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April 24, 2012

Media Literacy, Common Sense, & Teaching Technology – reports from Justin
EdTechResearcherOn Thursday, April 19th, EdTechTeacher Co-Founder, Justin Reich was a guest on WBUR - Boston Public Radio. After ‘Kony 2012,’ Students Eager To Learn About Central Africa brought together a team of educators to discuss the impact of the documentary on their students as well as how to teach social media to them. "Despite stirring controversy, thousands of young people who watched Kony 2012 were energized. That presented a challenge for school teachers who weren’t prepared to teach students about the Ugandan civil war." Along with Barbara Brown, outreach director for the Boston University African Studies Center, Justin spoke about how teachers can work with students who want to engage as civic actors as well as how educators can continue to use technology in order to improve their access and understanding of specific subjects. Another key point made during the broadcast had to do with literacy. When asked whether or not schools need to teach social media, Justin responded by discussing how educators also should address media literacy and recognize that the media expectations of current students is radically different than what the traditional curriculum is prepared to address. While the current curriculum teaches students to engage in print and images, it does not yet acknowledge engagement with the web, Tweets, info graphics, blog posts, video, Facebook, podcasts, etc. Moving forward, not only do students need to be able to interpret linear print materials but also multimedia, deconstructed information. You can listen to the full conversation and broadcast at WBUR. On a similar thread, Justin wrote this week on EdTech Researcher about Common Sense Media Launches Learning Ratings for Apps and Games.
"One of the key problems with educational media is that there are no objective, neutral arbiters who are evaluating apps, games, and Web sites to determine whether or not these media offer meaningful learning experiences. As a result, developers have an incentive to focus on making their products "appear" educational rather than focusing on actually making them meaningful learning experiences. There is no external review for developers making any kinds of claims about their products. How might the marketplace change if an external judge was introduced into the system? Would it help parents and teachers make better choices? Would it force developers of educational products to think more carefully about their claims? More importantly, would it pressure them to make better educational products?… One of my strongest hopes for Common Sense Media is that their strategic plans will look very seriously at how their learning ratings can be useful to the widest possible set of parents, families, caregivers, and educators. Of course, Common Sense Media is making their ratings available to everyone for free, but as I've written about before, making things free doesn't mean that they will be distributed equitably. It's quite possible that these ratings could be one more way that affluent parents have more information and more tools to give their children an educational advantage from early on. I hope that the partnership between Common Sense Media and the Susan Crown Exchange is developing specific plans to make sure that the ratings and tools are widely publicized among diverse parents and educators. It will be important to advertise the ratings and get good publicity in diverse media sources, not just ones that serve tech-saavy educators. Another strategy might be to incorporate language translation tools into the site, so that it's very easy for speakers of Spanish and other common languages used in the U.S. to take advantage of these resources. These learning ratings can do the most good if they are available to families who face the greatest challenges in getting access to high quality educational experiences. Perhaps the most fun part of the learning ratings project is that the ratings provoke really difficult questions about "what is learning?" and "what is good learning?" In my next post, I'll look at some of the products rated by Common Sense Media, and think about what the ratings say about what we think learning is.
For the full article, visit EdTech Researcher at Education Week.