TL;DR Version: A blog post on my reflections from the webinar on the past, present, and future of web literacy. I discuss the challenges that exist in making this happen in the classroom. I also detail the need to empower educators and students to play, learn, and define the WebLiteracyMap.
Yesterday I had the privilege to sit in on one of the Educator Innovator Webinars that is put together by the National Writing Project. The focus of this episode was on the Past, Present, and Future of Web Literacy. The panel included Doug Belshaw, Marc Lesser, Chad Sansing, and was hosted by Paul Oh. The resources included in the show, and the chat transcripts are available here. The video for the episode is embedded below.
I believe that the work that is being conducted to define and develop the WebLiteracyMap is terribly important as we identify and promote the knowledge and skills students will need to have to be web literate in the future. In my humble opinion, this is indeed a literacy, and a fundamental human right as technology advances. We need to provide opportunities for teachers and students (in elementary, secondary, and higher education) to embed these literacies in instruction and practice the associated skills.
In the episode I was asked what I believe to be one of the biggest impediments in making the web literacies come to life in the classroom. From my experience and research the biggest contributing factor is individual teacher dispositions. I believe that training in pre-service teacher institutions, and professional development experiences provide opportunities to be exposed to this work, and opportunities to play. Even with these opportunities and experiences, I believe that the ultimate factor in the success of it happening in the classroom comes down to the individual educator.
There are challenges that might impede the educator as he or she tries to embed this work in instruction. Some of these challenges are due to the systematic and cultural ways that we view teaching and learning. As online education and MOOCs take off, I sense a growing belief that teachers might not be as important in online, and hybrid learning experiences. At various learning institutions there is a growing trend that if we just put computers in front of students, or “get an app for it”, students will automatically do great things. There seems to be a devaluing of the importance and affect of good pedagogy and instructional design lend to online, or hybrid learning. Another challenge that educators have (at least here in the US) is a culture of high-stakes assessment, and a reliance on the CCSS. In many ways the CCSS is the “big dog” in classrooms and teachers need to focus on how they embed the standards in instruction, without receiving support to make room for web literacies. Additionally, many of our schools still have access issues, and policies in place that limit or detract from the work that teachers and students can accomplish with technology.
Still, with all of these challenges that occur, there is still great work being done. The work of impassioned educators in the Connected Learning communities, the NWP, the various online PLNs, (and the countless other learning communities and MOOCs that I’ll fail to mention here) all support and espouse the virtues that exist in the WebLiteracyMap. The challenge (at least IMHO) is that this is too few and far between. Because of the challenges that I detailed in the previous paragraph, many times instructional technology use in our classrooms is sometimes viewed as a subversive activity. Teachers need to cobble together hardware and software, by paying for it out of their pocket or going on DonorsChoose. Teachers need to identify ways to embed this learning in instruction, while still attending to curriculum and the standards. Finally, teacher evaluation systems and cultures within districts and buildings might frown on the use of instructional technologies in all content areas.
Once again, despite these challenges, great work still happens. I believe that these literacies are a fundamental right and will be necessary to our students’ futures. We recognize the opportunity for education, literacy, and technology to empower…we need to provide opportunities to make this happen in our classrooms. Educators and students need to be given the license to play, experiment, and fail as they learn and develop these web literacies. Teachers and students bear a certain responsibility as they learn using digital texts and tools. An appreciation is required for the complexities, pitfalls, advantages, and limitations inherent in using these online learning spaces. A thoughtful, highly-trained educator might hold the key to making these web literacies exist in our classrooms. We need to empower our educators and students to work together to collaboratively define and redefine what it means to be able to read, write, communicate, and socialize withing the current milieu.
Image CC by Maxwelb