The Integration that must not be named

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Sorry about the title, but 5 years of teaching elementary school…I just couldn’t resist. David Warlick wrote this the other day and I’ve had 3 very uncomfortable nights thinking about what I wanted to say. That and being swamped at work has me posting late to the conversation.

It’s why I try not to use that word, and urge others to stop trying to “Integrate technology” It’s too big. It means too many things. It’s why I keep hammer on literacy, that it’s information that has changed (digital, networked, overwhelming, and the more esoteric changes that have come about because of the read/write web).

Miguel writes:

I want to grapple with these questions, I want someone to pick at the scabs and rip them off, to dig into the guts of the turkey, fighting off the revulsion, and doing what needs to be done.

So here is my attempt at picking at the scab.

I agree with David 110%. I’ve agreed with his concept of contemporary literacy and believe it is the literacy of a new world we must be teaching. Not integrating it, teaching it!

Here’s the scab part. As much as I would love to think that “Technology is the pencil and paper of our time.” (Warlick) I don’t think we are there…yet.

I think the correct statement is:

Technology is the pencil and paper of our students.

Until students have access to technologies in schools like they have access to pencil and paper in schools, it can not replace it. The pencil and paper is a fundamental tool of schools. You break or lose your pencil you can borrow one from a friend. You need a piece of paper you get one from the back of the room. Is technology at this level? At a level that would truly allow them to be the pencil and paper of our time?

If you are in a 1:1 school than I could argue that yes, you are very close if not to the point of replacing the old pencil and paper with new technologies. And once you have those new technologies in place it becomes that much easier to teach contemporary literacy, in fact you are forced to teach it. Just like you are forced to teach how to use the eraser, how to sharpen a pencil, and how to write on the lines. It becomes the new teaching of the tool.
But what about the transitional techies out there like myself who see these new tools, even believe in what they can and eventually will do to education, but are lacking the actual pencils and papers to make it happen. Those are the transition techies, those of us caught between a 20th century education system and 21st century learners. Those of us who sit in staff meeting where we still talk about integrating technology, or sit in meeting with teachers asking, “So what can we do in the computer lab this week?” We are the ones struggling through this mess of change. Change is messy and right now there are a lot of us in the middle of it.

So how do we continue to push our schools in the direction of new tools and new literacy? Through conversations. Slowly but surely we are making head way, some schools, even states are already heading in a new tool direction, others are following fast. But how do we make sure that the new literacy that comes with these new tools is being taught. A literacy of communication, connections, social-networking, open-source, and overwhelming information.
We need to spread this message outside of the technology circle. We need to be talking about all of this at state and national literacy conferences, math conferences, reading conferences, science conferences and so on. That’s where the conversation needs to be taking place. It’s great to see Richardson, Warlick, Jakes, November, and the likes, giving presentations at technology conferences. But we are the convinced we are the ones in our schools talking the change. Their presentations need to be heard at the other conferences. Maybe that’s why NECC was not what I expected. I’m already convinced on where we need to be and where we need to go, but the English teacher isn’t and the Math teacher isn’t and without that the literacy does not get taught.

So here is a challenge to myself and to the rest of you. Don’t hold a technology staff development meeting next time, hold a literacy meeting. Of course everyone will look at you like “What do they know about literacy?” but this is your chance. Let’s bring technology into literacy. How great of a staff development would that be if you talk about literacy through technology. After all that’s how our students view it. It’s not MSN messenger, its chatting. It’s not youtube, its entertainment. It’s not myspace, its a place to gather. It’s not Google, its a way to find information.

The title of my next staff development training: Let’s talk 21st century literacy

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[tags]21st Century Learning, Conversation, Creating Change,Information[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.

1 Comment

  1. I commented on that post on David’s blog and I think you and I are more or less on the same page, although you have expressed it far better than I could. Because for many teachers, ICT is still “other”, it is treated as being “other” in lessons. If a teacher wants the students to use a search engine during a history lesson, for example, in most schools, this will mean they will have to apply to hold the lesson in the ICT suite, making the whole lesson “other”. Teachers who lack confidence in their own technology literacy will avoid the use of technology for fear of encountering a problem they can’t fix. There needs to come a point where the ICT kit and the access it provides are seen as just another tool, and it needs to be soon.

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