Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Introduction to 21st Century Literacy in Action

I am currently sitting in a hotel room in Anaheim, California preparing a conference presentation on a "Comprehensive Definition of ICT Literacy for the 21st Century." This presentation is a strict research piece which looks to establish technology and media literacy as a core value of American society. As an information-based economy which relies heavily on both understanding and creating digital media, the need for one unified definition of what it means to be a literate individual in the Information Age is critical. This definition will allow citizens, policy makers, educators and researchers to communicate effectively with each other to clearly express their expectations for and evaluate the outcomes of literacy education. Given this background, I think that it is equally important to get this information "out there" for the general public. While traveling to make the presentation I came up with the idea of flouting the standards of conventional research publication by creating a blog in which to chronicle the developing literacy practices of my children.

First entry:
I was pleasantly surprised last week when my 3rd grade daughter informed me that she had to do research on (O)possums for school and that she would, despite it not being required, like to use her computer to make a poster displaying her findings. I thought it was a great idea and asked if she needed any help. She said that she didn't, so I went back to my own projects while she got to work (I'll post a screen capture of her poster at a later date). She requested my help with copying and pasting images, but needed to be shown only once before she got the hang of it and started creating her poster. Eventually, I also showed her how to create a table to keep her information and pictures organized, which she then used very effectively, even figuring out how to change the cell colors by herself.

The poster, and more-so the technical expertise, was impressive so I asked her how she knew how to do it all. Her answer was that she had learned it from watching me and talking to me about the work I was so often doing while she was in the room playing Webkinz. More importantly for me, she stated that she learned from trying to do it herself. I find this critical and central to my own philosophy on developing technology literacy. In order to ultimately be successful, people learning about technology need to have self-confidence. I find that the core of this self-confidence comes from the knowledge that, no-matter what you actually do on a computer, as long as you have saved your work, you can't screw-up so badly that you won't be able to recover. The second stage of this, and the reason that my daughter has her own computer, is that children in  particular, need to have the freedom to experiment with any software and hardware that they are interested in with the parental support and oversight to know that, no matter what they do, they won't be punished or break their computer.

So this has been the inspiration for creating this blog and I hope to also have her create an associated blog (or create entries in this one) about her experiences with technology both at home and in school which she will share. So this probably won't go over as hard-core research, but I think the value of telling the story of how real children develop technology literacy is far beyond peer review, and hopefully has a bit more relevance in the long-term.

Looking forward to reader comments and suggestions going forward.

Justin Marquis PhD

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