Digital Literacy


As part of the #EduroChallenge leading up to our Micro-Credential program launch, we wanted to pay tribute to the most important educators in a student’s lives…their Parents. Nobody has more influence over a child in their lives than their parent/guardian does…and raising a child today is different.

Digital Parenting is No Longer Optional

It’s a hard realization I find for many parents. Understanding there are things your child may be doing online that you don’t know about, or maybe just don’t understand. The following video is from one of the parenting sessions I did last school year for Everett School District.

This was just the first half of the night. At this point, the students left to do other activities and then I got to have some real heart to heart conversations with the parents in the room. We touched on some of the information I reflected on in this blog post, as well as other information on what children are really doing on their devices and why it is so important for schools to work with parents in helping today’s generation understand Digital Literacy.

Kim, Chrissy and I are so passionate about this subject of helping schools, PTAs and parents everywhere, that we created six online courses for parents around the top concerns we have heard from parents and schools throughout the years of doing trainings. I truly believe these courses might be some of the best we have created so far and are so needed today.

Each course focuses in on a different aspect of things to consider when being a digi-parent. We have interviewed parents from around the world to hear what strategies they are employing for their own kids, as well as readings. There is a private Facebook group that goes with the courses where all parents can share stories, ideas, and strategies that work for their families.

If you are a parent or know a parent these courses are for you. If you are a member of the PTA and would like to have us come and do a PTA presentation or work with you…we’d love to. We can even do a blended learning model where a school or PTA can become a member and we will come to your meeting or school once each course to lead discussions, talk through ideas and help support your community.

As part of our Micro-Credential #EduroChallenge and launch. If you purchase any or all of the parenting courses before October 15, 2017 you can save 15% on checkout using the code: TTSparents

Last week I had the pleasure of running a lab site in an Enumclaw 5th Grade class as part of my work with the district over the past couple of years. It’s a lesson that I first taught in 2009 and is still as relevant today as it was then.

The students were working on opinion writing. They were writing in Google Docs which made it easy to have students peer edit with their editing partner. At the same time, there was an opportunity to have them experience commenting not just on someone you know and are in class with, but also learn to leave a comment on someone you don’t know and probably will never meet. That is a whole new level to commenting.

So here’s the lesson….it took about an hour:

  • Have students share their opinion writing with their editor buddy giving them “comment only” rights to their document. (Students in this class had shared their writing with their partner before….this time we change the permission to be “comment only”).
  • Take time to read your partners writing and leave comments on their work.
  • Now close your computer and have a discussion about the difference between a compliment and a comment.

What a great conversation to have with students. We started listing what makes a compliment and what would be a good comment. The image to the left shows what the students came up with. We then talked about how you might give both to someone. Everyone likes compliments but they don’t really help the author with their writing. But if you make a compliment/comment sandwich you can do both! So we practiced in table groups what a good compliment/comment sandwich might sound like.

An example:

“I really enjoyed reading your post. I am wondering if you could add more details when you talk about the house. I couldn’t quite see it in my head. I really like the way your story ended, it made me laugh”

The day before the lesson I went to Twitter and did a search for #comments4kids 5th to find 5th grade classrooms that were blogging and looking for comments from others. In no time at all, I found the two following classes:

We took the links from the tweets and put those into Google Classroom for the students to have. Once we finished our conversation on compliments and comments we had the students open their Chromebooks, click on the links and practice writing compliment/comment sandwiches on other 5th graders writing. This lead to some more great discussions:

  • What do you put in the name field and why using your first name only is OK when leaving comments.
  • If you don’t think their writing is very good what do you do? What do you say? Or do you not say anything?

My favorite part of the day was as we were debriefing the activity, I asked the students what it was like to leave a comment on someone you have never met before?

“Weird” was the best we could come up with. We unpacked weird to be not knowing the person, not being able to explain yourself, and you didn’t want to hurt their feelings because you don’t know them.

A compliment/comment sandwich isn’t new. In fact, it’s a strategy for writing emails as well. I’d even call it a digital literacy strategy that can be used whether you are leaving comments on writing, on others blogs or any digital writing where someone can’t see you physically. It’s a great strategy to start teaching kids. Again…nothing new here I know….just thought I’d share my lesson for others.

I woke up this morning to find the following Tweet from Jeremy Brueck:

This line between digital literacy and networked literacy is a fine one…but one I think for ed tech people is worth exploring.

