Week 5-Acceptable/Responsible Use Policies & Digital Citizenship

Our readings this week focused was on Digital citizenship, access, and policy.  A shift, but one that turned out to be fruitful in terms of getting me to think about more nuts and bolts of ICT implementation, teaching and coaching.

Digital Equity and  Access

The more I read and the more I experience as a student in this grad program, the more I believe the path to better access for students runs through teachers having direct ICT learning experiences themselves.  District and school policies, administrator attitudes and priorities, and parent fears and misconceptions all hold their various concerns and possible obstacles.  However, the critical juncture ultimately is the teacher who either understands the need for students to have connected learning experiences or does not.  For those that do understand, they do all they can to provide those experiences.  Continued support and professional learning about  is, of course, vital, given the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the internet.  However, for those “reluctant” or “traditional” teachers, their understanding needs to be developed.  With new knowledge and continued support ought to come a change in instructional behaviors.  Most teachers want to do good by their students.  But they also feel the need to be experts in their classrooms.  So if we provide teachers with their own professional learning experiences that ask them to practice the 4 C’s as learners, they will likely recognize the power of such learning experiences and want to provide the same for their students.  In so doing, students have increased, and hopefully better, access.

Digital citizenship and acceptable/responsible use policies our school

It was 2009 when last I had my own classroom.  Looking back to that time is instructive given how much has changed in the ensuing 8 years.  Our use policy was an AUP since the notion of an RUP didn’t exist yet.  Or if it did, no one at our school was privvy to the concept.  Students and parents had to sign a form acknowledging that they read, understood and would abide by its terms as well as any consequences for their breach.  Additionally, students had to pass a mandatory multiple choice quiz about the AUP’s content with a grade of 80% or better in order to gain access to the school network.  (They could take it as many times as they needed to attain the minimum score.)  But as Rethinking Acceptable Use Policies to Enable Digital Learning describes it, “[r]equiring students to sign a document indicating they will comply with the district policies may or may not mean that they understand and accept the commitment they are making.  A ‘sign off’ could be as casual and thoughtless as the way people sometimes place a check in the accept box on applications or software ‘terms and conditions.'”  The quiz was meant for students to do more than merely sign off; but looking back, I don’t think it was significantly more than that.  While the large majority of students passed the quiz on the first try, I would surmise that most of them were going for short-term cramming more than long-term understanding.  Designing an RUP and the on-boarding process around it today, I would definitely include student voice in its development and some kind of course work to deepen their understanding by applying it in real contexts.

Approaching digital citizenship in your class

Again, going back to 2009, I can see that I definitely focused on what students should not do with technology.  That included everything from using the CD drives to play advisory-labeled music, to looking at web sites they shouldn’t be on, to playing games or designing gym shoes instead of doing assignments.  (Looking back now, I should have leveraged the creative aspects of those last two examples. But what did I know?)   To be fair, though, I was also giving assignments that usually hovered around the substitution level of SAMR and occasionally at the augmentation level.  So it’s not likely they saw why doing the work on a computer necessarily mattered to their learning.  In other words, their behaviors were, in part, a sign of boredom or low relevance.  At the time, we used eChalk, which was as close to an LMS as we got in 2009.  Every student account included an email address.  So the kinds of citizenship behaviors students demonstrated on a computer were a bit more limited.  However, cell phones were another matter.  None of my students could afford smartphones, so the most distracting thing they could do with their phones during school was text friends and family.  And text they did. Sexting became an issue.  At times, fights both in and out of school, would erupt as a result of texting drama.  In one instance, we even had parents drawn into texting drama between their children come to the school midday prepared to fight each other.  Unfortunately, our reactions in the face of these events were all punitive and centered around confiscating cell phones if they were visible during the school day and then requiring parents to come to the school to pick them up.  Repeat “offenders” would get detention.

