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Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Connecting Literacy Skill Development to the 21st Century

By: Dr. Katherine McKnight

When we were in high school and college, we learned how to use the Dewey decimal system, note cards, microfiche, and setting the margins in an electric typewriter. We were the last generation of students that actually pounded out papers and research on an electric typewriter and actually memorized the abbreviated guide in the Periodic Guide of Literature as a means to save time.

The embodiment of a “good” student in our generation was the ability to ferret out morsels of information that were buried in the library shelves and microfiche drawers. This took an exceptional amount of time. Some fellow educators argue that this is actually rigor and teaches academic discipline. Perhaps it did, or at least we’d like to think so.

As literacy educators, we know that school is very different than our experience as teenage students in the 1980s.

Today, what took us hours to accomplish in the library, our students can accomplish in minutes. A Google search will produce millions of informational pieces that students need to quickly analyze and synthesize. We would argue that this takes an rigor and academic discipline just as we did in the dusty library stacks. But there is a very marked difference. Out students can do this in minutes or even seconds.

Applying Modern Literacy Skills to Bloom's Taxonomy

As educators we are quite familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy for understanding. If we look at the bottom levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, we know that the lowest level of understanding include recall and the harvesting of information.

As teenagers, we spent hours harvesting information because we went to school (a crazy thought) without the Internet! Now, that stage is almost eliminated.

As a result, we would contend that our 21st century students spend far more time in higher levels of understanding (according to Bloom’s Taxonomy) that include analysis, synthesis and representation. This is an essential difference in our 21st century students than what many of us may have experienced as students.

Modernizing Teaching Techniques for Using Texts

The ways, in which we read text, create text, use text, and how text effects us has completely changed. As we readily know, we are now in the midst of the technology or digital age and as educators, we often talk about 21st century skills and what these mean now for our students (as most recently articulated in the Common Core State Standards).

If our students are spending more time and focus analyzing, synthesizing, and representing what they know and understand (rather than collecting and memorizing information) we know that this is far more rigorous. Instead of facts and storing massive amounts of content, our students need to develop skills that facilitate the higher-level skills of analysis, synthesis and representation. Effectively integrating technology in literacy learning so that students are creating expanded and original expressions of comprehension and understanding.

Effectively Integrating Technology to Develop Student Literacy Skills

Start small and build. Integrate a few technology tools and build. The following short list is meant as a means to get started.

This list of suggestions is meant to be a starting point and is no means exhaustive.


Encourage your students to read blogs as well as teach students how to write blogs. Warren’s students use blogs to research, learn, and comprehend new information. They also use blogs to share their work.

Here are some sample student blogs from Warren’s students:

Use a Backchannel

When you have large group discussions or when the students are engaged in small groups, you can use a back channel like as a platform where students can report, question, and present what they know and understand.

Google Docs

Warren regularly uses Google docs with his students as a tool for collaboration, classroom discussion and sharing information and ideas. What is particularly exciting about Google docs is that students can see each other’s thinking as they all contribute to the document.

Web 2.0 with Edmodo

Think Facebook for education when you explore the possibilities with Edmodo This web 2.0 tool is social networking site that can further classroom discussions. In the work that Katie has done in schools across the country, she has seen teachers use Edmodo as a means to organize and share group work as well as continue and expand classroom discussions.

Remember, as you rethink and revise your literacy curriculum to develop 21st century “literacy skill ready” lessons, start by using applications that are familiar and build from there. For example, you’re likely to use Facebook in Education if you’re already using Facebook for social media.

Similarly, if you use Google as a search engine, and Microsoft Word to type and share reports then you are likely to find Google docs an accessible and worthwhile investment. In any case, we need to continually evolve the ways in which we effectively develop literacy skills in students.

How do you integrate 21st century skills and technology to teach literacy skills? Share in the comments section!

Share/Bookmark Top 12 Things You Learned In School That Your Students Won’t

By: Annie Condron
For better or worse, some teaching topics and students lessons are falling out of favor in current curriculum.

