Thinking About Digital Literacy

I was asked to speak at the VCU School of Education’s Teaching Literacy in a Digital World Conference this past Saturday. I’ve haven’t spent much time thinking about “digital literacy” in the past few years. It’s been somewhat mashed together with other terms that overlap like- digital fluency, computational thinking, etc. – and like those terms there’s not much agreement on what it is. I glanced at a few definitions prior to making this but didn’t really stick with one. When Dr. Leila Christenbury started the conference she referenced the “find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet” definition of digital literacy so I added that while I waited and it makes as good a framework as anything else. A chunk of the presentation is on GitHub here or you can fork it here. I opted to do the presentation with reveal.js and on GitHub mainly because I need to be expanding my own competencies (digital and otherwise). I struck the “differently” portion because I wanted to orient things more towards the idea of doing things and didn’t want people getting caught up in the nuances of whether it was really “different.” This was an attempt to connect with the audience. I believed they were mainly k12 teachers or faculty in the School of Ed (who […]


Red Dot It on Twitter

Given the level of despair and rage resulting from Twitter’s move to the like/heart option, I have decided to save the world. It seemed a worthwhile way to spend two minutes. This codepen was handy in figuring out how to make the arrow part of the tooltip the right color. The following chunk of CSS thrown into a plugin like Stylebot will now enable you to simply red1 dot something. It is simply a circle which could mean anything. Instead of the tooltip displaying the word “Like” you now have a blank canvas upon which you can think any word you want.2 [EDIT] Another option that’s probably simpler and more fun, although unlike Gizmodo, I didn’t copy him. Install Stylish for your browser, add this rule, and use any emoji you want. — Robert McNees (@mcnees) November 3, 2015 1 Change the color if red is offensive. 2 In reality replacing the text via javascript seemed a bit too much effort for this sort of nonsense. I can justify two minutes but not ten.

If it seems like playing . . .

If it seems like I’m playing lately it is because I am. The last week or so has been an exploration of all sorts of fairly odd things. Markov chains, Twitterbots, McRibs1, photo walks to name a few items. These are easy things to dismiss as trivial. It’s not necessarily obvious how these strange wanderings connect back to outcomes that other people may want or how they mesh with the idea of online learning at VCU. I believe that’s because we’ve created a belief that (in many things) we know both where we are (point A) and where want to go (point B) and that whatever gets us between these two points most “efficiently” is the best path. I’m going to try to both justify the value of a wandering path by pulling in pretty disparate examples2 from time/space with some recent examples of these wanderings coming to fruition. Similar patterns of over-narrowing happen in lots of areas. People tend to think they know lots of things they don’t.3 I see elements of this narrowing in terms of the echo chamber, the specification focused patterns of today’s world4, and the general lack of joy evident in work and school.5 Here’s a fairly typical pattern for me. Stage One – September 2011 On Sept. 22, 2011 at 10:48 PM6, I took […]

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Strange Screenshots

I take screenshots of things I think are strange or perhaps illuminate something about the strange world we now inhabit. Think of it as my personal take on The New Aesthetic. All of these images are pulled from my actual life and interactions with former classmates, friends, coworkers etc. There are a blurred out series of iffy pictures down there if you’re easily offended you might opt to skip this post. Laser toe fungus available now. Social media makes some really awkward conversations permanent. I am influential in Zoolander, very, very influential. This happened shortly before I deleted all of my authority. Some things you shouldn’t tweet from Harper’s Weekly Review(which would also make a great project). Laptops don’t even make the list any more. Strange times. The app-ification of education is proceeding at full speed. Reality doesn’t matter much and we’re losing the war of perception. These four images are someone’s Instagram likes posted in Facebook.I can’t believe he realized this would happen, yet here it is.Social media makes for some really uncomfortable juxtapositions. Modern day job benefits are not what they once were. Geek desks and monster monitors are pretty attractive to me though. Someone I follow re-tweeting CNN’s coverage of Greek issues showing up right next to Real Time WWII Tweets also dealing with Greek issues. Everything […]