Needless to say, my approach would be very different today given all the creative, collaborative ways to use phones now.  I would certainly identify the ways students need to protect themselves if they find they are in an uncomfortable situation online.  But I would focus much more on how to support each other, protect each other, and inform adults when they are in those moments.  That’s the doing part instead of the don’t do.  It’s no different than teaching kids not to get into a stranger’s car and what to do if they’re approached by someone they don’t know.  I would also spend the vast majority of time and energy focusing on all the amazing 4-C’s ways of doing, creating with these devices.  A quote by Bryan Alexander has become a favorite of mine and it undergirds my thinking now.  “We hit on the web as a major feature of literacy and learning.  And that’s a good thing.  We didn’t identify a horrible monster.  We identified a really powerful platform for human expression and connection, with flaws, with problems.  But that’s a major stride forward for the human race.”

See also: TIE 524 Week 6: Critical Thinking & Information Literacy

Thus, to my way of thinking, we need to mediate the flaws, yes.  But we cannot let the flaws completely define how we use the web such that they impede our using it for all the great things we can do online.

Resources, tips and ideas from the week’s readings 
 This text was very useful in helping me reframe my thinking, shifting from AUP’s to RUP’s in the Web 2.0 era.  It informs much of my discussion content today.
This is a great framing question and my answer would be “No”.  The model described here where teachers have to engage in the work of citizenship themselves, not just have the work described to them by an expert lecturer is the one that, as I said above, is the path to better ICT access and 21C learning.  (And I feel sorry for the one teacher, whose last name is Snowden.  That can’t be easy right now, especially working in the [ed] tech field!)

What I liked most about this blog was not only examining ones digital footprint and how to create a positive one, but I particularly like the idea of improving one’s digital footprint. When it comes to thinking about our digital footprint, we more often focus on the tattoo aspect in that once you put something into the digital world it’s out there permanently since we can’t control what remains on, say, Google’s servers, or what other people might download and save from our posts. And that’s a lesson that any Internaut needs to understand at the deepest level. However, we can in fact scrub our identities on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. by going through and deleting elements that might not fit with the online persona we wish to present once we have a better understanding of digital citizenship. This is definitely a surface scrub given that we will never know what is saved at deeper levels of cyberspace. However appearances matter.  At least anyone who would be looking to manipulate or make judgments about us based on our digital presence would have to work harder to find that ill-considered material as opposed to simply finding it right there on our public social media feeds.



This week’s readings definitely touched on some of the policy matters surrounding the use of ed tech.  Not our usual fare in class so far.  But that shift toward the practical and legal matters was an interesting shift to get us thinking about a different perspective in regard to this work.  It was also instructive for me to compare where we were 8 years ago and how the times and tech require a rethinking about the policies we put in place and how to roll those out to teachers, parents, and of course, our students.



Week 1-Connectivism & ISTE Standards

Here’s to the start of the summer term and a new class, TIE 542 – Digital Tools for Teaching, Learning and Assessment!  While there is no formal requirement to keep a blog for the class, I’ve found the practice quite useful in clarifying and solidifying my thinking in previous classes.  So I will continue the practice and link back to it from the class discussion boards.  Here we go!

Technology Use in My School & District

As a consultant working with a handful of CPS high schools, I witness several different kinds of

Graphic credit: Clix

technology use at different levels. As a district, I believe CPS would like to be “technology forward”.  This can be seen in their adoption of Google Apps for Education and installing wireless networks in nearly all schools. But there are obstacles — some of which are out of their hands, such as limited monetary resources for hardware, software, and professional development. Then there are those that are self-inflicted — such as deactivating all GAFE sharing functions with anyone outside the cps.edu domain.

Yet there are disparities at the school level. Some schools, such as the magnets and the selective enrollment campuses, have far more technology on-site with more teachers more willing to use it. Neighborhood schools have far fewer resources.

Finally, I’d say the greatest incongruity lies at the teacher level, which is where the rubber meets the road no matter the school. At this level I’ve seen the SAMR gamut run from teachers who only use overhead projectors and confiscate students’ cellphones to those who use Google Docs for student collaboration to those who require students use multiple apps on their phones to participate in a plethora of class activities in a given period.  Still, I’d say that in the schools I visit, more students do not use technology in meaningful, relevant ways than do.  Sadly.

