Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Challenge the Literacy Quo

George Couros challenged us today to define / redefine literacy.  I have asked this question to many groups of teachers.  I have them brainstorm what does it mean to be literate.  At the end, I ask if a monkey could be literate by those definitions.  In most cases, a trained monkey is as literate as many children.

I have been an advocate for Information and Media Literacy for 8 years.  I even started a Wikipedia topic for it in 2007.

As a leader in the district, I need to think about things different.  In the way our district is organized, we have silos of learning and silos of support for the learning.  Secondary school is all about learning within 8 different silos a year.  We know from research that Project Based Learning is a better way to go.  Learning is deeper and more meaningful.

How can we understand who is a Literate student?  Understand that there are many strands of literacy and they are not independent silos.  What does that look like at the district level?

Currently we all work within a silo and have events to celebrate or share learning within the silo.  As Helping Teachers in our district we are overwhelmed with the volume of work that needs to be accomplished every year.  If we are to support a fully literate student, we need to eliminate silos and move students forward in their learning to be a more literate citizen.

Solution - Modelling Project Based Learning through Project Based Celebrations rather than Silo Events.

In our table conversation today, we talked about some of the silo events.  Our roles need to adapt to support growth toward integrated full literacy.

What if...
Speech Fest became Presentation Festival
- Do students have to live present?  Can students support their speech with visuals, with audio, with multimedia.  Is a 'speech' a real-world skill?  Have we not moved to sharing learning?

Dance Festival became Multimedia Festival
- Is dance only about movement to music and costume?  What about creating music to dance to?  What about live performance of music that is choreographed?  What about short drama (with or without music)
- Do all students need to be in the same room.

Science Fair became Inquiry Fair
Do we only learn through science experiments?  Isn't Science really about inquiring?  Is a 1m poster board the best way to showcase learning.  Does it have to happen in the same place at the same time?

Jazz Festival became Multimedia Mashup
- Performance is one aspect but it is also limited to one room in space in time.  What if we had the festivals but filmed / recorded them and then schools mashed up the performances with movies and art from the schools then published to youtube or even shared on iTunes?

Art Showcase in Mall became Roving Art Kiosks
- What would it look like to share the physical art with an audio or video of the student creating the art and sharing their learning.  Is art just about the final product?  Sharing only the final product reduces it.

Elementary Science was taught with real experiments and Real Grade 10 Scientists
- What if Grade 10 students worked with Elementary students doing experiments that are beyond the comfort zone of the elementary teachers. (igniting a balloon of hydrogen and oxygen to create water vapour)

What if we created a new event called Plethora of Passions Portfolio
- This be an entire district event where we support students passions being profiling.  How can a hockey guru have their passion acknowledged.

We need to stop preparing students for a 10% chance of graduating university with a degree - Let's learn with our students for TODAY.  Let's make sure every event and project we do is grounded in the current real world, not the real world of years ago.

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