The Digital Literacy Train…Departed Two Minutes Ago

I used to get the feeling, and I hope I’m not alone here when I say that all this: technology, digital literacy, blogging, wikis, podcasts, iLearn, instant messaging, I could go on forever…was almost causing me to have some sort of an extreme sensory overload.  One in which my brain felt like mush and I got this overwhe

Hop onboard the digital train my groovy friends

lming anxiety that I had arrived at the train station in the middle of no where Czechoslovakia about two minutes too late because I overslept from drinking too much the night before and no one spoke my language and people were looking at me thinking, “he’s shit out of luck” and there I was lost in a country that I had no clue how I got myself into in the first place and if I didn’t act fast I was going to miss the next train if there even was one…I guess I have better stop there.  But that was sometimes the feeling I’d get when I thought about how rapid this world has changed into the digital literacy only party of creation and expression, and there I was, on the edge of it all, still trying to figure out to what I was going to wear and unsure if they’d even let me in.

If anyone got the opportunity to read my techno-literacy narrative, then they might understand my initial apprehension to this new groove.  But after examining this weeks reading and past readings, I’ve come to realize that this new fangled technology is something that I’ve actually partaken in and is more welcoming than I anticipated.  It isn’t the exclusive club where shirts and shoes are mandatory, but we still hope everyone will at least cover up.

Arrrrrr…where’s me mom with me PB&J?!?!

Larry Lessig of the TED Talk: Laws That Choke Creativity brought out an amazing point about what he refers to has ‘our kids.’  They’re the creative ones that we have labeled as ‘pirates’ due to the fact that they’re using copy written images and songs and in a sense, tweaking them into their own creative designs which some criminal, very mafia.  But in actuality, they’re simply, as Lessig explains: re-creating, and in fact not stealing.  The videos he’s showed and the various other videos we’ve all seen, or music we’ve listened to or images which have appeared via the internet are examples of our kids and how Lessig says: how they speak, how they think and how they are.

Kurt Vonnegut, a satirical science fiction author I feel would appreciate this new form of digital literacy always use to say, and so it goes.  So here we go, ‘we’ being instructors, ‘go’ as in going on this trek though something which Will Richardson, author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, explains in chapter 1, that today’s students, of almost any age, are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy.  They prefer to access subject information on the Internet, where it is more abundant, more accessible, and more up-to-date. (6) I’ve been struggling in English 710 to find the perfect textbook for my students, but I’m just wondering if after a few months, and according to Richardson’s theory that students want information that’s more up-to-date, how up to date is my textbook really going to be compared to the free info we can find on the web?  Now I know the composition classroom will need those textbooks, and us instructors need them just as well.  But it’s fair to say that our best, most useful and our student’s favorite textbook is in fact their computer and the Internet.

I also feel that it’s unfair for us to limit our students and the hard effort they put into their essays and ideas strictly to their classroom and their one and only reader: me.  Elizabeth Clark, author of The Digital Imperative: Making the Case for a 21st-Century Pedagogy points out the fact that we should encourage our students to keep up to date with ePortfolios.  Having their ePortfolios on the web, students are able to easily communicate with each other, receive feedback faster and are able to share with others, not just to classmates: This sense of network-situated self allows students to see how they function within different communities. Students connect across courses, across a college, and across the world. (29)  I really got into Clarks paper for the sake that it’s the most technologically advanced paper I’ve come across through my two years here in the M.A. Comp program.  It had this ‘bloggy’ feel to it due to all the various links we come across while reading her essay.  I’m curious if perhaps this is the future of papers to come?  Rather than just getting a tiny blip or a some quote scattered here and there throughout a paper, instead we might be getting links to the entire articles instead.  Fun to think about!

Unfortunately for me, I was extremely slow when it came to my own discovery of digital literacy.  I feel now I am far behind many people in my field and I’m definitely behind students and where they are now, compared to where I was as an undergrad.  The digital world is changing and before hand, when I felt like I missed the train in Czechoslovakia, I now feel as though I’m on board here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Even though it might be filled with hairy knuckled geeks and pimply pip-squeaks, it still feels nice knowing that I’m on the train and we’re all heading to a better place.