School or District’s Adoption of Technology Standards

For the past four years my work is mainly with administrators and instructional leadership teams so it’s difficult for me to say the extent to which CPS teachers hew to a set of standard specifically for technology.  However, I have heard teachers and ILT members talk about the technology strands embedded in the Common Core.  And strangely enough — especially given how we obsess over standards — when I ask the administrators and curriculum leaders with whom I work what technology standards teachers use to structure their curriculum, they look at me in puzzlement and ask me what I mean.

Update: After two days, one of my principals connected me to the school’s computer science teacher.  She in turn sent me the standards she uses in class — the ISTE Standards and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) [Interim] CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards.  Still, I wonder why admin and curriculum leaders don’t know what standards are being used even if they don’t know them in detail.  I guess I’ve just experienced connectivism in a real world application!

Learning Theories

When I took LSE 500 this winter, I was re-acquainted with “the big 3”: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructionism. It had been a long time since pondering these theories and I have to say, I missed them.  I remember my undergrad professors being amazed at how interested I was in these theories.  As one said to me, “Doug, this is the stuff most teaching candidates suffer through to get to the good stuff!”  But as a global thinker I was fascinated by the theory and still am.  As a practitioner, though, I also need to be pragmatic. So I use the elements of theory that work on the ground and let the rest be interesting abstractions for the pondering. Still, back in January, it was great to dive in again with so many more years of experience to see again why and how the practical works as it does. While I find behaviorist and cognitivist theory interesting, I am a constructivist in both my teaching of adolescents and adults. I find I respond far better to constructivist methods as a learner as well. 

For more, watch Carol Dweck on Teaching Channel


Siemens was an interesting read. I would agree that there are elements that make sense for the digital world in which we live.  Being able to work collaboratively, recognize and access networks to augment individual or group knowhow is a useful human, social analog to the digital/mobile/social media parallel.  Indeed, we do live in a time when knowing when and where to access information can be more important, more useful than having a panoply of content and skill sets stored in one’s brain.  In a sense, I can see connectivism as a container for the  4 C’s.  However, in suggesting that “knowing” in the digital age is a simple matter of accessing information, connectivism (or at least Siemens’s paper) sidesteps the role of understanding.  Knowing is not synonymous with accessing information which is how the term is being used — at least in this paper.   Possessing information does little good without some cognitive processing about what to do with it, which, whether done individually or with a group, still must occur within the individual on some level.  Perhaps this is what Siemens means when he talks about one’s ability to perceive connections?  

I would agree, too, that there are some kinds of knowledge that can be offloaded.  Knowing state capitals, for instance.  However, just because some knowledge or tasks can be offloaded does not mean they should be.  For instance, there are benefits to learning one’s multiplication tables or how to write in cursive that go beyond the mere tasks at hand.


In their paper, “Connectivism as a Digital Age Learning Theory”, Duke, Harper, and Johnston state, “If a person with limited core knowledge accesses Internet information beyond his or her ability to understand, then that knowledge is useless. In other words a structured study using the existing learning theories is required in order to acquire the core knowledge for a specific field.  While the theory presented by George Siemens and Stephen Downes is important and valid, it is a tool to be used in the learning process for instruction or curriculum rather than a standalone learning theory.”  This captures my thinking about connectivism, at least as I’m thinking about it now based on this week’s reading.  I look forward to learning more about it as the weeks go on.


Week 11-Teaching 21st Century Students

One of the key safety instructions we all hear every time we board an airplane is that in the event of cabin depressurization we must put our own oxygen mask on first before helping others.  This is vital since not matter how much we care about the family or friends sitting with us, we cannot help them if we ourselves are unconscious due to asphyxia.  When it comes to our societal need to transform our schools, we are very much in a similar situation as a depressurizing airplane.  As much as we say we want to focus on the needs of students, we will not see the transformations they need in our education system until teachers and administrators are moved to understand the need for change and prioritize the professional learning necessary to get us there.  So this week I focused on the ISTE Standards for Teachers 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher, and The 21st Century Workplace which provide clear targets for teachers to consider when teaching the habits of mind, cognitive skills and collaborative abilities students will need in the world we’re preparing them to enter.

