UnConference

The #medxlit unconference was a new experience that helped me grapple with questions and possibilities in digital literacy in a manner that seemed to bust the traditions of classroom conversation – which seems appropriate, as we are attempting to understand, and in many ways bust, the traditional confines of literacy.   Prior to the launch with the first question, simply learning what an unconference entails helped me explore a different approach to participating in learning. While I quickly learned that the “sage on the stage” model of teaching is effective in reaching only a small minority of learners, I have struggled to balance attempting informal exchange of information with assurance that students receive the concepts! But shifting my thinking from “either-or” to “yes-and” – in addition to actually experiencing participatory learning in a new avenue – allowed me to see how learning can be driven by participants to make authentic experiences while still ensuring that learning actually happens! While I work with my colleagues to develop a proposal for student twitter accounts, or at least a similar avenue to making unconferences happen in and outside of the classroom, I plan to use Google Docs to allow conversation to launch and develop (mostly) organically for the introduction of our next new unit!

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This first questions took me aback at first, as this seems to me to be THE question for helping students not only grow in literacy and digital literacy, but to help them reimagine literacy and reconstruct their views of what “counts” as literacy.

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This tweet from Jackie helped me launch my own ideas – the understanding that modeling not only specific skills but reconstructing and reimagining literacy in every our every day behaviors and attitudes was freeing.

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With the idea of modeling, I feel that we can encourage students in developing digital literacies by meeting them where they are, so to speak. Many students “get” when their teacher doesn’t know what s/he is doing with technology, and often could really take off if only given the chance and the tools necessary to do so. By middle school, I feel our job isn’t to just teach how to use apps, laptops, and other tech, but rather to teach them how to create, rather than only consume.

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I really appreciated Cherie’s comment about differentiation in/through digital literacy. I strongly believe that the digital world, and literacy, is accessible from an enormous array of avenues, and that by limiting our approach to only a handful, we are limiting the imaginations and potential engagement of our students.

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Stakeholders in helping our students now includes the federal government, further legitimizing and urging forward the idea that literacy is living and for all.

To me, the great danger of digital literacy is that we simply replace the tools, rather than the limited thinking about literacy. To combat a sage on the stage approach to the International Day of Peace wherein students would watch a couple videos, listen to my rundown of its history, maybe engage in some table talk, then move on, students jumped on a shared Google doc and researched the events in Charlotte, adding links, pictures, ideas, content, and reactions in real time. It was a powerful, powerful experience.

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This interaction between Jackie and Jeff was a perfect example of how rethinking the construction of new knowledge can include mediums to which we wouldn’t normally turn for engagement! Digital literacy as a “Yes, AND” approach brings in all different learning styles – don’t ditch the textbook, but with equal deliberation don’t consider it the as the only option!

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Digital literacy isn’t necessarily comfortable to teach if predictability is something one values. Turning my students loose to engage with Google News, shared docs, print newspapers, textbooks, and image editors removed nearly all predictability from teaching about the International Day of Peace and the events of Charlotte – but it took the learning in directions that were far more meaningful to the kids.

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This is another struggle I find personal. With the pressures of teaching mounting, it is difficult to make decisions without quickly becoming overwhelmed. I appreciated Madeline and Meredith’s openness to discussing this struggle.

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This unconference helped me develop a deeper understanding of how literacy can be collaborative AND authentic! For years I had imagined literacy through a “consumption model,” wherein I alone read, considered, created, and contributed – but by embracing digital literacy’s promise of collaborative learning, I see now how my teaching can transform my student’s engagement with literacy into a practice of community!

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