Teaching digital literacy

To paraphrase Paulo Freire and John Dewey, literacy is understanding the connection between what we learn and how we can make this knowledge actionable while accounting for our own and others’ well-being.

As a form of literacy, digital literacy is a specific type of textuality. It can have as many rules and gatekeepers as academic language – for the ambitious.

This is relevant to course design: how to integrate the rules but make space for creativity? This includes the problem of internet permanence, too, as not everyone wants their learning development on view for all to see. Yet practice of ‘being’ online is invaluable. Moodle does not fit this bill, not even being compatible with networked learning as not all universities use it. I am still researching online spaces that afford some protection and are not riddled with data mines. A new and old idea:

Something else that emerged from my own experiments is a new ambition about the degree to which students are exposed to the programming, not just design, of digital technology. This summer, I am exploring the semantics of programming languages as a possible area of overlap with philology (the area of study of the faculty where I teach).

The course that involves digital literacy components is one on cultural studies. Thus far, I have focused on what digital technology means and on observing the matrix of individual STEM writers’ positions with respect to certain “techno-scientific” topics. In my view, while we can speak of a zeitgesist – today, influenced by technology, it is a mistake to overgeneralize. The granular view opens us up to visions of our individual agency, to return to the point of literacy. What do we like/dislike in the zeitgeist? How do we propose to change it?

In a class environment, students can work together to generate these ideas and experience conscientious co-creation. This can be helped by the right guidelines and encouragement. A sketch by John Spencer illustrates the benefits of collaborative learning, which I have found to be a useful introduction then periodic reminder for students about what is actually going on in this type of learning.

The approach I take involves:

This is not an exhaustive list but some general ideas in case this post can serve as advertisement for networked learning collaboration.

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