Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Can you learn literacy from a textbook?

After reading about this course about Critical Literacies, it really got me thinking about how we teach. We use textbooks and assign chapters to be read. We all come to class having read the same thing and then discuss it. Sound familiar? Well, I have to admit, I don't get it.

In my world, no one assigns me what to read. I have to go find it. I have to sift through gobs (yes, this is a technical term!) of information and find the most relevant, accurate, non-biased, current information. I love the design of this course. It basically breaks the course down into four categories:

1. Aggregate - Give students access to lots of information and give them the opportunity to practice the skill of focusing their search and finding the best information. Don't just tell them what to read, show them where to go to find the information. Teach them how to search, analyze sources, and choose the best information. This is a skill that will be essential to their future!

2. Remix -  Give students practice organizing the information they find, consolidating information from multiple sources into one place. Ideally, it should be a place where the notes can be easily shared, like a blog, social bookmarking site, MOODLE, or some other place.

3. Repurpose - Give students experience communicating their learning using tools that allow them to publish their ideas. Teach them to create new learning from what they have absorbed. No more regurgitating knowledge. Students must redesign what they learn into new products.

4. Feed Forward - Let students share their learning. We live in a society in which sharing is easy and powerful. We should be teaching our students about how to do it effectively and responsibly. They have a digital footprint. We should be helping them design it.

I can predict some of the questions and concerns that people will have. How do you hold a discussion when everyone has read something different? How do ensure that what the students choose is authoritative and accurate? How do you control where they go to make sure they don't get off track?

As I see it, those are the fundamental questions for research today. If we don't tackle them, are we really teaching research skills? Research is challenging. We don't do our students any favors by avoiding the challenge and making it easier.

So here is my challenge to you: Start the fall with a list of resources. Give your students the freedom to select which sources are best. Let that freedom feed a discussion about effective research practices. Then help your students lead discussions through online publishing tools.

Thanks to Rita Kop and Stephen Downes at for their great idea!

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