Digital Literacies

To the UW TEP Tech class:

What does it mean to be digitally literate?

Let's start with traditional literacy. Basically it means being able to read and write, right? But it's actually being able to read and write something. What's been valued is being able to read and write stuff in a classroom, so that something is stuff you would find in a classroom setting.

But imagine a kid who does poorly in class on reading comprehension but is reading comic books or playing video games voraciously out of class. And in fact the kid is reading stuff in the comics and being exposed to plots and such in the video games that are very sophisticated, maybe with deep themes or complex ideas, big vocab, etc. (There really are tons of great comics and video games!)

Where does this kid stand? It seems we need to define literacy in broader terms. Open it up to other domains. This is the basic idea of Multiliteracies, as I understand it. The new definition of being literate means being able to participate in a community with other people who hang out in the same domain or have the same affinity for something. That kid is very comic book literate, understands the conventions of good comics, can talk the talk with comics people, and maybe could pen a comic herself.

We're all literate to varying degrees in a whole slew of communities/domains. As we navigate the world, we're moving from social space to social space, feeling like an expert in some and a total newb in others.

Digital literacy, then, is the ability to hang out with other people who are tech savvy and being able to use digital technology in a meaningful way. It is the common usage or practice that makes it a community, and it is the shared experience that lets you talk about it with others in the community.

Hanging out in a particular domain only really happens if that domain is actually relevant to the person doing the hanging out… In other words, I am very comfortable with computers not really because I chose it out of other stuff to get into, but more that over the years I've just found myself using them more and more to do particular things, solve particular problems, play certain games, etc. By using computers in such a way, I was able to meet others who used computers in a similar way, and I became computer literate.

The trick of the Tech class is to see if computers, the Internet, etc. can be used in a relevant way for the soon to be teachers.

The discussion board is already getting some good conversations going on… not that their content is necessarily good, but that it is actually being used to share ideas and talk about movies and classes and such. Hopefully the benefit to the discussion board will become even more self-evident as the months pass.

The blogs to me are a place to write a little bit more about topics that are relevant and personal. Maybe get in-depth more so than you would in a discussion board post. They serve as a place for you to post photos and share things with your friends and family. They will also hopefully be a place for you to store assignments or writings that you will want to eventually include in your portfolios.

Being digitally literate isn't just so you can all be on the same page as your future students; it's also supposed to help you in your professional development and lives in general… but maybe after trying this stuff out, it won't seem useful. That is fine. We still have a few months to convince you of its usefulness. If after you graduate, you're not convinced… well, it's your life, you decide what helps you most. It is not a failing to dislike this stuff on your part or to feel like you are lost… It simply means this stuff isn't relevant. Why should you use something that isn't relevant and doesn't solve problems for you?

2 thoughts on “Digital Literacies”

  1. I should add that technology isn’t limited to computers and the Internet. How many of you have cell phones? That’s still an example of digital techs. Technology in general, however, includes things like books, pencils, forks, piped water… How can this stuff (especially the digital kind) be useful to your teaching practice?

  2. Mark,
    I appreciated your comments to my blog on the Webquest. I followed your suggestion and read Diana Saenz’s blog. Whether it’s apparent or not, I do try to see both sides of this technology issue and to recognize the importance of learning digital technologies and such for pre-service teachers. However, I still have never prepared a PowerPoint presentation, or use a spreadsheet in Excel, two things I think I’d be much more likely to use in my teaching at this point. (And yes, I’ve been told that all I need to do is follow the tutorials.) (Sigh.) I have to admit that, being out in the field, the last thing on my mind right now is using technology or creating a Webquest, so the fact that it’s a requirement for the course is difficult for me. Also, because it’s not something I do everyday, the once-a-week hour that we spend with you is simply not enough, a flaw that I see not in your instruction but in the TEP program itself. If I’m going to learn this and then remember it I need to do it everyday. All I can foresee is doing the assignment and then never remembering how to do it again. I DO have a self-defeatist attitude here, don’t I? (Another sigh.)–>

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