"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing."
-- AristotlePerhaps the most obvious way to help students become more 21st Century computer literate and to help them learn the new media skills is to have them become 'producers and not just consumers.' Recent articles in many educationally oriented publications, both print and digital, have extolled the need for students to become more tech savvy and the need for schools to provide such instruction that will advance technological skills for the 21st Century. This sounds very much like the clamor of the early 20th Century when schools needed to educate the students for that business world. We learn by doing.
Today's students are far more advanced with the tools of technology than the students of the past and even most of their teachers and parents. The problem is that they are consumers and not producers. Tweets are not enough, they are thoughts that need to be expanded. e-texting, notepassing 2.0, is not enough. These new tools are not advancing literacy as they should, because the students are not producing much if anything and are simply consuming the toys of technology. We have not seen a surge in literacy skills with these new tools, instead we have seen a loss in effective literacy as the results from our schools are telling us.
Currently students consume large amounts of data and facts to satisfy the need to pass a test that asks them to regurgitate that consumed data. They are not producing anything, merely consuming, regurgitating, and then consuming again. We know learning isn't happening because the next stops after K-12, college, military, or work, tell us that these students aren't prepared. In order for us to know they have learned, we need them to produce something that shows us they know how to do.
I have always liked the construction of webpages to show me the scholars are learning. The webpages are online magazines. Their webpages contain other webpages that represent the essyas or articles they write based on research. These webpages are not just text, they are hypertext, colorful, graphical, and multimedia rich. In the construction of these webpages, the scholars have to do research, they have to verify their sources, they have to include hypertext links to these sources, they have to analyze their resources and present their findings and observations. They have to create substantial webpages that become digital portfolios or webfolios of their learning. I also have them produce in the basic language of HTML, because when they begin to incorporate other web tools, knowledge of HTML will make them more fluent and adroit with these other tools. They will use software that allows them to create graphics, music, videos and add them to their work on their webpages. Blogs, twitter, wiki, and other tools augment the webpage, they are not replacements of the webpage and can be linked to from their webpage when necessary. These webfolios become far better tools for us to evaluate the scholars as they move on into their next worlds following K-12. When these scholars are producing their own webpages they are more engaged in their own learning and go beyond what the expectations of the class were so often. Oh and this goes for teachers, too.