Monday, February 12, 2007

Technology Standards, or Literacy Standards?

As I read through the new draft of ISTE NETS for Students, I can’t help but focus on how the ideas are about literacy rather than technology. The technologies that students use never were the important aspect of educational efforts. Pencils and pens are technologies after all, and we never created special standards for them. No, the 21st century literacies that these newly proposed standards explore are what matter, not the technologies used to explore them.

Even ISTE’s CEO Don Knezek recognizes the vital role of literacy in the proposed standards. As eSchool News reports, Knezek characterizes “the changes as a shift away from a focus on ‘competency with [technology] tools⁏ and toward a focus on the ‘skills required in a digital world to produce and innovate’ using technology.”

Literacy should always focus on such skills—going beyond simply learning to use technologies to learning through and with those technologies. In K12 and college English classrooms, we ask students to collaborate by composing e-mail, blog entries, and web pages. We have students analyze and extend the ways that ideas are expressed in podcasts and YouTube videos. We encourage students to interrogate the information that they find in collaboratively authored spaces like Wikipedia as part of their inquiry process. In other words, we go beyond such activities as how to create a web page or podcast to ask students to think about how and why they are interact with a wide variety of texts.

The best classroom assignments have always focused on this kind of education. It’s nice to see the ISTE standards catching up to what we already know about 21st century literacy.


White Rows said...

"Rah rah for Technology," everyday, everywhere at NCTE. Where's the critique. Anyone read Technopoly by Neil Postman?

As for Wikipedia: here's the dirt:

All the admins who talk on Wiki-en-l (Unblock-en-l was set up separately from it summer 2006) openly admit counting any shred of personal fairness as mattering less than developing Wikipedia as they wish. Blocking of only 1 side when 2 sides have done exactly the same thing that the block is supposed to have been for, is routine. It's what happened to me, and claiming to have any rights against a biased 2-day block actually was the offence that got me permablocked, after only 5 weeks' membership. Look at all these:

a voice from within Wikipedia's own system describes how the ArbCom and dispute resolution systems are rigged with discretionary catch-alls that always enable admin to win
on how force of group numbers dictates Wikipedia pages's content this is actually called "don't bother reporting abusive admins"

I was wary of how the umpiring of pages the whole world can fight over could possibly work well, but I was drawn into Wikipedia by a friend who was briefly (and no longer is, already!) having good experiences with sharing his medical concerns on a couple of pages on medical subjects. My Wiki name was Tern, and here are 2 administrators saying to me
saying "You are not entitled to anything" and "Wikipedia is not a democracy."

On the nature of Wikipedia: tag "Wikipedia"

another recipient of this message contributed:

Being unfairly branded a target in the midst of Arbitration, with the Committee turning a blind eye,

and a former admin, leaving Wikipedia on 6 Oct 06:

" Too many admins whose first course is to insult a new user in order to see if they get a "reaction" so that they can spank the new user for talking back to an admin. I've seen too many admins block accounts for infinite duration on flimsy evidence or mere whim.

I've seen more accusations thrown around of someone being a "sockpuppet" of
another user. Time and again, I looked through the edits, and I didn't see
it. Instead, what I saw were users who were systematically hounded until
they finally broke down and broke the civility rules, and then as an afterthought someone came up and said "oh, it doesn't matter, they were a sockpuppet of X anyways", thereby removing all culpability on the part of the abusive users who had spent time hounding and abusing the newbie...

The Wiki is broken. ... We, the admins of wikipedia, broke it. We broke it by being stuck-up jerks. We broke it by thinking we are better than normal editors, by getting full of ourselves. "

We're actually developing a reputation as a place of arrogance and nastiness, a place of heavy-handed thugishness, a place where people treat each other quite badly. That's bad for the project.

