Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Digital Literacies’

Emotional Literacy for Educators – the 12-step programme!

In Adult Educators, Classroom Teaching, Educational Leadership on 05/04/2012 at 10:45 am

In a recent post I talked about the idea of Emotional Literacy – one of the core human literacies that drive great TEACHing and also great educational leadership.

Some people call it Emotional Intelligence (EQ or EI), educational leaders often use the term “Conscious Leadership” – I prefer to think of it as the “people STUFF” in LEARNing and TEACHing.

Call it what you will…it is here to stay! And, as a concept, it is attracting more and more interest in education as we all get to grips with balancing the “digital literacies” (and fluencies) of the 21st Century with the “human literacies” that are the very foundation of good LEARNing and TEACHing.

In an earlier post, I told you that Tom Peters believes that the world today needs “leaders” who:

OK , I might re-name that 6th one – “LEARN, LEARN, LEARN”!

You know me so well…


For me, all TEACHers are LEADersand Uncle Tom puts his finger on all the major elements that TEACHer LEADers (and their school LEADers) really need to emphasise as they work with 21st Century students. If we do not walk-the-talk, how can we expect our students to even LEARN the talklet alone “walk” it!

The internet is today awash with advice for 21st Century Educational Leaders – these leaders are not only 21st Century Learning Specialists, they are also:

These ideas are also reflected in the work of educators like Marcy Shankman and Scott Allen – who believe that all leaders (and there are many all over our schools and colleges) need to think more about their own “consciousness”:


…if we are to do the same with our LEARNers!


This notion of Conscious Leadership has also been around for some time.

Deepak Chopra tells us we are beginning to see, thanks to information technology (those damn computers, again!), a paradigm shift from a material worldview to a consciousness-based worldview. This makes a great deal of sense – after all:

  • What is consciousness, if not information and energy that has become alive with self-referral? In other words, consciousness is information that responds to feedback, which is also information.

This self-referred information, if applied to “what matters”, supports the process of “consciousness” becoming “intelligence” – and even more LEARNing.


This, in essence, is what we teachers call “reflective savvy”:

– the very process of what we all do to improve what we do with what we know and understand about LEARNing and TEACHing and adapt or transform ourselves as educators…yes, I know – a mouthful!


Being a great TEACHer in the 21st Century, to go back to Marcy Shankman and Scott Allen, is not just about the “tech” – it is not even just about LEARNing and TEACHing practice in the classroom (“virtual” or not). Though, I have to admit, the whole idea of LEARNacy is probably on a par with these:

It’s essentially about exercising our Emotional Literacy “muscle” – knowing and understanding more about our SELF, our OTHERS and our CONTEXT…and being “savvy” on the INTRAPERSONAL, INTERPERSONAL and ENVIRONMENTAL levels, too.

And…how we critically apply this knowledge to all our EDU understandings:


So, how should we exercise this muscle – to make it more emotionally intelligent and make ourselves more emotionally literate?


A while back, I tried to develop a “12-Step Plan” to help teachers set up their own D-I-Y professional development process (if their schools were not helping them out as much as they should).

I thought I’d try the same for Emotional Literacy:

STEP 1 – Read, learn and discuss more about emotional intelligence and conscious leadership (book learnin’ be good – sharing be better)!

STEP 2 – Know thyself (and know “others” and “context” more)! This needs a couple more steps…

STEP 3 – Try to become more aware of your own “emotional style”. Ask yourself – What do I do in more emotional situations? How do I try to avoid discomfort? What do I know about the emotions of those I work with (and how do I know this)? What role do emotions play in my institution (and how do I know this)?

STEP 4 – Get to know yourself better by trying out a few of the many EQ assessment tools you can find nowadays – to understand your strengths and “soft spots” a bit more. Be careful – there is a lot of “rubbish” on the web!

STEP 5 – Focus on your own “listening skills” as a priority – listen in to others (and yourself) and see what lessons you can learn from feelings and emotions. And, remember “listening is often the best way to get your point across”!

STEP 6 – Be the change you want to see in your leadership style (OK – slight modification on what Gandhi told us) and work to increase positive feedback to yourself (and those around you) and increase your appreciation of others (try counting how many times you say “thank you” – each day)!

