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From Analogue to Digital – the Journey to a New Literacy Dallas McPheeters ETC 647 10/11/09
From Analogue to Digital Abstract Digital literacy is defined as the understanding of the symbols used in digital media and their
meanings. This paper outlines the three main foci required by educators who wish to teach digital literacy. A conclusion sums the issues with a call for new understandings of how this can be accomplished.
From Analogue to Digital From Analogue to Digital – the Journey to a New Literacy
"We must prepare young people for living in a world of powerful images, words and sounds." UNESCO, 1982 The fast paced growth of technology in our networked world today is forcing educators to adopt and adapt for 21st century skill development. However, the struggle to keep up with rapid changes is felt by schools and school districts who must provide access and training to all ages everywhere or face a digital divide caused by inequities. “An approach focusing on technology literacy is the only sustainable way to avoid present and future technological divides” (Amiel, 2006, p235). Amiel claims digital literacy is the solution but what does digital literacy entail? What does it look like and how do we recognize its absence? How do we ensure its development and learning and how can we assess it equitably? Before we can define digital literacy we must agree on a definition of what literacy itself comprises because, “a rethinking of what it means to be literate in the 21st century is well under way” (Sinitskaya, Owston, & Sanaoui, 2009, p3795). For this reason, Kevin Rocap (2003) asks, “What do you think of when you think of literacy? That probably depends on who you are, where you find yourself on the hierarchies of social status and privilege, the cultural spheres you participate in and what you do day-to-day” (p1). According to Rocap, literacy is multidimensional involving social, economic and political values within one’s cultural context. Bélisle (2002) defines literacy as “a complex set of abilities to understand and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture” (p1180). Such a definition takes into account the whole spectrum of cultures including those without written records such as Aboriginal. Therefore, Claire Bélisle’s general definition of literacy will be used throughout this paper.
From Analogue to Digital What is Digital Literacy? Digital literacy extends further, comprising “multimedia literacy skills as a combination of computer literacy (understanding of hardware and software) and media literacy (ability to access, analyse, create and evaluate information through a variety of media” (Bélisle, 2002, p. 1180). It’s more than just using software or devices. “It includes reading instructions from graphical interfaces (photo-visual literacy), utilizing digital reproduction in learning
(reproduction literacy), constructing knowledge from non-linear navigation (lateral literacy), and evaluating information (information literacy)” (Eshet, 2002, p493). “Digital literacy involves more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments” (Eshet, 2004, p93). These definitive statements demonstrate the complexity of the issues encountered by educators when attempting to standardize teaching to produce digitally literate kids – kids Trilling and Fadel (2009) label, “info-savvy, media-fluent and tech-tuned” (p61). The Issues The main reasons digital literacy is needed are threefold: information management, plagiarism, and security (Bélisle, 2002; Eshet, 2002). Being digitally literate means being capable of managing the smog on the information superhighway (Rocap, 2003). Which information is reliable and valid and which sources should be relied upon? As students sift and sort through the mountains of information and aggregate the sights, sounds, and images for assignments, how should they attribute their findings? How can they avoid accusations of
From Analogue to Digital plagiarism in the new mashup culture. Finally, how can users learn to be safe in the metaverse where predators and other dangers lurk? Each of these three issues is explained below. Information Management Huge amounts of information available on the Internet is a boon to education itself (Bélisle, 2002; Rocap, 2003). Information once buried in libraries is readily available and
searchable on the world wide web. However, the advantage of mass information can be a liability as well. How can students decipher what is pertinent, accurate, and reliable? “The web offers knowledge that is under discussion, coming from varied sources and constantly being updated” (Bélisle, 2002, p1181). Is user generated content making the Internet a vast storehouse of amateuer knowledge? Either way, teachers are faced with the daunting task of educating students how to think critically about information and sources in order to capture real value from the Internet’s databank. It’s not just about learning how to use search engines “but mainly of how to evaluate the retrieved data and distinguish between its relevance and non-relevance” (Eshet, 2002, p493). Loveless, Taylor, and Millwood (2002) echos this need to equip students with a critical thinking capability. “The term ‘capability’ encompasses far more than ability with particular ICT techniques and implies an active, informed and critical approach to using technology appropriately and purposefully” (p2378). Mining the Internet’s information-rich veins requires the competencies and skills of a critical thinker. Plagiarism Eshet (2002) labels today’s students the “copy and paste culture” and warns us that this new “interpretation of creativity” can lead to rampant plagiarism (p495). Students need to be
From Analogue to Digital taught what Eshet calls reproduction literacy. This is no more evident than in the hypermedia remixes found on YouTube. Rarely are attributions made or permissions sought by creators of remixed videos. If students are to become digitally literate, they must be taught how to credit sources and cite them accurately. Security Of major concern from all sides of the digital literacy debate is the issue of security. Digital literacy requires a “special kind of mindset; a special kind of thinking” (Eshet, 2002, p493). In another study, he further explains, “Digital literacy ... includes a large vari- ety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments” (Eshet, 2004, p93). The socio-emotional literacy to which Eshet refers is important for security and identity issues when navigating the Internet. How web surfers interact on the Internet requires an understanding of the limitations inherent in a system where identities can be real or faked. Knowing these thresholds must be taught from a
young age to ensure the safety of students entering the metaverse for whatever reason. The place connectivity offered by GPS along with the identity barriers offered by chat rooms must be issues dealt with in the classroom as well as at home. Security is a critical component of digital literacy in the 21st century. The Barriers Many barriers to the development of a digitally literate generation are spouted in the literature but can be summed up in one word: Competencies. Are the teachers themselves competent to instruct others in the use and understanding of digital media? Modern hypermedia presents a challenge (Eshet, 2004) for teachers to maintain the skills needed to instruct learners.
