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I had the honor of keynoting the New Hampshre Society for Technology in Education Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference, and then led two conversational sessions (where “led” means “sat while knowledgeable and committed people engaged in conversation”).

I came away realizing why media literacy programs often bother me. Frequently, the idea even is that we have to teach our children how to recognize the Internet sites that are as reliable and safe as what they’ll find in a library. That’s a useful skill, but the overall picture is wrong. If you want to know what’s going on in a field, the static and credentialed sources generally aren’t where you want to go. The credentialed sources are great for certain types of information—the solid and stolid facts, the commoditized information, the boring truth—but the real intellectual action is usually occuring in the blogs, newsletters, and forums. Confining students to the credentialed sites is likely to kill their interest and enthusiasm.

And then we have them write reports. Is there anything more likely to throttle curiosity than a report?

The two discussion groups this morning, however, were full of good ideas. For example…

Students need help “decoding” search engines, one participant said; she gets bibliographies that list Google as a source. (I’d like to see students build bibliographies together, in a class wiki. That way they could teach one another about how to evaluate a site, and the teacher could always step if they’re going wrong.)

Another participant set up a page for her class.

Someone has his students observe how they talk about the game sites they visit, for they’re evaluating those sites using valuable and sophisticated criteria.

Someone has her students using wikis to create study guides.

One person is concerned about the study that shows that students spend only 20 seconds evaluating a site. That seems to me to be appropriate, although students need our help learning how to evaluate a page in 20 seconds. Or 10.

In an AP calculus class, every day a different student is the note-taker, posting the notes on a blog. The note-taker is also responsible for answering questions on the blog that day.

In an art class, each student has a blog. Peer feedback is encouraged.

A kindergarten teacher uses a blog as a replacement for the traditional bulletin board, writing posts of interest to parents. She also uses to post photos and audio about the photos. She has connected her students with New Zealand kindergarten students where there are no bears and it’s summer in the winter.

One teacher said that a parent printed out his daughter’s MySpace page and told her he was going to post it at the mall. When the daughter objected, mortified, the parent explained that MySpace is as public as the mall.

One teacher has a book club blog for the kids.

The discussions weren’t, however, merely lists of things you can do on the Web. That’s just what I recorded, in a haphazard way. (Where was the note-taker student posting things on a wiki? :)

I so much enjoy getting to hang out with teachers. Along with with librarians and journalists, they are the heroes of democracy, as far as I’m concerned. [Tags: ]

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