Here are the top 12 things you learned in school that may not be taught today:


There's a contentious debate among techy teachers who are ready to discard handwriting / cursive and traditional teachers who see the value for reading, writing and fine motor skills that teaching handwriting provides.

Check out how cursive scored in a TeachHUB poll on the subject!

Card Catalog / Dewey Decimal System

With Google at our students' finger tips, they must think we were crazy to spend hours thumbing through note cards in the card catalogs, combing the stacks and revising microfilm to find research materials. I'm constantly begging students to go beyond Google and mix it up with the old school books as well.

Pluto as a Planet

Now that Pluto’s been downgraded to a dwarf planet, you’ll have to update the old rhyme:
My (Mercury) Very (Venus) Easy (Earth) Method (mars) Just (Jupiter) Speeds (Saturn) Up (Uranus) Naming (Neptune) Planets (Pluto).

Share your new-school mnemonic device in the comments section!


While I spent time in grade school and high school memorizing the home row and trying to up my speed at typing "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," today's kids can text and type at speeds I'd never thought possible.

For kicks, let your students work on a typewriter, breaking out the white out for mistakes and retyping each draft. Be prepared to take video in case someone has to replace the ink ribbon.

Old School Gym Class Staples

Climbing the rope in gym class seems to be a relic of times passes, along with (I hope) square dancing. Let's just hope that physical education becomes more modern instead of just disappearing entirely.

Paper-Based Reference Materials

Researching with encyclopedias, paper dictionaries, microfilm and other paper-based resources used to be a must. Now, students don't need guidance on choosing their proper encyclopedia volume or skimming a page to find your entry.

Now, students need to taught how to find reliable online resources and choose relevant keywords to find the proper results. Check out Dr. Katie McKnight's guide to connecting literacy skills with 21st century skills.

Food Pyramid

Say goodbye to the bottom layer of carbs that the previous generations knew and loved. The latest in nutritional guides is actually a circle divided into food categories that demonstrates proper portion size.

Diagramming Sentences

When we asked TeachHUB facebook followers about obsolete school lessons, the Language Arts contingent lamented the diagramming sentences no longer being taught in some schools.

Evolution (Exclusively)

While evolution is a core part of science curricula, some states and districts are also allowing supplemental units on creationism or intelligent design. Dr. Barbara Forrest is an advocate against this change in education policy.

Math Drills

In the age of the calculator, math teachers among the TeachHUB fans listed math drills are lacking in current curriculum standards. Students are relying too heavily on calculators for basic math facts. Don't let the machines win!

Clapping erasers

Oh chalk boards, how I don't miss you! Dry erase and SMART boards are welcome replacements... nails on a dry erase board just don't have the same effect.

As a student though, I did enjoy the classroom duty of clapping erasers if it was a nice day outside.

Scales & Balances

Digital scales make the traditional balance scales and their slew of weights unnecessary. If nothing else, this lesson going by the wayside will clear some closet space in science classrooms.

The Endangered Learning List

In addition to our top 12 lost or soon-to-be-lost lessons, there are also a few skills that may also be in danger of falling into extinction.
  • Reading a clock - Don't let digital kill the clock!
  • Spelling / proofreading - With word processors auto-correcting or highlighting most potential mistakes, kids don't care to double check.
  • Note-taking - Why take notes when you can take video of the lecture or get a print off of the power point? Because it helps you learn and add your own ideas!
  • Balancing a checkbook - While not necessarily school-related, it strikes me as odd that most kids won't even know what that means.


Arts & Humanities Research Council e-bulletin May 2012

May 2012
The Arts and Humanities Research Council [AHRC] supports world-class research that furthers our understanding of human culture and creativity.
At a glance
In this issue:
Closing dates:
AHRC/BBC Wales seminar on Dylan Thomas
New call
A new call has been issued for expressions of interest from arts and humanities researchers from all disciplines within the arts and humanities to participate in a half-day AHRC/BBC editorial seminar on Dylan Thomas on the 29 June 2012 in Cardiff.
Find out more about the call on our website.