Verbs Are Calling For Transformation

Image source: ISTE Standards for Teachers

Consider the verbs of the 5 top level ISTE Standards for Teachers: facilitate, inspire, design, develop, model, promote, engage.  In addition to these top level verbs, it is striking that “model” appears nine times across all 5 standards and 20 sub-clusters.  When considered in combination with the other verbs inspire and facilitate, I’m struck by the heavy lift the ISTE standards are pointing towards.  They suggest that what we need is nothing short of a sea change in school cultures with regard to 21C technology and methodologies.  When so many schools outright ban cell phones and so many teachers don’t incorporate technology in meaningful ways, how are they to facilitate, model and inspire?

It’s All About Culture and Professional Learning

In research for a previous literature review I found that a critical component for implementing the necessary change ISTE calls for comes only with consistent, focused professional learning for teachers.  Not only that, but school culture also has a significant impact on the success or failure of information and communication technology (ICT) implementation, much of which is determined by the level of support projected by the principal.

School culture can positively impact ICT practices.  Positive peer pressure can motivate reluctant teachers to try new approaches with technology.  Studies have also found that teachers who see positive student outcomes as a direct result of ICT practices are more likely to continue and expand their ICT toolkit.

In a study of three schools where teachers adapted ICT in meaningful ways, all three schools had six characteristics in common:  1) They were well equipped for ICT.  2) Their focus was on changing the process of learning using ICT.  3) Skills were acquired as part of the process of using those skills purposefully.  4) The school provided support.  5) Teachers had opportunities to discuss, reflect and  troubleshoot with peers and facilitators over time.  6) The nature of student learning changed along with teachers’ beliefs and knowledge sets  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Therefore, the school community must recognize that the most effective professional development is that which facilitates teachers understanding about how specific instructional practices themselves support student learning of particular content.  That is, schools must allow teachers to see that technology-supported, student-centered practices impact student acquisition of knowledge  (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).

Finally, even when teachers are willing to wrestle with their beliefs, identify what they truly value, use these realizations to motivate changes to their practice via meaningful PD, the role of the principal administrator cannot be underestimated…. The principal plays an outsized role in creating and maintaining at least four of Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich’s six conditions and is generally responsible for shepherding the wider culture of the school community.  Determining what professional learning is necessary among which teachers; establishing the systems for implementing the professional learning plan; creating calendars for structured and unstructured learning; countering programmed time with protected, unprogrammed time for reflection and metacognition about instruction – all these necessities flow from the principal’s office.  When the principal does these things in a way that sets high expectations and supports for ICT instruction, shifts can be made more readily if still not easily.  However, when the principal’s own beliefs, values, and motivations do not prioritize ICT methods, digitally infused learning environments are far less likely to take hold, even with willing and capable teachers.

Douglas van Dyke, “Transitions to Digitally Mediated Classrooms”


The Educator’s Need to Feel Expert

This dovetails with the what I’ve written about in previous blog posts about the anxiety teachers feel when they are thrust into areas where they do not feel expert.  Given the significant shift and stretch for which the ISTE standards are calling, we don’t seem likely to meet them without acknowledging both the fundamental changes in school culture that are necessary as well as high quality and consistent PD for teachers.  Additionally, educators must reconcile their reluctance to implement ICT methods in school with their own ICT use in the various aspects of their lives outside of school.

Blow This Stuff UP!

When we consider the 21st century world — that is the one we are living in today — and the workplace students will enter, especially as described by Daniel Pink, the need for a cultural and instructional transformation of our schools could not be more apparent.  The leap from an “Information Age” to a “Conceptual Age” cannot happen without students learning through active learning and metacognitive methods.   ICT and the 4C’s are uniquely suited for the attainment of the skills categories that will be most valued as described by Levy and Murnane: “expert thinking — solving new problems for which there are no routine answers” and “complex communication — persuading, explaining, and in other ways conveying a particular interpretation of information”.  To make such shifts, however, educators must blow up the linearity of the industrial model that defines our school structures and curriculum and the information model on which accountability is based in favor of more distributed, differentiated, student-centric proficiency-based approaches that digital and mobile technologies can now facilitate.

