Times have changed.         

The skills needed for students to thrive have changed.

Consequently, we as teachers must change.

What does this mean in the world of literacy?

With the evolution of technology has come a whole new dimension of literacy.  Digital literacy.

Although this presents a world of exciting opportunities, it certainly doesn’t – in my opinion – simplify our roles as teachers. This new dimension of literacy comes wrapped up in various complexities.

So, how do we as teachers even begin to merge the world of traditional literacy skills with those required to be successful in the 21st century?

The Common Core Standards (which many states have dropped, but have chosen to use standards that are pretty much exactly the same…you should see the “changes” made here in NJ) call for a heavy dose of these 21st century skills.

Last year, in a rush to align our curriculum with these standards, we jumped right in.

The end product of the writing unit is a video lesson.  Given some enduring understandings, essential questions, some links, a couple checklists, and a pre and post assessment, we as teachers were to “go to it.”

We were given a great amount of autonomy here.  Although I appreciate this autonomy and trust, with it comes to a tremendous amount of time and effort put into figuring it out. The following describes my attempt to do so, including how I’ve tried to “bridge” traditional literacy skills with those of the 21st century:

With our responsibilities as teachers ever increasing and the time given to carry them out ever decreasing, it is crucial that we think cross-curricularly.  Responsibilities and time aside, we as teachers should always be working to do this when possible, as it deepens the meaning and enriches understanding.

With the timing of the unit, I figured it would make sense to tie the video lesson into our American Indian Cultural Regions unit, specifically focusing on the big idea of the unit:  Regional geography largely influenced the development of Native American societies and cultures.  

This in turn brought me to how I wanted to structure the transcripts for these video lessons.

Literacy Bridge 1:  Structure – Whether traditional prose or digital media, authors/creators align the structure of their content with their purpose.

Text structures, such as problem/solution, compare & contrast, cause & effect, description, and sequence, were analyzed throughout our digital literacy unit.  We looked at all types of digital content to support understanding, including those much loved Mac vs. PC commercials.

We then determined the structure that best fits our purpose for the video presentation – cause and effect.

Literacy Bridge 2:  Development  – In the development of content, whether traditional prose or digital media, authors/creators make deliberate choices to have an effect on their audience (whether readers or viewers).

With digital media, this often entails visual choices and audio choices, along with word choices.  We examined a lot of these aspects, including the idea of bias, in digital media, such as the Chipotle Scarecrow video.

Along with this, we worked on identifying techniques used to “hook” the audience and satisfactorily conclude, be it text or digital media.

Other notables include:

A.   Heavy work on effectively transitioning amongst and between thoughts.

B.  The concept of writing/creating with the audience in mind.  This means that there needs to be a deliberate consideration as to whether the audience has the necessary background knowledge to understand what you’re trying to get across.

Literacy Bridge 3:  Language Conventions  –  Good language conventions match the purpose in both traditional prose and digital media.

Students should know that it’s okay to not always capitalize or use correct punctuation in things like a quick text message or email to a personal friend – BUT, in the world of academia, and in the majority of things put before an audience, this is NOT acceptable.

For this unit, we mostly looked at transcripts and worked on developing our understanding and application of 1. commas after introductory words/phrases  2. commas between dependent/independent clauses.

Next week I’ll share more of the process of getting to the end product of a video lesson, including the use of graphic organizers, “mentor videos,” collaborative Google Docs and Google Slides, Chromebooks, Screencastify, and QR Codes.

I’ll also share the end result.

Until then, I think it’s important to consider the following catchphrase:

“Connect the New to the Known”

With wikis, blogs, social media, hyperlinks, extensions, collaborative docs, podcasting, videocasting, and so much more, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in this new dimension of literacy; however, I think if we as teachers take what we know to be the required skills of literacy and connect them to this new world of digital media/literacy, we can make sense of our roles as teachers in helping equip our students to be literate 21st century students.