Friday, February 20, 2009

A Wonderful Day with Dr Jason Ohler ...

Dr Jason Ohler, on Tech 2.0:
Teaching for Today and Tomorrow

February 20 Pro D Day at Magee, Vancouver

This week's blog is only about Technology Day, sponsored this year by Learning Services here in Vancouver. I am just so delighted to be so delighted with the whole day, and I think it took all of 15 minutes of listening to Dr Jason Ohler to know that the 230+ educators who had convened at Magee were going to be in for a very good day. The group included teachers and teacher-librarians, support workers, teacher candidates, administrators, our district systems librarian, TOCs, a couple of outside educators, district management, and a Vancouver trustee.

Jason was at once engaging, fun, practical, informative, and visionary -- what he said made so many connections to what we know to be good instruction; by simply applying new notions of "literacy" for 21st century students and presenting so many ideas about how we can do it with conviction, with sound educational grounding, and with little or no cost, Jason ensured there was little chance anyone in the room wouldn't find a place in what we heard to make connections to their own work with kids in our schools.

Ohler began by talking about all the "well-intentioned paperwork" that has accompanied initiatives such as No Child Left Behind in the US and the contrast of this kind of learning to those "teachers who opened doors" that might not have been apparent if they had been following the new scripts for student learning that are prepared for educators in the literacy field. The doors were opened because teachers knew the students and saw the potential and were not bound by prevailing wisdom about limiting the ways students can progress and be shown to have progressed.
Literacy has changed -- students need to be engaged by their work with text and image; they need to be able to "write collage" or write as they see on the web, some traditional writing, some visual imaging, some design components, all artistic and productive and creative, yet subject to sound assessment practices that ensure clarity through feedback and wisdom. It is no longer satisfactory for educators to assign A's to "anything that moves," but rather to see in the media product its inquiry, discovery, and transformational roles, the processes by which it has been created, and the learning that takes place within the story being told.

Ohler's website offers lots for those interested in re/viewing what he said today or what he showed us, all of it powerful testament to the very powerful work he advocates doing with students often described as least likely to succeed in traditional measures of literacy and learning but who are, like the students described by Torres and November and Leu (see previous blogs), so empowered by being recognized for their abilities to work in the new or multi-literacies and with technology. This website features his photo, using Photoshop, Biceps Version, he told us!

Kids, he told us, don't need more "clicks-and-tricks"; they need teachers for quality control. When we teach for digital literacy, as educators, we need to shift from text-centrism to new writing in what Ohler calls "media collage." We need to value writing more than ever; it must be deliberate, planned, but now visually differentiated in boxes, with bullets, breaks, boldface, and so on. We need to adopt ART as the 4th R but, while new ISTE standards include innovation and creativity, issues of copyright are real. This new literacy is digital / art / oral / written. It hinges on understanding that attitude is aptitude; digitally literate learners quickly transform new information into something they need. Literacy in the digital era is practiced both privately and socially; we no longer write in isolation. Educators and users will need to develop the codes of responsibility about using digital tools. And literacy is not enough; fluency can leverage action and success. While we can harness both report and story, it is story we must embrace. It is story that our students engage with and remember and can create and be transformed by.

The Day was one of those beautiful crisp sunny West Coast days of late winter, the kind of day that has every Vancouverite smugly congratulating him/herself on choosing to live here, a day that lent itself easily to walking briskly into Kerrisdale for a quick lunch before the featured afternoon Sandbox sessions for different interest groups. So uplifted by what we heard in the morning and by the weather, it is worthy of remark that there was little that distracted our keen crowd from the afternoon sessions back at Magee, even though for many Friday is the "short day." They came running back ...

Some attended sessions on Moodle

... or Ubuntu Linux

... or Rosetta Stone

... or Smartboards, while

... others went to hear more from Dr Ohler on the art of teaching for storytelling.

Twenty-plus teacher-librarians convened in the -- you guessed it -- school library with Sandra Lee, notably of the VSB Summer Institute and UBC TL'ship online program. We reviewed some Web 2.0 applications and then looked into the 9-day online international conference about Transforming School Libraries with Web 2.0 which was beginning today. Fourteen Vancouver teachers and TLs will participate over the next nine days in the actual conference, the proceedings of which will be available into April.

We are entering a new educational world of "continual beta" -- that's how Sandra Lee described today the new landscapes of school libraries called Library 2.0 -- where beta means "in the testing stage" so everything becomes something you can't count on in the version you had yesterday but you get used to that and get better at handling technological change, like students! They just figure it out. Some who work amongst us can attest to the fact that we do in fact move along the technology-learning spectrum to become more flexible -- less fearful -- in adapting to and using the new technologies.

Will we see some of you this week at TL Studio in Kerrisdale at our monthly "sandbox" for trying out tools and applications that can work with school library programs? For dates, check the online Pro D (or the yellow Pro D Connections booklet for February, which has all upcoming dates for both Kerrisdale and Gladstone sessions).

Sandra Lee and the TLs

Thanks to the Technology Day Organizing Committee, as well as Associate Superintendents Val Overgaard and Laurie Anderson, for all the effort, commitment, sponsorship, and support that went into putting this show on the Magee and district map. I heard nothing but positive comments; many were very excited about taking digital storytelling back to their schools, excited in ways I haven't seen in a long time. One was heard planning where to put the green wall.

Thanks again to Trustee Lombardi and CIO Lamb and Associate Superintendent Anderson for coming to join us there as well -- your juggling things to come to Magee into what we know to be an intense schedule of meetings and obligations characteristic of this time of year back at the mothership was important for Vancouver educators who I think, by their attendance alone, amply provided evidence of how keen and committed they are to find creative ways to move ahead with technology innovation and integration with teaching and learning because this is what works with and meets the learning needs of our students.

Resource Notes

I knoq I said the blog would be only about Technology Day but who can resist great "bits" for the technology integration theme that pervades our discussions of directions for school libraries and the work of teacher-librarians.

Found while poking around in the Online Conference and Alberta TL Arlene Lipkewich's blog and related links:

Also, here's Joyce Valenza's Manifesto for 21st Century Teacher-librarians: you know you are one if ... and everything we are doing is keeping us "fresh" in the new learning environments. Here's the proviso I like the best: Unpack the good stuff you carried from your 20th century trunk. Rigor, and inquiry, and high expectations, and information and media fluency matter no matter what the medium. So do excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm (Valenza, Manifesto).

Have a great weekend.

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