1. A vision for students today - what do the kids say?

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2. Building critical literacy and creativity in the classroom

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(A few words from Gail Casey)

Critical literacy is about ways in which language and literacy are used to understand the world around us. Becoming critically literate means developing a sense of social action and awareness. If we genuinely believe in critical literacy we must be prepared to hear questions we might not like, questions that force us to think differently, to listen and hear other voices and opinions. Critical literacy transcends conventional notions of reading and writing to incorporate critical thinking, questioning and the transformation of self and/or one’s world (McDaniel, 2006). At the core of critical literacy is a focus on power and who has it. Creativity can be viewed as students' natural capacity to work with imagination and with purpose (Facer & Williamson, 2002) to judge the value of their own contributions and those of others and to fashion critical responses across all subjects in the curriculum. Our youth possess the imagination and creativity to combine print, visual and digital modes in combinations and it is schools that should harness this creativity (Walsh, 2007).

3. The classroom, future trends and social environments

Today we are in an era of information overload where literacy is about finding meaning and applying it for maximum benefit, hence the term “digital age literacy” (Dillon, 2006). Merchant’s (2007) discussion on the way in which digital literacy involves different ways of producing and distributing text creates new possibilities of how we might construct and operate within the educational environment, including the use of social networking. He proposes that the new genres of digital text suggest a need to re-conceptualise our approach to learning and teaching in the classroom. This leads to the importance of critical literacy and the powerful argument to suggest that an education system has a responsibility to provide the young with the tools and understandings necessary for interpreting the constructed nature of popular culture and to provide a critical view. Merchant believes that building flexible and intelligent educational responses to digital literacy becomes important both from the point of view of valuing children’s everyday digital experiences and in terms of preparing for the future. Schools should provide students with opportunities to critique the digital media they encounter. Some characteristics of todays learners include:
  • Technically literate
  • Multitasking
  • Collaborative
  • Connected

To engage todays learners a lot of thought must be given as to how their preferred means of communicating can be integrated into the teaching and learning environment as discussed by
Cochrane (2007). The classroom, social environments and future trends wiki pages aim to help educators begin to understand the types of activities and environments that need to be incorporated into our curriculum.

4. Educators

21st century students are changing, our world is changing. School is only one place students can learn – technology has removed many barriers to education. Using technology is no longer a choice, it’s an expectation (Keengwe, Onchwari, & Wachira, 2008). Stephen Heppell (CEO of Ltd) argues, “Every turned off device is potentially a turned off child,” (in Digital Arts Alliance, 2008).

What are the critical literacy and creativity skills we need to cultivate in this digital age?

21st century students need to build relationships, a sense of community, connectivity, develop collaborative skills, communication skills, empathy, and tolerance. 21st century students need to make global connections. They need to be critical, creative thinkers, apply and analyse their understandings for a range of audiences. (Digital Arts Alliance, 2008).

If we want to see our students exhibit the qualities outlined above, we need to begin with ourselves, as educators. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” (in Moncur, 2007). Teachers need to develop their own critical literacy and creativity by exploring ways of using Web 2.0 tools in their classroom, using a constructivist pedagogy and by making learning real for their students.

The Educators page will provide some guidance and direction for teachers wishing to step into the 21st century and learn from and with their students for the betterment of the programmes they deliver.

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5. Deepening understanding

Rivera et al (2002) suggested that technology should be 'infused in the instructional activity'. I like the term 'infuse'. For me it suggests that the use of contemporary tools is not simply an addition to the curriculum. It is an intrinsic part of the contemporary classroom because it allows students a broader range of tools to research, to internalise, to reflect, to question and to share new learning.The selective use of contemporary tools based on multiple intelligence and point of need allows for greater critical thinking, metacognition and a stronger awareness of one's own 'self knowledge'. (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005).

The Deepening Understanding wiki page explores the question; does the use of contemporary tools in the 21st century classroom deepen a student's understanding of any given learning content? The page explores what is understanding and how educators can use contemporary tools to truly depth thinking.

6. Creativity

Do Schools Today Kill Creativity?

A 20:03 min video - Do Schools Today Kill Creativity from
Recorded February 2006, at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference, Monterey, California, USA:

'We have to rethink the fundamental principles of how we educate. In the past it has been very narrow in scope and limited to societies economic needs' Sir Ken Robinson

Why are the arts given such a low status in many schools? Why is maths and science viewed as superior to visual art, theatre, or dance? Creativity allows people to interact with the world around them in dynamic and meaningful ways, that empowers people to think, learn and contribute to society.