Projects explore groundbreaking ideas for new heritage experiences
Collaborative awards
Six projects that have been commissioned out of the South West are unlocking histories, hauntings and happenings in all kinds of UK heritage attractions, as well as unravelling rich experiences through the use of cutting edge technologies.
Find out more on our website.

AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hub celebrates the 'Digital Public Space'
New FutureEverthing project
A new online artwork produced for the London 2012 Festival is offering people the opportunity to see what is being said and felt about a sporting event at the moment of triumph or despair thanks to the way it visualises the online digital interactions, such as Twitter, as they happen in what is known as the Digital Public Space.
For more information please see our website.

AHRC appoints new members to its Advisory Board
Five new members
Meeting four times a year, the role of the AHRC Advisory Board is to advise Council on the development of strategies that reflect AHRC's Charter and the challenges facing arts and humanities research.
Find out more on our website.

Archaeological evidence for Saxon Britain glass industry
New research
Research funded by the AHRC and led by the University of Reading has revealed that finds at Glastonbury Abbey provide the earliest archaeological evidence of glass-making in Britain.
For more information please see our website.

British religion has changed dramatically
Funding initiative findings
Summing up findings from the £12m Religion and Society Programme at the final Westminster Faith Debate last week, Professor Linda Woodhead argued that research shows that religion in Britain has changed more rapidly since the 1980s than our ideas about it.
Find out more on our website.
SCRIPT Conference
6-8 June, Edinburgh
The AHRC Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh (SCRIPT) will be ten years old in 2012. To celebrate this event, SCRIPT is hosting a conference in Edinburgh on the theme of 'Law and Transformation'
Further information is available on the SCRIPT website.

Fifth annual Subject Associations Meeting
20 June, London
AHRC is holding its fifth annual Subject Associations Meeting. A special panel session in the morning will focus on the value of research outside the academy.
Further information is available on our website.

Connected Communities Programme Summit 2012
11-12 July, Manchester
The theme of this year's event will be community engagement, with a further focus on co-design and co-production of research.

Award holder events
A selection of events organised by our award holders
  • 9th International Symposium on Computer Music Modeling and Retrieval (CMMR) - Music and Emotions
    19 June, London
  • Sculpture, The Arts and The Decorated School
    23 June, Leeds
  • Fairness and Responsibility in an Unequal Society
    28 June, London
Find out more about our award holder events

We have a range of AHRC stickers, posters and pens for your AHRC-funded event. Please email
Call for Expression of Interest for research participation in an AHRC/BBC Wales seminar on Dylan Thomas
Closing date: 14 June
The AHRC and BBC Wales are organising a seminar that brings together BBC and independent commissioning and production staff with arts and humanities researchers specialising or with an interest in Dylan Thomas.

Find out more on our website.

Call for Research Grant - Environmental Change and Sustainability: Thinking forward through the past proposals
Closing date: 30 October
Applications for up to £1.5m (full economic cost) are invited under this highlight notice in AHRC's standard and early career research grants routes. The highlight notice addresses the 'Environmental Change and Sustainability' area within the Care for the Future theme.

Find out more on our website.

Non-AHRC News and Competitions
News from the arts and humanities community

The following items are not AHRC news but may be of interest to our community.
·  ASHPIT think tank, 28 May, University of Oxford
The think tank event will respond particularly to the new landscape of Doctoral Training Centres and cross-HEI consortia, and to policy arising from the impact agenda.
More information can be found on the project blog.
·  Worlds Together: an international conference exploring the value of the arts in young people's lives from Shakespeare to the digital realm. September 6-8, 2012.
Worlds Together is a collaborative conference between Tate Modern, the British Museum, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It draws together different disciplines in order to ask what is at stake for children
s cultural lives today.
More information can be found on the RSC website.
Arts and Humanities Research Council