Saturday, October 12, 2013

Connected Learning: A Generating Generation and Literacy Limitations for Today’s Youth

           When viewing the videos about connected learning, I couldn't help (the English teacher inside me), considering how "Connected Learning" fully relates to the concept of adolescent literacy acquisition. Although it may seem that literacy education is wholeheartedly missing the needs of our students today, it is partially due to the fact that the term and educational procedures themselves still have yet to be fully defined and understood. Not only has this struggle to define such a convoluted term caused many researchers to search for information to help understand and measure literacy in unrealistic, insufficient ways, but it has also forced the process to be hastily accelerated; therefore, denying students the proper educational approaches that will help them to become effective communicators, collaborators, and members of a connected society.

Our students have voices; they have ideas; they are creators, generators, developers, thinkers, hackers, lovers, fighters; and most of all they are real people with real problems. Education as a whole needs to embrace these unique characteristics of our students. Educators will never be able to even begin to understand their students until they allow them to have a voice. Until we begin to listen to our students, to care about what they think, feel, and do, then we will never open the door to understanding how we can help to enrich and empower them. We need to begin to hear their ideas and respect their lives. Literacy today cannot be defined simply by our previous notions of it, but rather it must embody the distinct characteristics of today’s youth; otherwise, we fail to utilize the amazing opportunities that modern advances offer for our students.

An understanding of not just technological advances, but also the functional, critical, rhetorical, and networked complexities that surround us, must become a foundation for education. We must begin to teach our students how to be thinkers, evaluators, producers, and users of technology, information, and knowledge, not simply just “readers and writers.” We can not possibly develop such foundations in our curriculum until we begin to understand and embrace the real lives of our students.

Literacy no longer exists only in school, but rather it has become ingrained in semiotic and social influences all around us. As we begin to deconstruct these notions of literacy and broaden the lenses through which we define it, we will begin to identify and understand its use in every aspect of our students’ lives; therefore, helping us to discern how we can teach them best.

In my own personal experience, I have found that students become far more engaged and are far more likely to complete tasks, when they are producing, evaluating, or critiquing something that relates to their lives in some form. Whether it’s reading articles and posing questions about age limits for things like piercings and tattoos, discussing and using social media, or producing persuasive films about the prevention of teen suicide, students want to feel like they have a presence and voice in their work. Not only do they want to have a voice and be listened to, but they also want to feel like they have produced something that could possibly have meaning or influence outside of the academic walls of their classroom. Students want to affect people and effect change; they want their work and their learning to have meaning.They want to be connected to their learning and to the possibility of influencing one another.

Literacy no longer implies that our students are simply just storers of information, but rather they have become producers, composers, and creators. These previous notions of literacy must be replaced by the epistemology of literacy in today’s generation. We must teach our students how to utilize their multiliteracies in order to enhance their capabilities to become producers and creators. We need to begin to think of our students as those who are developing our future. They can do much more now than  simply just memorize and recall information. They can produce unique ideas, thoughts, products, and solutions. What will our students create? What impression will they make on society? How will they use their access to infinite amounts of information? How can we teach them to develop ideas, think creatively, evaluate information and make fair judgements? Certainly not by teaching them how to take a test.