Digital Literacy, Creating Critical Thinkers

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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4 thoughts on “Digital Literacy, Creating Critical Thinkers

  1. Being able to challenge what we have always known and use the new found knowledge to grow as a professional is a skill that I think drives great educators. I appreciate you sharing that you have been able to challenge your understanding of being literate, as you’ve always known and taken that as an opportunity for growth.

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  2. I agree with your conclusion, that being able to understand, be critical of, and apply said critical lens to the ever evolving world around us is an essential skill. I think it is safe to safe that we are both figuring out “what” that looks like in action, through being part of this course. I look forward to seeing how simply redirecting students to reconsider, analyze or critique media that is placed in front of them, may help them to be less accepting of everything before accepting it as truth! Thanks for a great article Brittany!

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  3. Great blog! I agree that being able to think critically is such an important part of what it means to be literate in today’s day and age. With so much info being presented to us, we need to teach kids how to sift through what is important vs. irrelevant, true vs. fake and to ask thoughtful questions – this is the way of learning, both now and in the future!

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  4. I think you nailed the idea when you said literacy is “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.” I also said that at one point literacy meant reading and writing, and now it means so much more!

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