Information Literacy Awareness Month

23 10 2009

“None of us really knows how to live in this era of media convergence, collective intelligence, and participatory culture. . . we should not assume that someone possesses media literacy if they can consume but not express themselves.”

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture (2006.)

We are living in a time of enlightenment.  In our present time, media is being put into the hands of the people in the most democratic fashion we have seen possibly ever in modern history.  Larry Lessig refers to this as the, “revitalization of the read write culture,” which exists in stark juxtaposition to the “read only culture.”  In the “read write culture” participants are encouraged through a democratic processes to engage, create, and share their world with a global community.  Henry Jenkins expresses these ideals as well.  No wonder then that in this birth of the information age, the most forward thinking leaders of the world are turning to literacy, in both the old and new forms, as the tool of exploration.  We are growing in ways that no one can predict where we are headed.  However, it is clear that the old ways will not suffice and that as world citizens we all have a unique responsibility to get on board this train. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama proclaimed October 2009 as Information Literacy Awareness Month.  Backed by clear research into the most progressive forms of education, Obama is calling on the citizens, the schools, and the business’ of our country to join the growing wave of information.  In his proclamation Obama declares, “Rather than merely possessing data, we must also learn the skills necessary to acquire, collate, and evaluate information for any situation.” This is the “read write culture” of today.  No doubt that other enlightened Americans would also agree.  Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Richard Price, 1789, said,  “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government;… whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”  Jefferson also stated, “An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will.”  We hold these truths to be more applicable to in our world today than ever before.  Today alone there was over 9,000 hours of YouTube material uploaded, according to figures run by Michael Wesh.  Hence, information is growing massively all the time, and as our access to this information likewise expands, we must engage in this process as responsible citizens living in a democratic time.

Picture 41

“And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

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What do I know?

13 10 2009

I know that we are all Dream Seekers!

In order to introduce the story of immigration in the United States of America to a group of heterogeneous 21st Century Learners, there first needs to be the acquisition of a common realization that the universal struggles of freedom, happiness, and longevity are prevalent across ethnic backgrounds and time.  The background development begins with an understanding that no matter who you are or where you are from in the United States, you are the son or daughter or distant ancestor of an immigrant, or you yourself may be a immigrant.  Success stories run wide and far in this country.  From the school principal who was traveled across the tough US-Mexican border to the grandson of a Russian-Slav who traveled through Ellis Island to get into America, everyone share a migration story.

To illustrate this point with students, here is an activity that will hook them in while building background information.  This game is famous in the student leadership and student council circle.

Never Have I Ever…

Students will ALL start standing up at their tables.

Students who HAVE done the following things will sit down.

After every 3 questions have everyone stand back up again.

1)    Never have I ever… been out of the United States

2)    Never have I ever… been on a roller coaster

3)    Never have I ever… broken a bone

4)    Never have I ever… been on a cruise

5)    Never have I ever… locked my keys in my car

6)    Never have I ever… been skinny dipping

7)    Never have I ever… shaved my legs

8)    Never have I ever… been to a Star Trek / Harry Potter / Lord of the rings/ or Star Wars convention

9)    Never have I ever… died my hair a funny color

10) Never have I ever… been to a professional sporting event

11) Never have I ever… owned a Barbie doll

12) Never have I ever… broken the dress code

13) Cheated on a test, quiz, or class project

14) Lied to my parents

15) Stolen something

From this game, take the self-realization and group building to the next level.  A deeper round of questions should be asked.  This scene from the 2007 film “Freedom Writers,” illustrates “The Line Game.”

This scene illustrates an intense moment to be a student or a teacher in any classroom.  Teachers who are willing to bring this style of learning to their pedagogy create a comfort zone and will have more success connecting with students on their level.  The discussion and self-awareness that students form through this activity, creates more thoughtful citizens while bringing relevancy and a sense of community to the classroom environment.  The questions should start out easy and comfortable while working towards more personal and emotionally driven intrapersonal and interpersonal development.

A useful resource for this lesson can be found in the book, Make a World of Difference by Dawn Oprah (2006).

Here is an example of other questions that can be asked of students:

Step to the line if…

I like guacamole.

I’d rather go to the beach than the mountains.

I enjoy hunting/fishing.

I have called someone a derogatory name.

I have been the butt of a racist joke.

I have told racist jokes.

Etc. etc.

To bring closure to this lesson plan, finish the day similar to how Erin Gruwell finishes her class in the “Freedom Writers” clip.  Give a writing assignment.

Background Builder Prompt: Reflect on a time in your life when you felt different from the rest of the crowd.  How did you over come this situation?

Universal Connector Prompt:

Describe the American Dream.

Cross Cultural Historical Perspective Prompt:

Then to have students look ahead to the immigration unit, have them come up with a list of reasons why people come to the United States?  What attracts them to this country?  What forces them to leave their homelands?

Then, wrap up the lesson with the Dream Seekers video.  This will allow students to reinforce their ideas about push and pull factors of immigration.

The end goal for the unit is a data based question that asks students to foster their own values with an in-depth study of immigration history.

DBQ: What should the United States’ policy be regarding illegal immigrants today and in the future?

To answer this question consider the following:

Describe the history of immigration in the United States.  What attracted immigrants to this land?  What forced immigrants to leave their homelands?  Push vs. pull factors.  Where did immigrants come from prior to 1850? After 1850? And today 2009?  What laws or restrictions have impacted immigration?  How has US society been affected by the interactions and contributions of various cultures?

Other important activities to build on this research include:

-Recent interviews with immigrants

Glenwood Post Independent runs a great series of interviews with local immigrants from all sort of family backgrounds.

Immigration Stories

-Film study of “Destination America” (2008).


LaGravenses, Richard & Gruwell, Erin.  2007.  Freedom Writers.  USA.  Paramount Films.

Oprah, Dawn.  2006.  Make a World of Difference. Minneapolis, MN.  Search Institute Publication.

Stept, Stephen and Grubens, David..  2005.  Destination America.   USA,  PBS.