Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rebooting the News...What ARE the critical Skills for 21st C literacy?

One of the things that ed tech folks are always talking about is that we all seem to be barking about how important technology integration ONE ANOTHER. Well, this past weekend I had an amazing experience at a gathering in Philadelphia entitled
"Rebooting the News:An Agenda for 21st Century Civic Engagement"
I have to admit, I was first drawn to the event through my affiliation with Temple Media Education lab, and after all did have "21st Century" in the title, but when I arrived at dinner on Thursday evening hosted by Renee Hobbs director of Temple's Media Education Lab I thought "I am totally out of my element... Here I am hob nobbing with journalists, and news people, what is my purpose" You will see that I discovered that by the end of my post ;-)

The format of the conference followed the Open Space Philosophy. There was very little scheduled in the way of formal sessions, again something that made me a little unsure as to what my goal was in being here...In a nutshell, they started with some overall goals:
  • Consensus statement on need for civic/news education frameworks in K-12 teaching
  • How to make news a vital part of education
  • Knowing how to use news lit / media lit to create a culture that thinks deeply and communicates effectively.
  • Coming up with new idea about what “news” means
  • Opening up new possibilities to work together for news literacy
  • Thinking about if we can change the economic structure of the news industry so it isn’t profit driven but focused on the public interest?
  • Talk about how can journalism education be reinstated in school curriculum
  • What news literacy really looks like in a middle school or high school classroom
  • A news literacy outline that everyone agrees would work in classrooms.
  • A consortium of people in different fields pushing for cross-curriculum media literacy.
..then we posed interesting Conversations: that people selected to attend and then report out on.
...and ended with creating statement that to me really represents literacy across the curriculum

I was really blown away not only by the process, but that by the end of the weekend we had reached a consensus statement about the importance of news literacy. Here is what was concluded:
A consensus statement of participants in "Rebooting the News:"

News surrounds us and as such news literacy is an essential life skill for everyone. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson: Knowledge of current issues is essential to informed citizenship in a democracy. We are concerned about the effects of media messages on children and others. Modern participatory culture makes every citizen a potential creator of news in social media, blogs, email and the web. We believe a literate citizen understands the purposes, processes and economics of news.

Therefore, it is time for American education to include the acquisition of 21st-century, critical-thinking skills for analyzing and judging the reliability of news, differentiating among facts, opinions and assertions in the media we create and distribute. News literacy standards can be research based in multiple content areas. It can be taught most effectively in cross-curricular, inquiry-based formats at all grade levels. It is a necessary component for literacy in contemporary society.

Signed at Philadelphia, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008:
At the beginning of the weekend the focus was on news do we get students / people to critically analyze the news, how do we involve the news in curriculum...But I realized that it is not just NEWS to which this statement applies AND it is not just the ed tech folks who are concerned about school reform learning reform and 21st Century skills. I have spent the time since the conference reflecting on the statement and these words...
  • 21st-century, critical-thinking skills for analyzing and judging
  • differentiating among facts, opinions and assertions
  • research based in multiple content areas
  • inquiry-based formats at all grade levels
Go ahead...fill in the blanks on the subject, science, math, literature, use of technology...isn't THIS what we are ALL barking about? An answer to the question
WHAT ARE THE necessary component(s) for literacy in contemporary society?
You know what...journalists should have some concern about what is happening to news, the form it takes and the consequences of it.

On Tuesday, the Christian Science Monitor announced they would no longer be creating a print version...
Wednesday, October 27th David Carr New York Times: Mourning Old Media's Time was a wake up call to everyone who grew up in a world where we took newspapers for granted.
Did you know that this coming Sunday marks Opus's Last Day in the Sunday Comics

The funny thing is... we were still in a paper only era, I would never have come to know ANY of this "news", as I found the article via Will Richardson's message on twitter regarding a post he wrote about this article that I am sure he found via his RSS reader. I also learned of the connection between Reading, Writing, and Social Media literacy from following Will on Twitter. Dennis Richards summarized this information from the NYTimes Article on his blog regarding the challenges of reporting news in the future...

