Thinking Critically about Digital Literacy: A Learning Sequence on Pens, Pages, and Pixels
by Donald C. Jones
I see a continuum that started in my generation during grade school, with respect to familiarity with and use of computer technologies. Many of my generation were into video games. We had a home computer when I was about 9, but I never played video games. We played Oregon Trail on floppy disks on Apple 2e desktops in elementary school, and had computer class with the black screens and the green characters when I was in middle school. Even as far ahead as high school, I remember there being computers for research, and I don’t remember if we used them for searching for books within the school’s stacks or not. I did type papers, but I don’t think I did research on a computer in high school. Most of what I needed was in our textbooks. Certainly I didn’t have the internet at home and I was an adult long before I learned how to work a VCR or owned a cell phone.
The point I am trying to make with this rambling post is that each year, kids get more and more savvy with new technologies, and this continuum of familiarity with what technologies are capable of wasn’t necessarily immediately reflected in the curriculum. Things happened so fast, it was hard to keep up unless spending a huge amount of time immersed in technology-related activities. It seems that digital literacy took time to gain favor, and that many teachers were less tech-savvy than their students, despite obvious efforts to keep up. People are starting to catch up and the prejudices about digital literacy are changing as the possibilities have come to light, and the discussion, as noted in the article, is losing its polarity.
This might seem like old news to those already fully integrated in the technological landscape, but I was behind most of my peers, and each generation has an advantage over the last at least in terms of familiarity. Especially when it comes to tasks like web page design. Seriously, I can’t do that. Well, I can, but it’s a huge struggle. In short, many of the problems experienced by those unaccustomed to gathering information online temporal. The double-edged sword effect (p. 217) won’t be as noticeable, I’m thinking, in 20 years. At least for this aspect of literacy…as Chris points out (p.217): “It could be said, then, that the best student is one who can recognize the strengths of each type of literacy and use each format when it is most appropriate to to do so. ” They are certainly more complementary than opposite.