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Posts Tagged ‘literacy

I read this forum letter to STonline, Drawbacks of doing research on the Net.

I am reacting to it paragraph by paragraph. Warning: Some snarkiness ahead. The original letter is in bold italics.

As technology advances and information is readily and widely available on the Internet, more students are turning to the Internet to do research.

Thank you for stating the obvious.

Although Internet tools are welcome, it is a loss when the young generation no longer gets news from the newspaper and knowledge from books.

Although modern milking and killing tools are welcome, it is a loss when our children no longer molest cow udders or get their hands bloody by slaughtering them up close and personal.

We have different means to the same ends. What have we really lost?

I am also concerned that young students do not have the ability to judge whether information on the Internet is appropriate or even accurate.

Parents these days are too busy to police the online activities of their children, especially with their young ones having easy excess to smartphones and tablet computers.

Am I supposed to accept that kids automatically know how to judge that what they read in books and newspapers is appropriate or accurate?

I am concerned that the same parents who provide children easy access these devices are too busy to parent. Parents would rather blame something else…

Recently, my son, who is in primary school, told me he wanted to do research on war. The next thing I knew, he was doing his research through YouTube.

It may be appropriate for primary schools to incorporate lessons on the dos and don’ts of using the Internet. Perhaps some hours of the weekly social studies class could be set aside for this.

I wonder what that parent might have to say if her child also searched Wikipedia, war veteran websites, TED Ed videos on conflict, blog entries or articles by war historians, discussion forums or social media channels on current wars, opinion pieces by news and TV media online, curated resources by hobbyists and experts alike, etc.

Perhaps schools should focus on information literacy skills such as searching, collating, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing. Perhaps schools should teach kids how to think critically and independently.

Children should start off by doing research from library books, which are more reliable sources of information, before turning to the Internet.

Really? Would a library book about World War II have the same account if you drew it from Japan, Singspore, or the USA? Are there even library books about current conflicts in Syria, Iraq, or Crimea?

I have more responses, but I will put a lid on before I explode.

This letter reminded me of a recent #edsg conversation on Twitter (click on this link if the conversation does not appear below).

It is time for the parent who wrote the letter to step out of the cave into the new world. Stop hiding. Start living.

Stages of Digital Fluency by kmakice, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  kmakice 

Some weeks ago, the folks at #edsg revisited the topic of being digitally literate vs being digitally fluent. I am not sure how much new ground we created but we certainly unearthed some key resources.

At a much earlier conversation, I bookmarked Digital Information Fluency (FAQs) and The Difference Between Digital Literacy and Digital Fluency.

Both are useful starters and anyone can define these terms reasonably and differently. I borrow from these resources to define digital literacy (DL) and fluency (DF).

The FAQs define DF simply as “the ability to find, evaluate and ethically use digital information efficiently and effectively to solve an information problem”. It goes on to say that DF has elements of information literacy (IL) and technological literacy (TL).

I like to think of IL as building on the ability to read and write in order to search for, analyze, evaluate, and create resources. If you have TL, you have the skills to help with the searching, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. To borrow from the second article, you know what to use and how to use it. For me DL=IL+TL.

According to the second resource, if you have DF, you also know when and why to use (or not use) a tool or strategy. If pushed for examples, I might suggest that when searching you know when and why to use Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia, or YouTube.

A logical analogy is language ability. If you are literate, you know how to converse or to write sentences. You might be able to compose and propose.

But if you are fluent, you tell and get jokes that only a cunning linguist might take a licking liking to. You do not just read; you read in between. You do not just speak or write; you persuade and change.

Someone who possesses DF will be able to not just search effectively but also know to archive and possibly curate. When asked to recall or recommend, the digitally fluent need only reach for his/her network, archive, or curated work in order to inform and convince.

It might still be difficult to distinguish between DL and DF because they lie on a long continuum. But just like how we can tell someone who is literate from someone who is fluent, you can tell the difference DL and DF.

In one case you have the knowledgeable. In the other you have the knowledge-able.

Just thinking out loud…

New terms seem to emerge around educational technology. There are “digital x” forms like digital citizenship and digital fluency. There are the “x literacies” like assessment literacy and information literacy. The mother of such terms, digital literacy, might be the most vague of all

I wonder if we might just focus on citizenship, fluency, assessment, and being literate. While I can see some point of emphasizing how different these things might be, part of me resists the dichotomy of such thinking.

The intent of inventing and defining such terms may be good. They may exist to inform and to educate. But when descriptive terms get misinterpreted, or worse, to be prescribed, there is the temptation to create another confusing silo of thought and practice instead of a coherent whole.

dear john by jennypdx, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  jennypdx 

A few days ago, I received this email from “Hanna”. This could be a real person or not.

Hi Dr. Tan,

I’m getting in touch with you because I’d like to contribute an article to your blog. I found your blog post as I was conducting research for a resource about how technology is used in education today.

