Monday, March 17, 2014

Common Core & Technology: Does it taste good?

I keep seeing bits of the new Common Core Standards (CCSS) showing how much they incorporate
digital media. This is very true.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge, Writing Standards Grade 7 
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation. 
If that isn't the definition of teaching kids how to do online research, I don't know what is. I've spent much of my last 4 years trying to teach this skill to 7th graders (some more effectively than others). Like any good tech teacher, I didn't read every word of the standards, but did a keyword search for a few important terms to see how prevalent technology really is in these new standards. These are what I came up with (in the ELA standards): [The number in parentheses is the number of times it appeared in the document.]

Media (55)
Audio (9)
Digital (46)
Technology (24)

It turns out they're pretty important. Upon perusing how each of these terms was used, it describes exactly what many educators have referred to as 21st Century Skills for several years now.

  • Publish writing online
  • Collaborate and interact with others online
  • Link to other information
  • Gather information from multiple sources
  • Tailor online searches
  • Identify strengths and limitations of online media
As I reflected on these skills that truly are crucial for how we interact, and how we go about teaching them to kids, it kept reminding me of my son. He is 15 months old. Like any good toddler, he learns about his world by putting everything in his mouth. Speck of paper on the floor? In the mouth. Graham cracker from mom? In the mouth. Dog food? In the mouth. Egg shell? In the mouth. Book? In the mouth. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), he'll start to discriminate what tastes good and what doesn't. 

Students learning to use the internet are the same way. At first, everything goes down the hatch. If it's on the internet, it must be true. But then, as they learn more about HOW it works, they start to identify signs that a site might not be beneficial to them and focus on others.

I hope that teachers don't brush off the digital aspect of these standards. Teachers need to stop and evaluate how they use technology in their own lives, personally and professionally, and realize that students do and will use technology even more than that. We must teach them how to use it wisely and to their own benefit, and not just shove everything they find online into their mouth. 

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