Friday, March 27, 2009
Targeting Literacy Skills with Digital Storytelling, and More!
The article by Robin, The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, seeks to inform us about what it is, the types, effective uses for teachers and students, types of student literacy, literacy skills gained from the creation and presentation of digital stories, challenges, considerations, and impact research.
While I found the article useful to begin understanding the nature of digital stories, it caused me to begin a deeper search into the impact on our classrooms, with their facilitation as teachers, and into the educational system as a whole. I am just beginning to realize the current situation or revolutionary transformation that I think all new and old teachers need to be aware of with regard to technology and teaching literacy skills; and that is that if we are going to really (and I mean REALLY) target the cutting edge, essential art of teaching literacy at present, we need to become technologically "literate" and understand why it is not only inevitable, but critical. There's no more room for "old school" strategies and technologies.
"Our students' brains have physically changed - and are different from ours - as a result of how they grew up", states Marc Prensky in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Just to grab your attention a bit more, he quotes Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine, "Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures." To read the article in its entirety, and it is WELL worth the 6 pages, click here. He is, well -- right on. I haven't read anything so precisely salient, and true like this, that has ever given me this kind of pause to stop and think while attending GMU and learning to become a teacher. This is absolutely blind-siding truth coming at me like a tsunami of Titanic proportion. Children think and learn differently than we did, and we need to rise to the occasion to meet their needs. Problem is, it's hard for us to do this. Our own schemas need to be rearranged and overhauled drastically, and in the process, it will be them teaching us. Our students are faster and better these days.
It's more than this. They're bored with the same old strategies that don't fit within their new advanced schemas of learning. Their new learning styles are different -- as Prensky points out, they're "foreign" to us. But, it is we as older, advanced learners, thinkers, and teachers that are the "immigrants" in a land that in which they are "native".
Prensky continues to assert that the new students of today are called "Digital Natives" and that those of us having to relearn new technologies to keep up and to implement in our classrooms are called "Digital Immigrants" because we still have our feet "in the past". He claims that "our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language ( that of pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language."
Prensky continues to talk about methodology, content instruction in terms of "legacy" and "future". He presents an example to do with CAD (Computer Aided Design) programs. I am quite familiar with this because I was once a CAD operator while working as an architect in a variety of architectural firms. My skills are virtually obsolete now as I have not used CAD for some 10 years now, and the software has transformed at least through 2-3 newer versions. The point is that software makers realized )with people such as myself) that they would have to invent the tutorials as "edugames" or "edutainment" in order to teach the "older dogs" the "new tricks"...and this is much how it is with our present day education system and teaching students. It is cutting edge. Technologies advance much more rapidly than us, as teachers, can keep up with them. The article even ventures to inform us that it will be our students teaching us, in the end, how to best teach them. Shouldn't we be listening to how things are changing in how to teach this new generation of digital learners?
It is imperative and essential that we learn to do all the things that Amie and George Mason University Department of Education and .....are striving to expose us to. It's our obligation to be good teachers to learn how to not only do blogs, wikis, and digital stories, but to do them well, and then learn other strategies, like using cellphones, ipods, podcasting, etc...Here's a really neat video on YouTube that I think is worth the 7.5 minutes. (As it states, just ignore the dramatic music, and watch it for the text...) I found the Prensky article and others from watching it. Click here.
Finally, with regard to multiple intelligences and styles of learning that Robin refers to in his article, I was most struck by his assertion (like others that have commented in their blogs) that the "use of multimedia in teaching helps students retain new information as well as aids in the comprehension of difficult material". I have often thought that as my young 3-4 year old daughter "took-off" as a rumbling 747 jumbo jet-liner into the skies of using the computer and mastering each new computer program, and as I sat back in "shock and awe", that perhaps this would damage her abilities when she entered a mainstream classroom. Now, after reading Robin, Prensky, re-thinking the old school theorist, Gardner, and after learning how to blog and wiki (not to mention i-tunes and learning to download music into my daughter's ipod and my new nano), I think, "why are we still resisting new methodologies with current technologies and teaching our youngsters like dinosaurs???? Why are we not abandoning the old strategies for the new?" We need to step into their world to teach them the way they are motivated and engaged in learning. No wonder we have such a high number of ADD children that can't learn traditionally, but CAN learn with cutting edge technologies such as blogs, wikis, and digital stories. Perhaps research suggests that new teaching strategies with newer technologies will eradicate problems associated with learning disabilities and language differences in the classroom.
Finally, Bernajean Porter author of DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories (http://www.digitales.com/), in her article Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum: Finding Content's Deeper Meaning lists the following under "Building 21st-Century Skills" (in contrast to Robin's skill set):
1. Creativity and inventive thinking
2. Multiple intelligences
3. Higher-order thinking (lessons learned)
4. Information literacy
5. Visual literacy
6. Sound literacy
7. Technical literacy
8. Effective communication (oral, written, and digital)
9. Teamwork and collaboration
10. Project management
11. Enduring understandings
Click here -- if you want to read her article. It's a worthwhile read as well, and she quotes Roger Shanks (brain researcher) saying, "storytelling provides a memory structure and depth of context that engages learners in a sense-making of facts." Porter lists four ideas for types of communication that connect storytelling with curriculum:
1. Myths, legends, and tall tales
3. Describe and conclude
4. Advertising or Public Service Announcements
Of course, these are just a few headings, but the ideas within these headings are really cool!
So, to conclude, I think it might be really worthwhile in our class Wiki, or in our own Teachers' notebooks from Dr. Malloy's class to take more seriously the ideas that we generate in following SOLs and in coming up with ways to use the technologies in the classroom.
Digital stories shouldn't be used as just as a hook or anticipatory set. We will fall short if we think only this far. The stories should also be seen as part of the process; as the steps, perhaps in the unit or as the unit, to arrive at the attainment of the achievement goals and frameworks set forth for the overall development of skill sets.
Thanks for reading! - Jill