Reflections on Literacy in theInformation Age Bryan Di Gregorio
Previous Perceptions I used to think digital literacy and computer literacywere one and the same—that in order to be digitallyliterate you should know how to access records andinformation through online search engines using keywords.I thought that having this knowledge was extremelyhelpful, but not necessary because we still have access tolibraries with trained professionals to aide us in our quest forinformation. In fact, there was a time in my youth when Ifelt that studying certain facts and other information waspointless because I could simply look it up on Google if Iever needed to know it. I also believed if the content (frommedia or the internet) was not relevant to the subject andtopic in question then it had no usefulness in a lesson.
Current PerceptionsAfter reviewing some videos on internet literacies Inow see the value in teaching these literacies even ifthe content isn’t related to the subject you areteaching. Teaching students how to analyze variousmedia that are well known or popular to them allowsstudents to look at something that sparks their interestin a whole new way. It also helps develop higher orderthinking skills and increases their own proficiency indigital literacy. Being digitally literate in today’s worldcan be a valuable asset—it builds on current schemasthat students will be able to recollect when they leavegrade school and move on to college and/or careers.
Current Perceptions (cont.)I would still like to know how this could be seamlesslyintegrated into a curriculum that currently pressuresteachers into teaching to high stakes, end-of-yearexams. There is certainly value in digital literacies, butlessons that incorporate various media may dependon adequate resources and time—which couldinevitably deter teachers from teaching digitalliteracies except in rare circumstances. I have hadprofessors and also attended workshops that taughtthe use of different internet literacies. I found what Ilearned to be incredibly helpful especially withresearch projects and creating my own lesson plansthat use technology.
Lesson Plan Ex: 1• 11-12th grade• U.S. History• Student Product: Students are to find and analyze an article that discusses a variety of topics on the American Civil War including the effects Reconstruction had on the South; what advantages and disadvantages did both sides have; what were the main causes of the war? Along with analysis of the article, students are to provide annotations that detail the process of their search, the validity of source(s), expected knowledge level of reader, purpose of the source, credentials of the author
Lesson Plan Ex: 1 (cont.)• Lesson Overview: The lesson will cover 2-3 class periods if on regular schedule and 1-2 periods on block schedule—time is dependent on how much progress is made. I will start by discussing the search process and outlining different tools on the web (ex: Eric) and in the school and public libraries. We will pick an example topic and attempt to find the sources together in class and/or in the library to show the students the step by step procedure on how to access and utilize these tools. I will instruct the class on proper analysis procedure (not simply summarizing) and provide some questions to ask oneself during the process which will also aide the task of producing the descriptive annotations.
Lesson Plan Ex: 2• 10-11th grade• World History• Student Product: Students will watch a video discussing an author’s reasons for why Europeans conquered many different native North and South American peoples, tribes, and civilizations (Guns, Germs, & Steel). During the video, students will be required to answer some basic content related questions. Afterwards, they will get together in small groups and answer some critical thinking questions regarding the video’s author/host, use of imagery (verbal or visual), purpose of the video, and what emotions did the video incite. For homework students will be asked to recall a program they have watched (non-fictional) and answer similar questions regarding its use of imagery or lack thereof, its purpose, and what emotions did it expect to incite in its audience
Lesson Plan Ex: 2 (cont.)• Lesson Overview: I will start with a mini-lecture discussing the background of the author/host of the video, some common perceptions of the video in the historical community, and reviewing historical details of the events that pertains to the video. After the video and group discussion we will have whole- class discussion about the video. I will then ask students to go home and watch a program (via Youtube or broadcast tv) that is non-fictional and something they would normally watch otherwise and answer the same set of critical thinking questions.
Lesson Plan Ex: 3• 10-12th grade• Economics• Student Product: Students, in groups of 4, will create a spreadsheet consisting of all their data and percentages according to career salary and living cost information (for Memphis area) which they will find on the web by using fiscal responsibility strategies previously discussed. They will then graph in pie chart form, the percentages of each individual living cost. They then will read and answer the questions from their Think Sheet by analyzing their data.• Spreadsheet Example (click here)• Think Sheet (click here)
Lesson Plan Ex: 3 (cont.)• Lesson Overview: I will start with a review of fiscal responsibility and potential strategies. Students, in groups of 4, will pick a “career” from a box at random and using this information they will find and locate appropriate salary information on the web. They will also be required to find information regarding living costs (ex: how much will rent or mortgage costs be using mortgage calc, how much will they spend on food, clothing, entertainment, etc.) For all of this information, we will go through an example step by step together. I will also facilitate the process as students are searching for information themselves. Some information, such as average annual tax percentages, average mortgage rates, etc. will already be provided by me to give students a head start. This lesson will cover 3-4 class periods depending on length of periods.
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