I hope you also posted it on your blog.

  11. I also just don’t understand the way people are conducting their research assignments. When we did our big research paper in sixth grade, we had to turn in a list of sources before we started writing a draft. Don’t people do that anymore?

  12. Pak-

    Your response to me is what I teach my students NOT to do — you should be civil and never personally insulting and honestly, your comments are pretty insulting. I am sorry that I mistyped a word and have thus corrected it.

    Pak– As for spending too much time in education — since I graduated from college in 1991 — I was in the BUSINESS world — which is perhaps why I made the grammatical error in the first place. I can go on about my credentials there, however, I will not. I still retain my own business and am very much in the business community.

    Pak — Your comments could have been better phrased not to be so adversarial — yes in a democracy conspiracy theories are allowed and yes, he could write his report showing both sides — the problem I have is that he took the first website that he came to and whatever the content, that is not something he should do.

    You have just cemented my viewpoint on educating my students on discussing things “professionally” which includes, expressing one’s viewpoint without being insulting. This is also important in business as well, coming from someone who received many promotions when she was in business.

    You never burn your bridges, you never know when you might need to walk across.

  13. Tom-

    Our students probably author 3-4 papers a week some of which require research and some of which do not.

    This was an assignment to write a report about some of the facts of 9/11 in which the sources were attached.

    It is hard to extrapolate a generalization about research reports in general. The fact is, when students come into my class from either my school or other schools — the basic ability to accurately determine sources on the Internet is not evident. It is not evident because it is not being taught.

    There seems to be some misunderstanding in what I advocate — I do not advocate mind control nor opinion control. I am advocating basic literacy of determining the credibility of a source and using multiple sources… something every student should know.

    We teach them to accept the veracity of everything in the library. They see Google as a big library and do not have the skills in place to verify the veracity of what they find and form their own opinion about the source.

    It is something that every child should know. It is a basic skill. And it is largely related to Internet related research.

    I asked a student today who transferred in last year about this very point and he said to me, “Before I came here, if it was on Google, that was it.”

    He transferred in as a junior. He also went on to say, “Now, I can tell you that my friends know so much less about Internet safety, privacy, how to research effectively than I do because they come to me for help. Some don’t even know how to really search properly or that there is another search engine than Google. It is a problem.”

    HE transferred in as a junior but his dad brought him here and requested that he be in my 10th grade computer science class for these very reasons, he wasn’t getting it where he was.

    This is a problem. It is not unique to my school or any school. WE have a curricular gap in literacy AND digital literacy as well as basic digital citizenship skills.

    I’m not sure how many of those who are disagreeing with this post are working with children, I’d be interested to know.

    I am stating the facts and those disagreeing are shooting the messenger.

  14. I want to address a teen’s ability to differentiate a conspiracy site from an authoritative one (leaving aside the subjectiveness inherent in the labels).

    I see this with my students in a computer science class. They frequently find trashy sites with unofficial — and wrong — information. I’m trying to teach them to start with Microsoft sites (we’re studying for MS certification) and am regularly adding reliable sites to their repertoire.

    I certainly feel like the majority of my students (4th through 12th grades) cannot find good information by searching Google. That’s why I’m changing the way I teach “web research”. I’m starting with searching Wikipedia for basic facts and finding the same fact on 2 different sites before beginning to believe it.

  15. It is VERY hard to teach children these skills.

    My son (same grade) simply had to write five questions and interview someone on where they were, did they know someone involved, etc. We live 15 miles from where the towers stood. So many local people were personally changed by the events.

    In my opinion, the kids get an assignment like this and they just want the assignment over! So, they grab what comes up first and run with it, no analysis involved (my son included).

    It’s up to us as parents. It’s up to teachers, too, to use these types of incidents as “teachable moments”. Perhaps that is the best lesson of all that he will learn from this project.

    Good luck with the school year. The fun thing about having your child in your class is that it gives you new perspective into what needs to be taught at that grade level.

