21stcentury
I found Vance Steven’s Moodle course entitled Mulitliteracies for a Digital Age. Vance Stevens is a Lecturer in Computing at
Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi. I am taken with the resources he has collected and can’t wait to absorb all that I am reading.

His Course Description
A multiliterate teacher understands the many ways that technology
interacts and intertwines with academic and interpersonal life, and actively
  learns how to gain control over those aspects impacting teaching, social, and
professional development. Multiliterate individuals are aware of the pitfalls
  inherent in technology while striving for empowerment through effective
  strategies for first discerning and then taking advantage of those aspects of
  changing technologies most appropriate to their situations. These strategies include managing, processing, and interpreting a constant influx of  information, filtering what is useful, and then enhancing the learning
  environment with the most appropriate applications. This course

  • models effective approaches and strategies for responding to
    technology issues in the academic environment
  • provides opportunities for training in technical skills required
    for coping with information overload
  • utilizes video, web cam, image, voice, and social networking
    technologies in communicating through communities of practice which in turn
    model collaborative, constructivist learning settings.

The ideas in that description are so powerful I decided to break them up to allow for deeper reflection.

A Multiliterate Teacher

A multiliterate teacher understands the many ways that technology
interacts and intertwines with academic and interpersonal life, and actively learns how to gain control over those aspects impacting teaching, social, and
professional development.

As I read this I shouted YES! Something I struggle with in the work I do is helping teachers understand the distinction between using Web 2.0 tools because they are novel and cool and using them in authentic ways that enhance their teaching, professional development and personal connections/collaborations. The 21st Century educator (what Vance calls the multiliterate teacher) not only knows what the tools are (most basic aspect) but has a deep understanding of the pedagogy involved in using them. So many get hung up on the tool itself, and that becomes the focus, rather than seeing these technologies as a medium, a canvas, a portal used to connect, collaborate, empower, and a catalyst for deep meaningful change– both in the profession as a whole and in  teachers/students as individuals.

This perspective allows the teachers to operate from a thematic schema where connections are illuminated and occur organically. It is obvious, but often overlooked- the interconnectedness of life.
Life is not compartmentalized. Each aspect spills over into the other. I am female, woman, mother, daughter, sister, friend all at the same moment. Even daily functions of life spill over into each other– I teach, parent, administrate and cook breakfast all at the same time.

Somehow though, when we take it to the classroom we think life should be parceled out in isolated components. We do math and then reading. We separate grade levels as if somehow 8 yr olds are not interested in the same things that 11 year olds are  or secondary students need to be separated in to age specific peer levels to make them more successful. If we are preparing them for life– show me anywhere in life we segregate learning. It is this "interacting and intertwining" skill set that is most important for the teacher of the 21st Century.

Technology is NOT the answer–It is the strategy

Multiliterate individuals are aware of the pitfalls inherent in technology while striving for empowerment through effective strategies for first discerning and then taking advantage of those aspects of changing technologies most appropriate to their situations.

The optimist in me believes that teachers intuitively know the potential for meaningful educational reform that exists in the diverse connections technology affords and that is the reason they are so willing to start using a web 2.0 tools without thinking through the possible pitfalls and effectiveness of matching the right tool for each learning objective.

Teachers wouldn’t dream of giving students power tools without thinking through how they should be used in the safest way possible that still affords the greatest amount of learning and the most powerful outcomes. Likewise, no teacher would set up learning stations throughout the classroom without thinking through how they would embed the curriculum learning objectives in the activity, how they would organize the cooperating learning groups (which students to pair together), where to place which stations (reading stations need to be in a quiet location in the room and not next to the painting easel) and so on. Yet in our excitement of seeing how easily content is created using digital tools we often are so intent on getting students on with creating a web presence, that we do not think through possible pitfalls or most effective ways of connecting the learning to the medium being used. The 21st Century teacher needs to use these tools in her own personal learning before tossing the students the keys. We simply can’t give away what we do not own.

Teacher as Information Manager

These strategies include managing, processing, and
interpreting a constant influx of  information, filtering what is
useful, and then enhancing the learning environment with the most
appropriate applications.

21st Century educators need to become skilled at handling the abundance of information available. They need to quit focusing on memorization of content and becomes skilled at synthesis and distribution – making available what is most applicable as pieces for construction and conceptualization of content and ideas. Take the information– sort, organize, chunk, and provide the thought legos for students to use to build knowledge around the objectives you are trying to teach. Let them build together.

21st Century educators need to make principled changes in the way we think and in the delivery of our content.  21st Century educational leaders need to have a deep understanding of the changing learning framework that living in a digital age dictates. The 21st Century is here– and these kids can’t wait. It is time for teachers to begin using these tools as professionals- for deep engagement with content and building of collaborative networks in the educating of our students and the reforming of our schools.

Photo Credit: http://flickr.com/photos/peteashton/566312

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3 Responses to “A Multi-Literate Teacher”

  1. Karen R February 18, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    Great post, Sheryl! Did you know my dissertation is focusing on multiliteracies, specifically looking at those literacies in action as both students and teachers engage with a participatory media tool like blogging or podcasting? You wrote, “The 21st Century teacher needs to use these tools in her own personal learning before tossing the students the keys. We simply can’t give away what we do not own.” That’s the MOST important point, IMHO. I am always amazed when I do workshops in school divisions that have given their administrators laptops. I often have to MAKE them start up the laptops since a lot of them will just get out their spiral bound “pro dev” notebooks…prepared to take their usual notes. My presentations don’t work like that. I usually have a wikispaces page with links that I want you to visit. If I were sitting in the audience, my laptop would certainly be turned on. I’m experimenting with “living on line” this year so I show them how I’ve organized and integrated all my tools to both keep my organized, keep me up to date, and to do my own learning and creating. I do think that many of the administrators I work with have embraced the tools to help with that first activity: organizing. They have PDAs that they sync with their computers or they operate organizational databases or they have a computer system to track attendance. But they don’t have a vision for learning with the tools because that’s not how they have learned throughout their lives.

    Your list of skills is great, and we need to start moving our attention to the teachers. Much of the multiliteracy research focuses on students and we all know Prensky’s digital natives vs immigrants ideas. So I’m wondering what IS going on when teachers engage with new technologies and new media: what literacy practices are they using? Can they apply their more traditional literacy to help them navigate this multiliterate world?

  2. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach February 18, 2007 at 9:53 am #

    No Karen– I did not know this is your dissertation. We really need to take some time and just sit down and have a meaningful conversation. We are always so rushed on campus.

    Great questions you raise. It really has been my focus in Alabama as I work with these teachers– look at your pedagogy and the learning–not the tool.

    I have birthed over 200 bloggers and wiki users in Alabama. The point I keep hitting home is — you can’t give away what you do not own. Use these tools in your own professional learning and you will see natural connections in how to use them with your students.

    I wonder if there is a way my work can help inform your research? Are you using a survey.
    Here are some of the ways Alabama teachers are starting to use these tools: http://del.icio.us/abpcjohn

    Thank you so much for commenting. I look forward to learning from and building on your ideas as we grow.

    Let’s talk soon.

    Sheryl

  3. freziel May 28, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    Hi Sheryl, I am currently undertaking my master’s degree and the approve title for my thesis is Multi Literacy and Teaching Skills among the teachers here in our districts. The information you posted is of great help to me. Could you please provide me some information regarding Multiliteracy and its aspects to teaching skills. I appreciate any help you can extend to me regarding this matter. Thank you!