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5 comments on “The Digital Literacy Train…Departed Two Minutes Ago

  1. I’ve got to agree with your assessment of Clark’s article; I think that the future of articles, particularly those discussing different applications of new media and technology, are going to involve links to the sources they are referring to, rather than the summarizing we’re used to. In fact, I hope it happens that way, because it is much easier to understand the sources she is choosing when I can click on the blue words and find the text in front of me. Also, if you’re advocating this type of connective writing for students, it seems like you should be modeling it in your own work.

    Your metaphor of a train here is also really interesting to me. I think I’ve brought this up before, but additions like this to the classroom are very much like a train; you can’t stop it, so you better hop on board and if you stand off to the side, you’re likely to miss the whole thing.

  2. You contrast the overload you have felt regarding digital literacy with the realization that you have already participated in much of it and that it is surprisingly welcoming. I agree. If this is part of a cultural shift and not just a fad, then we should expect to be absorbing much of that shift unconsciously and, looking back, to be able to see that shift reflected in all sorts of places. For example, there is much talk in this week’s readings about collective intelligence, distributed knowledge, and the social production of knowledge. In what is purported to be the individualistic culture of the United States, this is a sea change, and a welcome one. And yet many high schools, in response to the alienation endemic in our ‘me first’ culture, have for quite some time instituted ‘team spirit days,’ a kind of paean to the collective spirit which is now so widespread on the net.

  3. Even with all my techno-literacy skills, I too find it all a bit overwhelming. There are just some things I’m never going to do like Pinterest a picture or Tweet about pretty much whatever is meaningful and memeful to the Twitterati. Am I denying my students a valuable outlet if I don’t Pint or Twit? I don’t think so. What matters is quality of links, rather than quantity. Links that lead somewhere useful, such as Clark annotating her own text and linking it, is a good start. Another is leading by example. Stay tuned for that. Quality news sites like the Washington Post and the BBC are relevant and just a small taste of what I would share.

    After many long years of slogging through the digital backwaters and swamps of cyberculture, I can honestly say that the best thing we can do for our comp students is to gently direct them away from the quick click and the WTF status update and move them in the direction of the new and the clever and the mashable. It is their internet afterall. They should gleefully and willingly be ready to reconstruct and deconstruct to their hearts content. As Bean says, the best teachers are guides on the side, not sages on the stage.

  4. “I’ve been struggling in English 710 to find the perfect textbook for my students, but I’m just wondering if after a few months, and according to Richardson’s theory that students want information that’s more up-to-date, how up to date is my textbook really going to be compared to the free info we can find on the web?”

    I was particularly taken with this passage because it was not something I had translated from theory to application. But, I think you may be onto something here. I find writing textbooks incredibly boring but highly useful. I find the internet cumbersome, because you can end up so many other directions than you originally intended…you clicked a few seemingly right links, that turned out to be unuseful at best. If our students are taught better research skills utilizing the internet, I think it could be a great tool. Not being able to distiguish valid vs. invalid sources can still be a problem and as I have tried to discuss the matter with the students I am tutoring…it’s really difficult for them to understand.

    As you can see from your responses above, you are not alone in this feeling of being overwhelmed by the options the internet offers in our pedagogy. The more practical experience the people in our field gain in regards to the matter, and the more that is written about it….will hopefully give the novice instructor some enlightening tips.

    I do like what Warnock in Teaching Writing Online says in his introduction about Online Writing: “Students are in a rich, guided learning environment in which they express themselves to a varied audience with their written words.” His idea is that an online environment can be purely textual, and what better way to get students to write abundantly than to force that form of communication and thought. Perhaps, in the end, they will be like you and find it surprisingly welcoming.

  5. Pingback: The World Has Gone Hybrid | Teaching Writing in a Digital Age

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