  16. This one of those things that I was shocked to see but after processing it I realized how true and common it is. I know that even I don’t always check my sources when it comes to the Internet, especially Google, like I should. Anyone can have a website to post whatever opinions or thoughts they have (true or not). This is a scary thing when you think of our students using something as vast as the Internet and not being able to rely on what they are reading. I think we do a good job of stressing accurate sources when it comes to books, but it is different online, which is where most of the research our students are doing comes from. We need to make sure as educators we are holding our students and ourselves more accountable. It just goes to show you really can’t believe everything you read or see.

  17. No one mentioned using library online databases for information.Why not? I recently read an Education Week article (Sept. 4,2007 online), “Are our Graduates College Writing Ready?:What high schools can do to help.” by Steven Horowitz. He writes “Begin to teach the research process itself, but in short, focused assignments that help students become comfortable recognizing and evaluating the different types of sources and the differences between the Web and library databases.” I am a school librarian and have been for a long time, I have been asking students to evaluate the web sites they find for years, using a variety of evaluation instruments and criteria. They didn’t and still don’t like to do it! We have a statewide contract for free access to an array of wonderful online databases for all libraries in the state. Learning to use them and their authoritative information is a life long skill because they will have access to them in their college and public libraries. Our HS library additionally subscribes to $30,000 dollars of online databases. Your son would have been encouraged to get his information from one of those. He would then have to evaluate which of the results provided gave him the best information for his information problem/task and use those sources.

  18. “We teach them to accept the veracity of everything in the library.” See, I don’t think that is wise. There’s LOTS of incorrect information in your library.

  19. Tom —

    I agree, there are plenty of things in the library that are wrong — when I say “we” I don’t mean “me” but that is what kids think.

    They think libraries are perfect… and that is not correct.

    You’re arguing with a person who is pointing out the problem like I’m the problem.

  20. Megan says:

    “[Students] frequently find trashy sites with unofficial — and wrong — information. I’m trying to teach them to start with Microsoft sites (we’re studying for MS certification) […]

    Just thought I’d highlight that for anyone who may have missed it.

    I like to start with FOX News personally. But now I’ll consider relegating it

  21. I usually stand over my kids’ shoulders as they go through the google sites. It was about at 5th grade that my kids started to use google and I found, like you, that they would just grab the first or second (maybe third) citation.

    I feel that there are many things going on at this level. First, many have not developed the ability to “skim” for information. As my kids were reading through each item, I was quickly scanning for key words of sites they should NOT go on (as when my son was doing a report on Costa Rica and their holidays including our lady of the virgin, the patron saint of Costa Rica–you can imagine the porn that came up!). I found that they began to use this skill around 7th grade (a reading skill, not a technology skill).

    Secondly, students have trouble connecting information from multiple sources even up through high school. This has little to do with digital literacy as much as with the level of critical thinking.

    Finally, let’s face it. A research paper is time consuming and difficult especially if you are doing so for the first time. Kids are going to take short cuts which means taking the first page of findings rather than pouring over hundreds, sometimes thousands of items. We can address this by using databases, google scholar, and more “academic” sources or we can break up the task by having students first identify sources and note down how they chose those sources. We can then have guiding questions to have students evaluate the sources (who wrote the piece, what is their point of view, what supporting information do they use to back up their position, why do you think they put this information on the internet).

    At the college level, I have my students find examples of “questionable sites” but then explain how these sites may be useful (for example, the site your son chose could be used to teach him that there are people in the US the believe 9/11 was bombed and a conspiracy, you can then discuss why they might think that and why you believe differently. You can point out the deficiencies in their argument (I do this often with my kids). I have found now that my son is in high school, that he has developed the skills to discern credible sites (although every once in a while I do question some of the sources he finds–at this point it is laziness and he will admit it is too much work finding the better sources). My daughter, who is in 7th grade still needs guidance.

    I think we have to realize that part of digital literacy is learning, part is practice, and part is development.

  22. Megan is a teacher who is teaching MICROSOFT CERTIFICATION and therefore by definition interested in sources that will further her educational objective.

