Contemporary Literacy Practices, Go Where Your Students Are…

-Want to increase student achievement in reading and writing- Capitalize on the skills they use in their digital world.Education is slow to change. Before something is implemented it must be checked, researched, and statistically proven to impact student achievement before implementation occurs. While I  recognize the value of this system, it is the one that leaves professionals stagnant and places kids at a disadvantage. It also discounts the “gut-instinct” that teachers have when they recognize something is not working for their student and they need to change instruction.

The other day I was problem-solving with a building literacy coach at the middle school level. She spoke about a student, Allena (we will call her), an 8th grader who was classified as a struggling reader and writer by her teachers. The teachers wanted support in the form of strategies or programs that would help fix this child. A silver-bullet to implement that would magically make this student love writing.

In fact, the building literacy coach told me, all she cares about is watching YouTube and making videos for her own channel.

I paused, remembering a James Britton quote, “Go to where your students are – don’t make them come to you.” If you want to increase student reading and writing, go to where your students are in their “literary” worlds. Capitalize on the digital reading and writing that they do every day.

My question to the coach was How can we utilize YouTube to support this struggling writer? How can moviemaking and YouTube Stars be the vehicle in which she learns, practices, and demonstrates literacy skills? Could this entry-point then transfer to other areas of reading and writing?
Literacy is social, constantly changing, and impacted by the practices of a particular group. Contemporary literacy is multimodal, dynamic, and global. For students to be active participants in a global society it is essential to support student creation and consumption of 21st Century Literacies, even if it is driven by gut-instinct and has not had enough time to be deemed “research-approved.” Meeting students where they are does not only mean recognizing what skills they get and what they don’t, it also includes their interests, passions, and quite possibly YouTube.

Developing “Healthy Skeptics” in the Age of New Literacies

DevelopingHealthy Skeptics in the Digital Age.One of my most poignant “slaps on the face” in the classroom came while conferring with a student over their research paper. During our conversation, confusion arose from the conflicting information that he had found on the web. Upon further dialogue, I learned he relied heavily upon the source, Martin Luther King.org , which was supported by StormFront, a white supremacy group. The information that he found here was in stark contrast to many of the other sources he was citing. This insight hit my like a ton of bricks. I had done very little in terms of supporting students in the areas of discerning information, locating reliable and relevant sources, and explicit teaching, modeling, or practicing skills needed to tackle New Literacies.

Technology has launched education into an exciting time in terms of literacy and instruction. These opportunities not only provide rich content, connections to a global learning lab, and creation modes unimagined; but also the exciting challenges to equip our young people with the skills and strategies to not only be creators to the sea of information but also “healthy skeptics” during consumption.

Proficiency in these constantly evolving literacies will help to “define student success” in both their personal and public lives. Read, writing, communicating and learning in this digital arena is now commonplace instead of a rarity and we must, as educators, lead the charge in educating our youth instead of running away from the lion!

A foundation in multimodality in online media should be included across disciplines and grades. In fact, the Common Core mentions the introduction to digital text as early as Kindergarten. By the upper grades, students in a CCSS aligned district will analyze, synthesize and evaluate digital information, as well as using digital means in their own projects, writings, and multimodal communication.

Support on where to begin and how to build their own knowledge in New Literacies baffles educators. Here is a collection of my favorite resources to support educators and students!

Google Inside Search  – Understand how Google Search works, explore the interactive timeline highlighting the advancement of Google Search throughout the years, and view lesson plans for educators.

BrainPop – A video introduces students to search engines and how to use keywords and phrases to locate the information they want. This site also includes lesson plans which include multi-media ideas and also skills to promote with students for online research!

ReadWriteThink – A great lesson plan to help students focus their internet searching. This lesson not only supports skills need in the initial search, but also reading strategies to locate and evaluate information once it is found!