TCEA stands for the Texas Computer Education Association. Each year, educators in Austin and around the state are lucky to have this opportunity to learn about the latest in technology use in instruction. The word “instruction” sets this conference apart. That said, when I first went to TCEA two years ago, I was so excited about the new tricks I learned. I came back to school with Google cardboard glasses for VR, a math app that solves Algebra problems, a Qball microphone, and a Google Translate app that morphs foreign text into English via my iPhone camera. One fun byproduct of being old is that the new technologies constantly amaze me. Last month the big buzz was about the Amazon Go store with no checkout, but I’d learned all about it a calendar year before at TCEA.
Librarians and Technology
But besides all the bells and whistles, the bigger question for librarians and all educators is: how can we use technology to further student learning and outcomes? How can technology be harnessed to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and critical thinking? How can we teach our children to use technology when the rapid acceleration of new technologies makes recent skills obsolete in no time?
In one session, Alan November, founder of the November Learning Institute, reminded us via video that we as educators need to rebalance the control of learning. He cited a study that high school students can use Google to answer their homework 85% of the time. One librarian in the audience summed up our mission with this sentence: “We don’t need to learn tech; we need to redesign our lessons.” As moderator Owen Nesbitt noted: “Technology is a tool. We don’t have pencil specialists!” He exhorted us to create in our schools a culture of critical thinkers, students who lean back with their arms crossed and their heads cocked, asking skeptical questions when they evaluate sources.
Fake News and Digital Citizenship
I particularly enjoyed a session on fake news. Our presenters, librarians Shirley Dickey, Melinda Hutt, and Laura Gladney-Lemon, shared how they ask their students to bring in news articles with historical relevance and then evaluate them on the fly with the entire class. In demonstrating bias, they then display the real-time web pages of Fox News and then MSNBC. How can these two news organizations have completely different headlines at the exact same time on the same day? We have to train our children to spot bias. A great way to correct a bias imbalance is to check out a source that leans the opposite direction.
We must remind our students that “fake news” is nothing new. In the 19th century, it was called yellow journalism, and biased reporting of the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine may have led our country into the Spanish American War.
Shirley Dickey leads her students in this pledge: “I promise to read the whole article before forwarding or tweeting.” Imagine if all global citizens acted on this pledge. Students may be thinking: so what if I spread misinformation? I’m not a journalist or a politician. But we must warn them that if we engage in sharing information via social media, we are then citizen journalists. Laura Gladney-Lemon then leads her students through a litany of the types of fake news with examples of each: propaganda, clickbait, sponsored content, satire and hoax, error, partisan, conspiracy theory, pseudoscience, misinformation, and bogus.
In another session, Melissa Stiney of Blue Ridge ISD introduced us to BookSnaps, an idea invented and promoted by educator Tara M. Martin, who noticed that her teenage son was absorbed in SnapChat. She wondered: how can I hijack that focus and make it educational? Melissa led us through a session in which we brainstormed ways we could use Book Snaps, even at the Kindergarten level with other programs, such as SeeSaw, Google Drawings, Pic Collage Kids, or with just a smartphone. Essentially, students can snap a photo of a page of text and then highlight, add text, emojis, drawings, hashtags, annotations, and any other information that represents a reflection or connection with the selected text. For instance, students may highlight examples of imagery, characterization, vocabulary… the possibilities are endless.
All in all, I could write multiple entries on what I learned in just one day at TCEA and apologize for only giving you a taste here. Speaking of pledges, pledge to attend high quality professional development conferences whenever you can so you can model to your students how to integrate technology in the pursuit of knowledge. Learning never ends.
“Research Guides:” Library Research Guides, University of Michigan Library, 21 Nov. 2017, 2:48 pm, guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=637508&p=4462444.
Martin, Tara M. “#BookSnaps–How-to-Videos and Examples.” R.E.A.L., Taramartin.com, 2016, www.tarammartin.com/resources/booksnaps-how-to-videos/.
Author: Sara Stevenson
I’m a reader, writer, swimmer, and a public middle school librarian. I love all things Italian. I was honored to be Austin ISD’s first librarian of the year in 2013.