I first started thinking about the distinction between digital literacy and networked literacy after reading the Writing in the 21st Century document produced by the National Council of Teachers of English and Kathleen Yancey.

In the document Yancey states:

First, we have moved beyond a pyramid-like, sequential model of literacy development in which print literacy comes first and digital literacy comes second and networked literacy practices, if they come at all, come third and last.

Based on this reading and specifically this paragraph I created this diagram:

Model of Literacy Education Today by you.

Which Jeremy referred to in his tweet.

I wrote on this earlier when I first found the Yancey article in a post titled The Age of Composition (worth a read). Yet in that post I really did not flush out what the different between digital literacy and networked literacy were. I have shown this diagram in a few presentations and very few educators raised their hands when I asked if they were teaching digital literacy in their schools. None have ever raised their hands when I asked about network literacy.

Digital Literacy:

Wikipedia: Digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used. Digitally literate people can communicate and work more efficiently, especially with those who possess the same knowledge and skills.

Microsoft: The goal of Digital Literacy
is to teach and assess basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use
computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities
for themselves, their families, and their communities.

By these definitions digital literacy looks at understanding technologies and their uses. It’s everything from understanding folder structures on a computer to being able to successfully use e-mail to communicate with others. Digital literacy focuses on the literacy needed to be literate with technology today. From copy & paste to understanding how to trouble shoot problems with an Internet connection.

Networked Literacy:

I couldn’t find a definition anywhere on the web of what networked literacy is or looks like, but I think it’s a literacy that we in the blogosphere talk about a lot. Networked literacy is what the web is about. It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections.

That’s my working definition at this time. Any thoughts?

Of course at some point we need to quit sub-dividing out these different types of literacies and it needs to just become what it means to be literate today. We’re not there yet and until we are I think understanding what these different literacy skills are that we need to be teaching is key.

I was co-teaching earlier this week in a 7th grade environments class. The students were signing up for the wiki they were going to be using to do a project.

One boy in the class created his username as: tommmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!!!!


When do we start teaching students about self branding?

I understand that part of this is a maturity issue, but when is the right time/age to start teaching students about self branding?

You might be branding yourself without even knowing it. Just by using the same username on different websites you can start a brand. For example, I always try to use the username jutecht.

Anywhere you go on the web I’m known as jutecht. Twitter, delicious, Diigo, etc, etc, etc. That is my brand. That is who I have become on the Internet and it’s the brand that is Jeff Utecht.

It doesn’t have to be your name. Langwitches is a perfect example. Or how about Cool Cat Teacher. Both of these two self brands do not include the person’s name, but who that person is on the Internet. This would be a safe way to help student start their online name or online brand.

Some digital savvy parents start branding their children early on. Dennis Harter and Chad Bates, my two colleagues, both set up gmail accounts for their kids when they were born. They have already started the brand that will be their kids when they are older (how will this change our schools when students star showing up with their own brands?).

There is power in branding your classroom and getting students use to branding their thinking. I’m sure most of us would argue you start teaching this as soon as students start creating accounts online, and that this is just one piece of a larger picture that is Internet Safety, Digital Literacy, etc.

http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/ideahivelogo.jpgOne way to get to this…..to help students understand the importance of it, is to give them something to believe in, something to belong to. That’s what I love about Clarence Fisher’s classroom. Clarence created a brand for his classroom. A brand that lets the students know they belong to something bigger than themselves.  Within that the students become part of the classroom brand and take on a personal brand allows them to belong to something.

Schools can also create the brand for the students. Taking the example from yesterday’s post on e-portfolios the school has created the brand for Daniel. Daniel is known on the Internet as daniel03pd2014. This is the naming convention that the school came up with. Staff at the school knows exactly who this kid is based on that username. Daniel still has ownership (which is important!) as they used his first name. The rest of the information is used by the school to know who exactly this Daniel is.

I think these are conversations we need to start having in our classrooms/schools. They go with the other conversations of what to write, how to write, and who do you want to be on the web. Teaching students to use the web for their benefit early on allows them to brand their thinking, their sites, themselves. How great will it be when a student can go to apply for a job or for university and can be proud of the fact that they are searchable…in fact they hope their employer or university search them on the web and finds great information that talks about who they are as a person and a learner.