STEP 7 – Just do it! 

STEP 8 – Start small, begin slowly and focus on doing a few things “differently” and “well” (Rome was not built in a day…)!

STEP 9 – Don’t use technology – remember what we said; the people “stuff” (and LEARNing) is not about the hardware, the software, or the webware…it’s the headware, heartware and careware!

STEP 10 – If in doubt (and you have some “spare cash”), try attending a programme on EQ (but watch out for “EQ sharks” – those buggers that read-a-book and tell-the-world). Hey, if you can do it (and we do not do this enough in education, at all) – get yourself a “coach” (but remember – you get what you pay for)!

STEP 11 – Remember “best practice” is seldom ever enough (and the attitude of “fake-it-till-you-make-it” is quickly sussed out by others) – it is, more often than not, about somebody else’s solution to somebody else’s problem. Surely, it’s better to heed what Covey tells us about the “end” and “bearing it in mind” – and look for “Next Practice” in ourselves! 

STEP 12 – Always my favourite – remember: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference…

Hey, I’m getting better at this “12-step thing”!


But, then again, I’m sure you have some other ideas!

The HUMAN Literacies of TEACHing…

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Training, Technology on 11/03/2012 at 12:42 pm

I wasn’t planning on doing any blogging this weekend – even thought about reading one of those “book-thingies” or three!

What changed?


Well, I was wandering around the web-cum-blogosphere (as any “digitally-literate grown-up” does when there is nothing better on the telly) and came across an advert that took me to a siteand, on this site I found this:


Read it carefully! Twice…


OK – it’s not as bad as Yul Bryner’s “My name is Yul Brynner – and I am DEAD  – his posthumous, anti-smoking advert!

But, it’s pretty scary…especially for those that do not own a “digital green-card“…

What struck me about this (and many other “Techie Support and LEARNing sites” like it) was how it plays on the “fears” of many grown-ups – our very “human” fears about being “inadequate” or being “left behind” (if I get one more spammy e-mail asking me if I am happy “with the size of my breasts”, I’ll just die – my breasts are just fine, thank you very mucho)!

I won’t be too mean – as Cyberwise has some great tutorials for teachers and parents wanting to LEARN more about media literacy – or even Twitter, Prezi or Glogster.

Just remember what Uncle Doug and Auntie Nancy told us earlier!


More importantly, however, a couple of people got in touch and asked after some more information on the “human literacies” that I mentioned in my last post on 21C Teacher Skills and Literacies .

There is probably a really bad global shortage of good weekend television these days!

Those of you that follow the blog will have seen a couple of the (in)famous jpegs and pngs I like to create in my “spare time” – images like this one:



Many Techies “hate” them – many “non-techies” love them…and both get a bit confused when I do a mini-series of three on allthingstechnology.

For me, this is the real “digital divide” in education – the divide between the “doers” and “non-doers” with allthingstechnology.

However, if you are anything like me – regardless of how digitally literate (and fluent) you are – you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions:

  • What makes a really great teacher? How can I get there?
  • What can I LEARN from all those great teachers we hear about? How can I get as good as they are?
  • How can I be the best teacher I can be? Will technology help me?


You might have seen one of the “answers” I have come up with:


…and you can take that one to the bank (or pin-board)!


In matters of technology, I always ask one of the following questions:

I’ll leave it to you to “guess” which one I prefer


I mention this as we’ve been “talking” (well, I have – but my trusty PLN has also been coming up with some great “co-THINKing”) about how the “21C Movement” is not really a “techie” movement at all – as I have noted, it is… 


I’m going to push that little envelope a little bit further today and say it is also…

  • …a HUMAN LITERACY (and FLUENCY) Movement


And, that’s because (unless you work on one of these projects that are teaching orang-utans to use iPads) our “business” in education is LEARNingnot TECHNOlogy.



As I write this, I am listening to “Adajio for strings” (by Samuel Barber) and getting ready to listen to the “Theme from Schindler’s List” (by John Williams) or even Mahler’s “Symphony No.5 Adagietto” (let’s see what my iTunes playlists can come up with).

