Saturday, June 30, 2012

What does it mean to be literate in a digital world?

This is a question I have been asking myself and others for some time, particularly with the constant changes in how we communicate and find information online, as well as the fact that more and more of us have access to online digital devices. How is the way we teach literacy skills in school keeping up with what it means to be literate in a world where information is no longer just printed text on paper? Are students using digital literacy to develop understanding and engage in their learning?
Steve Covello outlines the subdisciplines of the digital literacies as information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, communication literacy, visual literacy, technology literacy. Since his list in 2010, I would add the newer domain of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc...) To be literate in today’s world is to be able to access online information, comprehend it at high levels, critically evaluate information as to it’s reliability and credibility, as well as create, collaborate, communicate, curate and publish all within the subdisciplines of digital literacy.

In the past many of these disciplines have been in the purview of the Librarian/Media Specialist  or Technology Class where students learn about online research, created media products and learn basic technology skills. The new digital literacy skills are “literacy skills” and must be embedded into classroom curriculum and literacy instruction. “Review of research on reading comprehension concludes that the Internet requires additional comprehension skills beyond those required for reading traditional print texts (RAND Reading Study Group, 2002).” Yet, when we teach reading and writing we focus on text based materials. While traditional reading and writing skills are the foundation for being a literate person we need to expand teaching of traditional literacy skills to include the new digital literacies. 
I believe this is an opportunity to transform teaching and learning as we align curriculum to the Common Core to embrace the digital learning that is embedded into and expected from the Common Core State Standards. As we adjust our curriculum to meet the new standards, we should be looking for ways to shift traditional text based activities to digital learning opportunities. One example of a new literacy activity might be, instead of student's writing book reviews and passing them in as papers have them create and publish video trailers, or create and publish their own book review blogs.  
Listen to Glynda Hull from University of California Berkeley talk about this opportunity and review the Google Presentation created by Maggie Eaton, Middle School LA teacher/Curriculum Leader and myself. As you listen to Glynda and go through the slideshow consider how you might begin to embrace the new literacies.

How can we learn more about what it means to be literate in a digital world? 
How can we shift classroom practices to provide opportunities for students to learn and use digital literacy skills?