In my literacy explorations class we are talking, thinking, and wondering about digital literacies. One question that I hear people ask is, “Why aren’t teachers doing this in their classrooms?” Often this question is tinged with an aura of judgment and disbelief. It lingers in my ear and I wonder, “How can we do more digital literacy work?”
This week, I think I found the answer to the question. “It is Hard!” It is similar to many of the other questions in schools, “Why can’t my Johnny read?” “Why aren’t their parents involved in school?” and “Why does my child struggle with friendships?” None of the answers are simple or straightforward. All the answers are complex and contain an infinite amount of variables, because we are talking about human beings. But all these questions are answerable if you have time, determination, and a great amount of patience.
Last week I left my grad school class with this positive attitude about digital literacy. We had just completed some readings and a hands on activity around the framework of TPACK. I had an idea and I was ready to give it a try.
The next day, I went to the iPad cart and pulled out my tool, Voice Thread. I chose that one because I had some experience with it and I saw curriculum connections. I opened the app and there was nothing but three white rectangles. I touched each one and nothing happened. “What is wrong? This is not how it looked in my class.” Confused, I carried the iPad down the hall to the tech instructor. She tried a couple of things that did not work. She said she would get back with me. I walked down the hallway thinking, “Well, here is a reason teachers don’t use tech.”
Later that afternoon, I received an email with step-by-step instructions and a video link. I got excited again I read the directions and then watched the video. Then I opened my iPad and tried to follow the steps one at a time. My screen did not look like the video. I looked for similar language but the video information did not match my iPad. “This isn’t helping.” Again, I thought “Well, here is a reason teachers don’t use tech. It never goes as planned.” Maybe I can figure it out tomorrow.
The next day I gathered up my iPad and my directions and I took them to one of my tech savvy colleagues. I knew she could coach me though this and help me learn something new. I walked into her room and said, “Can you help me get the Voice Thread App started?”
“Sure,” she responded confidently, but after looking at it for a while she didn’t understand either. After trying to follow the directions she said, “These are not the correct steps for this.”
“I give up then. People wonder why teachers aren’t teaching digital literacy.” Luckily my teaching colleague is smart, supportive, and has a lot of knowledge. She asked me a few questions about why I was using Voice Thread and said, “Well do you know Book Creator? It is really similar. You make a book and then you can turn it into a video.”
She reached over and took the iPad. She found the app and then coached me through the important steps. “This is so much better.” I thought. The two of us explored the app for a few more minutes. A teacher had revived my discouragement. I brought the iPad home and prepared a sample video for my class to get them motivated to use Book Creator.
Today the lesson went well. My kids were successful. They created videos to teach the other third grade classes about a product they are making. These products will be sold at our gift shop later this fall.
Most importantly my students were excited. During their work today, they were thinking about digital literacy. They were discussing their photos and trying to decide which one was better. They tried to use the pen tool, but they didn’t like the way it turned out, so they switched to computer text. They completed the project and are ready to share their videos.
I too am energized. The kids were working in the learning zone. They had to work through issues, but they were working independently. They asked me questions, but they weren’t lost. I had time to observe their work and check in with teams. I could challenge some teams and offer support to others.
Why don’t teachers work on digital literacies? It is hard work. It takes time, determination, and a great amount of patience, but when I think about it, isn’t that how we learn?