1 - number of movie reviewers left on staff of The Los Angeles Times
1 - number of dollars TV Guide was sold for
2 - number of days the Christian Science Monitor will publish each week in the future
5 - number of days the Christian Science Monitor will not publish each week in the future
40 - percent of people The Star-Ledger of Newark, the 15th-largest paper in the country, will cut from it’s editorial staff
50 - percent of people The Los Angeles Times has left in the newsroom after 7 years of reductions
90 - percent of revenue the newspaper industry still derives from the print product
600 - number of people Time Inc., the Olympian home of Time magazine, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated, announced that it was cutting
3,000 - number of people Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, plans to lay off 10 percent of its work force

~ Information from Mourning Old Media’s Decline, David Carr

In the comments of Will's post, David Jakes left a great comment referencing EPIC 2014 a video created by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson with music by Aaron McLeran based on a presentation they gave at the Poynter Institute which explores the effects that the News aggregators, Web 2.0 technologies, blogging, social networking, and user participation may have on journalism and society at large in a hypothesized future. I was glad to read Joel Adkin's comment leading me to Chris Brogan's post: Reach Outside your Fishbowl ~ which led me to 2 people outside of MY fishbowl to follow and learn from. I found reading my own aggregator that David Warlick put his 2¢ in on Going online Only.

As I was still pondering the conference and all of these recent articles surrounding news, and the importance of "news literacy" as an important learning skill, I came across a pretty heated conversation on twitter that Jakes had stirred up, that may have been sparked by the panel he recently moderated at Tech Forum...“Are there new literacies that connective technologies create? ..or do these tools afford the attainment of a literacy in a different way?
AND “People want schools to be better, but not different.” Do you believe this to be true? How exactly does Web 2.0 make schools better? Rather than trying to summarize all of the great arguments about tech, and news, and skills and learning, I used summize, skitch, omnigraffle, and scribd to put together a montage of a conversation I am calling Twitter on Literacy! Go on read for yourself...

What I find most interesting about all of this is that I am pretty sure ALL of the folks I linked to in this post will find it with the subscriptions they have through technorati to their own citizen journalism....

Citizen Journalists, New Media, News Literacy, Web2.0 for School Reform, Critical Skills for 21st Century...
We are all saying the same thing...and we all should be concerned until we can work TOGETHER outside of our fishbowls or echo chambers to tackle these tough questions..

SO... I go back to the original question(s) that have been rattling around in my head for ...well quite some time now...
WHAT ARE THE necessary component(s) for literacy in contemporary society?
How do we break out beyond our own "learning networks" to cross pollinate and share the same message?
AS Will eloquently put it...The problem for us is that we’re still teaching like our kids are going to be reading those edited, linear, well-written newspapers when the reality is they’re not. And the bigger problem is that, by and large, we still don’t know enough about the “new” media world in our personal practice to push those conversations about change in any meaningful way.

Would love to hear your thoughts?
OH and while you are at it, why not pass this post on to someone outside your echo chamber

1 comment:

  1. Kristin,

    I find that new technologies demand a new literacy and that, with its emergence, come old, familiar challenges.

    In the field of education, schools that are progressive, or perhaps more aptly stated, responsible, seek to meet the demands of a tech-dependent society with an educational environment stimulated and enhanced by meaningful technology use. With this increasingly common shift towards the daily use of new technologies comes some of the old road blocks to academic growth and progress. Herein lies the problem: How do we define the line between those who are technologically illiterate and those who are simply irresponsible?

    The irony here is that, for many young people, the new literacy required through technology use has already been mastered. Many are more literate in these technologies than their instructors. For each individual within my classroom for whom working with wikis is a new concept, a dozen or more have already created their own elaborate wiki pages or have posted comments and contributions to preexisting sites. Each time a student raises a hand to ask how to import a picture from Flickr to her/his Comic Life project, there are a handful of students in the room who can quickly assist them in ways beyond my own capabilities. And yet, even with this immensely literate student body, the nefarious homework-eating dog lives on.

    Students crave the use of computers in the classroom and multimedia opportunities but fail to remember their usernames or passwords. Many demand access to interactive blogs and wikis but neglect to complete the assigned reflections or posts. A student is provided a laptop to complete an iMovie only to squander any unsupervised time searching iTunes for personal music selections unrelated to the task.

    The challenge of introducing new technologies in the classroom is that, as with introducing any new procedures or concepts, the going is slowed for two reasons. The first factor is that, because for some the technology is new, the literacy is not yet mastered. That is really the crux of nurturing and developing technology literacy. The second factor, however, is troubling. As long as learners fail to commit themselves wholly and singularly to the process of learning, the progress will be halted by those same excuses we have grown accustomed to in the good old days of a paper-driven world. As long as learners fail to pay attention to the instructions, fail to ask the necessary questions, and fail to complete the assigned tasks, it will matter not whether the tasks incorporate laptops, white-lined paper, or stone tablets. It doesn't matter what the medium. If I don't contribute to the class blog, it is the equivalent of my grandmother failing to raise her hand to participate in a class discussion. If I do not remember my log-in password, it is tantamount to my father forgetting to bring his notebook to class.