Concluding This Post & TIE 524

What ISTE is essentially calling for is SAMRizing and TPACKing our entire education system.  We must prioritize changes in school culture through consistent professional learning for teachers around ICT methodologies.  Administrators must lead the way, advocating and requiring ICT methods and solidifying the cultural shifts that come as a result.

Over the last eleven weeks, this course has provided a remarkable set of resources for incorporating ICT strategies for both  classroom instruction and professional learning.  In doing so it has facilitated multiple opportunities for reflection about my own practice, where we are as a profession, and how far we all have to go.  It has been an excellent next step on this master’s journey!

Week 10-Frameworks for Evaluating Technology

When SAMR first crossed my path last term, it seemed an elegant way to evaluate the role of a particular technology for whether it was innovating the learning process or just being sexy.  Among many of the teachers I encounter, technology is, as Liz Kolb noted, a gimmick.  Students with iPads are being tricked into thinking they are learning while the teachers who deploy them feel cutting edge.  (Though, the kids are not being tricked.  If I had a dollar for every time I asked a student about what they were doing with a device and was met with a lethargic explanation through a smirk and some eye rolling.  Yeah, they know!)

My SAMR Experiences

SAMR has been useful in my coaching in two ways.  I look for opportunities to stretch my coachees into at least augmentation or modification.  For instance, I recently set up a discussion board in Google Groups for an ILT I work with to extend faculty conversations around learning walks beyond teachers’ physical time together.  Granted, it’s not a lot compared to what we’ve been using in our NLU course work.  But even for my teachers who want to embrace technology, it’s an ah-ha since they don’t venture too far down the GAFE paths they have available to them.  They are easily overwhelmed and quickly become anxious when asked to use features outside their workflow in programs they use everyday.  In general, they struggle with their own ability to transfer skills from a known program to a new one.

In another school I’m helping the faculty map their curriculum using Google Docs to collaboratively write their maps, collect resources, and view each other’s maps.  This is the first that they have effectively been able to visualize the curriculum as a whole.  However, teachers have struggled to find enough time to meet to work collaboratively on course team maps.  CPS’s turning PD days into furlough days has only exacerbated the issue.  While many see the value of the project, they are tired of fighting to carve out tiny parcels of time to meet and do the work.  So just last week I proposed they stop trying to meet face-to-face as it was less necessary than they thought given the powerful collaboration tools that already exist in Google Docs if only they would use them.

Part of a concept map to show teachers how to use Google Docs more remotely and collaboratively; Image Source: D. van Dyke
An enthusiastic teacher’s Google Groups discussion thread; Image source: D. van Dyke


In my instructional work I’ve brought SAMR to planning meetings and coached teachers through using the framework to analyze and evaluate their current technology.  Many are surprised to see that they’re operating mostly at the substitution level with occasional dips into augmentation.   We all get excited when the conversation then turns creative and the teacher starts visualizing ways to redesign a lesson such that those iPads or Chromebooks are being used for modification or redefinition.

Frameworks From Heaven

SAMR was an epiphany when I first encountered it.  But having these other analytical and evaluative tools for ICT integration feels like revelation.

TPACK, 3E, TIM are all new to me and I can see each having its place.  3E and SAMR seem more entry-level frameworks for teachers just starting to wrestle with ICT integration.  They are relatively simple and straightforward.  Given their complexity, however, TPACK and TIM seem to be for more sophisticated evaluation of technology deployment.  The pedagogue in me appreciates how TPACK operates from the interplay among multiple domains and context.  TPACK acknowledges the complexity and locality of teaching and learning and demands that the teacher does as well.

