Saturday, October 10, 2009

Digital Literacy

Who knew that teachers could still be effective to their digitally savvy students, even without being technical magicians?

While taking a graduate class on 21st Century Teaching and Learning with Technology, I read an interesting article entitled "Orchestrating the Media Collage"
The author of the article, Jason Ohler, helped to define the ever-evolving face of literacy, which essentially boils down to being able to read and write the media form of the day. In the 21st century, that medium is digital, thus involving literacy with not only text, but sound, graphics, and moving images as well. Ohler's article speaks specifically to the role of teachers in this process. He puts forth eight solid guidelines for teachers, which all have a bottom line message of : "Do what you always do as teachers - help your students consume and create quality material." Though he states that teachers must approach digital literacy "as part of their own intellectual retooling", the role of the teacher in helping their students achieve digital literacy is less that of a technician and more that of a guide and manager of their students' work within the digital media collage. Even within the scary context of this digital world in which we, the teachers, are clearly the immigrants and not the natives, our role remains that of helping students connect with the best tools at hand and use them to express themselves well.

From this article, I took away a couple of important things:

1. We are in a unique place in history to be able to "tell a story". The tools at hand are vast and our potential to express is limitless. Rather than approach this push toward digital literacy as something we should fear, due to our own level of "illiteracy", teachers should celebrate the new opportunities being presented to our students to engage in the ageless art of telling a story.

2. Along this same line, I was delighted to read Ohler's support for demanding that we "treat art as the next R, just as important as the traditional 3 Rs". Upon reading this section of his commentary, I actually cheered, out loud, to the universe at large, "YES!". I've long been a believer in the value of art for art's sake, not just as a support to literacy and math, so to have attention focused on art as a critical component of our new age of literacy brings me great hope and satisfaction.