Our internet was out at school today (it's okay, it came back on around lunchtime) and it gave me a chance to slow down a little bit during my plan period to re-arrange my thoughts and take a few deep breaths. I met Jeff Utecht at a conference last March and at his workshop, he gave us a code to download a free copy of his book, Reach. I had all of my lesson plans done and nothing to copy, so with no internet to browse or Twitter to lurk, I took the time to read the book that has been sitting on my desktop since March.
It's a short book on building professional networks...only about 100 pages. Most of it is about different types of social networking (ie Twitter vs Facebook or Wikis) and how each can play a role in our PLNs. A lot of it I've already done, but there were still some good tidbits and thoughts about tools available to build and augment my learning network.
The part that really stood out to me was in Chapter 2 when he writes about building our communities and networks for learning. He used three different terms: print literacy, digital literacy, and network literacy. As I thought about it, I had realized that I knew the difference between print and digital literacy, but my continuum stopped there. I had never thought about what each of those meant. Jeff's words:
By these definitions digital literacy looks at understanding technologies and their uses. It’s everything from understanding folder structures on a computer to being able to successfully use e-mail to communicate with others (Reach p 29).
I had always thought digital literacy was so much more, but when I read that, it made a lot of sense that today's kids are already digital literate. They are probably more literate than me in most cases when it comes to new technology coming out. The problems I see when we're using the computers are definitely in the network literacy. I'm even more glad now that I decided to go with class blogs this year. Again, Jeff's words:
Networked literacy is what the web is about. It’s about understanding how people and communication networks work. It’s the understanding of how to find information and how to be found. It’s about how to read hyperlinked text articles, and understand the connections that are made when you become “friends” or “follow” someone on a network. It’s the understanding of how to stay safe and how to use the networked knowledge that is the World Wide Web. Networked Literacy is about understanding connections (Reach p. 30).
I am network literate. I have learned how to use Twitter, Google+, blogs, and other tools to build my learning network into something personal and useful for my work. This is what we need to be teaching kids now. They know how to use a computer, but that doesn't mean they know how to connect with a computer.
Today in class, students were amazed that people from other countries had read some of the blogs. To me, that's totally normal because I have built that global perspective for myself. The change in perspective is a good reminder that to accomplish my goals this year, I need to be teaching networks and not just focusing on the "digital."
You can read more of Jeff's thoughts on network literacy here.