em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble or Hesitancy and “digital literacy”

Image found on Wikipedia: Hopf Fibration and released into the public domain by its author, Davidarichter

I’ve stayed away from this blog for the past 2 days or so. I’ve been reading a crime novel, making a necklace, playing with my dog, doing suduko, unpacking and organizing, facebooking, and tweeting – basically keeping my mind superficially busy so that it could be free to work away on some issues in the background.

The reflection was triggered by comments on my last post.

I teach, learn, and live with digital technologies. I do think it important to pass on skills and knowledge regarding these technologies to my students and colleagues. So, why am I unsettled?

On Monday,Keith Gessen mused,

Nice thing we’ve got going here, this “pro-internet,” “anti-internet” debate.

(go read his post to see what he was going on about).

And as I read his post it made me think that this has all become a debate – a this vs. that – and it’s so not about that. It is, however, a resistance to the growing feeling I have that ‘digital literacy’ (see bottom of post for more on that) is becoming confused with the goal.

I teach, learn, and live with digital technologies, among other technologies, because I have found them to help me in my goal mission – YES MISSION – to help kids learn…

…that kindness is a trait to be valued.

…that making hateful comments like these ones have repercussions that go deep into our souls.

…that accountability and responsibility for one’s actions is heavy heavy….but, heavy.

…how to seek and find the positive in life.

…that they can find their highest selves

…that they can help others to find their highest selves too

…what it is to be a part of a community

And I can’t forget
…that they need to hang on to a sense of humour.

Ease with technology needs to be could be (depending on our immediate needs ;) ) integrated into our learning selves, but it isn’t THE goal.


A virtual high five goes out to these posts I read earlier today:
Learning, Motivation, and Technology by Steve Ransom
Motoko by Keith Gessen
Resources for Community Managers by Connie Bensen
Workplace Literacy by Ken Allen

ps – The term ‘digital literacy’ is starting to creep me out. I laughed OUT LOUD when I read Doug Belshaw’s tweet this morning. It was a good one:

Go back to where you were


  • Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Tracy!

    Blind as a bat I am.
    It’s been how long?

    Thanks for the link to my pst and thanks for the high five! I completely missed your high five till now.

    Blind as a bat I am |-)

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allans last blog post at http://newmiddle-earth.blogspot.com..Procrastinating can tire the brain

  • Hi Tracy,

    (a) I really like that tweet, though I don’t know that I’d totally agree – some professors who I speak to about education would pretty well deny the notion of ‘digital literacy’, on the basis that its a false split from ‘literacy proper’. Of course, when they talk about ‘literacy proper’ they’re really referring to going to the library and reading books ;)

    (b) I think something that is often missed in the discussions about modes of literacy, is that ‘digital literacy’ is not a guarenteed prerequisite for success. Sure, it can arguably be massively helpful, but there are many very successful people who don’t have email, don’t own a cell phone, and don’t own a computer! What do those success stories have, what MAKES them a success? I would suggest that it’s an ability to critically engage with their environment, and achieve an understanding that allows them to reflexively approach the situations they find themselves in and realize a favorable outcome.

  • Greg Cruey says:

    Hi Tracy,

    I think we mostly agree. It’s hard to deny today the importance of being able to use a keyboard and understand the Internet. But, school and education are bigger concepts.

    I reviewed Ted McCain’s book Teaching For Tomorrow some time ago. One of the things I said was that I came to resent McCain’s continued reference to employment as the purpose of education. My fourth and fifth graders are future adults, not just future employees…

    The 21st Century Learning Initiative is not wrong about what we need to do with our schools, but it is an incomplete picture. And as you climb down the ladder from high school to kindergarten, the lower you go in the elementary grades, the less complete of a picture you get from the Initiative.

    Greg Crueys last blog post at http://gregcruey.edublogs.org..So What EXACTLY Is Dyslexia?

  • Scott McLeod says:

    Gotcha. I appreciate the additional explanation. This has been a fun conversation. Thanks!

    Scott McLeods last blog post at http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org..Superintendents panel on ethical dilemmas

  • Tracy says:

    As I called this post em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble, I was changing emphasis, though not my concern.

    There are different kinds of learning outcomes – content outcomes and fundamental, or overarching outcomes – the essential questions for learning. The list I included above hint at what I perceive as fundamental outcomes and would be tempered depending on the subject I teach. For example, how does the study of history help to develop a sense of community?, or where do I fit within history? Or how does (insert character here) teach me about kindness and compassion?

    Using tech – or any other methodological skill – needs to be tempered with the question – why am I doing this? – where does it fit within the big idea, or fundamental learning outcome(s) of what I am teaching.

    Tech is not a ‘big idea’ in itself, but a way of exploring big ideas.

    (And to get back to the notion of culturally imposing ideas of literacy on others…I think that by re-framing the idea of ‘digital literacy’ back to ‘learning with technology’ – a collection of methodological skills – and not the equivalent of ’21st century literacy’ – I’ve reduced that fear for me.)

  • Scott McLeod says:

    Tracy, you list here a number of learning outcomes, if that’s what I may call them. Few are academically-oriented, I noticed. When we discuss digital literacies, we generally are talking about both academic and other life outcomes? And then the question becomes whether digital literacies are a means to an end, an end unto themselves, or both…

    Have you switched gears from the focus of your last post? ‘Cause that seemed to deal with the idea of culturally imposing ideas of literacy on others…

    Scott McLeods last blog post at http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org..Superintendents panel on ethical dilemmas

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