This seems to be the hottest debate in education everywhere I turn. It seems to be the thing that everyone has an opinion about, but not everyone seems to have all of the knowledge. Since I use Skype a lot, along with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube I absolutely believe that it is prevalent that students learn how to use these tools to learn and not just socialize. In fact, I would go as far as to say, much of the learning that I do today as a life-long learner includes them. If I want to know how to do something that I have never done before, then I am going to look for a how-to video on how to do it. To find a good how – to video I am apt to go to HowCast because of the success I have had with that site. Knowing where to go on the web is important when I need to learn something. Otherwise, I waste a lot of valuable time.
There are two sides to the debate of whether to use 21st century tools or not. There are the people that use the tools that have their opinion that we should definitely teach our students how to be learners using these tools. Then there is the other side of debate, which tends to include people of another generation where these tools did not exist in their own learning therefore they think that they do not need to be present today. It makes me laugh to hear people who hardly ever use these tools have an opinion on how we should not be using these tools in the classroom.
A well respected researcher in the field of reading, Richard Allington, is one of those people that has a strong opinion about a lot of issues and he loves to state them. Although I respect Richard Allington and the work he has done in the field of reading, I wonder if he actually listens to some of his own responses. Listen to this, “I’m an old guy. I’ve never Tweeted, Skyped, Facebooked, or YouTubed.” He goes on to say, “But I’m still stuck on fostering 18th-century literacy skills in citizens.” Then he talks about how we shouldn’t be using funds for technology and that we should be using this money to purchase books. I completely agree that we should be using money for books, but there needs to be a balance with technology. There is no doubt about that. What I find funny is that this man believes in fostering an 18th -Century literacy skills.
I don’t even see a hint of a major focus of literacy inside of this classroom. Do you? In fact, I was looking up literacy rates, which differ based on definition and it happened to be 50% of the population being able to read in the United States. It is now between 65% and 85%. I am pretty sure we do not want to go backwards with results.
I walked into a classroom at a historical museum and on the desks was a reader called the McGuffy Eclectic Reader. There were 6 of these that the students used as they progressed through reading in grades k-8. They were super tiny books, not a lot of words, but served their purpose. See, not everyone actually needed to know how to read back in that time. It wasn’t a prevalent skill as it is today.
However, how much literacy is needed in order to engage on the web and in society today? If you can’t read, then you can’t do much can you in either of those arenas?
I see 21st Century tools as opening up the world to do things better than we have ever done them before. We have so many ways to open the doors to literacy without needing as much money as we needed before for books that get outdated quickly and need to be replaced. We can get digital copies of books that last a lifetime and never need to be replaced. How cool is that?
I did research with a group of students 2 years ago incorporating videos from YouTube, Karaoke, and a simple vowel pattern chart to see if these tools would motivate kids to read. The results were outstanding. The kids that were in the program increased their skills 3x more than the students at the same reading level not in the program. Check out my group of students that were featured on Fox 6 News. http://www.fox6now.com/videobeta/09f8d175-ae5d-4d00-9d34-883b306d3e45/Entertainment/American-Idol-s-Danny-Gok
My personal belief is that the world is changing and that we need to change with it, or be doomed by it. Let’s open up our minds, and let’s open up the web. I personally use this blog to share my positive interactions that I have with students by volunteering in classrooms all over the world. This isn’t something that could ever been done 20 years ago. I don’t think I could have even conceptualized it. But I have to tell you, I am loving it. I am loving every second of using these amazing resources to motivate children to read. Maybe the next book that Dr. Allington could write could be titled
How to Motivate All Children to Read Using 21st Century Tools
- Hmmmm……..Not a bad title, maybe this will be the title of my next book.