My Extreme Professional Development

Over the past 10 days I have attended multiple, jam-packed professional development events. I’m beginning to think of it in reality show lingo as my extreme professional development experience, because I’ve encountered so many colleagues along with ideas, hands-on strategies, learning theories, and thoughtful approaches, all focused on becoming better teachers, collaborators, and learners in the 21st Century. One over-arching idea applies to all of my activities: learning, unlearning, and relearning are now routine. Anyone not comfortable with these three concepts — connected and in tandem — needs to get acquainted with them ASAP.

I’m reminded of a quote from futurist Alvin Toffler, “The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that can not learn, unlearn, and relearn.

My extreme adventure started about 10 days ago when I presented in the Virginia Shenandoah Valley at the Virginia Association of Press Women. I described how technology has transformed the way we all learn and how specific content is now less important than our skill at discovering information, evaluating it, and using it well. The digital content is out there for everyone to find, I told the group. The role of adults and teachers is to ensure that as we teach one area of content we also ensure that children are developing the skills to recognize, evaluate, and use quality information.

I drove home on Saturday and left again on Sunday for the annual AIMS Technology Retreat on the Maryland Eastern Shore.

Continue reading

Kids and Web Resource Credibility

If you find yourself thinking about the digital research activities of children, especially older students who complete significant amounts of their research using the unlimited resources available on the World Wide Web, you are not alone. Over the past 10 years I have wondered — more than once and sometimes with great angst — if my child and the many children I’ve known really understand the need to evaluate the resources that they find on the web.

Earlier this year I discovered a small book, published by the MacArthur Foundation, describing research that explored how children perceive the quality and reliability of digital media. It’s a book that concerned parents may want to read. In Kids and Credibility: An Empirical Examination of Youth, Digital Media Use, and Information Credibility, authors Andrew J. Flanagin and Miriam J. Metzger, summarize their study as a “…comprehensive investigation into youth’s Internet use and their assessment of the credibility of online information.” The authors wondered whether young digital media users, while sophisticated and fearless about using technology, could evaluate information and determine its quality.

To learn more about young people and web credibility the researchers planned and executed a web-based survey of more than 2,000 children age 11 – 18. Study participants also completed a range of Internet tasks, evaluating information, making judgements about content, and explaining how and why they complete web tasks in certain ways. While there is far too much to cover in one blog post — check out the many interesting graphs in the publication — I’ve listed a few of the most interesting observations below. Continue reading

Terms of Use, Readability, and Digital Kids

Check the terms of use readability level at your favorite sites.

Just about every time I head over to iTunes to purchase something, I’m all set to finish up when the site diverts me to a change in the terms of use. It happens at lots of sites.  And each time I click to look at a site’s terms of use, it’s a longer document — 40 pages, 41, 42… Now I don’t object to changes or even insisting that users check things out, but terms of use are abstract and arcane and not especially easy to read or even understand.

I’ve always thought it would be an interesting conversation topic for parents and kids — taking a few minutes to look at those terms of use statements that most people accept and go right by, and helping children discover a bit about the fine print.

About eight months ago, I read a posting about terms of use documents, C’mon! Match Terms of Use Text to Users’ Comprehension Level, written by Linda Criddle over at the I look Both Ways blog.

Criddle described her experience examining terms of use documents posted on well-known and popular websites. She looked over the terms of use documents for the sites such as the New York Times, Amazon, iPhone, Club Penguin. Then she ran each document through a readability index – a tool that examines a passage and estimates how easy or hard it will be for a person to read the words, as well as what level of education the reader might need to comprehend the information. Continue reading

Websites: Reliable or Bogus?

When we adults were students, we learned to write content-filled essays and reports, introducing the important facts about a subject. We discovered these facts by using quality reference materials, often at a library.

With today’s digitized resources and websites a student follows roughly the same routine, but resource reliability is a significant issue. While it’s easy to find sites with information about a topic, identifying reliable and significant information is more of a challenge. The trick is to discover whether or not a site is a reliable resource.

Help your child determine the quality and reliability of a site before using it as a digital resource. The University of Maryland posts this short handout that explains how to go about evaluating a website.

Many sites appear to be real as well as reliable, but they are bogusAn entertaining website for you and your child to explore features bogus websites designed to look accurate and authoritative. Except that they aren’t. Take a few minutes to explore these bogus sites.

Better yet, explore them with your children.

3 Copyright Resources: Teaching Digital Kids to Respect Ownership

Visit Copyright for Kids!

The other day I chatted with a parent about the concept of copyright. Both of us are concerned that digital kids understand very little about intellectual property. The free-for-all digital information climate ensures that children have considerable difficulty comprehending what belongs to whom.

Copyright laws are arcane, and even a bit crazy, but it’s critical to teach kids that protecting the intellectual property of others is important. With your child take the Copyright Challenge quiz at Copyright for Kids to see how much you know. When you finish the quiz check out these frequently asked questions about copyright.

Two Other Resources

Kids and Web Credibility

Click for PDF of the book.

If you worry about the digital research activities of children, especially older students who complete significant amounts of their research using the unlimited resources available on the World Wide Web, you are not alone. Over the past 10 years I have wondered — more than once and sometimes with great angst — if my child and the many children I’ve known over the years really understand the need to evaluate the resources that they find on the web.

Recently I discovered a small book, published by the MacArthur Foundation, describing research that explored how children perceive the quality and reliability of digital media. It’s a book that concerned parents may want to read. In Kids and Credibility: An Empirical Examination of Youth, Digital Media Use, and Information Credibility, authors Andrew J. Flanagin and Miriam J. Metzger, summarize their study as a “…comprehensive investigation into youth’s Internet use and their assessment of the credibility of online information.” The authors wondered whether young digital media users, while sophisticated and fearless about using technology, could evaluate information and determine its quality. Continue reading

Born Digital Author, John Palfrey, Gives Talk

Are you thinking about the children and adolescents in your family and how they effortlessly use digital information but don’t always manage it as well as they might?

John Palfrey, Harvard Law Professor and a co-author of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives spoke at the University of Washington’s Project Information Literacy (an organization that deserves its own post sometime). Palfrey shared his thoughts on plagiarism, content evaluation, and the role of librarians and teachers. He also pointed out that even in this age of the digital native, plenty of young people around the world do not have enough access to information.

When he spoke about plagiarism in today’s digital world Palfrey commented, “One of the big mistake is to think that “…this time it’s different and then fail to look carefully into what’s really changed and what’s ultimately the same.”

Some Important Points

  • “Plagiarism is still plagiarism – using someone’s work and passing it off as your own — but we do need to teach students how to deal with the huge amount of digital information at their fingertips”
  • The concept of remixing information is confusing because a person is allowed to take another person’s work and do things with it, however attributing the work to the original author is paramount.
  • Digital natives are not all adept as sorting through and evaluating the information they find.