Reflections by Kevin Klott

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Reflection — Chapter 1:


In the opening paragraph, author Doug Belshaw quotes Lemony Snicket from A Series of Unfortunate Events. My first question is, “Why didn’t the author use quotes when he quoted Lemony saying, ‘if you keep reading, then don’t say I didn’t warn you?’ ” I believe he should have used quotation marks. But who am I to be the grammar police? My other thought is about the actual book series. I have many of them sitting on my shelf in my language arts room. Many of my students have read them —and some have read all — and they love the stories. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read a single book in the series. Now I might, thanks to this lovely little quote. It makes me want to read one as well as The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies.

A minor point, but I believe "don't say we didn't warn you" is the literal quote (of the series tagline, not from the text itself), so perhaps Doug's non-use of quotes makes sense on two fronts. ---Fncll (talk)

Reflection — Chapter 2:

What’s the problem?

Being a seventh-grade language arts teacher, I get asked all the time, “Mr. Klott? Why do we have to read this?” My typical response reflects the question back to the student. “Why do you think you have to read this?” But perhaps I should respond by explaining it the way Belshaw defines literacy in Chapter 2:

  • Reading for understanding (We read to understand others)
  • Writing to be understood by others (We write so others understand us)
  • Using a tool to write (We learn to communicate by using tools)

I also liked this quote: “These tools are technologies. Literacy, therefore, is inextricably linked with technology even before we get to ‘digital’ literacies.”

When a student comes to class without a pencil, I explain that he/she is coming to class without their tool. It’s like a carpenter coming to work without his ruler, or a basketball player coming to work without his gym shoes. Whether it’s a pencil, a smartphone, or a keyboard, students need to know that these tools are what help others understand them and vise versa. Using a pencil as a tool doesn’t always work for students, so next school year I would like to do a better job giving students more options for their tools (Confession: I’ve hardly picked up a pencil all summer, but I’ve been typing like a mad man!)

Also, thank you Belshaw for introducing me to the word zeugmas. I had to look it up and look at multiple examples to understand what it means. Now I get it! Even though it’s not in our curriculum, I may have to go rogue and teach it.

And, of course, the criticisms of technology go back to, at least, the invention of the technology of writing (which many forget is a technology) and Plato's Phaedrus. And isn't "zeugma" a wonderful word? As a word collector it is on my shortlist. Sounds much better than the synonym "syllepsis." ---Fncll (talk)

Reflection — Chapter 3:

Everything is Ambiguous

This chapter lost me once I started to memorize the different types of ambiguity. After a while, I started saying to myself, “What in the world does ambiguity mean again?” It started to finally make sense toward the end of the chapter when Belshaw broke down the types of ambiguity into a three-step process.

  1. Generate a vision for digital literacies.
  2. Think about what this would mean in practice.
  3. Talk about how this would work in practice.

Ambiguity is what gives me so much joy to teach language arts. There are so many ways to answer a question correctly. It depends on how it’s worded and if you have evidence to back up your claim. This ambiguity is what gives students confidence in their ability to explore information and make an educated response.

I found it interesting that Belshaw thinks we should “revisit strategies and definitions on a regular basis to ensure they’re still useful and productive.” I think one of the biggest ways teachers remain disconnected from their students is by not truly listening to their students. At times, students know more than you, and if you are the kind of teachers who is stuck in old strategies and definitions, students won’t respect you and therefore have a difficult time learning from you.

In his reflection, Chris Fliss brought up the notion of a "living construct," which makes sense and fits with technologies for collaborating on "living documents" as outcomes/artifacts. Disconnection abounds everywhere there are connections between teachers, students, administrators and the living maching that is academic bureaucracy. ---Fncll (talk)

Reflection — Chapter 4:

Why existing models of digital literacy don’t work

This passage really connected with me:

“ … we should recognise a multiplicity of literacies, and especially in the digital realm. It is easy to paint a utopian picture of what can happen when learners connect to information and to one another via digital tools. There’s plenty of rhetoric about learning and jobs being available to all through the internet. What is often missing is the recognition of the multiple literacies needed to not only turn desire into action, but even to know what is obtainable.”

I think that sometimes teachers and administrators are guilty of putting the cart in front of the horse as far as digital literacy. Here’s a great example: During the first week of school, let’s say we give students an assignment that’s located on Google Drive. We know how the platform works (we’ve used it for years) and we think, “All kids should know Google Drive by now.” But the truth is that students entering middle school have a wide range of digital literacies. For Google Apps, some students have used it, but many have not. Therefore, I think we must spend time frontloading the “how-to” information before expecting students to produce a product.

I do agree with what Belshaw says here: “Our tendency in education, in general, is to package-up blocks of learning on a linear pathway.” But I also think that some learning is naturally linear. Example: When I’m teaching iMovie, I must teach students the basics before they can produce any product. The basic is a linear approach to teaching video. After they know the basics of using the video-making platform, the process of making a quality video is completely non-linear.

You hit on a good point with the Google Docs example. It takes a long, long time for most technologies to become truly ubiquitous, much less particular functions and pathways within that technology. This is at the heart of one of the many problems with the "digital native" theory.

However, once you get learners into a collaborative space, "Hock's Law" (some of your classmates have written about that as part of their Search and Research assignments) often takes effect and it's easy to overscript and overdirect, stifling the very collaboration we've worked so hard to enable.

I also find the "linear" thing complicated (on the opposite end I also find the notion of "co-creation" mostly problematic. Perhaps this fits in with my worry about throwing out too much good stuff from the "old ways" while striving to embrace "new ones." Not only are some things naturally linear, but linear paths often just work. If it ain't broke... ---Fncll (talk)

Reflection — Chapter 5:

The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

“A note in passing. I always felt when I was teaching — and helping others to learn how to teach — that it’s the transitions that are the hardest to learn. It’s fairly straightforward to master facilitating group work or giving some lecture-style input. How to move seamlessly between these, however, is much more difficult. Likewise, moving between different digital environments is the thing that is problematic and takes time to learn.”

This might be a “note in passing,” but it’s a really good note to keep in mind. Transitions are the most difficult part of the teaching profession. Whether we are an elementary, middle or high school teacher, keeping students focused during transitions takes experience and a personality. In other words, we need to be able to connect culturally with students in order to help them transition from one task to the next. The key to making good transitions is doing it so well that students don’t even know it’s a transition. To me, it’s like telling a story. We must be able to make connections from one subject to the next. Otherwise, it’s extremely hard to follow.