In a case concerning an argument about Crusades history, ( if you can access Unblock-en-l archives) where an editor concerned about historical record came up against some strong religious feelings in favour of the Crusades' and was blocked, she has asked me to add her story to this information. "It shocks me that there are still people out there who are so ignorant and closed minded - they don't know the meaning of logic - yet it is they who write the Wikipedia encyclopedia: ironic." From her first message to Unblock-en-l, 19 Jan 2007:

" My account name is Agnes Nitt, I was blocked by Adam Bishop who banned me for this reason: troll. I will copy and paste the details: Your account or IP address has been blocked from editing. You were blocked by Adam Bishop for the following reason (see our blocking policy): troll. On the discussion page of Crusades, after I was banned, he put this just after my debate: Agnes has been blocked, because I am impatient and she *** me off. Adam Bishop 00:34, 19 January 2007 (UTC)

As is quite evident from the reason why I was blocked, and his rude comment afterwards, it is clear that I have had misjustice done against me. I didn't expect administrators to be so childish, and unacademic, I mean, just because someone was having a debate with me on the discussions page and I had been proving them wrong, so an admin comes along, disagrees with me, cant counter my argument, and therefore blocks me from editing, and to crown it all, he leaves an abusive message against me and ridicules me (out of context from the debate-he should know that this isn't a regular chat room, where he can poke fun at me, but a discussion page confined to the Crusades and related topics) Just because he knows I cant reply. I broke no rules, I wasn't vandalising, nor was I threatening, and I was banned for no reason (other than troll) except that I have different views. "

She closed "I believe I have put my case in trusted hands, and I hope you reply to me concerning this as soon as possible, as I can no longer engage in any debate." But was told "Please assume good faith regarding Adam Bishop's actions. He may have been overreacting, but is a generally respected administrator. "

"I understand your point of view Herbert, but trust me, some people are brilliant and funny and nice etc, but when it comes to certain topics they become different people, ... And what I am saying is true, this whole idea that the crusaders were not too bad is myth, and shouldn't be in an encyclopedia, it's heavily Point Of View, " (you may know of Wikipedia's policy "no points of view"?)

A send-up by "Something Awful" of the aggressive tone common on talk pages, that creates these situations:

Messages of support: "some of the people on there do seem pretty sarcastic and bullying .... some of the right-wingers on there seem to think mentioning anything negative but factual about Reagan or Bush constitutes bias and there do seem to be some nasty characters on there." - from Aspievision,

"You are not the only one who has had problems with Wikipedia taking sides in a dispute, and being blatantly unfair to the other side without even giving them a chance to defend themselves." from FAMSecretSociety, a Yahoo group
"Yes ... this is my opinion of Wikipedia. It suppresses anything that may be considered 'more than marginally controversial'. It's definitely in the same boat as the mainstream media without any shadow of a doubt. " - the forum of the British anti-ID cards site

" of late I've noticed that some independent contributions have been either radically edited or censored. I've not had time to check articles on 9/11, the London Bombings, the assault on Falluja etc, but judging from the way content was edited promptly out of articles on SSRIs, schizophrenia and Asperger's, there definitely seem to be operatives in place ready to clamp down on anything that may cast doubt on establishment canards." from Medialens,

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Not sure I understand your pasted text here. When we ask students to interrogate entries on Wikipedia, we are asking them specifically to look at the information and determine what's subjective, what's objective, what's totally false, and so forth.

It's the same kind of interrogation that they should do with any resources that they consult. Nothing in the world comes without bias. Outlawing Wikipedia isn't going to solve that. Teaching students to be critical thinkers, however, will give them the tools to help ensure that they navigate texts knowledgeably.

James Biehl said...

The apparent conflict between literacy and technology is a false one. Since the beginning of recorded history, technology has always been a means to an end, not an end in itself, whether we are talking about pictographs or Plato's Republic. When itserve as a substitue for literacy, the technology essentially enslaves the individual.
Literacy requires that a)I know my language's structure, i.e., grammar, syntax, and mechanics--spelling, punctuation, etc.; b) that I possess a broad, precisely memorized vocabulary enriched by my knowledge of its connotations; c)that I have read the time-honored texts of my culture.
Unfortunately too many educators at the middle and high school levels attempt to nourish their students with the pablum that passes for adolescent fuction. This is an anorexic literacy whose appeal is essentially visceral, enslaving students by its narrow range and superficial analysis of basic human issues. To produce critical thinking adults, one needs to provide our students with complex, polysemous texts.

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