This music is so…HUMAN – and, as far as I know, no bit of technological wizardry has been able to co-create one of these! Of course, composers use a great deal of hi-tech these days. Sam never had the chance – John does! But the music just wouldn’t be the same without the “heart” of either of them

TEACHing is the same! 

We’re told again and again that 21C Skills are not “new”:

And, if we were really honest…there isn’t a lot that is “new” about great teaching.


…but before we get to “DIGITAL Literacies”, and “EDUCATIONAL Literacies” that we need to get “right” as educators,

…we have the“HUMAN Literacies” that great teaching is built on!


Why do I say these are quintessentially “human”?

I guess I need to get a wee bit personal for a minute. The human literacies (or the lack of them) are what stop me bonding in the same way that I did / do with my daughterÇ–A-Ğ-L-A hanım – with Dexter (my “son”):

I love him to bits, I do – but he lacks the “literacies” to really make it worth me bringing my “work” all the way “home” (now my big, little girl is in London – “bad” London). I know we are not supposed to “compare” our kids (even though “Dex” is a fair bit cheaper than his “abla” – “bad” London) – but, he does not do well in the LEARNacy stakes. And, although he has shown promise in the domain of EMOTIONAL Literacy – not too strong in the old CRITICAL Literacy stakes is young Dexter!


Teachers are not as lucky as Dexter – the human literacies are the very foundation of our “business”. We can’t afford to skip these areas in our practice – which makes me wonder why so many educator preparation and education programmes do not even mention them!

Teachers have to walk-the-talk of the human condition itself – and are (sadly) frequently rewarded with the type of “pocket money” that even Dexter would turn his nose up at!

 We do it anyways!


Great TEACHers are…

  • great LEARNers – and can LEARN even when others might choose to “quit” (in addition to viewing the passing on of this ability to others as their core purpose)
  • great QUESTIONers – and engage critically with their “business” (as well as helping others do the same)
  • great CONNECTors – and are “in tune” with their “self”, their “others” and their “context” (not only able to connect the dots, but also create “new dots”)


The first of our human literacies – LEARNacy – is what fuels these “being”abilities.

I wish I had come up with the term LEARNacy – this is why I write a blog and Guy Claxton runs a “LEARNing Empire”. Guy’s concept is, for me, at the heart of what TEACHing is all about – and it does not just take his 4R’s. LEARNacy is concept we have to “live” – and role-model. After all, it is the very reason we have teachers, isn’t it?


We talk a great deal about “critical thinking” in education (it is at the centre of almost all disciplines in our institutions and also hard-wired into most models of 21C education) – but teachers have to be “critical thinking doers”.

Critical literacy (in non-literary usage) connects more dots than we can shake a stick at – from analysis to adaptation, from applying creativity to solve very real problems to transforming ourselves, from going it alone to working with others. It’s about using the right questions to get the right forms of productivity – and doing the “right thing”.


Questioning lies at the heart of critical literacy – and questioning what we do, how we do it and what others tell us what we should be doing is what great teachers do. The same is true for our learners – if we want them to become “critical thinkers” (better still – “critical thinking doers”) they must also be LEARNed to become “critical consumers” of what we “do”.

The challenge is, of course, that LEARNing and LEARNacy are not, like tomatoes (thanks Krissy) or coal, something that can be “delivered” – neither is critical literacy!

Tell me again why we pay teachers so little!


However, both LEARNacy and Critical Literacy need to be lived at the level of feelings and emotions – teaching is, after all, the personification of “emotional work”. Teachers have to be amazingly “savvy” in terms of:

  • What they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • What they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?
  • How they improve and grow with what they do with what they know and learn about their “self”, their “others” and their “context”?

This is why social awareness and empathy play such a critical role in the way we manage our relationships in education – and why we love our “sons”!


OMG – just had the shock of me life…Bach just jumped in with his “Toccata in D Minor”! 

Bloody iTunes!


The human literacies are very different to the “technological or digital literacies” (and fluencies) we talk about so much today – and it is fair to ask:

Can technology help us do “more” with these most human of literacies?


But, that’s for another daywhen there’s nowt on the telly!


