Apparently, the hive mind has concluded that here in the 21st century "literacy" no longer means "reading:"
New media demand new literacies. Because of inexpensive, easy-to-use, widely distributed new media tools, being literate now means being able to read and write a number of new media forms, including sound, graphics, and moving images in addition to text.
New media coalesce into a collage. Being literate also means being able to integrate emerging new media forms into a single narrative or "media collage," such as a Web page, blog, or digital story. That is, students need to be able to use new media collectively as well as individually
New media are largely participatory, social media. Digital literacy requires that students have command of the media collage within the context of a social Web, often referred to as Web 2.0. The social Web provides venues for individual and collaborative narrative construction and publication through blogs and such services as MySpace, Google Docs, and YouTube. As student participation goes public, the pressure to produce high-quality work increases.
Being able to actively create rather than just passively consume new media is important for the obvious reason that it teaches literacy and job skills that are highly valued in a digital society.
A strong case can be made that commanding new media constitutes the current form of general literacy and that adding the modifier digital is simply not necessary anymore. Whether or not this is the case, digital literacy warrants a central focus in K–12 learning communities.
1. Shift from text centrism to media collage.
General literacy means being able to read and write the media forms of the day, which currently means being able to construct an articulate, meaningful, navigable media collage. The most common media collage is the Web page, but a number of other media constructs also qualify, including videos, digital stories, mashups, stand-and-deliver PowerPoint presentations, and games and virtual environments, to name a few.
Both essay writing and blog writing are important, and for that reason, they should support rather than conflict with each other. Essays, such as the one you are reading right now, are suited for detailed argument development, whereas blog writing helps with prioritization, brevity, and clarity. The underlying shift here is one of audience: Only a small portion of readers read essays, whereas a large portion of the public reads Web material. Thus, the pressure is on for students to think and write clearly and precisely if they are to be effective contributors to the collective narrative of the Web.
[snip]7. Develop literacy with digital tools and about digital tools.
In practical terms, access to citizenship is largely a function of literacy. This is not a new concept. Jefferson wrote copiously about the need for an educated and literate public if democracy was to succeed.
Topics such as the environmental effects of living a technology-enhanced lifestyle and the social costs of the digital divide provide important subject matter for project-based learning that involves science, social studies, and other curriculum areas. Having students research the personal, local, and global implications of these issues will help them place technology within the larger perspective of community and reevaluate their idea of what it means to be successful. Having them address these issues in school will show them that the goal of education is to produce not only capable workers, but also caring, involved, and informed neighbors and citizens.
Although some teachers are genuinely excited about the emerging nature of literacy brought about by powerful digital tools, others feel overwhelmed—some to the point where they are prompted to leave the profession.
Orchestrating the Media Collage
by Jason Ohler
Educational Leadership March 2009 Vol. 66 No. 6
Jayson Ohler is a digital humanist.
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