So you are and education leader? You know the standards, the curriculum, and the methods to bring about literacy. If technology is not part of that, then you may be a leader, but you are missing a major component of what our students will need in the coming years. Our students need to be able to climb the "ladder" and it is your job to make sure they get those opportunities.
The ladder. Charlene Li and Josh Bernofff have written a great book titled Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. In their book they describe The Social Technographics ladder.
“Each step on the ladder represents a group of consumers more involved in the groundswell than the previous steps. To join the group on a step, a consumer need only participate in one of the listed activities at least monthly.” I believe that each rung of the Social Technographic ladder present a unique literacy challenge for our students.
Top Rung: Creators
These are the people who, at least once a month, publish a blog, put an article online, maintain a website, or upload music or videos. In the United States, about 18% of us on are the top rung or creators.
The percentage is only going to go up. So, what are we doing to prepare our students to be creators? How are we preparing our students to occupy the “top rung” of the Social Technographics ladder?
write narratives, that(1) establish and develop plot and setting, and choose a point of view that is appropriate to stories
(2) include sensory details and concrete language to develop plot and character
(3) use a range of narrative strategies (e.g., dialogue, suspense)
Write expository compositions (e.g., description, explanation, comparison and contrast, and/or problem/solution) that
(1) state the thesis or purpose
(2) explain the situation
(3) follow an organizational pattern appropriate to the type of composition (e.g., if problem/solution, then paired)
(4) offer persuasive evidence for the validity of the description, proposed solutions, etc.
Write research reports that
(1) pose relevant questions narrow enough to be thoroughly covered
(2) support the main idea(s) with facts, details, examples, and explanations from multiple authoritative sources (e.g., speakers, periodicals, on-line information searches)
(3) use a bibliography
2.5. write persuasive compositions (or letters for grade 5) that
(1) state a clear position in support of a proposition or proposal
(2) support the position with organized and relevant evidence; and (3) anticipate and address reader concerns and counter-arguments
The standards seem to say that we want students to be creators. The question I have is; are we preparing our students to occupy the top rung in the groundswell. Remember, the groundswell is: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”
In other words, the groundswell is what is taking place in this new ecosystem called the web where any person, in any place, can be a producer of media. Or, as Clay Shirky says, every person is a one-man media outlet.
So why only 18% participation? Obviously this is an optional activity. Nobody has to be a creator. In our classrooms we required that our students be creators. We want all of our students on the top rung. We ask that our students create stories, research reports, projects, and narratives. We are teaching the next generation to succeed in this new online ecosystem. The standards seem to suggest we have the right intentions, but do those standards prepare our students for life in the groundswell. I think it depends on the teacher. The greater the teachers understanding of the power of the groundswell in the online ecosystem, the better the assignments will utilize the standards to prepare the students.
The next rung down: Critics
Critics react to what has been created. This is similar to the responding to literature standard.
Response to Literature
Write responses to literature that
(1) develop an interpretation which exhibits careful reading, understanding and insight
(2) organize the interpretation around several clear ideas, premises, or images
(3) develop and justify the interpretation through sustained use of examples and textual evidence
Again, the question becomes, are we properly preparing our students for being a critic in the groundswell. When I was a student, I was never allowed to comment on what other students wrote. Even in college, my job was to create. The only opportunities I had to be a critic was in writing a book report. Most of us are simply not used to commenting on blogs. We were not trained to do it as students and we had so few opportunities in our academic lives to practice it. But, our students are growing up in the online ecosystem that allows them to comment and critique nearly everything. The can comment on a song, a video, place a comment on a blog, put a book review on Amazon, review a product epinions or CNET. Their world is the world of the critic. Are we as educators equipping them to succeed in this world? Are we preparing them for life on the second rung? What opportunities do your students have to critique what others have created?
The next rung down: Collectors
Collector collect RSS feeds, save website to Del.icio.us, vote for sites on Digg, and accumulate all forms of created digital media from the online world.
So, what standards address that? How are we preparing our students to be effective collectors of information? What opportunities do our students get to practice the art of selective information collection? How do our students learn to filter information for their select needs? How are we preparing our students to be literate collectors?
The next rung down: Joiners
Members of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orcut, etc. are all joiners. These are the people who maintain profiles on social networking sites. My guess is that most of our students are far ahead of most of their teachers in this aspect. But, how can we teach our students the skills necessary to properly maintain these sites for optimal effect and leverage their power to further themselves via networking?
Our students are natural collaborators and net-workers, but how are we making them literate in the power of networks?
The next rung down: Spectators
Spectators consume what the rest produce. This is the largest part of the groundswell. This is about making choices. What they choose to consume can enhance our students’ education. So, our students need to make choices that will enhance them as people, as students, as informed citizens, etc. Of course kids will always choose the strange and offbeat, but we can equip them to understand what sorts of media are important for them to consume. What opportunities are your students getting to be selective literate spectators?
The bottom rung: Inactives
These are the people who are not impacted by the groundswell at all. For our students, it might those students who have no access to technology and the web. I still meet students and parents who have no web access. If the school isn’t providing it, and they have no access at home, when are these students given chances to move from inactive to spectator, joiner, collector, critic, or creator? We need to think about how we can provide opportunities or resources for them to climb the Social Technographic ladder. It is a literacy issue for life in the 21st century.
In what way is your leadership preparing your school and your students for the literacy of technology?
Is your personal leadership and catalyst or hurdle in the implementation of technologies that will provide opportunities for technology literacy?
In what ways do our current literacy standards meet or fall short of the issues and challenges faced by our students at each rung of the Social Technographic ladder?
In what way can we better prepare our students to be literate creators of information?
How might this look in a classroom?
In what ways can we provide opportunities for our students to be literate critics of created information?
In what ways can we prepare our students to be literate collectors of information?
What might this look like in the classroom?
How might we prepare our students to leverage the power of networks?
In what ways could we prepare our students to make literate choices about the networks they join and the information they place on those networks?
In what was are we preparing our students to be literate spectators of information?
How might we better equip our students to make excellent choices in the information they consume each day?
In what ways can we provide resources or tools to move the non-participating Inactive up the Social Technographic ladder?