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Day 1: URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

Day 1: URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

Written by David Quinn
July 14, 2014

Author’s Note: This is the first of a week-long series of posts recapping the day at the URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. Follow the #DigiURI hashtag on Twitter to view highlights from the day.

The University of Rhode Island Summer Institute in Digital Literacy  kicked off this afternoon. 100 teachers, libarians, administrators, community organizers and media makers from arcross the US came together to examine how the definition of “literacy” is changing and how we can rethink our teaching in response to thischange.  For the purposes of clarity, Institute directors Renee Hobbs and Julie Coiro developed this inclusive, but not exhaustive, list of digital literacies:

The Institute is designed as a two-tiered, project baed inquiry learning experience. In Tier 1, participants form dyads to design a lesson or project utilizing digital tools for their classroom, community or audicence. Having been a participant last year, I’ve moved on to Tier 2 where we focus on leadership and to develop a change implementation plan, in our case for fostering the inclusion digital literacies in schools.

Today, we eased into the Institute with introductions, ground rules and a general overview of essentials of leaders. During introductions, we were asked the question: “What would you do if given the year off wit  pay?” Answers ranged from making movies, to working part time in a library, to retreating to the mountains in order to decompress and not leaving until totally bored. As for me, I’d spend it going to visit different classrooms across the US and around the world to watch teachers implementing Connected Learning practices. I’ve really enjoyed reading Ted Sizer’s books like the Red Pencil and would like to eventually write similar piece some day.

The conversation then shifted to expectations of what we wanted to get out of the seminar. These “expectations” actually revealed the challenges we anticipated addressing in our change implementation plans. The 12 of us identified issues such as:

  • Resistance to change
  • Technology for technology’s sake vs. Purposeful us of technology
  • How do we change policies to enable the development of digital literacies given current requirements?
  • Identifying practices for implementing, suggesting and gaining access to  digital tools
  • Connecting with others who have similar interests
  • Turning ideas into action

While all of these topics are important, I believe the last, turning ideas into action, is the most vital. Ideas, especially when working with an engaged group, are easy to come by, but overcoming inertia is not.  In a recent coversation with a friend, compared failed change plans a wet spot in a firework fuse (Still in 4th of July mode_. The fuse becomes lit (ideas), and the flame travels varying lengths down the material (planning), but all to often there’s a wet or dead spot in the fuse, and we never get the fireworks we expect. He suggested that this was due to a breakdown in relationships at some level, and I agree. However, I’d like to identify the other steps a leader might take to try to avoid a “wet fuse”.

We closed our discussion of leadership with characteristics of effective and ineffective leaders. When I think of ineffective leaders, my thoughts often turn to this infamous scene:

I think the greatest flaw in any leader is trying to appear to be super human. Some do for a variety of reasons, but it often becomes one’s undoing as a leader as a fear of being “discovered” leads to threats and a lack of transparency. Better to never have a curtain than try to by thrive hiding behind one.

Our facilitator, Charlie Coiro, then provided his own idea of leadership, defining it as “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations,” or simply “to provoke”. Charlie used James Kouzes & Barry Posner’s work that identified practices of outstanding leaders as:

  • Model the Way
  • Inspire a Shared Vision
  • Challenge the Process
  • Enable Others to Act
  • Encouragethe Heart

I find that these practices align closely with Daniel Pink’s Big 3 for motivation: autonomy, mastery and purpose. By enabling other to act, and encouraging the heart, a leader would hit the autonomy and purpose aspects of motivation. Mastery could come from modeling the way. I think “challenging the process” is essential for improving ones practice to find ways to improve whatever someone creates. Challenging the process dovetails nicely with the steps in the design thinking process as well.

To close out the night we took a survey on to determine our digital literacy “horoscope” or persona. This quick multiple choice quiz will help you to determine your motivations for teaching digital and media literacy skills in your classroom.  I’m an Alt, a Demystifer and a Teacher 2.0. What are you?