1. The term "digital literacy" has always concerned me. To me it seemed like we were talking about a different culture of people…. It can create an excuse for those not using technology to explain that they are from a different time. Everyone is in this time. Technology, in its many forms, can enable so much learning, sharing, growing…. in this moment and beyond. This is the landscape we have now.. Let's use the tools we have available, to shape it.

  2. George, I absolutely agree with you here! What a fantastic post. Not only will I share it on Twitter, but I plan on sharing it with the staff at my school too. I think that when we add in the term "21st century," our focus is more on the tool than on the skill. Literacy is literacy, and the literacy that evolves out of the use of technology is what I consider to be, "the literacy of today." Students use these tools to create, to question, to read, to write, to speak, to listen, and to think, and all of this is literacy.

  3. Ryan

    In English, our objectives are sometimes grouped, depending upon the government we serve, into these three pairs: speaking & listening, reading & writing, and viewing & representing. However, I think we're slowly moving towards a sort of input, output, input-output categorization. I could see why some teachers would maintain the differences between print and digital literacy, particularly since instruction in the latter is still being researched — could we say that this research is still being "trailblazed" or has it moved beyond that point? As a point of practicality, the strategies that we use to teach students to read online texts and print texts are not as identical as you might expect. Ultimately, though, I agree that we're headed to a dissolution of these distinctions.

  4. I think how or why we might categorize literacy depends on the level we are talking about it – how far from the tools, we are describing it. For example, reading, writing, and calculating/math literacies can be described and discussed without reference to tools but once we move to that level, the shape, form, and approach to using or improving a particular literacy can be different. Digital writing is different than pencil writing. The capacilities go further than just writing the text – it can involve simultaneous co-writing, threaded peer editing, mind mapping to outline, sharing, receiving feedback. Yes you can do those things, technically, with pencil and paper but it's not practical and not nearly the same. So, I think there is some merit to distinguishing some literacies based on the tools one might use to be literate. To some degree, it may be semantics but if it helps others understand the differences and capabilities, why not distinguish… it seems sometimes that we are afraid to associate literacies with technology sometimes – we like to distance ourselves from our tools. But in fact our tools define us and our literacies. They are part of us and amplify what is possible.

  5. Diane Lauer

    Thanks for this post, and thanks for the link to that video – It is fabulous! When I think about visual, media, and/or transliteracy I think about how it opens up a different way of thinking about literal, inferential and critical meaning, we used that terminology with written text. Is it sufficient to describe the levels of interaction with the content when the literacy transcends different medium? What new terms are needed to analyze meaning…I wonder….

  6. I like that definition – dynamic and evolving are useful to describe something that needs to change as our students grow up in an ever-changing world. I'd add expanding to describe literacy as well. One third of my thesis is about the increasing importance of visual literacy and the need for our students to be able to understand and communicate visually. Creativity is vital too, but I think that's more a way of thinking, or an approach – open-minded, divergent, playful, imaginative – that can be used when teaching.

    Second post in a row that you've written about something in my thesis. Maybe that interview should have been a little bit longer!

  7. I think it goes back to, is there still a debate on whether it not technology is truly making any meaningful and lasting change in learning and our educational systems. You and i would agree that the debate is over and the answer is obvious. When there is such a huge chunk of educators that don't believe technology is necessary for a "good education", it's diffucult to make such a huge jump in a very sacred lexicon. I have studied a significant amount of literacy in my profession and know of its need. At ISTE, Lee Crocket spoke different "fluencies" like Creativity and Solution. That got me thinking about this very question. If there are different categories of fluency, is there a need for a new way to think about literacy. I agree with you here, George, and I think it needs to move in this direction. It's up to us, though, whether or not it will get there.

  8. tellio

    The definition is too complicated and that makes it useless to me and my students. It needs a handle and it doesn't have one. In English we have names for these handles: figurative language, metaphor, motif among them. In music and art they speak of tone. In dance they speak of the core and the center. Everybody has a different way in to literacy.

    So…I don't believe in the term digital literacy anymore. I believe in skills and tools and critical stances and ways into the problems of our lives. Evolution is a literacy. Adaptation is a literacy. Scientific method is literacy. Digging in your heels is a literacy. I guess my point is that literacies have come to be just a way for my ilk (educators) to wrest the reins from everyone else (peers, parents, pols, et al).

    The word itself is fairly new to our lexicon (1880's) but its antithesis, illiteracy, dates to the 1600's. It seems we understand absence more that presence. We know what it means to be unlettered. What I am suggesting is that the word is much like "stuff" and "things" and "um" and "uhh"–it stands in when we have nothing to say. It isn't useless, but it is nearly so. If it means anything, then it has little or nothing to do with what we as teachers do. And that is? We demonstrate, we use, we share, we fail, we are recognized, we make money, we spend money. All of this is as much a 'literacy' as what these fine, smart educators (no irony or snark intended because I know they are way smarter than me) claim to define. Definitions of complexity are doomed to failure. Explorations of the initial conditions leads us to an idiosyncratic and personal literacy which I have no need to define or evaluate.

  9. As the first poster asserts, literacy will always be literacy. But I also think the term "digital literacy" is helpful in emphasizing the skillful (and yes, creative) use of 21st-century technology to push the progress of the literate society. The distinction is especially significant in other countries which have not fully embraced the Internet.

    At the moment, I teach Literacy classes for teachers online (http://luria-learning.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-class-literacy-cafe-easy-k-5.html), though I may very well do it on-site. But given the differing circumstances of my online and my traditional classrooms, I will use different teaching methods and strategies for each one. Specifically, I will have to rely on my know-how of web tools (digital literacy) to make mt online classes effective.

    • Sara

      I agree that Digital Literacy does encompass skills and tools different from what was Media Literacy and basic literacy in the past. These days anyone of any age can create multi-media products in minutes if not seconds and have it available to the world as quickly. We can also publish our own books, blogs, websites, etc which uses more traditional literacy skills. The volume of materials available and the potential audience is mind boggling. This is new to our time. and brings with it new challenges and opportunities.

      Learners need how to best communicate their message or learning using the new tools available to them. They also need to be able to infer and comprehend media messages made by others. Sound bites, edited photos and other modified sources are another challenge for understanding facts and opinions.

      Literacy has changed.

  10. […] For example, the quote by Chris Lehmann in the USA Today article, “Being literate in 2011 means being digitally literate”, probably means little to the many.  The thought of literacy to most is being able to read and write.  Although reading and writing are the cornerstone of literacy, to many educators there is more to it. […]

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  13. I really appreciate your thoughts on literacy as a dynamic and evolving social process. This is actually something I have also been pondering about as a pre-service language arts teacher and will continue to consider. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Kendall Knights

    As someone who doesn’t like to use cursive writing, I could understand the need for a shift away from emphasizing handwriting. I empathize with students that have difficulty writing neatly. After reading the article: A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop, I see the need to develop and maintaing cursive writing skills. The article describes how studies showed that handwritng notes although slower and more time consuming resulted in a greater understanding and synthesis of knowledge. Score one for the Old School!

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