A Preface: Over the past six months, I have had the chance to ponder BIG questions in relation to leadership and education. While I’m incredibly impressed with my experience, I’ve been frustrated with lack of conversation around 21st century literacies and education – especially among our group of aspiring administrators and future heads of schools. This semester, I decided to do something about it. I enrolled in an elective class (Literacies and Technologies in Secondary English Classroom) which is outside of the official education leadership umbrella (but obviously, not really). Although we’re not even halfway through the semester, I have found this class to be even more challenging than many of my core classes. We’re a diverse group, we’ve been grappling with tough questions having to do with literacy and education, and we’re trying to envision what our classrooms and schools will/should/could look like while we’re in the comfortable cocoon of graduate school. It’s quite a daunting task.
Our small group has been thinking about a number of interesting questions during the first few weeks of class. The following questions are based on Lankshear and Knobels’s ideas from New Literacies, but they echo some of the larger questions that are being considered across our nation/world:
- Since literacies can be considered “new” in terms of both ontologies and ethos, what does “new literacies” mean? Are ethos/ontology mutually exclusive?
- What is the connection between a mindset and a new literacy?
- What are the effects of distinguishing literacies as new? How does this shape our ideas of these literacies – both the “old” and “new”?
- Given that teachers and curricula form the backbone of the “deep grammar” of school, what implications does this have for educators?
While I wasn’t able to attend Will Richardson’s conversation in person, I’ve been following the aftermath (and will read through the archived Elluminate chat very soon). Will’s session was entitled “The Decoupling of Education and School” and he used ideas from Collins and Halverson’s Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology to start the conversation. While the questions that were created (by 100 people in person and 40+ people online) encompass a much broader sweep of the educational landscape, I think we can add some of these questions to our discussion and more importantly, learn from his approach.
After the weekend at Educon, Richardson created a Google Form with all of the questions and asked others to join the conversation. He called on the members of his incredibly large PLN to whittle the 30 or so questions down to the ten essential questions by crowdsourcing. This is when I got involved. I voted on the ten that were most pressing as did many others. The results, which Richardson extracted after only a few days and numerous tweets, speak for themselves. His blog post on the process (and what the future will bring) is worth reading.
As I think about the small group in our Literacies and Technologies class and the big questions we are wrestling with, I think it’s essential that we do a couple of things. First, in order to bring more voices into the discussion, I think it’s important that we begin to expand our network to include a variety of opinions. I appreciate Will’s approach – especially since he is considered an expert by many in the ed tech world – because it gives a tangible example of networked learning. Second, I think it’s important that we remember that our discussions (while heavily rooted in theory) have real, practical implications. Karen LaBonte suggested this video, and I think it’ll provide an interesting foundation for the issues that we’ll grapple with this week/month/semester. I think it will help remind all of us that our theoretical discussions have realistic implications – the students in this video are asking for something more. They’re asking for us to consider what the world will look like in 5, 10, 20, 30 years. They’re hoping we take risks to provide them with something different. I’m hoping for the same thing.