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Digital (Contemporary) Literacies

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Recently I was successful in obtaining a Grant from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) to investigate the effects that Contemporary Literacies have on young students in relation to literacy outcomes.

I had to think for a moment what did DEECD mean by ‘Contemporary’, and this is what was discussed. Contemporary Literacy refers to new forms of literacy made possible only by digital technology.

Before I head in to the nitty gritty of the Grant and it’s intentions, a little background information first. There are 20 schools involved in this program, all of which are investigating contemporary literacies with Prep students, which is approximately 400 students in all. Daphne Cohen, who is the Manager of Emerging Technologies in Education, Innovation & next Practice Division is heading this project and very excited to witness it’s outcomes come the end of the program.

The big question that was posed to us was “What role do digital technologies play in the education of early learners” (in this case, preps). From here the big 4 questions that were to guide our grant were the following:

1. How do preps learn using digital technologies in and out of school?

2. What are parents and teacher attitudes towards, and expectations of, technology use in the Early Years?

3. What are the challenges and opportunities in providing children with contemporary literacies as they start school?

4. What are the possible implications of the findings for existing literacy teaching/assessment practices in the Early Years?

Ian Burrage set the scene for the day discussing the questions above and where we are at in relation to 21st Century Learning and Thinking Skills, of which have been around since DaVinci! Perhaps time for us as educators to move on and forward. An interesting thought!

Following from Ian we heard from Judi Hanke, the Victorian Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, who discussed that Literacy is more than reading writing and speaking and listening. It involves students making ethical choices in a knowledge rich age and being a critical consumer and creator. We looked at and spoke about the picture below and the importance of a child’s development at an early age.

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As a group we discussed briefly what the ‘teddy Bear’s Picnic’ should look like in the 21st Century! Using google maps to plan the walk, and recipe based websites to cater the event, and creation tools to make invitations, Shazzam iPhone/iPad Application to find appropriate music!

Following on from the conversation above we also spoke about the importance of the transition that young people go through between pre-school and prep and the importance for children of this age to become familiar with technology. For them to develop the background knowledge that they need as they progress to school.

The main guest speaker for the day came in the form of Daniel Donahoo (@ddonahoo, @prjct_synthesis) an Author and Tech Addict among many other things. Daniel spoke to us about technology, children and the future. We heard that the pace of change is extremely rapid, especially in relation to technology and its ever changing ways. It is difficult to keep up with the rate of change as once we gain a great understanding of one thing, we have already moved on to the next, which does make it difficult for people, especially children, to become experts in the field of technology.

The afternoon sessions involved many short and sharp discussion around many topics relating to the days proceedings. We discussed safe and ethical behaviour and the resources that were available to us as educators such ad the DEECD FUSE website and Hector’s World.

We also heard from Daniel again, this time discussing the types of technology that is available to us to enhance Digital, or Contemporary Literacy. Daniel showed us a range of tools and devices that we as schools may like to purchase with our grant money to support the literacy programs we already have in place. An example of these being:

– USB Microscopes,

– Micro Cameras,

– QR Code Generators and Readers,

– Flip Cameras,

– Sony Bloggies,

– iPads (App’s being Toon Tastic, Little Explorers, Toca Tea Party, Motion Math,

– iPod Touches,

– Digital Voice Recorders,

– Digital Cameras

– and so on…

So… after all that was discussed throughout the day our decision is now this… What do we spend our grant money on to support the Literacy programs we currently have set in place in our Prep cohort? One prep class will be the focus of the program, that being our Prep Teacher Sam Irwin (@sirwin2pt0). Being a Mac School we are thinking iPod Touches, as we can purchase a greater quantity with what money we have. The fact that these devices are also portable, smaller than an iPad, and can have a lot of the same applications seems a clear winner for us. Students can take a photo and record voice which is also a benefit of these devices.

Sam and I will be sure to keep you informed of our happenings of this program and it’s outcomes. What would you purchase to support you literacy program? A big decision!

Overall, it was a great day, heard from lots of great speakers with great ideas and a real passion for embedding technology in to the Early Years of Schooling! I look forward to getting underway!