21C TEACHERS – their skills, literacies and fluencies…

In Classroom Teaching, Conferences, Technology on 09/03/2012 at 5:45 pm

A few days back, I did a post on the 21C Skills Movement and its impact on teachers…this was essentially a “warmer” for the upcoming conference at Maletepe University in İstanbul (April 14th).

Now, some you cynics out there might have thought that this was a “plug” for the conference and my own keynote!

You’d be righthey, I have already told you that I am not adverse to a bit of “shameless self-promotion – when it’s done right (if nothing else – I am honest)!

But, the other side of the coin is that I genuinely want to support the growth of the 21C Skills Movement – in Türkiye. And, as I said, this type of forum is perhaps the best place to do this.


The “movement”, if we can call it that, has not always had an easy ride:

Luckily, I do not extend “voting rights” to many journalists on my blog – democracy is sometimes over-rated (especially when journos jump all over the ballot box – all to eager to cast their educational vote)!

I’m sure there are many out there in Anatolia (and that other “country” across the water – called İstanbul) that have expressed the same sentiments as Jay. Many of these people (perhaps) also do this for reasons of “shameless self-promotion” (the “wrong” variety) or (more likely) because they are “scared” of the “technology-monster”.


Let’s be clear. 

The “21C Skills Movement” is not simply a TECHNOLOGY Movementit is:




…a LITERACY and FLUENCY Movement


…a LEARNing and TEACHing Movement


It is a movement about ways of LIVING, ways of WORKing and ways of THINKing – and, for educators and teachers, also about making a real difference to the lives of those children, teenagers and young (older ones, too) adults that we LEARN with.

And, how “making” that “difference” needs to evolve over time.


Advocates and supporters of the movement have made their purposes quite clear:


And, while it is true that our current, high-priority literacies and fluencies are being evolved (on steriods) by technology:

…we all know, in our heart of hearts, that they must be contextualised within and aligned with those quintessentially “human literacies” (we have had for centuries) to be “meaningful”:

And, how FLUENT we are in these!


This is because…

TEACHing is ONE of these very jobs…

Anways, enough of all this talk of 21C Skills, Curriculum, Assessment, LEARNing and TEACHing – this post is about “ME” and MY “shameless self promotion”!

…it’s a bit about the pre-conference PLN I wanted to co-create with you!


Remember, the last 21C post I did centered on a few questions I asked people to consider:

  • What skills do TEACHers (in Turkey) need as we continue our march into the 21st Century?
  • How many of these skills actually relate to how we deploy and use TECHNOLOGY?
  • How many of them relate to effective LEARNing and TEACHing?
  • What do TEACHers actually think themselves – and what do their LEARNers think?
  • How effectively is TEACHer (and LEARNer) LEARNing being promoted and supported (in Turkey)?
  • What else needs to change to make the 21st Century “wishlist” a reality?

We have had some pretty interesting contributions (CLICK to take a closer look) to date.


A lot of them discuss “teacher readiness” (and “willingness”) for the broader application of 21C Skills in our schools, colleges and universities – as well as some of the “fears” that many teachers (understandably) have about technology in general. Some of the comments focus on to how we, as teachers and educators, “see” the role technological “tools”. These comments suggest (IMHO) that more teachers in Turkey need to embrace and get comfortable with continuous change by simply making technology a bigger part of their lives and “daily practice”.

However, as I read through the comments I noticed a number of issues that touch on the wider challenges of  professional development (PD) in non-technological areas – and the critical role that these will play in any successful implementation of 21C Skills in our educational institutions.


As such, and as we have now wandered into the “orman” of LITERACIES and FLUENCIES – I thought a few more questions might be in order:

  • What exactly are the literacies and fluencies that we teachers and educators need to prioritise? Are they the same as those our learners need to develop? Are there any that specifically apply to the way we “do” business across education – as teachers?

Breaking that down a little  may help us:

  • What should we “keep” that we already have or do?
  • What do we have or do now that we don’t want to keep?
  • What do we need that we don’t already have or do?
  • What don’t we have or do that we don’t want?

