Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Phew! Finished chapters one and two of DIGITAL LITERACY last night and my head is full, full, full!

First, I'm thinking about AUTHENTICITY-- the ways I use digital literacy in my life and the opportunities I provide for my students. I am a digital reader, I think, but really only kind of. A typical day for me starts with reading the Bible. I go back and forth between doing reading a plain old-fashioned hard cover Bible and reading online. I really want to be focused on being still before God and quieting myself to go out into the day in a good way. For that reason, and because I have a tendency to be a little distractible, sometimes reading on paper works better. At the same time, there are definite advantages to reading online. I can read in different versions of the Bible. I can check out references to other verses. I can dip into commentaries if I want or need to know or understand more. Sometimes I type out a verse or two, and mess with it almost like I would a found poem, breaking the lines, emphasizing or repeating different words, etc. All of those strategies help me to understand at a much deeper level.

As I head into the day, I'm online constantly. This morning, I read CNN and 9news to see what is going on in the world. I read email. I connected with a friend who is helping her mom move to assisted living. I connected with a colleague about some work we had done together. I read a couple of my favorite blogs. I checked Twitter to see what people were saying the day after Nerd Camp. I did a mapquest search to figure out how to get to a 9:00 appointment. After that meeting, I will head to my school, where we will use google docs to take notes as we interview a couple of teacher candidates I'll read and respond to student work for a class I am teaching this summer. Later on, I will use Duolingo to practice my Spanish. And I'm sure I will spend some time on social media. Basically,  I use technology all day every day for connecting with friends, family, and colleagues near and far, to stay current about what's going on in the world, for research, for writing, for learning new things…For me, those are all authentic uses of the computer.

I want my students to have those same authentic opportunities. However, I teach in a large urban district. The free and reduced lunch rate at my school is about 90%. About 50% of my students are English Language Learners. Many of them, however, don't have working computers or internet at home, nor do their families have the funds to procure those resources. We have a computer lab at school (yeah, I know that is a controversial topic) and we also have several carts of Apple laptops, which are used constantly, but we definitely don't have a 1-1 situation. It's a constant battle to get a computer cart. Many, maybe even most of our students do have cell phones and lots of those are smart phones, but at this point, administrators at my school are not open to students having their cell phones in class. Sibberson and Bass suggest that to be digitally literate, our students must have a deep understanding of a variety of tools, as well as understand how the tools work, and what tools might be best for a specific task (6). Later on they assert, "It's about changing the ways we think about interacting with ideas and content. It's about giving students opportunities to use the tools as part of their daily routines  and to become independent and flexible in their reading lives (23) and how they can become independent and flexible and develop deep understandings if they don't even have ACCESS to computers.

Finally, I'm thinking about EXPERTISE, or maybe lack of expertise, specifically my own. I'm blown away when I see the things that my professional learning community do with technology- the variety tools they use, the presentations they create, the different formats they employ. While I think I'm reasonably savvy on the computer, I don't do any of those things. I don't own a smart phone or a digital camera. I have an iPad that I hardly ever turn on. I don't use Evernote or Pinterest or Instagram or Haiku Deck. I've never made a book trailer. And it feels really overwhelming to figure out where to start. I wonder, then, how I can give kids expertise that I don't have myself. I love the chart on page 10, and also the chart on page 19-20. I wonder if I could just choose one area as a focus for this year and really work hard to improve in that area. Would that be enough?

I have lots and lots of questions tonight. I'm hoping I will have a few more answers by the end of this study!


Stephanie said...

Hi Carol,

I really appreciate your honesty in your post! I understand how overwhelming it can be when faced with so much new information and things to think about. The important thing is that you are here and pushing your thinking forward. Start small, with one new thing that interests you and could enhance the work you are doing. Your journey will start there!


Linda B said...

Hi Carol, sorry I missed you this am! If you read my post, we connect on both points I think. I am concerned about accessibility, and have assumed that most teens, even poor ones, now have a phone. Am I wrong about that? I also thought they at least could get to a library, but of course that does depend on where the libraries are, & how many need the computers, like adults too! And that leaves the younger kids who cannot practice at home, etc. And, I also worry about how many staff will have the PD, or can work even more getting up to speed on the tech. From what you said, you have concerns personally about that, too. These next chapters might give some answers!

Mary Lee said...

Did you hear my "Amen, Sister!"s when I read that paragraph on Expertise? I don't use Evernote or Pinterest or Instagram or Haiku Deck either! And I don't read books digitally. But I am curious to learn how I can give my kids the RSS experience so my students can share my love of reading blogs!

Unknown said...

I so appreciated your honest reflection in your post! I think there are more people who feel the same way you do than we realize. Especially in current times, we have to own the fact that we do have a huge gap in our digital lives - from those who have never interacted digitally to those who know no other way. So important to remember!

Cathy said...

Two things caught my attention about your post. First of all, as I've moved from post to post in this event I've become acutely aware of the difference in access available to students. Five years ago, I'd say our access was much like the access you describe for your students. In five years, that's changed a lot for us. It makes a huge difference in the ease of using technology with our students. We still used technology in those times, but I remember the challenges of checking out cards, keeping momentum going, and making it a part of our day. I wish access was equal for every student, but isn't this the continual challenge in public education (the one policy makers refuse to address).

Secondly, the expertise response (and I see Mary Lee's Amen above). I think the interesting thing about technology is no one owns the corner on knowing it all when it comes to technology. We figure out how to use the things that work for us. Go back and reread your first two paragraphs. I was blown away by all the ways you use technology (and I happen to know this is true for Mary Lee and many others), but you notice other possibilities and feel like you have so much to learn. I read your first two paragraphs and thought I've never tried that or that or that. That's what's great. It's differentiated. It's accessible in so many ways. For our students, that means opening up new doors of possibility and creating greater choices for learners. It is only our job to be sure the door stays open.

I always love learning with you, Carol, and am so happy you are joining our group.


Michelle said...


You always make me smile! I'm always thankful for your honesty in your writing. Thank you for joining in and sharing your vice in the #cyberPD conversations!

Look at your digital reading life! Active and intentional. Decisive and with purpose. We all have a starting point where we have room to grow and move forward. Access to technology is a challenge, but through shared digital reading experiences amazing learning can still take place.

I think it's a great idea to take one or two ideas this next year -- baby steps. As you become more comfortable and the students too, you can add another, embedding it to enhance your instruction (not to get caught up in the complications of technology!) You can do this, Carol! (And, sorry, but I did giggle out loud when you mentioned that you don't have a smart phone ... an old slice of life story!)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You can do this!

Julie Johnson said...

I appreciated reading your post. First, you've spent some time thinking about how you use technology yourself and you've reflected on your reasons for choosing different ways to do your reading. I think this reflection is powerful to share with your students because that's part of helping them be intentional about their choices.

Next, we all have lots to learn when it comes to digital tools. It changes so quickly, who can keep up? :) I think it's great that you are jumping in and trying new things. That's all we can do. :)