Different visualizations of the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

TIM reminded me less of a rubric than of a continuum of skill development like something along the lines of a practitioner model of professional growth such as the Dreyfus model.  Such models allow practitioners to position themselves on the continuum with the skill sets they currently possess.  This creates an evaluative environment, but with less judgment and critique since the model honors practitioners at their current level of experience.  It also suggests that their place in the model is dynamic.  The longer they practice the more skills or “tools” they acquire.   As they grow in experience they travel along the continuum.  Such implicit messaging can be powerful for teachers working to improve their practice.  There is an implied level of safety which is an important motivator for growth.

Kids are savvy enough to know when an iPad or laptop activity is engaging them cognitively or when it is just a glorified textbook.  We’re not pulling anything over on them by simply putting a device in their hands.  These frameworks are great tools to level up our “teaching with tech” game.  They not only foster teacher reflection about how effectively they teach with technology, but having multiple frameworks allows us to differentiate for the sophistication of the teacher using them.

For Further Reading
The Five-Stage Model of Adult Skill Acquisition - Stuart Dreyfus


Week 6: Critical Thinking & Information Literacy

Source: Digital Citizenship for 6th Grade Students
The Digital Literacy Adventure

Digital literacy is the adventure I chose for this week because it is the near universal substrate of all the other kinds of media and communication in the Information Age.  Not to mention, the nature of digital communication means that the lines between message and medium can be blurred far more easily than in the analog world, which has significant implications for teaching and learning all the other literacies outlined for the week  — information, news, media, and critical thinking.


The most succinct definition of digital literacy I found is from  Purposeful Technology-Constructing Meaning in 21st Century Schools and is defined as “the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.”  Yet in light of the other rather troubling readings on the topic, the expanded aspects of digital literacy are vital.  Specifically, the authors note that digital literacy includes “when students are able to engage with multi-media to read and interpret text, sounds and images…when students can  manipulate and evaluate data to construct their own meaning…having knowledge about  how to use technology to construct meaning…in ways that are appropriate to their needseffectively and appropriately to communicate a message.”  The emphases are added and align to some specifics of digital literacy instruction the inclusion of which, I believe, needs to be mandatory in any district curriculum.  Common Sense Media also notes that digital literacy is an aspect of media literacy and that both fall under the broader umbrella of information literacy.  Common Sense specifically designates media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and “other nontraditional sources” as within the realm of digital literacy.  (By the way, Common Sense has many useful resources.  It’s worth exploring from the link above.)

2 Framing Anecdotes

Part of the work I do as a consultant is leadership and instructional coaching through the University of Chicago’s Network For College Success.  We work with Network high schools to implement professional learning rounds that facilitate instructional improvement in a targeted instructional area.  The method for teaching the targeted instructional area is a research-based powerful instructional practice.  One of the powerful practices we support is Reading for Understanding: How Reading Apprenticeship Improves Disciplinary Learning in Secondary and College Classrooms, also know more simply as Reading Apprenticeship or RA.  The RA model operates from the belief that all teachers are literacy teachers.  Not reading teachers, but literacy teachers.  It also proceeds from the notion that different disciplines require different literacy skills specific to that discipline.  This makes a world of sense when one considers that the way one reads a novel is very different from reading a science text, which is different from reading a social studies text, is different from reading a math text, is different still from reading an art text.  Each of these content area teachers is the expert in how to read these specialized texts.  Therefore, all teachers have a responsibility to teach the reading, writing, and thinking skills necessary for the text types of their particular disciplines.  So the RA framework is the schema that activated when I read the framing questions for this week’s assignment, “Who is responsible for teaching information literacy?”