That should keep us going for a while…


As ever, if you are interested in reading more  – here’s a little list of some resouces on allthings21Cskills:

Tony’s 21st CENTURY LEARNing Library

Hope to see some of you at the conference.

Crafting Scenarios for 21st Century Fluency Lessons

In Classroom Teaching, Curriculum, Guest BLOGGERS on 29/12/2011 at 3:47 pm

I know, I know…so many of you have had just about enough of 21st Century “this” and 21st Century “that”!

But, we do have to finish the series of guest-post from  Lee CrockettIan Jukes and Andrew Churches before the end of the yearand you know that they really do “walk-their-talk” with everything 21st Century and allthingsFLUENCY. 


This is the final post in the serialisation of Literacy is NOT Enough – and perhaps the most important

If you remember (from the last post – Stop Talking, Start DOING!), the guys told us that Chapter 11 is really the “guts” of the book – as they walk us through the process of developing scenarios and provide us with samples and templates of the unit plans they have created for their great 21st Century Fluency Kits.

Now, obviously I cannot post the whole chapter – but you’ll be glad to hear that the guys promise me that the public beta version of their “curriculum integration kits” will be up on the website very soon. These “kits” will give you full details on the types of lessons, processes and rubrix you can create to build lessons that really encourage your learners to flourish in all the fluency areas we have been talkıng about.

So, while we wait for them to appear on the site, here’s the latest post from Andrew, Ian and Lee – outlining the critical starting point; Crafting Scenarios.


In the 21st-century classroom, the instructional model shifts. The teacher is no longer the focal point of the classroom. Instead, students work in groups to create real-world solutions to real-world problems. Embedded within these problems are the curricular objectives.

The teacher now takes on a new role as the facilitator of learning, presenting scenarios outlining real-world problems that are relevant to students and simultaneously aligned with curricular goals.

There are endless possibilities for crafting scenarios. At first, it may seem to be an overwhelming task, but rest assured that after you go through the process a few times, cultivating scenarios will become easier and you will be begin to see connections between the content that needs to be covered and everyday life experiences. One teacher shared this story with us: 

I was standing in line at the coffee shop. I was looking around, mindlessly waiting for my turn, when I saw the barista take a paper cup off the big stack by the espresso machine. Instantly, this idea for a whole unit jumped into my head about sustainability. I started typing madly on my phone to try and capture some of the details. 

Suddenly I was at the counter with the huge line behind me. I asked the person taking my order to just hang on for a second while I finished my thought; then I let the person behind me go ahead. I realized it looked ridiculous. I looked like one of my students that I roll my eyes at. ,What’s happened to me? I’ve turned into a thumbster teenager!


Start With the Curriculum 

Our entire educational system is built on standards. There is no getting away from the defined curriculum. Standards vary from state to state and country to country, but it makes no difference if your district has its own or aligns to the Common Core standards; you are still accountable for the curriculum. So the curriculum is an excellent place to start.

Select a single curricular objective. From that one objective, identify the specific skills or content that the students need to master. It is critical from the outset to remember that if we want to develop independent, lifelong learners, our intention must be to shift the burden of responsibility for learning from the teacher, where it has traditionally been, to the learner, where it truly belongs.

It is the students’ job to learn the curriculum. The teacher’s job is to guide them in that process, provide support, and develop a structure in which they can grow.


What Would Be Relevant – in Context, or Applicable to Your Students’ Lives?

The best place to start crafting a scenario is to ask yourself where your students may come across this information or this skill in their lives outside of school. If it’s something they’ll come across in their own world, then instantly there is a connection that brings relevance and context to the learner. If nothing immediately comes to mind, try to identify the kinds of tasks that students would be performing when they applied these skills or used this knowledge, and consider how using this content could be made compelling for students.

At this point, many people start to think vocationally and consider professions that would involve this particular skill or knowledge. While that can be useful, this approach is often quickly discarded by students.

Although we don’t want teachers to discount situations in which people may predictably come across this type of challenge as part of their occupation, we should also work to identify occupations and skills that include unpredictable circumstances. For example, if a nutritionist needs to use specific technical information related to a dietary matter and a student has no interest in becoming a nutritionist, the student will quickly disconnect from this information. In other words, there will be no personal relevance to the learner. Relevance must always be the top consideration in developing scenarios for learning to occur.

