October 8th, 2009

The Children of the Future: Literate and Edible

edible-schoolyard-1Learning Matters has had the 21st-century classroom on the brain this week. In his weekly blog post, John Merrow shared his thoughts on the importance of access to technology in education, and his choice of topic stirred up a good deal of discussion, as you’ll see if you check out the readers’ comments. As Merrow points out, the question of how we produce technologically literate students–who’ll become technologically literate adult citizens–is “not just a matter of who has broadband and who doesn’t.” President Obama and his education staff have been enthusiastic about adopting “globally benchmarked” national standards of learning. But how can we keep standards and curricula fresh and relevant in this era of new media and changing technological landscapes?

According to Project New Media Literacies, a research initiative run through MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program, there is a lot more to technological literacy than learning how to best use Internet search engines or setting up RSS feeds. On their website, you can watch a short clip featuring a few of their young researchers talking about the project’s mission: to figure out “how to interact with information, with culture…with just…the pace of life, which is very different than it was twenty years ago.” Their research has produced a list of twelve skills, or “literacies,” for the what they call our newly “participatory” culture, where everyone is both a consumer and producer of media, on a daily basis. Far from being just a bastion of ideas, Project New Media Literacies produces teacher strategy guides to help ease their work into the classroom.

Of course, as we develop our ability to interact with virtual spaces and vast electronic networks, some of our basic survival skills are bound to drop off. The Edible Schoolyard Project has been around since 1995 in the home of all things Alice Waters—Berkeley, CA–but this week marks the launch of its Brooklyn affiliate’s new website, which is well worth a look. At P.S. 216 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, the Edible Schoolyard Project will coach kids in agricultural skills they would otherwise have little access to. Students–whose neighborhood has “the lowest percentage of green, open space in Brooklyn”–will cultivate a quarter-acre organic farm and a four-season greenhouse, on their school grounds. Particularly for urban kids without the means to leave their cities, nutritional and agricultural literacy are crucial.

Stay tuned for more on both of these projects on Ed Beat in the coming weeks.

Project New Media Literacies
Edible Schoolyard New York
“Geography is Destiny” [Learning Matters, 10/6/09]

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Like so many dialogues in America when a problem needs to be fixed like the deficit, healthcare, or education every player in the game sits around the table blaming someone else when there is enough blame to go around to all the players. In education this is precisely what the teachers do, what the school board does, what the parents do, what the tax payers do, and what the students do. The rules of the game for fixing problems needs to be changed and everyone needs to stop pointing their fingers at others and propose what they can do themselves to help correct the problem. It almost seems like what is most needed is a new set of rules of engagement and a professional mediator who keeps all the players focused on fixing the problem collectively.




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