Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Digital Literacy

This is taken from my critical commentary, but I was curious what all your thoughts were. Various definitions of digital literacy: “. . . ‘being skilled at deciphering complex images and sounds as well as the syntactical subtleties of words’ [Lanham 1995: 200] . . . Gilster defines digital literacy as ‘ the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide variety of sources when it is presented via computers’. . . four key competencies of digital literacy: knowledge assembly, evaluating information content, searching the internet, and navigating hypertext. . . . From the ETS perspective . . . [digital literacy] comprises ‘the ability to use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate, and communicate information . . .” (Lankshear, 22-23). Looking at the definitions of Digital Literacy that Lankshear presents, I would like to offer an alternative: Digital Literacy is the ability to interact with a previously unknown binary (or chip-based, non-analog) device successfully without prior instruction. Let me expand this with examples: 1) A person who is digitally literate will be able to sit in front of a computer with any operating system: Mac, Windows, BeOS, Linux etc… and use it effectively to do whatever it is they need to do. 2) A person can sit in front of a VCR and without reading the manual program the clock and set it to timer record a TV program. 3) If an 8 year-old is set in front of a videogame he/she has never played before, he/she will be able to instantly have success without any instruction. However if a 40 year-old is put in front of a videogame he/she has never played before, he/she will most likely be unable to do anything without instruction. The 8 year-old demonstrates digital literacy while the 40 year-old does not. The key to digital literacy is thinking the way a computer/chip thinks. There should be an intuition. This ties into some of the concepts of the second Lankshear chapter but that is unrepresented in the chapter 1 definitions. The Gilster definition is just traditional literacy dressed up in a computer costume, it doesn’t represent anything new. According to this definition my parents would be digitally literate, but observation shows me this is not the case. If my mom were to sit in front of a MAC she wouldn’t be able to make it do almost anything because she only knows Windows. They’re both afraid to push buttons and click on things. But someone who is digitally literate would not share this fear. Gilster’s four competencies look like the same ones that would work with an encyclopedia for the most part. Gilster appears to be part of the 35+ generation that Lankshear defines as “newcomers.” Gilster’s very definitions miss the point of his own argument. The ETS is just emphasizing the tool nature of digital technologies without looking at the paradigm differences between those who are digitally literate and those who are not. Anyone can use digital tools effectively, but digital literacy (what our teenagers readily display) is a thought process, and understanding of the world, that transcends the use of digital devices as isolated tools but instead furthers their own non-digital goals and desires by the integration of ANY digital tool (known or unknown) into the very biological process of existence. A person who is digitally literate can achieve previously unimaginable practices by the integration of digital technology into the thought process. There were times when I was using three computers simultaneously to create a common project because one single computer could not keep up with what my mind was able to envision. This type of multitasking and innovative use of technology outside of its own prepackaged operational designs is digital literacy. A person who is digitally literate will not be confined to the prescribed uses of the technology that they encounter; they will also possess an intuition about the functionality of any device or digital medium they encounter. The definitions provided by Lankshear in chapter 1 do not support his examples in chapter 2. I propose that the intuitive understanding of how to integrate digital technologies into a person’s thought and practice, with the ability to transcend a technology’s isolated function, without rigid prior instruction, is a true measure of digital literacy. Thoughts?

5 comments:

Brittany Soper said...

Interesting...I hadn't really thought about the definitions that they discussed, but you make a good point. The first definition you mentioned seems incredibly limited, considering there is SO much more to digital technology than 'complex images and sounds'. They all do seem to be missing a crucial component that goes beyond just 'use' of a computer to find information and understanding information in a digital format. Their definitions still lean towards the passive user, rather than the active participant that the new literacies discussed require. It is just kind of scary how non-literate I am by your definition, because I was doing okay by theirs...

Bob said...

That is a great thought Jason. Interesting...I never really thought about it like that either. I guess being in the classroom for the last three years and you have probably witness the same thing this year, is that as these new digital literacies are invented, the more our kids forget about the old ones. My students are losing the ability to sit and read a book because they need that instant knowledge and do not want to dig deeper and research a good book. I can't blame them actually, I would rather play video games too!! Some are going to be in a world of trouble though when they get to college and are going to have to read.

Dougyfresh04 said...

the only thing i would add to your definition - which I take to mean the ability to use and work with digital products - I would add the ability to understand the social constructs and meanings of the devices they are using and who has access to them. like other literacies, digital literacy is learned socially and we should able to understand how social learning effects digital literacy as well

Dougyfresh04 said...

the only thing i would add to your definition - which I take to mean the ability to use and work with digital products - I would add the ability to understand the social constructs and meanings of the devices they are using and who has access to them. like other literacies, digital literacy is learned socially and we should able to understand how social learning effects digital literacy as well

Dougyfresh04 said...

the only thing i would add to your definition - which I take to mean the ability to use and work with digital products - I would add the ability to understand the social constructs and meanings of the devices they are using and who has access to them. like other literacies, digital literacy is learned socially and we should able to understand how social learning effects digital literacy as well