When using vocational examples, you have to ensure that there is relevance to the students. For example, what if a nutritionist was a consultant for your school’s football team, helping the team members to fine-tune their healthy eating habits in hopes of helping them win the state championship? If your school is big on football, this might be something students could relate to. Better still, maybe this actually is a real-world example and the football team is involved. Perhaps the problem could be tied to specific players. Maybe the quarterback could provide a food journal of what he eats on a daily basis and the students could make recommendations as personal nutritionists. In this case, the quarterback might use the suggestions, gain 4 pounds of lean body mass, and drop his body fat by 3 percent. Maybe because of this, your school will win the state championship. All the students would then acknowledge you as one of the reasons for victory – your brilliant unit plan about nutritional strategies would have won them the championship. There would be a parade, and all the students would carry you on their shoulders shouting your name. A statue might be erected in your honor, and they would name the new football stadium after you.

All right, perhaps we’re taking things a little too far, but do you see what we mean about connection? If students can relate to it, if they can get excited about it, and if they can connect to it, then they will learn from it, and this is easiest to do with a real-world scenario.

This can never be emphasized enough, so let’s repeat it one more time. For learning to stick, it has to have relevance – not to the teacher, but to the learner.


Ripped From the Headlines

Once you’re comfortable writing scenarios that are generic, you’ll find yourself creating scenarios on the fly – just like the teacher who wrote to us about her coffee shop experience. You will start seeing possibilities everywhere, because they are everywhere!

The point of a good scenario, and therefore a good unit, is that it has relevance to the students – that it has real-world context. What better place to find real-world context than in the real world? Ask yourself what is happening in the world. How is what’s happening going to affect us all? How can what is on the front page of the paper today be brought into the classroom?

You will find within newspaper and magazine stories the basis for dozens of scenarios. Every conceivable curricular objective for every subject—mathematics, social studies, language arts, economics, geography, science—it’s all there! As an added bonus, if it’s in the news, it’s something your students can instantly relate to. When you find a connection between local, national, and global situations in a headline story, you have the makings of a great scenario.


How Can a Task Be Designed to Require Higher-Level Thinking?

Earlier, we discussed Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy and noted that lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) involve simply remembering or understanding. As we move up through applying, analyzing, evaluating, and finally creating, we cultivate higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). If students are required to compare or contrast two or more things; if they are required to make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations; if they are required to form an opinion, or make a choice and justify the details with research; if they are asked to apply acquired knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules in a different way; if they are required to create something; or if they are asked to defend opinions by making informed decisions, then higher-level thinking is involved.

This, of course, is the objective. We want to ensure that by the time the students graduate, they are capable of unconsciously and consistently applying the higher-level skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy in their everyday lives. For them to achieve this, students must be given repeated opportunities to practice these skills. This is why it’s our responsibility to make sure higher-level thinking is involved in every educational scenario.


How Can Digital Tools Be Used to Create a Real-World Product That Demonstrates the Learning?

Wherever possible, the outcome should provide students with the opportunity to create, preferably with digital tools, a real-world product. Keep in mind the 6 Ds: Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver, and Debrief. Delivery of a product must involve not only production but also publication. Publication is an essential step that allows students to debrief completely – to evaluate the product and the process through its real-world application to the original problem.


Putting It All Together

You now have everything you need to start assembling your scenario. This example is from a Grade 6 Language Arts lesson plan called “A President Is Born.” In this lesson, students work in groups to develop unique class presidential candidates and design creative campaign packages for them. Later on, the candidates square off against each other in a structured class debate.

 “A President Is Born”: The Scenario 

Our political leaders use various tools and strategies when running for an election. From a well-designed series of graphics to represent their ideas, values, and personalities to a catchy and compelling campaign slogan to their crucial political speeches, candidates must do a great deal to promote themselves and their ideals. In groups, take a look at the campaigns of recent political leaders and how they are structured to gain ideas for the next phase of the project. You can introduce videos or recordings of chosen campaign speeches for the class to consider and have them take notes as to what they observe about structure and content. 