Baby’s & Screens                   Photo: Pintrest

When I read the second framing question, “When should it be introduced?” I was reminded of a time when I was at a friend’s home.  We were sitting on the living room sofa, talking.  At some point we realized that his 3 year-old daughter was standing in front of the flat panel TV which was off at the time.  From the corner of my eye I half noticed that she was alternately waving at the television and turning to us, waving at the television and turning to us.  When it registered that she was actually talking to us, we turned our full attention to her.  She was saying, “Broke!  Broke!”  What was happening was that she was swiping the TV screen.  When it did not turn on after several attempts, she turned to us to demonstrate that the TV was broken because that big flat screen didn’t wake up when she moved her hand across it!  My friend and I were blown away by the implications of this moment.  Indeed “[s]tudents learn technology just like they do the spoken language, by doing and today it is not uncommon for a 3 year old to have some basic knowledge regarding how to get on to the computer and load a game” (Purposeful Technology).

Teach Digital Literacy and to Whom?
Digital Literacy Model
Source: MediaSmarts: Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy

Thus, based on my own literacy coaching, the incident with my friend’s daughter, and the readings for this week, my answer to these questions would be “All teachers are responsible for teaching digital literacy to all students and it should start as soon as they enter school!”

Wrestling With the Texts

Mike Caulfield‘s “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” borders on screed; however, his take on the literacy situation is spot on and aligns with the research-based method of RA.  “One of the problems…with traditional digital literacy programs is that they tend to see digital literacy as a separable skill from domain knowledge….  In reality, most literacies are heavily domain-dependent, and based not on skills, but on a body of knowledge that comes from mindful immersion in a context.”  Caulfield then demonstrates in short order how inadequate tools like RADCAB and CRAAP are to the task of developing a reader’s ability to accurately and reliably evaluate digital media.

CRAAP Click here to take the CRAAP Test! Source: SCAD Libraries


The RADCAB literacy sifter; Source: radcab.com

Caulfield’s larger argument also puts me in mind of a subject we studied in LSE500.  Namely

Does it make sense to teach about Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper (1498) orally?  Neither should all digital literacy instruction be at the upper levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

that educators have for years misunderstood the notion of learning style.  Our brains make meaning through all our senses.  While research indicates that every learner has a preferred learning mode, it is inaccurate to say that that mode is the “best” way for them to learn all material.  The most effective way for any learner to make meaning is to experience the content in the learning mode best suited for the content not the learner.   In fact, what teachers need to consider is the learning mode best suited for the particular content.  For instance, it makes no sense in an art history class to differentiate lessons for aural learners that privilege verbal interactions over the visual when studying the complex imagery of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.  Painting is a visual medium and thus is best taught visually.  Since the human brain makes meaning from visual inputs, it is a more efficient and effective way to teach about The Last Supper, even for learners who prefer an aural approach.

Caulfield takes the same approach to Bloom’s Taxonomy and digital literacy.  Yes, in a democratic society citizens need to be critical thinkers.  But all content does not need to be processed at that high a level.  At specific stages of the learning process, some content is most effectively taught at the remembering and understanding levels of the taxonomy.  Remember it.  Understand it.  Apply it.  Move on.  Caulfield effectively argues that digital literacy instruction is in need of this approach.  Do digital citizens need to know how to analyze and evaluate the reliability of a source?  Of course.  And students should have opportunities to practice critical thinking throughout their educational career.  However, in the early stages of developing one’s digital literacy instruction, or with particular kinds of literacy content, basic knowledge is what’s needed first.  For example, it’s important that a digital citizen know that images and videos can be presented out of their original contexts and paired with other information to mislead a reader.  Or that when reading a tweet one must actually click on an embedded link to get to the detailed information the tweet is sharing.  Or that one may have to take a few more steps to do additional, deeper searches to vet the context of a piece of information.  Only after someone knows these basics can that they apply them in more complex and critically thoughtful ways.

Evaluating Information:  The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning is a Stanford study that clearly illustrates how teaching digital literacy exclusively from the top of Bloom’s is failing our students and our society.  The study assessed “civic online reasoning” by collecting and analyzing 7,804 response from students of varied ages and socio-economic backgrounds ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to suburban Minneapolis to Stanford University to public state universities.   Disturbingly, their findings echo Caulfield’s concerns.

"...[T]o a stunning and dismaying consistency...[o]verall, young people's ability to reason about the information in the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak....  [W]hen it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped....  [I]n every case and at every level we were taken aback by students' lack of preparation."


