Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Literacy Isn't Enough: 21st Century Fluency For the Digital Age

Teachers should ask, "Why are students here?" "How is the world changing?" "How can we help prepare our students for successful futures?" The world has changed and will continue to change at an exponential rate. It won't stop changing, so we need to reassess what we need to do in education to make sure that our students have the necessary skills. Traditionally literacy is no longer enough. We must move beyond and equip students with 21st century skills.

There are 5 Skills:

1. Obsolete Skills: May have been relevant at one time, but are no longer relevant.

2. Traditional Skills: Once very important, but not quite as important now. They aren’t essential, but they do still have some value. For example, handwriting.

3. Traditional Literacy Skills: Reading, writing, numeracy, face to face skills. Fundamental skills needed to transport skills from one generation to the next. They are essential and meed to continue to be taught.

4. Traditional Skills with Increased Emphasis: Problem solving, graphic design. They are not new, but there is an increase in the emphasis due to digital media.

5. New Skills: Unique to the Digital Age. Social networking, on-line skills.

Students need to build a set of skills to move forward. Students can’t be just good consumers as they may have been in the past, rather they must also be good producers of content. Called prosumers these students need to simultaneously be consumers and producers. "What world are we preparing our students for?" "Their future or our past?" If kids leave the school without 21st century skills, they won’t be ready for our global marketplace.

Students must have the traditional literacy skills, while at the same time developing fluencys, or unconscious skills--sort of like riding a bike. There are three fluencys; Technology, Media, and Information.

1. Technological fluency: Students must have the transparent use of digital tools which focus on the head ware not the hardware.

2. Media fluency: Students must be able to look critically at media sources (blogs, wikis, tv shows) and how the information is influencing their opinions. Students must be able to use the most appropriate media to get their message across. Digital natives look like they have media skills but they have huge gaps in knowledge. We need to have students producing products, at all grade levels, all students.

3. Information Fluency : Students need the ability to unconsciously and intuitively get the essential message. They must be able to ask good questions, get answers and acquire the information. Digital resources are the raw materials, rather than the traditional paper based materials. Students must be able to analyze and synthesize. They need to be able to ask, acquire, analyze, apply (within the context of real life), and assess (on the product and the process. This is a cyclical.

What is our job?
We must progressively withdraw from our student lives teaching them to be independent self-directed learners. To often we teach them to rely on us for information fostering the dependency. Our role needs to be facilitator of learning, because information and data is growing exponentially. Teachers can't be experts in all areas, so we need to teach students to be thinkers and researchers and problem solvers. The digital natives of today are completely different and not the students we were trained to teach. If we want success, we must give them assignments that require thought.

Where do we go from here?
Visit this site or
Email and in the subject line say, "I need to be committed."


Mrs. Snead said...

I am finding this very interesting. Hopefully, I am not so far behind. I still have so much to learn.

Thanks for going to retrieve all this information.

Anonymous said...

I find this interesting too!
We do need to prepare our children for the 21st Century Fluency for the Digital Age. It is so much fun to learn about all the resources to help prepare our students to be success.
Thanks for sharing!

Debbie R. said...

I am in complete agreement with what our jobs need to be as far as teaching students to become more independent,self-directed learners. My question is where do students with learning disabilities fit in? How do we teach them to be independent thinkers and problem solvers? These students may not necessarily be going into the global marketplace, but they are part of this generation. So how do we best equip them in the three fluencys?

Suzanne said...

I agree that having more conversation about students with disabilities and what we can do to best equip them is essential to their success. But, the fact of the matter is that every student enters the global marketplace whether they are a nuclear engineer or a baggage clerk at the grocery store. They still compete for jobs to put food on the table. So, what can we do to prepare them? In my opinion, we do the same thing we do for every child. We teach them how to build relationships with their peers, be responsible citizens, be reflective and self assess. We introduce them to the same tools and the same instruction as their peers. And, we give them time and differentiated instruction to help them reach the same standards.

I know this is easier said than done, but I think our ESE teachers prove year in and year out that it is achievable.

Can't wait to talk more about this.

Thanks for the comment.

Suzanne said...

We all have so much to learn, after all knowledge is growing exponenitally. We couldn't possible even understand and know a fraction of it. The thing I'm most excited about is simply diving in and learning new things. It really intrigues me. And, I know you share that same passion.