Possibilities and probabilities of digital literacies

I like this questioning Ann Walker, WEA Digital Literacies – Essential or Desirable. In a spirit of open discussion, I would offer a variation – Digital Literacies: possible or probable.

That is, there are those who live their lives on-line. They slip between screen and paper with unconscious ease and find the idea of sitting and playing a game of scrabble – a physical game, using an actual board and tiles, not a computer  – to be something of a novelty. It is not unusual, for some, to visit tiny tucked away villages in northern Ghana without leaving their study. They regularly read and discuss with friends in Accra the ins and outs West African politics as reported on the front page of the national newspapers.

For the digital haves the literacies they involve are endless with possibilities. There is no aspect of their lives that does not involve some form of digital engagement, or would not be enhanced by it. Such are the possibilities.

The digital has become thoroughly embedded into the everyday. Sometimes with exciting possibilities, sometimes as just another thing we have to do. It can be hard for us to imagine a life in which things are otherwise.

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The text reads: “I’ve been to a traditional craft course learning how to write a letter with a pen and paper. All I’ve got to do now is scan it in and email it to someone.”

But these lives – the lives in which the digital is not exciting or inevitable – exist.

And so alongside the endless possibilities of digital literacies, what are the probabilities of digital literacies. How do we ensure that ‘digital by default’ is more than decorative flourish that accents our pedagogy?  How do we manage the inevitable inequalities opened up by this new terrain. For years literacy teaching and learning has been engulfed beneath waves of policy effervescence; in my view it often struggles to connect in meaningful ways to the lives of students. Teachers do it, but they accomplish this is despite rather then because of the ever changing policy landscapes that surround them. An approach to digital literacy that centres around the probable and the possible lives of learners is a good starting point.

This implies a sound rationale that defines:

  • what should we teach
  • why should we teach it and
  • how best to teach it

The twitter chat on hashtag #ukfechat offers some interesting perspectives on this.

The reasoning matters because – I teach and, in my evangelical zeal, it’d be possible to insist students develop the enthusiasms that inspire me or that the preferred curriculum becomes a list of favourite digital activities. But not everyone olives the same life and so the what, why and how need to be locally defined.

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for taking the debate further with different and thought-provoking perspective. The reality that ‘not everyone lives the same life’ is something that all teachers and policy makers should reflect on as part of their practice.

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