I absolutely love this video: What does it mean to be literate? My feelings toward it come directly from the fact that my definition of what it means to be “literate” has changed significantly since beginning this course. As an English teacher, I would have defended the notion that literacy is the ability to read, write, and comprehend. That was, until this course and the work of students in this course challenged my definition.
While a simple search for what it means to be literate still does reflect that literacy means being able to read and write, a new form of literacy, Digital or Media Literacy has emerged over the past decade, and is now an aspect of teaching and understanding that deserves significant attention. Being “literate” today involves so much more than being able to hold up a book and understand what the letters on the page say. Digital Literacy encompasses one’s ability to understand how to access information, how to critically analyze that information and how to apply those understandings to one’s own context.
As Tholman and Jones state, “Today, information about the world around us comes to us not only by words on a piece of paper but more and more through the powerful images and sounds of our multi-media culture” (Tholman and Jones, 2004). Today, one’s comfort level in “analyzing new information as it’s received, evaluating it against one’s prior knowledge, formulating a response and ultimately communicating to others your decision or point of view” is what it means to be digitally literate (Tholman and Jones, 2004).
With access to information being at our fingertips 24/7, part of being literate in today’s day and age also has to do with how we learn to, and how we teach students to comprehend the vast array of information that we have access to. Kundra notions that “For students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather”(Digital Literacy, What Does It Mean To You?). Luke, too, discusses how “the growth of various forms of media is un-ending and we are bombarded by media messages throughout the day” and because of this, we’ve learned through being digitally literate how to sort this information into pieces that are important and irrelevant, real and fake.
I strongly believe that increasing digital literacy will increase advocacy, creativity, and voice for generations to come. As Andrea Quijada discusses in her TedTalk, we live in a world where media literacy allows individuals to be better critical thinkers, giving them an increased ability to “deconstruct it and reconstruct it to highlight the untold story”. In Erin’s Powtoon from last week, she states, “Since media isn’t going away, and will continue to be a major player in our lives, it is vital that the citizens of the world today and in the future are able to see media for what it really is communicating and are able to make positive decisions based on this knowledge”. The way that we “read” information today is so much more complex, so much less forgiving than the way we used to read. Because of this, digital literacy allows so many empty spaces, so many unknowns to become known to us, creating a society that should, in theory, be more informed in their decision making than any society ever has been before us. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”
In conclusion, being “literate” in anything, whether that be English, math, soccer, or media itself involves the ability to understand, be critical of, and apply said critical lens to the ever evolving world around us. My hope for the future is that the increased knowledge and understanding that digital literacy offers us will allow for increased confidence in future generations when it comes to advocacy for, creativity in, and critical analysis of both traditional and non-traditional knowledge and information sharing.