Literacy vs. Digital Literacy

Cell Phone

I would argue that core literacy skills as outlined in all of our YRDSB documents have not changed, however the tool set may have. If by digital literacy we’re referring to the use of technology and digital tools then that’s a skill set and not a literacy.

Aren’t we really talking about critical literacy and ethical use of digital media works?

If we define a separate literacy set for everything we effectively dilute the importance of our existing definition. Lots of people have invested a lot of time and energy into our existing definition and, I believe, it holds up well, even in an ever-changing digital landscape.

The advent of the internet and more recently the “Read/Write Web” (aka Web 2.0) has not changed the need for a solid literacy foundation. To point, it has strengthened the need for early fundamental literacy skill set. In fact, “Literacy involves the development of a continuum of skills, knowledge and attitudes that prepare learners for life in a changing world community”. In the current context that directly addresses the changing learning landscape that faces the 21st century learner.

Quantitatively,  access to information has exploded. Critics of the internet have correctly pointed out that there is a proliferation of mis-information floating around. Haven’t we always tried to teach our students to view things critically? Sure there are lots of examples of high profile ruses floating around in cyberspace (can somebody front me $10K so I can help this poor Nigerian businessman with his company’s assets?), this is simply further evidence that we need to continue to be vigilant in our critical consumption of all media.

“Literacy becomes the ability to understand, think, apply and communicate effectively in all subject and program areas in a variety of ways, and for a variety of purposes”. Is this not what being a digital learner is all about?

Please don’t misinterpret my message: a text-book only curriculum is laughably anachronistic. I believe that cell phones, GPS devices, iPods, digital cameras, MMORPG’s, laptops, bogs, wikis, and web cams all have a place in a contemporary learning environment. I do, however, believe that upon closer inspection our existing literacy definition works very nicely as a foundation for the development of the literate learner in the digital age. Make no mistake, we still need to be critical evangelists in all that we read, listen to, view and otherwise consume as contemporary learners. However, the processing of information with a critical edge and an ethical foundation around the use of all media works, that currently exists within our literacy framework,  I believe will serve us well for some time to come.

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10 Comments on “Literacy vs. Digital Literacy”

  1. Nice. The term Digital Literacy, through the focus of the adjective, is perhaps limiting in grasping for an overarching approach to literacy. The term Contemporary Literacy suggests we’re looking at literacy rooted in our time — so the digital aspect will not be ignored. But certainly, we need to look at the whole picture of literacy, in the context of today’s media, technology, and requirements.

  2. [...] the idea of having students be fluent in coding be short sighted? Based on how the idea can be misinterpreted as digital literacy and coding becoming a form of writing. I would like to point out as many have before, that digital [...]

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  4. jeroencl says:

    Very interesting. I have been in education for over 30 years and started, in the autumn of my carrer, a PhD research on Digital Literacy / Online Reading Comprehension. Look at http://jeroenclemens.wordpress.com/ Hope you find it interesting.

  5. [...] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } digitalnative.wordpress.com – Today, 7:44 [...]

  6. [...] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } digitalnative.wordpress.com – Today, 9:01 [...]

  7. [...] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } digitalnative.wordpress.com (via @jeroencl) – Today, 9:02 [...]

  8. [...] I would argue that core literacy skills as outlined in all of our YRDSB documents have not changed, however the tool set may have. If by digital literacy we’re referring to the use of technology …  If we define a separate literacy set for everything we effectively dilute the importance of our existing definition. Lots of people have invested a lot of time and energy into our existing definition and, I believe, it holds up well, even in an ever-changing digital landscape."  [...]

  9. [...] I would argue that core literacy skills as outlined in all of our YRDSB documents have not changed, however the tool set may have. If by digital literacy we’re referring to the use of technology …  [...]


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