The article that I’d like to contribute would be look at the most effective methods (and not so-effective ways) that technology has been introduced into classrooms and learning environments. How is technology used to improve knowledge retention and the efficiency of providing students with a wealth of information?

Please let me know if you’d be interested in an article of this sorts. I’d be happy to hear your opinions about this and work with you on hashing out a more cohesive idea if you’d like.



If this is real and Hanna really reads my blog, I expect a response by way of comment.

If this is not real, then this is what spam, marketing, or phishing is starting to look like. It can be hard to tell.

So here is my open letter response to Hanna and whoever else tries this in the future.

Dear Hanna,

Thank you for contacting me. I am surprised that you found my blog because it is among millions.

I am not sure that you will want to write in my blog because this is my expectation for it: I do not blog for views. I blog my views. I do this to learn and to shape my thoughts on educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies. This is in my About Me page. Perhaps you did not see this statement.

As for a topic, I do not think it wise to promote current technology for just knowledge acquisition or retention. We already have books and tests for that.

Far more important is how to leverage on technology to promote collaboration, communication, content creation, critiquing, etc. Today, it is less about WHAT you know and more about WHO you know and WHAT YOU DO with what you know.

If you are real, I would like to hear your thoughts in return.

If you are not, then kudos to you for trying.

Real or fake, I think you will understand my caution and skepticism. Better to err on the side of caution.

It would help you in your cause (the real attempt to connect or to deceive) if you provided more information about yourself beyond your name and Gmail address ( These days you are one Google search away from being verified or trashed.

Whatever the outcome of this exchange, I thank you for the opportunity to not just practice my digital literacies but also develop some digital wisdom.


If you have no idea what happened almost a week ago in Singapore, you might wonder if this forum posting was factual, a fake, or farcical.

If you thought this was factual (a child actually wanted strangers to help her choose a new class monitor), you might find it both amusing and sad. Amusing because of the way it was written; sad because it was written the way many kids here speak English.

If you thought the posting was fake, you could say you knew because no school would allow their students to use mobile phones so openly. There was also little point in choosing a class monitor when the school vacation was about to start.

If you thought that this posting was a farce or spoof of last week’s by-election in Hougang, you would be right. You might also appreciate the poster’s ability to create a believable classroom scenario.

I could use an artefact like this to highlight the importance of information and digital literacies. I might facilitate a session with these questions:

  • What online source does the screenshot look like it is from?
  • Do you think this is real? How do you know?
  • What sources of information helped you determine your answer(s) to the previous question?
  • What can you now teach your parents/peers/juniors?

I could also tweak the workshops I offer on Web 2.0 and social media by providing this scenario as context for learning technical and social skills.

Video source

I love consuming resources that make me think. And nothing does that more than good questions.

There are lots of takeaways in this video by Mickey McManus. After telling a story of how some learners created E. coli that smelt like mint and banana, he posed a question that made me pause for thought:

We can make anything, and make it right… The question our children will have to answer is… what is the right thing to make?

McManus believes that design thinking and design literacy can fill this gap. He also makes it clear that design is not (just) about art and wishy-washy statements about creativity:

Design is the systematic, repeatable, practiced creative activity to take someone else’s agenda and actually use that energy to solve their problems. It’s something you can learn, it’s something you can practice, it’s something you can get better at.

Then he talked about design literacy and how it might help reshape education. I think that he was using different terms for the same ends. Educators might refer to his interventions and examples as authentic and contextualized learning. Nonetheless, there were some tips that educators might find useful, e.g., thinking out of the box with the round-robin and “what if” methods,  rapid prototyping, etc.

With the help of a few videos, he showed how engaging students in the design process resulted in more motivated and deeper learning.

He also challenged his audience to promote design literacy in our kids early in their lives. To illustrate, he showcased a young boy designing his own game on paper (around the 18-minute mark of the YouTube video).

My immediate reaction: My son does this! My second reaction: We don’t really need to teach or enable them to do this; we just need to encourage it or get out of their way. I think it’s really about nurturing what kids naturally have, seeding what they don’t and managing what they develop over time.

What would I learn without RSS? Very little! RSS is one of my personal PD (professional development) tools and with it I learn or get something reinforced every day!

One blog I follow is Chris Dawson’s. He recently asked how important is 1:1 to literacy? He doesn’t have all the answers (no one does), but he asks some pretty good questions. He has a follow-up today on getting your teachers started with 1:1.

On his blog today was a feature on virtual autopsies via surface computing. Another of my favourites! Surface computing, that is, not autopsies! Alas, I have practically abandoned my efforts in surface computing due to a lack of support.

Video source

I think that surface computing is not only more intuitive, it also promotes other literacies because you must be able to manage, manipulate and create with digital media. These might include the interpretation of various types of images or the creation of videos or screencasts to illustrate ideas and processes.

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