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SWON News: The Low Down

It's About Literacy

Thursday, August 21, 2014  
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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School is starting back up, and that means a return of one of the favorite questions educators hear:

“When will I ever actually use this?”

It’s a great shut-down rhetorical question. It’s “I don’t want to” and “Do I really?” and “You’re doing this to make things difficult for me for no reason.” Teachers sometimes answer, but their replies are rarely satisfying. It’s like there’s no great answer to this question.

There is no great answer to this question.

We can guess at ways students might use what they’re learning, but it’s practically impossible to guess right since students don’t know what they want to do. That’s fine. Plenty of adults don’t either, or (put another way) they’re willing to do something new. When the thing you’re learning and the thing you want to do seem disconnected, it’s hard to imagine that you’re learning something useful.

It’s what you know & how you think

Learning isn’t just about facts. It’s also about ways of thinking. I can learn a simple Excel formula that in itself isn’t very powerful. But when I also learn about the kinds of problems formulas can solve, I might find it useful in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

That’s literacy. Get literate in a subject matter, and all sorts of doors can open for you. Here’s a great article about computational thinking and how literacy in computer science extends a lot further than programming languages.

What will you learn next?

A great way to connect with patrons is to learn about something that they care about. By building common ground, you open conversations that can head in unexpected directions. Even if the conversation starts with Minecraft. Or loom bands. Or selfies.

- Nathan Swartzendruber, SWON Technology Educator


Summer Reading Program Workshop: What will you learn?

An important component of SWON's SRP workshops is the Idea Share at the end. We go around the room and give each participant time to lead the discussion. Sometimes they share a specific program--sometimes they even bring props! Sometimes they ask a question. And sometimes they speak in broader terms about a partnership they've built or a strategy they've tried or a resource they've found.

We don't know how you'll use what your learn at the SRP Workshop, but there will be lots to choose from. Join us September 22nd! Register here.


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