Yesterday, we had a follow-up session to our week-long Massachusetts New Literacies Teacher-Leader Institute that we held back in June (I am one of the teacher leaders). We had about 100 participants return yesterday, and my hope is to slowly reflect a bit on some of things that took place. Here is part one, the keynote address entitled Building Complex Communications.
Tom Daccord (@thomasdaccord), of EdTechTeacher, took the stage and immediately energized us with a long-view look at how literacies in the workplace have shifted since the advent of the Personal Computer and what that shift towards critical thinking skills should be doing to our teaching practices in the classroom. Tom called these skills as the Complex Communications (the ability to explain a complex idea to others) and Expert Thinking (identifying a new problem and finding a solution to it).
Tom notes that employers “demand and expect that employees come to the workplace with these skills. ” That means that we, as teachers, have be setting the groundwork for critical thinking, and while computers can do a lot for us (and in fact, have reduced the need for much manual labor), it is our human ability to be literate on a social level (read emotions, have empathy, etc.) and make different kinds of connections between disparate information to find solutions that is the key.
“Put a computer in a situation with no new data. It will flounder. It cannot adapt. What can adapt (to situations where there is not new data)? We can,” Tom explained.
He then launched into a discussion about the importance of teaching multi-modal literacy, and of finding ways to use an authentic audience for students as writers and producers of content. The world will demand these skills of them as adults, and we need to foster these skills in them as young people, he explained.
“We’re missing the cultural shift going on,” Tom said, explaining the rift between the literacies of the lives of young people outside of the classroom and the way we teach them in the classroom. This system “relegates publication only to the eyes of the teacher” when there are so many ways for students to step up and publish to the world.
Tom then exorted us — the participants of the New Literacies movement who were in that room with him — to be the ones who make the change that needs to occur in the classrooms, in that it won’t happen as a top-down approach. Instead, it needs to be teacher-to-teacher.
“Real change happens horizontally. It happens colleague-to-colleague. It be you, going back to your school,” he said, and this message helped frame the rest of the day’s work around technology and classroom practice.
I’ll try to share out parts 2 and 3 over the next few days.
Peace (in the literate world),