This statement and the examples of student work collected for the study are indeed “stunning and dismaying” in their implications.  Yet in light of the the 2016 election, it can’t be a surprise.  I spent much of November with colleagues wrestling with what they felt were our profession’s responsibility for the election outcome.  “If only we had taught media literacy better.”  “We need to teach kids how to be more critical of what they read online.”  “Schools have got to get their hands around fake news and teach our students how to tell it from the real thing.”  These are all paraphrases of statements I heard teachers and administrators saying on November 9th.  As much as I don’t want one more societal ill to be laid at the feet of our profession, I have to say, on several levels I had a hard time disputing their analysis.

Beware the Usual Professional Pitfalls

That said, we will not be served by once again looking for a curricular silver bullet, an instructional quick fix for the paucity of digital literacy in k-12 and collegiate learning.  It’s going to be a generational effort.  And as we get this ball rolling, our profession would be well-served keeping three things in mind to remain positive.  “First and foremost — encourage, request, even demand that teachers in your school district get  EXTENSIVE (not just one workshop) training in the use of technology in the classroom and Digital Citizenship! Teachers are the front line of content delivery, but if teachers are not comfortable and confident with the use of technology, then they will not incorporate its use into their classrooms” (Purposeful Technology).  Second, as Bryan Alexander said in the Teaching and Higher Ed podcast, “There’s a lot of churn.  But …overall we were right.  We hit on the web as a major feature of literacy and learning.  And that’s a good thing.  We didn’t identify a horrible monster.  We identified a really powerful platform for human expression and connection, with flaws, with problems.  But that’s a major stride forward for the human race.”  And finally, as Alexander continued, “Teachers are hired to be experts and we can’t be expert in everything online.  Therefore they have an extra layer of anxiety to participate in the social world of the web and they’re not the expert.  They’re average users.  And that is very hard and threatening.  That’s why teachers have had a hard time using the web for teaching and learning.”  Yet we have to push through that anxiety and not only take our place in the digital world, but also guide the younger generations to their own critical and constructively participatory place in it as well.  And as we do, let’s keep in mind “There’s too much to master.  No one can master it all.” So “grab one particular corner of it [like Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, etc.] and get comfy with it.”  


The internet and the digital domain ceased being curiosities and merely interesting diversions decades ago.  As the cartoon at the top of the post illustrates, concepts of traditional citizenship and digital citizenship are utterly intertwined.  Thus, being a good civic citizen requires one being a good digital citizen also.  Both, therefore, require a sophisticated level of digital literacy where the literate person uses technology to interact with the world in a responsible way (Purposeful Technology).  Given the ubiquity of digital technology globally and the very real and tangible impact the digital world has on the actual world, concepts of digital citizenship cannot be any less important than those of traditional civic citizenship.   Literacy is a crucial component of citizenship — in both the real world and in the digital world.

The authors of Evaluating Information conclude the study’s executive summary with a quote from philosopher Michael Lynch:

"[T]he Internet is 'both the world's best fact-checker and the world's best bias confirmer -- often at the same time.'  Never have we had so much information at our fingertips.  Whether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it.  At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish."


Indeed, given what’s at stake, if ever there was a clarion call for embedding and infusing digital literacy throughout our curriculum, this is it.

A Coincidental Post Script

Throughout my academic career I have been the lucky beneficiary of strange coincidences connected to my research.  This started all the way back in 8th grade with the dreaded annual science fair dog & pony show project.  Randomly, I had selected “nuclear power” for my project.  One week before the project was due for class and two weeks before the fair, the Three Mile Island accident occurred (and which just 12 days after the release of The China Syndrome!)  So I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up this morning and open my New York Times to find the above-the-fold-top-right headline, HACKERS USE TOOL TAKEN FROM N.S.A. IN GLOBAL ATTACK.  What an opportunity to talk about digital citizenship, literacy, and safety with our students (and our septua- and octogenarian parents for whom some of us are the 24/7 support desk!)