Social Media Talk

I’ve spoken to the PTA at Tuckahoe Middle School for the last two years about social media. It’s been pretty interesting both times in that I take a closer look at things that I tend to take for granted. I think both conversations have gone pretty well. I’ll document the conversation below (mixed with a few things I did with our principals a while back) for anyone who might have to do the same. Introduction I start with a slide that mixes the pictures of as many radically different people with Twitter accounts as I can find. I get the audience to try to identify the people. The one I’m using now has the Dali Lama, Rupert Murdoch, Sarah Palin and a few others. My goal was to have a few easily identifiable people and a few that took a tiny bit more effort.1 I wanted a wide diversity in political views, ages, etc. After we’ve ID’d the people, I ask “What do these people have in common?”2 I mention that you’ve probably heard references to Twitter after shows like Good Morning America, etc. Hopefully this gets people into the mindset that Twitter (and social media in general) is becoming more broadly adopted and is being used by mainstream media. My next move is to argue against polarizing social media. […]


The textbook as unreliable narrator

NBCLearn Safe and trustworthy – each resource is selected to be K-12 appropriate, and held to the highest NBC News Standards and Practices. Washington Post NBC told this blog today that it would investigate its handling of a piece on the “Today” show that ham-handedly abridged the conversation between George Zimmerman and a dispatcher in the moments before the death of Trayvon Martin. A statement from NBC: “We have launched an internal investigation into the editorial process surrounding this particular story.” Great news right there. As exposed by Fox News and media watchdog site NewsBusters, the “Today” segment took this approach to a key part of the dispatcher call: Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black. Here’s how the actual conversation went down: Zimmerman: This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about. Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic? Zimmerman: He looks black. The difference between what “Today” put on its air and the actual tape? Complete: In the “Today” version, Zimmerman volunteered that this person “looks black,” a sequence of events that would more readily paint Zimmerman as a racial profiler. In reality’s version, Zimmerman simply answered a question about the race […]

Bloom’s Rocks!

Rocks are going to REVOLUTIONIZE education! Just look how easily rocks cover all levels of Bloom’s! Remembering I write things on my rocks and it helps me remember. I can also use rocks as eco-friendly flash cards. Understanding Comparing my rock to other rocks demonstrates my understanding. Sometime I categorize all of my rocks. Applying I apply what I know about physics and use my kinesthetic intelligence to skip my rock. Analyzing I like to use conglomerates to help me differentiate between components and analyze the role of different composite pieces. Evaluating Sometimes I just sit on a large rock, quietly reflecting on my rock- thinking about how we are all on a large rock and stuff like that. Creating My rock can be used to make many things. I use it as a hammer mostly but I can stack my rocks into cool towers, use it as a canvas, make it into an arrowhead, or use to ground grain.


HCPS’s Path to 21st Century-ish Stuff in 5 minutes

In case you’re feeling masochistic, here’s my 5 minute Ignite style presentation on Henrico’s path to 21st century skills.1 You can see the other 5 min presentations here. It’s an interesting national look at what people are trying to do. I’m always interesting in how these things overlap. 1 Yes, I plan to transition to awkward PPT based comedy in the near future.

Digital Content- Things to Consider

Henrico has had a long and interesting relationship with digital content. We’ve been struggling with this issue since we first went to 1:1 back in 2001. We’ve used everything from simple networked directories to full blown learning management systems (Blackboard and Angel). We’ve bought content. We’ve made content. We’ve had content submitted openly from any teacher and content only shared after careful vetting by content specialists. So we’ve tried most thing I can think of. Now the pressure is on to make a scale move to digital content and to do it well. Goals Use digital content to help define and reinforce best practice in the classroom. Digital content and digital curriculum are not the same but if you are making this kind of shift it makes sense to think hard about how to use this content to shape teaching in the classroom. Duplicating a text in PDF format won’t get at any sort of change, nor will the slightly modified “rich” online textbooks that most publishers put out. Invest Internally The current model in education is to pay outside vendors for “expertise” on a regular basis. This ends up causing a variety of problems. The most important being that our own teachers end up being “given fish” over and over again and then people are surprised to find that […]


Based on Faulty Information

Their opinions are based on faulty information . I shot this quick clip in one of the classrooms that was doing the performance based assessment. The audio is terrible but what this student says is perfect. It’s actually kind of scary because there are people who don’t do this out in the public- like they don’t check their sources and stuff, therefore their opinions are based on faulty information. Now if we can create more assessments that cause students to come to those simple, yet powerful, conclusions I’ll be very pleased.