    And that’s the crux, no? Do we ask ourselves… “Are my educational objectives in alignment with the best interests of my students?”

  23. Peter –

    Although I have posted your comment, I must respond. I find your response demeaning. Megan is a teacher who is teaching MICROSOFT CERTIFICATION and therefore by definition interested in sources that will further her educational objective.

    However, you may be watching for news purposes. I see so much demeaning talking down to teachers in these comments that it bothers me immensely.

    What we teach is directly determined by our educational objective. To look at Megan’s answer from the lens of your own life is to totally misunderstand her post.

    I watch fox news each morning and listen to it daily — it is my favorite, BUT NOT ONLY source of information. So this is not a take on fox news, however, to try to teach Microsoft Certification with Fox News is completely ineffective.

    Teachers are professionals, please treat them with respect.

  24. Gnusphere-

    Teachers when they sign a contract are given a schedule and objectives and usually a textbook for what they are teaching. The students sign up for the classes they are interested in.

    There are few such as me, who are given such latitude in working with our class and modifying curriculum to integrate the newest information, and many teachers face lesson plans written years before.

    Yes, good teachers always ask themselves what is best and work to teach within the framework that they are given, however, teachers are getting less and less flexibility as administrators and others alike treat them like they are not the professionals that they are.

    Yes, teachers consider these things and are leaving teaching in droves because they are being forced to teach classes that they feel are not important or are not well written. It is something we ask ourselves everyday.

    However, I applaud Megan, she is doing the right thing considering what I cursorily know about her topic.

  25. Vicki, Peter’s (gnuosphere) point about “Microsoft” sites and their authority is pointing to a wider issue in that we as educators are prepared sometimes to teach corporation designed and manipulated curriculum without thinking about the bigger picture. Peter is a passionate Open Source supporter which has collaboration and openness as core values and his comments are nothing about being disrespectful to individual commenters here. To educators who believe in those core values, having a computer science course that teaches the Microsoft POV is akin to teaching a Nutrition course designed and accredited by Pizza Hut or Domino’s.
    Ultimately, anything with a commercial label in the education sphere has strings attached and certainly deserves as much attention for credibility as an accurate source of information as anything on the web. Digital literacy isn’t just restricted to what comes through the Google portal.

  26. Graham-

    Certainly Microsoft is no longer the only “game in town” nor should it be. When I took over my Computer Fundamentals course, it was a course in “microsoft office” and it has been drastically changed at this point. Yes, students who are in introductory courses should indeed be exposed to everything including open source.

    I teach open office, zohowriter, google docs, and Microsoft office.

    However, there is still a need for microsoft certification, particularly on vocational tracks. I have Microsoft 2003 Server and would not have anyone work on the server who wasn’t certified.

    Open source is incredible and I’ve installed Open Office on my teacher computers — so it was not implied.

    However, you, Graham shed more light on Peter’s comments than he did himself.

    He should have better stated his point… but as I read it it was putting down a good teacher who is working hard to cover her topic. Most teachers have little control over their curriculum. I am the exception.

    Peter and all of the others are welcome to join in the conversation. I often find a tenor (particularly in these comments) of those putting down teachers and I find it very bothersome.

    Understand the teacher’s role and if you don’t like what is happening in education work to improve it in productive ways.

    Teachers cannot seem to make anyone happy these days and are caught in the midst of a difficult situation that only seems to get worse, particularly in the public school arena.

  27. I find some amazing irony in the comments after I said I use Microsoft websites and certification courses:

    * I’ve used Linux and contributed to the Linux community since 1999 (search the LDP for my name)

    * My students and I chose the course of study together (it was not mandated by the school — like you, Vicki, I have amazing flexibility in what I teach)

    * IT workers are well served to start their searches with the vendor’s documentation (be that Debian, the LDP, or — gasp! — Microsoft TechNet)

    gnuosphere did the discussion a disservice by hijacking the thread to slam my choice of MS certification. My course is called Systems Administration. First semester is Windows, second semester is Linux.

