Tag Archives: Literacy

The Little Red Hen: a Kindergarten Robot Story

Dressing up Dash

Dressing up Dash

This past week, I had a chance to design a “21st Century Lesson Plan” for my Teaching for Understanding with Technology course. It was inspired by Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies (i.e., access, create, analyze, reflect, act), as outlined in her book Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011). As I created my lesson, I tried to ensure that the digital tools and skills that were woven into it were not the sole focus of students’ learning. Instead, I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to use different technology tools, like iPads and robots, to generate creative content and also reflect on how they could use their tools to communicate ideas to others.

I decided to design a lesson (available in this Google Doc) for our kindergarten students that builds upon an existing unit they do on The Little Red Hen and the topic of helping others. This unit is already very robust because in addition to reading various versions of The Little Red Hen, students also take a field trip to a local mill and get to see how bread is made. Then they have a chance to bake their own bread at school and engage in classroom discussions about kindness, friendship, and helping others. They discuss whether they would help the Little Red Hen if they were part of the story and finally, they have a chance to write their own version of The Little Red Hen.

With all of that exploration into the literary and social aspects of the story, students develop a strong foundational understanding of the different characters and their roles in teaching the moral of the story. They have a chance to access relevant books related to the story using Scout, our picture-based digital library database, which is designed to meet their developmental needs.

So I created a project that would invite students to analyze, create, reflect, and act, as Hobbs’ suggests, to extend their learning using digital tools. The goal would be to have students take their co-constructed class version of The Little Red Hen and program a few Wonder Workshop robots to act out the story. This would allow them to deepen their knowledge of the story, apply their written work in a real-world context, and explore ways to utilize code to tell a story in a new medium. Through experimental play, students will learn and discover more about both the characters in their story and how to tell a story using various blocks of code (Thomas & Brown, 2011) .

The core focus of their work would be to create their own authentic content, using Blockly code, so that the Dash and Dot robots we have at school could tell their story in a tangible way that other audiences could enjoy. They will have to take action and work collaboratively in teams to build a successful program, using the knowledge of their group to identify various code blocks and as a team, create a sequence of code that can tell the story of a single character in The Little Red Hen.  

After designing different programs for each robot, students would have a chance to put the robots together and analyze and reflect on how the story looks different when acted out by their robots. They will be documenting their work so that they can both teach others what they learned and how they programmed their robots and also to share their own version of The Little Red Hen, as performed by the robots, with their families, other classes at our school, and classes in other countries.

References

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

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Digital Literacy Defined?

Digital Literacies Peacock

Digital Literacies Peacock (Photo credit: *s@lly*)

What does it mean to be digitally literate? And who can actually answer that question today – teachers, administrators, researchers, students? I’m not sure I can do it justice. I think that’s one of my big takeaways from participating in the #etmooc Digital Literacy topic.

I have been busier than I expected these past two weeks so I have not had a chance to follow the Twitter and Google+ dialogues very closely or read many blog posts and I am definitely feeling that lack. The amount of learning and questioning I’m prompted to engage in by participating with the group is a credit to the #etmooc community and I hope I’m able to dive back in more next week. Still, from the archives I listened to and the one session I was able to attend (Howard Rheingold’s Literacies of Attention, Crap Detection, Participation, Collaboration & Network Know-How) live, I have come to realize that digital literacy or literacies is no simple topic.

In part, this is because there are still disputes about how to define literacy itself and then there is the challenge of trying to define something that is constantly shifting and changing in response to technology developments and cultural shifts. Similar to the use of “21st Century Skills,” at what point do they just become “skills” or “literacies”? Do we need to distinguish between the digital aspects and the analog ones?

Web literacy? (v0.1)

Web literacy? (v0.1) (Photo credit: dougbelshaw)

And then there is the question of whether to differentiate between skills and literacies. As Steve shares so well in this recent post, there are “nuances and emerging aspects of learning [specifically] through digital media.” I agree with the inherently contextual and cultural nature of (digital) literacies and the idea that while certain skills may be transferable between them (e.g., writing an email) the ways in which it is done can depend on the type of literacy used in that context. For example, when writing an email to a friend, young students might use very informal language or text speak but hopefully, when writing to teachers or professors, they code-switch to a more professional tone and different type of text and then they might have to adjust their practice again if they enter the workforce and learn the unique email protocols used there. I know I have found that in certain contexts, the expectation is that everyone at a conference or event will be tweeting and know how to converse in that type of 140 character, shortened URL code while at other conferences, I have to be aware that many people have never even seen a tweet and I need to be literate in other ways of communication to connect with them.

As an educator, what I think is important for me and others to consider is whether our students are cognizant of the different types of digital literacies they already know, of the digital literacies they will need to know, and of the concept of digital literacies as a whole? In reflecting on the past two weeks, I realized that while my schedule was busier I was also a little less motivated to blog/participate because I felt there was less creation work and more analysis of deeper concepts that I needed to do to wrap my head around digital literacies. Honestly, I love to sit back and just think and reflect on ideas but when I’m pressed for time, it becomes a lot more challenging and I definitely felt like digital literacies required … requires … a lot more thought before I feel like I have a true grasp of it.

So, my next project is to consider ways to create in order to better break apart and conceptualize digital literacies and then to consider projects that would be developmentally appropriate for my young students to create so they can begin to learn through this process too. When we were learning and sharing ideas about digital storytelling, I almost couldn’t resist posting multiple times during the week because I was having so much fun creating and learning and I wanted to share that with the #etmooc community. I’d like to find a way for that same level of excitement to be shared around digital literacies so that I can then invite my students into these engaging activities and open up an early dialogue with them about ways they can each define digital literacies for themselves.