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Keeping Up: Technology and Literacy in the Classroom

written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 7/12/2012

Why are technology and information literacy skills necessary? Today, the ability to process information is a crucial need for every student. In addition, no job exists without the need to understand the use of technology whether it is computers, high-tech machines or gadgets that run vehicles.

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    Multiple Literacies

    Multiple literacies in the classroom: What does this term mean?

    The term "multiple literacies in the classroom" means that there is awareness that every subject, every art, every sport and every technology has a language unto itself. When educators teach any subject, they first give the students a word list or vocabulary list so that they understand the particular language associated with that subject.

    Spectrum LINK Lectern 

    For instance, when you teach students to paint with watercolors, they must learn what it means to wash their canvas or how to paint with a dry brush. If the same students were to switch to oil paints, they would need to know what linseed oil was used for and how to use a palate knife. These are all terms used in the language of art.

    Technology has a language, also. Often, the students have a better grasp for the necessity of technological literacy than the teachers do. This can be extremely frustrating for the educator. However, by remembering that the best teaching comes when the student learns from the teacher and the teacher learns from the student, discovering the nuances of technological literacy can be quite enjoyable.

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    Create a Literacy Portfolio

    Creating a literacy portfolio is one of the easiest ways of teaching multiple literacies in the classroom. The teacher begins by explaining how everything we do or learn has a language. Everyone knows more than one of these languages. The example can be used that if you cook, you must know what the terms blend, sauté and bake mean; if you sew, you must know the difference between basting a hem and blind stitching; and if you play baseball, you need to know when to throw a curve ball and when to punt.

    A literacy portfolio is a list of items that demonstrate a person's literacy in any particular area. (Teachers can limit the categories to certain subjects; for instance: sports, academics, technology.)

    Example:

    LITERACY PORTFOLIO - Technological

    ACADEMIC

    • PowerPoint presentation in class on linguistic analysis

    LINGUISTIC

    • Submissions to an online poetry journal

    COMPUTER

    • Wiki
    • Skype

    After the students have created their lists, they may be asked to discuss or present one or two of the items from their list as a "Literacy Show and Tell."

    When teaching multiple literacies in the technology classroom, the educator may ask students to pick one specific form of technology to describe. Alternately, the teacher may ask the students to create a "How To" manual for the technology of their choice.

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    Say What?

    Texting 

    When students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge of technology, the wise educator takes notes. Learning how to use a cell phone to take pictures, how to text messages or how to IM are all part of the technological literacy. (Personally, I have learned a great deal from my students in this area.)

    Each technology has its own unique language. Texting takes this to an entirely new level. Texting is an abbreviated language used in IM's (Instant Messages), in chats and on Twitter.

    An interesting activity is to ask students to take a list of previously chosen text words/phrases and create sentences with them. (Note: Educators will find NetLingo.com a great asset in choosing which text words or phrases to include in the list. This is important, as some words or phrases may not be appropriate for classroom discussions.) Another idea is to give students a paragraph from a novel to convert to text. Choose an excerpt from something futuristic such as 1984 or Future Shock, which can be incorporated into the unit.

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    Literacy of Technology

    In addition to texting, students should learn the names of the various gadgets as well as how to use them as part of learning multiple literacies in the classroom. IPods, Blackberries, Bluetooth, smart phones and stick drives are just some of the tools students and teachers use every day.

    Asking students to demonstrate the use of these devices adds to everyone's education. The teacher can assign a small group of students to create a 15-minute presentation on a specific gadget. Their classmates should make note of any terminology with which they are unfamiliar as well as any questions they might have.

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    Processing Information

    In addition to learning how to use the various gadgets, students must learn how to process the information. With the volume of information broadcast through technological gadgets, the need for students to have top-notch skills to process the data they receive is crucial. Information literacy is the ability to find the necessary information, research sources, critically evaluate the worth of those sources and finally, share the information with others.

    Each day, students do this without realizing the need to evaluate sources. This is why emails or texts that are fabricated, hyperbolized and inflammatory become viral. People do not stop to find out whether it is truth or fiction.

    Modern technology in the 21st century is increasingly part of daily life; thereby, creating a necessity. Technological and information literacy skills taught in the classroom enable students to stay in step with their world.

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