Doug Belshaw’s Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
I spent the first 3 weeks of June and will spend the first 3 weeks of July on a remote island in Kodiak. For that reason, I downloaded Doug Bleshaw’s book so I could read it offline on Adobe Acrobat. I was planning to do a “rich” reflection on this reading, but I discovered a surprising gift within that program. Annotating tools! Therefore, Essential Elements gets to be a “richer” reflection. I had so much fun experimenting with all the different ways I could “digitally” annotate the text, including adding an audiobyte. See attached…
For the most part, I really enjoyed this reading; I even read the chapters I wasn’t assigned. I didn’t like chapter 7, but I will come back to that later. Belshaw puts into words some things that I didn’t know that I already I knew. He affirmed many concepts I already put into practice: for example, techniques by which we structure our own texts and deconstruct others (Belshaw 56). However, his 8 elements are new to me and give me great food for thought as far as my own educational practices are concerned. Belshaw refers to a “linear model” of teaching and how it assumes particular levels of mastery… My Ed 654 instructor avoids this mistake by allowing his students to discover technology as a part of our learning process. This allows both the digitally literate and illiterate students to progress at their own pace. I have been a very linear teacher in my career, but I am getting some new ideas.
These two lines caught my attention: “We represent new ideas using existing tools and methods of expression” (15), and “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn” (16). I have been teaching using existing tools. To be fair, I have broadened my horizons enough to learn about a couple of LMS’s and online curricula, but I have still so many new tools yet to learn! I learned to learn in a different century and forgot to consider that l needed to relearn how to learn. Is that circular thinking? Haha! I think so, but it makes sense. I guess this is what makes the “digital” aspect of the issue significant to me. I have not incorporated “digital” learning and teaching into my repertoire (utilized new “tools”).
Here is another reflection beyond all that my text annotation points out: What has influenced my own literary practices? I know that how I learn has been very linear. I am very much a chronological learner, and (as such) teacher. I’m sure that is because I am a history teacher who is very content, not skill, focused. Like Belshaw, I want to teach about the Holocaust, not genocide in general. Because who I am and how I came to be that person affects 200+ students a year, I want to learn how to be the best teacher I can be. I liked Belshaw’s discussion of how literacy cannot be learned in isolation and how learning needs to be transferred out of context for it to stick (immersion). I need to learn how “to let the learner roam” (38).
Now, to wrap up with my least favorite chapter. I think that I am a bit of a purist and I like (and respect) ownership. While I don’t mind using (and attributing) someone else’s work, I don’t want to change it and I don’t want mine to be changed. All but one of his tips for “remixing” and putting his 8 elements into practice involved altering something: he suggested exercises to alter music, alter a website, alter a video, alter an image… When I take a photo with my digital camera (something I love to do), I never alter it. If I didn’t get it right the first time, it is garbage. If there is a street sign or a power line in the photo, it gets deleted. Belshaw said, “Remixing, appropriation, and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings” (84). I wholeheartedly disagree.