From Analogue to Digital New software developments and platform creations are being introduced everyday. How can teachers stay informed? Furthermore, “the hypermedia technology introduced computer users with new dimensions of thinking” (Eshet, 2002). Historically, linear thinking has been the pedagogy du jour but hyper media is opening the doors to new ways of viewing data. Linear thinking restrictions are eliminated with the new technology. This poses a big challenge for pedagogical strategies to adapt to the new multi-dimensional learning platform. Another more subtle challenge in equipping teachers to instruct may be their own prejudices. “Literacy can also be used to erect barriers, as was the case with discriminatory literacy testing requirements in the U.S. South. So called literacy laws were designed to bar African Americans from voting” (Bélisle, 2002). And discriminatory attitudes held by teachers today may prevent their disseminating needed digital literacy instruction to their students. For these reasons, therefore, “making it (digital literacy) a competence of every ... teacher or trainer is a new challenge” (Bélisle, 2002). Traditional attitudes can impede future progress as has been demonstrated over and over again.
A ﬁnal barrier is the lack of standards to determine what constitutes digital creation. “The
constant improvement in the capabilities of computers and digital editing programs presents a growing challenge regarding the use of reproduction to create original, true, and creative work, both in art and in academia, and opens new horizons for discussion of originality and creativity in the era of reproduction” (Eshet, 2004). Because teachers are uncertain what may be original and what may be a mashup of non-cited materials, a looming whole in the digital media stratosphere remains. Recommended Solutions
From Analogue to Digital For clear competencies to be targeted thoroughly, clear standards for digital literacy must be established, covering the major sectors of information management, plagiarism, and security. Additional concentration on helping teachers develop needed skills is required of schools and districts. One example is confirmed by Sinitskaya, Owston, and Sanaoui’s study (2009) concluding that “a major roadblock to utilizing game development for learning in a school
context is the lack of expertise on the part of ... teachers who may not possess the complex skills required to design computer games.” Specific developmental skills related to technological platforms need to be targeted in professional development curriculi. And of course, critical thinking goals need clearly defined, standards-based performance objectives since “these competencies have been analysed as new analytical/critical thinking skills and production skills” (Bélisle, 2002). Bélisle goes on to conclude, “Identifying them is part of the solution, but the most difficult part is bringing them about, having them emerge in the educational situations” (ibid). Conclusion This paper has outlined the complexity of the issues encountered by educators when attempting to standardize teaching to produce digitally literate kids. By citing the research, we have touched on various aspects of “the impact of digital information on our society in general, and our education systems in particular” (Eshet, 2002). Mainstream society agrees “generally children are excited about using multimedia and are enthusiastic about using them in order to creatively express themselves” and that “Through the use of ... technologies, media literacy can easily and effectively be incorporated throughout the curriculum as children learn to become competent members of our increasingly complex world community” (Robbins & Bedell, 2000).
From Analogue to Digital “Because “students ... are much more likely to learn through listening and viewing, ...
multimedia tools are becoming an integral part of the teaching and learning process” (Robbins & Bedell, 2000). Accordingly, children do not present the principle obstacle on the journey to digital literacy. Rather, teachers must be trained in the use of modern graphic intefaces; the meaning of the new non-linear ways of thinking about our digital world; how to think critically about the digital representations we encounter today; and the appropriate ways students should represent their learning digitally (Eshet, 2002). The old paradigms are insufficient to produce a proper view of the digital literacy challenge. New understandings are emerging from the research. New strategies should logically follow. This means that standards-based, critical thinking strategies must be developed and aligned with digital literacy objectives in order to generate a starting place for adequate professional development to begin. This paper calls for new understandings of how this can be accomplished.
From Analogue to Digital Appendix A Figure 1
Figure 1. Wordle image of paper text.
From Analogue to Digital References Amiel, T. (2006). Mistaking Computers for Technology: Technology Literacy and the Digital Divide. AACE Journal. 14 (3), pp. 235-256. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Bélisle, C. (2002). Digital Literacy and Reflective Competencies. In G. Richards (Ed.),
Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2002 (pp. 1179-1182). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Eshet, Y. (2002). Digital literacy: A new terminology framework and its application to the design of meaningful technology-based learning environments. In P. Barker & S. Rebelsky (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2002 (pp. 493-498). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Eshet, Y. (2004). Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia. 13 (1), pp. 93-106. Norfolk, VA: AACE. Loveless, A., Taylor, T., & Millwood, R. (2001). CREATIVE USES OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY: DEVELOPING VISUAL LITERACY AND ICT CAPABILITY. In J. Price et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2001 (pp. 2376-2380). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Robbins, J., & Bedell, J. (2000). Read, Write and Click: Using Digital Camera Technology in a Language Arts and Literacy K-5 Classroom. In D. Willis et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2000 (pp. 2474-2479). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
From Analogue to Digital
Rocap, K. (2003). Defining and Designing 21st Century Literacies. In C. Crawford et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International Conference 2003 (pp. 624-631). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Sinitskaya, R., Owston, R., & Sanaoui, R. (2009). “Voulez-Vous Jouer?” [Do you want to play?]: Game Development Environments for Literacy Skill Enhancement. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2009 (pp. 3795-3802). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved online September 30, 2009, from Google Books: http://bit.ly/ 3dbD15
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