What is digital literacy? Well, that’s something I spent some time thinking about for my first Digital Literacies class. I decided that before I tried to figure out what digital literacy is I should review what the definition for literacy is. I really like the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) definition which many literacy associations have adopted as well. The IALS, published in 2000, is a report that contains survey information from several countries, including Canada, on adult literacy.
“Literacy is the ability to understand and employ printed information in daily activities at home, at work and in the community – to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”
The last part really indicates to me the power literacy can have in a person’s life and how knowing how to understand the written word can literally transform a person’s life. I am very inspired by the work of Paulo Freire and that sentence reminds me of his theories on education including Critical Pedagogy.
I thought about what digital literacy might mean and felt it meant that technology played a huge role in “the ability to understand and employ printed information (Kirsch, 2001). However I wasn’t entirely clear on the definition until I read the one provided in class in the Digital Literacies – New Literacies Powerpoint.
Digital Literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and create information using digital technology. (Hughes, 2012)
The huge difference I find between the literacy definition and the digital literacy definition is in the word “create”. The first definition doesn’t use that word and there seems to be an implication that a person is just a passive consumer of products put out there by others who make all the decisions. I don’t believe that to be true. Those that are literate create by producing notes, letters, e-mails, short stories, books and so on. They are also producers of knowledge.
The digital literacy definition specifically uses the word “create” and I felt that was very important. The consumers are also the producers of information and I feel that can be very empowering.
In that class, I was also introduced to the sociocultural definitions of literacy and the importance of recognizing literacy through that lens. All of this is especially meaningful to the work I am doing on my research project.
A quote from The New Literacies Sampler that I felt was very interesting and I thought about for some time was:
“Literacies are socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourse” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2007)
This quote actually explained the issue I was having with the word “sampler” in the title of the book. When I was a little girl I had read a book about needlework and the pieces of needlework were referred to as samplers. From that moment on whenever I heard or read the word “sampler” I associated that word with needlework as I did not hear that word in reference to anything else as I grew up.
Of course, I remembered that when I read the title of this book. I kept going back and thinking about that needlework book when I read the title A New Literacies Sampler. The way I understood the word “sampler” was based on how I had first learned about it – it is a word I associate with needlework due to a specific “participation in Discourse”.
To understand that was fascinating to me and I wondered about all the research available to read in the domain of literacy in a sociocultural context. One question I had was: how is literacy affected when, as in my case, their are two dominant cultures in a person’s life as he/she is learning?
I found this video on YouTube that was put together by a teacher using her own daughter as an example. It makes a strong argument for a sociocultural perspective to be taken into account as children navigate the world of different literacies.
Hughes, J ( 2012, February 9) Powerpoint: Digital Literacies – New Literacies. UOIT. Oshawa
Kirsch, I. (2001). The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS): Understanding what was measured (ETS RR-01-25). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Knobel, M., C., Lankshear. (2007). A New literacies Sampler. New York: Peter Lang.
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