Each group will dream up a running candidate for a fictional class president. Give the candidate a name, a unique personality, and a mission statement for the election. Your group will start by creating an original image for the candidate you are campaigning for, and there are no limitations here—person, animal, and so forth. Once you have created your running candidate, create a speech for him or her, which you will present orally. Conduct research and gain insight by asking people about what kinds of work leaders and politicians do for the people they represent. Look at other leaders for inspiration and ideas. Revise and edit your speech as you gain new insight and knowledge through research, which must include human resources (e.g., parents, friends, community leaders, etc.). Your speech needs to be a compelling political speech. 

Last, create a unique and stand-out campaign poster for your candidate. It should be eye-catching, original, and define your candidate’s personality and beliefs using images or maybe even a symbol of some kind. Also, make sure the poster includes a “campaign motto” or statement that is unique to your candidate. It should be one short line that sums up your character’s ideals and values and their pledge to the people if elected. 

Finally, it’s time to find out where your candidates stand on an important issue and how they would handle it if elected. With the teacher acting as mediator, the class will structure a debate about a chosen issue either in the news or in their community, and open a dialogue where the candidates square off and present their views and arguments. At the end of the debate, all groups will share their thoughts on how they felt each candidate represented himself or herself both on the campaign and in the issue debate and what strengths that candidate ultimately has as a vote-worthy figure.


The Acid Test for Scenario Development

Once you have developed a unit, you need to step back from it, do a Debrief, and find out how appropriate it is. Objectively, read your scenario and ask the following questions. If the answer to any of them is no, then go back to the beginning and review all of the steps until your scenario can pass this challenge.

  • Is there a problem or challenge?
  • Is this relevant to the learner?
  • Does it require higher-level thinking?
  • Does it address multiple curricular objectives?
  • Does it cultivate the 21st-century fluencies?
  • Are digital tools used to create a real-world product?
  • Are there things that need to be discovered?


I’d like to take a moment to thank Lee, Andrew and Ian for allowing me to use their book Literacy is NOT Enoughto produce this series of guest posts.

As I mentioned above, you will be able to find more information on their curriculum integration kits and some great sample lessons on their site in the very near future. You can also subscribe to their great blog – The Committed Sardine. 


Is Literacy REALLY Enough? (or What the HELL is it, anyways?)

In Our Schools, Our Universities, Technology on 28/08/2011 at 5:39 pm

If you take a look at the popular press in many “developed” democracies today, you’ll probably come across stories about the “Crisis of Literacy” or the “Illiteracy Epidemic”. The writers of these stories are quick to uncover scapegoats for this awful “sickness” – our schools, our curricula, our teachers (more often than not)!

Others place the blame squarely at the feet of “uncaring and uneducated” parents, the “rise” of learning disabilities, unilingualism in homes (those bloody parents again) and poverty (oh, yes – let’s throw in the recent UK riots, too) – there are others who point the finger at all that “damn bloody technology”!

Personally, I think a lot of these commentators (while trying to meet deadlines and earn their pay cheques) often downplay the impact the “literacy divide” has on very real human beings or, at the very least, confuse illiteracy with “aliteracy” (the state of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so) – but then again, who am I?

The problem is that we are often not really told what writers mean when they talk about “literacy” – as if we all just “know” what it means.

Part of the problem is that the definition of literacy varies depending on who’s discussing it. While we probably all know that at the heart of most definitions is “reading” (and more often than not “reading something with understanding”) – what else are people talking about?

Let’s have a gander!

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in the US defines literacy as:

 “…using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

This is probably what we might call Traditional Literacy (or what Lankshear & Knobel call the “text paradigm”):Functional Literacy, Prose Literacy or Document Literacy.

However, when we look at what UNESCO has to say, we see another component and another “additional literacy”:

This “Quantative Literacy” (what you and I might call “Numeracy”) also makes a lot of sense to us all (as does “writing”) – but also seems to flag that we need to get ready for a whole lot of “mushrooming” in the number of “literacies” we need to be thinking about. But, hey – it all makes a great deal of common sense (especially to our parents – and those educators we love to hate):

But, wait! We ain’t finished yet…the recent Rose Report (the UK’s recent publication on the renewed primary curriculum the UK needs so badly – to prevent further riots) tells us that literacy is also:

“…the four strands of language – reading, writing, speaking and listening.”

