What Will It Take?

What will it take to move our schools forward towards the goal of developing graduates who are not only digitally literate, but digitally fluent?

Earlier this month, Scott McLeod made a great case for the importance of curricula that support the development of 21st century skills, a robust system of online learning, access to relevant technology, investing in leadership. These are all “supply side” strategies, things that schools and school systems can think about as they work to get themselves out from behind the eight ball when it comes to the changing landscape of education.

I’m wondering today about the demand side. Also earlier this month, Ewan McIntosh asked the question, “Is education’s transformation just down to the teachers?” Ewan recommends focusing on broader listening (which of course goes straight to my Quaker heart), and on considering widening the conversations to include not just changes to curriculum and assessment, but to pedagogy itself.

Until relatively recently, most US schools could comfortably assume a level of parental engagement that stopped at the school door, with the pro-forma exceptions of “Back-to-School Night” and “Parent-Teacher Conferences.” Unless, of course, your child is struggling or bored, in which case you might push for more regular contacts and updates. Or, I guess, if you’re one of those folks (bless you) who pour time and energy into your school’s PTA/O.

I predict that this “arms length” relationship, where it is still the norm, is about to get cozier.

What I’m remembering is the time, not so long ago, when applicants for university admission could absolutely count on no admissions officer ever accessing their MySpace or Facebook profile. Ten years ago, no freshman applicant needed to think about what a stranger would learn about them if they happened to be “Googled.” Why? Because the wave of those technologies hadn’t crested yet. People working in admissions offices didn’t have MySpace or Facebook pages; they were totally off the institutional radar. “Google” hadn’t yet become a verb.

Now, the young people who populate admissions offices know all about Facebook, MySpace, etc. because they themselves use those sites. They know to Google someone else’s name because they periodically Google their own. And their dean just signed up for LinkedIn, finally.

Eventually, parents and teachers like me, who are following the latest thinking with regards to digital citizenship, 21st century skills, great tools for teachers, and personal learning networks via our RSS feeds won’t be such a tiny little minority. We’re going to turn those “who can bring in cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day” room parent listservs into, “Who wants to join the school’s working group around new communication competency standards for our middle school students?” discussion threads.

This is going to be an “I Want My MTV” moment for me, I think. A series of them, in fact. How about you?

(Thanks so much to thought leaders like
Scott McLeod and Ewan McIntosh.
I used to read their work
and understand what they were saying
about three months later.
We’re down to two weeks!)
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Posted on March 16, 2009, in big picture. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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