It not enough to teach today’s students reading, writing, and ’rithmetic. They need to be able to navigate digital spaces and use digital tools. They need to be smart information consumers, able to disregard misinformation when it crosses their news feeds. And they need to respect the humanity of the people they encounter online—be it their coworkers, their friends, or strangers in a comments section.

Biograph is a new app that can help educators build lasting digital literacy. Educators can design exercises and assignments around the Biograph app or build it into existing course modules. You might hold a peer workshop on a paper remotely through the Biograph app or have students collect lab notes in the app as they conduct an experiment in class. All biographs are private by default, and it’s easy to create closed groups, so students can communicate with each other comfortably. And Biograph allows students to work with the tool they know and love best: their phones.

With its innovative combination of voice, text, and image, Biograph encourages students to develop all forms of digital literacy. A teacher might post an image to the app, then have students respond to it—growing their photo-visual literacy. Their conversations will build their socio-emotional literacy and information literacy, as they learn to listen to and respond to their classmates, to check their sources, and evaluate their claims. Creating their own biographs will help them grow their reproduction literacy, the abilities to curate, recreate, and repurpose existing digital materials including text, sound, images, graphics, and videos. Moving across the app, they’ll reinforce their branching literacy, the ability to contextualize content using a nonlinear, multidimensional approach.

The future of education is digital. Students need their teachers and professors to help them build essential survival skills in today’s hyperconnected world. Biograph is a 21st century tool to help your students develop 21st century skills.

Finding a Home in the Digital Classroom

Robert was often sullen and recalcitrant in class—when he wasn’t disrupting class or challenging his professors. A freshman at Illinois State University, Robert struggled to see how his classes were worth the price tag or would help prepare him for the real world.

But his professor for freshman composition, Dr. Susan Jackson, had designed a course module around the Biograph app. Students would post pictures from around campus and speak about places they found meaningful. Other students would chime in, responding with anecdotes and place-based memories of their own. Then students would use the transcripts to write essays about those places, incorporating their classmates’ voices alongside more formal secondary sources.

Robert was skeptical at first but got excited about the opportunity to shape his classmates experience of campus and the surrounding community. And he loved hearing from other students. “It feels like this project is close to what I want to do—something in marketing or research, where I’m interacting with people and helping make things better for them. It’s the first time I’ve felt like I was preparing in college for the life I want to lead.”

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