Barbara Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne Flannigan say, “Literacy, in any form, advances a person’s ability to effectively and creatively use and communicate information” (2006). Does “literacy” now include more than just proficiency in reading and writing? Is digital literacy just as critical a skill to develop in our day and age? Will people who lack computer, internet, social networking, texting, and mobile communication skills fall behind in our society? If so, what are the implications for education?
My attention turns once again to my own children who are growing up in a digital era. I consider what skills they must have in order to be truly “literate.” This is something I have not thought of before – how much recent technological advances are changing the way we, as a society, communicate. In regards to social networking, questions arise as to how communicating via Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, etc. will change the way in which we relate to other people. Will those who choose not to use these tools for interaction be hindered in their ability to communicate effectively? Will those who choose not to allow internet usage in their homes deny themselves and their children access to a critical tool for gathering and sharing information? Does the lack of digital literacy mean someone is “illiterate?”
Sometimes technology gets overwhelming, and sometimes we are frightened by the uncertainties and apparent dangers that come with them. I don’t think, though, that fear and intimidation are reasons to leave it all behind. When we view technologies as tools, our perspective turns from the potential danger to the potential benefit. People who use advancing technologies and who also have a core set of critical thinking skills and a strong moral foundation can do great things!
Rather than run from technology, I think we need to prepare people to use it appropriately. As Karl Auerbach says, “We need to teach ourselves how to be good users of that tool.” (Anderson and Rainie 2010). After reading this week’s articles, I have a new understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st century. However, as I said in last week’s post, my understanding of what it means to be human has not changed. As with anything else, humans can use technology for good or bad. Certainly, students need to be taught digital literacy skills. Now more than ever, though, students need to be grounded in critical thinking skills and strong moral character so that they might use technology in a good way.
With all of that being said, it’s important to reiterate that literacy also involves traditional reading and writing skills. We don’t only live in a world of technology. So, while we seem to be running forward with technology at a fast pace, let’s not forget to teach our students how read and write. Those necessary skills of literacy will not become extinct in the midst of an ever changing world.
Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie (2010, July 2). The Future of Social Relations. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2010/PIP_Future_of_Internet_%202010_social_relations.pdf
Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flannigan (2006). Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quarterly, 29(2), Retrieved on June 24, 2010, from http://www.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm06/eqm0621.asp