Friday, June 8, 2007


The gentleman that runs our monthly meeting, Ned Davis, just came out with a quote that I thought was interesting regarding the students he teaches at St. Elizabeth College. He was decrying the multitude of resources that they have to sift through in order to get the correct information for their research:
"There is just so much crap out there!"

This, to me, makes a great case for literacy to be revisited at ALL levels of education. Even students who have grown up immersed in technology and are ready to enter the world are often not equipped with the ability to deconstruct multiple sources and recognize validity. Ned's students, confronted with multiple resources might be struggling because the literacy skills they have accumulated in the academic environment do not fit the types of media and information, or even the amount of information.

How do we teach discerning students? What are some methods we are using to do this in our classrooms or seminars? We talk about digital literacies, but what are some tried and true methods?

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Clay Burell said...

Hi P,

This is the kind of question that asks us to do something. So here's my 2 Korean Won :)

1) Teach website evaluation early, every year, spiraling up the grades.

2) Combine it with teaching searches as a "human filter" of random and often Google-bombed search results.

3) Teach tagged search RSS subscriptions.

4) (And my first original thought on this comment--) Exploit the examples of uninformed, uncritical website use from prior classroom projects.

To expand on 4, an example. A student in my history class this year embedded a neo-Nazi YouTube video glorifying Hitler, and she had no idea. That still exists on the student-created wiki history textbook we made online. So it's one example we can use to make the problem interesting and relevant to students.

The more other teachers note and, ideally, consolidate their own examples of weak source evaluation skills, the more interesting this would be for students. And whereas my example/case study concerns a video "citation," other examples of text-based websites would be needed.

There's an abundance of web evaluation activities all over the net, as you surely know. Most of them are 1.0, and we could tweak them with 2 and 3 above to teach how to navigate "around" the "crap out there."

Too early to continue, need coffee, and Mom needs a birthday call.

But I'll be getting a new MacBook with webcam soon, so I hope we can talk more over the summer.


Barbara said...

Since I love to "ease drop" on any conversation between P and C.....I thought I would weigh in here.
First I agree with the premise that literacy must be revisited at all levels.
I would add to Clay's list the need to teach search techniques ( like Google advanced search) early and often...the idea is implied in points 1 and 2... but starting at the grammar school level we need to deconstruct URLs also to be literate.

I have been struggling to pull together a definition that I like for this new literacy and would love your input. It is multifaceted and hard to capture. On Classroom2.0 there was a discussion about teaching keyboarding that made an interesting point about literacy. Fluency has often be used to talk about reading text and is a measure of literacy..but in the discussion the argument was made that teaching keyboarding in the lower grades was part of the fluency important to literacy.

Clay Burell said...

You crack me up, Barbara :)

I "Daily Diigo'd" a couple of Web Searching tutorials, and one had a good flash one that would possibly do the trick for elementary (I'm so inveterate a high schooler I never think below say, grade 6, though I need to start now).

Clay Burell said...

Oh, that' Diigo post won't go public until tomorrow 0600 my time.

Patrick Higgins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Higgins said...

Thanks to both of you for the input; I will be sure to use some of these strategies as I plan for next year.


I threw this out to Barbara the other day because I value her input highly, but if you have some availability this summer, I would love to pull you in as an expert in some of the professional development workshops that I am running. Let me know if you are interested.

We have a small group of students that are pulling off an independent study next year, and we've set them up with PLE's that have access to Rutgers University class content. The reason I bring this up is that their advisor is very keen on bringing some the strategies that you mention in points 1-4. I plan on pitching it to her this summer as a means to test out how this would work in our district.

Clay Burell said...

Hi P,

Just let me know when this is going to happen, and I'd love to join in. If we could collaboratively invent a good wheel, that's one more tick off the checklist.

FYI, my PowerBook seems to need repairs, so I might be offline for a while. If so, you know why.

But give me those dates, yes?