    Anti-Microsoft attitudes win no one over to FOSS. Education does. People truly interested in learning Linux should check out LinuxChix, a friendly community of women and men that fosters learners.

    I stand by my decision by saying that if my students want to know how Windows XP handles NTFS permissions, I’ll point my kids at Microsoft websites FIRST.

  28. Megan says:

    gnuosphere did the discussion a disservice by hijacking the thread to slam my choice of MS certification

    Actually, I was following your train of thought. First you stated “[Students] frequently find trashy sites with unofficial — and wrong — information.” and then followed that sentence with “I’m trying to teach them to start with Microsoft sites”

    I interpreted that as “I teach students to use Microsoft sites to find their information.” You only make this clear later…

    I stand by my decision by saying that if my students want to know how Windows XP handles NTFS permissions, I’ll point my kids at Microsoft websites FIRST.

    Your first comment gave the impression that Microsoft was the primary gateway you ask students to use to find information in general. I asked myself, “What does Microsoft have to do with researching information”? It was not until later that you clarified the “(we’re studying for MS certification)” statement by stating –

    I stand by my decision by saying that if my students want to know how Windows XP handles NTFS permissions, I’ll point my kids at Microsoft websites FIRST.

    So, my apologies for hijacking the thread now that you’ve made yourself clear. It wasn’t my intention.

    And to note, I’m not a part of the “open source” movement or “Linux”. I use GNU/Linux and support the free software movement. I’m not against open source but find it weak as it was coined to avoid talking about software freedom and ethical issues.

    But now I’m curious (since I hijacked the thread by accident anyway)…when students ask you how they can learn Microsoft products, do you ever ask them, “Why learn proprietary technology? Have you considered learning free technology instead?”

  29. Thanks for clarifying, Peter.

    But now I’m curious (since I hijacked the thread by accident anyway)…when students ask you how they can learn Microsoft products, do you ever ask them, “Why learn proprietary technology? Have you considered learning free technology instead?”

    I haven’t asked this about the OS. Perhaps I should.

    However, I have had great success with The GIMP as a Photoshop replacement in my class.

    I hope I do the Linux community a service during second semester with the Systems Administration class.

  30. Teachers and parents often complain that students are using questionable resources, or that students only reference the first three sites Google brings up when they are doing research on the Internet. Part of the problem is that teachers often give the same assignment they have used for the last 10 years and do not change the assignment to include 21st century information literacy skills. Teachers must redesign assignments to reflect learning skills necessary in the 21st century.

    Informational literacy skills need to be addressed and taught at all grade levels. In brief, students, teachers and parents need to learn how to use the Internet effectively, and sort through all the information available at our fingertips. Secondly, assignments need to be redesigned. Imagine if teachers listed sites that students were required to use for the research, rather than doing a random Google search. Students would be using reliable sources that educators have previewed. Also by having all students use the same sites it forces students to paraphrase and interpret the information on the sites. Plagiarism would be easily identifiable as would bogus or misinformation.

    Of course this is not fool proof but it does help focus students on the assignment and the task of learning today.

  31. Have you seen the latest episode of Inanimate Alice? Alice is a girl who grows up learning more and more about the world of gaming. The music and images really engage kids.

    Teachers can use this amazingly complex free online resource to stimulate story telling. Boys especially love it. There is a software available that allows you to create your own stories. http://www.istori.es

  32. Hi Vicki, I intend to teach this year and I followed this thread with interest as a new teacher and new blogger. I’m benefiting particularly from the comments.

    I’m investigating digital literacy outcomes for a unit that looks to be several units worth now… I found it pointed me to how even when I make comments or respond to others comments I need to cite my sources and my intentions motivations and use clearly-as with learning outcomes. Each person visiting wont have time to investigate background info on me/the topic necessarily.

    Commenting in itself looks to be quite a literacy skill.
    Thank you, you are such an incredibly hard working enthusiastic source!

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