PLAYBACK: Kick Off Your Sunday Shoes - Successes and Changes in a Digital Age
10.7.11 | From flash mobs to future digital literacies, a look at how education is being transformed—and who is being left behind.
Can’t Stop This: If you spend a lot of times on college campuses, you might have noticed some organized footwork (no, not the “Footloose” remake). The New York Times reports on the popularity of college flash mobs, which have become a regular part of the freshman orientation welcome wagon. Tamar Lewin writes:
While college flash mobs vary enormously — students at the College of Charleston held a yoga flash mob — most start with one or two dancers, and a group of quietly bewildered onlookers, who laugh, cheer and pull out their cellphones to record the whole thing, as more dancers arrive. The initial participants are usually good dancers, but those who join in tend to be more awkward, occasionally leaning the wrong way, or flailing their hands a bit behind the beat.
For orientation planners, it adds up to a cheap tool for boosting school spirit.
“We thought it would engage a lot of people from different parts of the college, and send a nice message about what it is to be part of the Wellesley community,” said Lori Tenser, dean of the first-year class at Wellesley. “I knew it was going to be good after a long rehearsal, when one of the students said, ‘If I were a first-year, and I saw this on my second day, I would be so happy, and feel I’d come to the right place.’”
The Wellesley group, using Katy Perry’s “Firework” — probably the flash-mob top pick this year, along with Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” — rehearsed for six hours during the student leaders’ training week, and posted the moves on YouTube for those who needed more practice.
Learning in a Digital Age: How do learning institutions prepare students for the future? What skills will be valued most? Writing at MediaShift, Aran Levasseur, the academic technology coordinator at San Francisco University High School, argues that technological literacy, while important, isn’t enough to prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace—a workplace we may not even be able to imagine yet:
While a certain amount of technical skills are important, the real goal should be in cultivating digital or new media literacies that are arising around this evolving digital nerve center. These skills allow working collaboratively within social networks, pooling knowledge collectively, navigating and negotiating across diverse communities, and critically analyzing and reconciling conflicting bits of information to form a clear and comprehensive view of the world.
These new media literacy skills are expanding our definitions of literacy but must be cultivated from the foundation of traditional literacy. While traditional literacy is foundational, it is no longer solely sufficient. As media scholar Henry Jenkins has said: “Traditionally we wouldn’t consider someone literate if they could read but not write. And today we shouldn’t consider someone literate if they can consume but not produce media.”
The literacy of the future rests on the ability to decode and construct meaning from one’s constantly evolving environment—whether it’s coded orally, in text, images, simulations, or the biosphere itself. Therefore we must be adaptive to our social, economic and political landscape. Those of us living in this digital age are required to learn, unlearn and learn again and again.
Plus: “In an age when we use technology to customize every other form of information delivery — from Netflix to news feeds — experts around the country believe we’re at a tipping point that could transform education,” writes Charlene Pacenti of the Miami Herald in this look at the tools and programs that innovative schools and think tanks are embracing.
Would Abraham Lincoln Have Grown Up to Be President if He Couldn’t Afford an Ereader?: Christopher Mims has written a provocative post at MIT’s Technology Review in which he questions whether ebooks will destroy the democratizing effects that books have on learning. Despite Amazon’s recent decision to make Kindle books available at 11,000 public libraries, Mims raises several concerns about affordability (of ereaders), accessibility and ownership:
Except under limited circumstances, eBooks cannot be loaned or resold. They cannot be gifted, nor discovered on a trip through the shelves of a friend or the local library. They cannot be re-bound and, unlike all the rediscovered works that literally gave birth to the Renaissance, they will not last for centuries. Indeed, publishers are already limiting the number of times a library can loan out an eBook to 26.
If the transition to eBooks is complete—and with libraries being among the most significant buyers of books, it now seems inevitable—the flexibility of book ownership will be gone forever. Knowledge, in as much as books represent it, will belong to someone else.
As you might expect, a spirited debate follows in the comments.
Plus: The 20 best websites to download free ebooks, as compiled by Hongkiat.com, and Daniel Donahoo of Wired’s GeekDad delves into the world of digital books for kids in a multi-part series that looks at the different categories of digital books and what they offer.
One Call-In Show and District at a Time: The other day I noted how rare it is to involve students in discussions about education and what works in the classroom. Also rare: allowing students to use cellphones in school.
Lo and behold: Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, took calls Thursday night from students during a special edition of WBEZ’s monthly call-in program Schools on the Line.
The entire program is available online, and WBEZ has nicely broken out specific questions and responses in mini audio files.
And, in contrast to this super-strict anti-cellphone school policy I referenced, students in Hinsdale, a Chicago suburb, can “use phones between classes, during lunch periods and — when teachers give permission — in the classroom,” reports the Chicago Tribune. Bridget Doyle writes:
Assistant Principal Bill Walsh said administrators at the school began noticing most violations of cellphone use were coming from study hall, the cafeteria and school hallways — not during instructional time. For this reason, they decided to take another look and re-evaluate the policy, which in the past prohibited cellphones and similar devices during school hours.
“This year we’ve chosen to be less restrictive in noninstructional areas,” Walsh said. “It’s about defining what’s appropriate use for an educational environment during a time of expanding technology.”
The policy covers computers, laptops and iPods, as well as cellphones.
“We’re encouraging opportunities for students to engage in technology to further the learning process,” Walsh said. “There are ways for the students to create educational opportunities using electronics during the school day.”
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