The Scottish Government agrees – and introduces us to yet another literacy:

Come on, guys – give us a break!

They do…

If we look closely at the Scottish definition, we see an emphasis on “making decisions and problem-solving” – surely that deserves another literacy?

Actually, we can’t complain – this also makes sense! After all, wasn’t it Brian Cox who asked:

Is it enough to help children and adults to achieve literacy if this simply means they read only sufficiently well to be seduced by advertisers and tabloid newspapers?

Brian Cox (1998) – Literacy Is Not Enough: Essays on the Importance of Reading

This Critical Literacy is “critical” (sorry about that) – it touches on a whole range of abilities. As parents and teachers, abilities that we would love to see in all our kids.

Tell me if you disagree:

OK – so we may not have created any new literacies here but we have a whole load of abilities (or was that skills or competencies – or something else)…Don’t worry, we have more coming.

Obviously, all societies (you’d thunk) want to have “critical citizens” and all education systems want to create “critical thinkers” of their students. This is where our next set of literacies come from:

  • Socio-economic Literacy
  • Social Literacy
  • Mathematical Literacy (Numeracy was not “good” enough)
  • Scientific Literacy
  • Academic Literacy

And this is where we also see the “real” mushrooming:

Do I really have to explain all of them? There are many more besides, these days!

That having been said – I must admit, as a teacher, I do rather like the sound of “Educational Literacy”!

Now, probably around now you have begun to ask yourself:

Come on – that’s not entirely fair! Everyone should be entitled to have their “own” literacy – how else would so many academics justify their positions?

The problem is that another group of people began to step onto the literacy stage – you guessed it, all those “technology-lovers” and their “literacy claim” went something like this:

  • Literacy as a goal is necessary, but far from sufficient! 
  • Technology is everywhere, it is getting easier to use and it can help us learn more – faster than ever before! 
  • This technology is creating a “new breed of kid” – the Digital Native!

And, before you could say “where’s my delete key?” – it happened:

There you have it!

Gotcha! Not really – there was another group (or three)!

One group, obviously getting a bit fed up, began asking whether we really needed all these literacies. These people (and forgive the over-simplifications, if you are reading) basically started saying, “Wait a minute – we know that…”:

  • …there are multiple worlds and multiple ways of knowing (or habits of minds)
  • …information can be presented in multi-modal formats (with technology – graphics plus sound plus print)
  • …there are numerous literacy genres (e.g., fiction, nonfiction), situations (e.g., literacy at home vs. in school) and practices (e.g., using and assessing multiple sources of information or “inter-textuality”)

Let’s just start talking about “Mulitiple Literacies” – and have it done with it!

Mmmm, that makes sense, too…

The problem was that some buggars began causing more trouble – like those guys at the 21st Century Fluency Project (and, you know how much I love my “sardines”).

They noted:

And, explained their logic:

In a nutshell, while they were agreeing with the logic of Multiple Literacies, they were saying that:

  • What is important is how literacies “converge” to allow us to “do” something effectively.
  • It is when we see the “convergence of literacies” to “make or do” things that we talk of “fluency”
  • …and it is fluency that brings forth rewards, recognition and success in today’s world.

Not to be outdone, there were a few other guys who wanted to do what the Multiple Literacy bods had done – but under the label of “Learnacy” (Damn that Claxton bloke):

Essentially, this notion of Learnacy (the capacity to use, in real life and professional contexts, the skills and knowledge you have about how to learn; to be able and willing to go on learning from your own and others’ experience) – or in more common-sense terms:

  • the ability of “knowing what to do, when you don’t know what to do”

…did not really clash with the idea of Multiple Literacies or even the 21st Centuries Fluencies. They “worked” really well together – for teachers, students and (even) parents!

What really baked the noodle of many (more traditional) educators, however, was when Claxton told them:

  • Learning is LEARNABLE – we have a duty to “teach” it!

OMG! What are we going to do with the curriculum, the classroomthe tests?