Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Adding e-Literacy to the National Curriculum

Senator Lundy has posted a very useful draft submission on ICT skills for students to the Australian National Curriculum Consultation. The Senator proposes three core skills, to which I suggest adding "e-literacy" as a mandatory part of the curriculum. That is: we need to teach students how to read and write in the online environment.

The Draft K-10 Curriculum documents from ACRA make some mention of online literacy:
"... Students learn to interpret, appreciate, evaluate and create literary texts such as narrative, poetry, prose, plays, film and multimodal texts, in spoken, print and digital/online contexts...

Multimodal/ digital focus ... cartoons, websites, picture books, films and television including children’s drama, Aboriginal paintings, cook books, road directories, pamphlets, online search engines, ebooks. ...

Literature ... Students learn to interpret, appreciate, evaluate and create literary texts such as narrative, poetry, prose, plays, film and multimodal texts, in
spoken, print and digital/online contexts. ...

Research skills ... Multimodal/ digital focus advertisements, current affairs programs, newspapers and magazines, literary websites, graphic novels, manga, animation, feature films, television drama series, television documentaries, bio-pics and mockumentaries, blogs, wikis, mash ups, online social networking sites, ebooks ..."

From: English Australian Curriculum, Draft Consultation version 1.0.1, ACRA, April 2010 (emphasis added)

"... Information and communication technologies (ICT) are evident in historical skills associated with locating, processing and communicating historical information. This includes the use of search tools for accessing a growing range of digitised online materials, spreadsheets and databases for analysing evidence and historical trends, and video conferencing for collaboration and debating ideas. ICT tools, such as wikis and blogs, have the potential to enhance students’ analytical thinking capabilities in their study of history. ...

From: History Australian Curriculum, Draft Consultation version 1.0.1, ACRA, April 2010 (emphasis added)
I attempted to complete the Australian Curriculum online survey to comment on some issues, but I was unable to get the web based survey to work. One comment I had was that the ACRA web site fails to meet manditory government web standards. The home page failed HTML validation, Mobile OK, and Linkaccessibility for the disabled tests.
After becoming frustrated by the poor quality of online communications I wrote a book chapter on "How to Read and Write E-mail Messages" (the book has a forward by Senator Lundy). In the decade since then there has been considerable progress in understanding of how communication online differs from writing on paper and speaking face to face. Also the research in this area has shown how many assumptions about traditional communication were incorrect.

While much has been learnt, little of this has been reflected in the way literacy is taught in schools, or universities. That can be changes quickly using the computers, networks and software now being made available to educators and students. However, such an education also requires suitable assessment. It would be unfortunate to teach students how to communicate online and then assess their performance with a closed book pencil and paper test.

In the book "Green Technology Strategies" I outline a course which uses online forms for education, where the students learn by collaborating with each other, with the teacher in the role of mentor. While this course is at the postgraduate level for universities in Australia and North America, essentially the same techniques can be applied in schools.

It cannot be assumed that young people know how to communicate online for scholarly purposes, just because they can use an online forum. They need to learn how to use these tools in a more structured and disciplined way.

As Senator Lundy notes, students also need formal training in the sue of software tools. Existing educational standard may be of use for this, such as the International Computer Driving Licence. But it needs to be kept in mind that such standards tend to emphasise the mechanics of how to use computer software, rather than how to use it to communicate with people.

... core skills into three specific areas:

  1. Productivity skills
    The applied use of ICT to other areas, for instance creating a document, slideshow, video or graph to present information in a useful and comprehensible format. Production skills should be taught conceptually and with a number of software examples to ensure skills are transferable to different applications and different versions of the same application. This will lower training costs and productivity losses in ICT upgrades or migrations for all employers.
  2. Online engagement skills
    How to safely and effectively use the Internet for research, communications, collaboration and content creation, as well as the skills needed for online communications such as manners (netiquette) and how to establish and participate effectively in online communities of interest. These skills will teach students how to participate online and discover new opportunities for employment and education.
  3. Automation skills
    The skills to automate tasks and innovate both personally and in the workplace – regardless of the sector or job description. Skills include basic computer administration, programming, scripting and teaches students to be empowered by technology rather than bound to the current status quo. For example, the ability to write a short script to automate a task rather than having to manually repeat it continually. ...
From:Open Submission to the National Curriculum Consultation, By Pia Waugh for Senator Kate Lundy, 22April 2010

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