Developing Digital Literacy

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As a relative late comer to the teaching profession I was disillusioned to find in my student practice that some schools have so much emphasis on how to create Word,Excel and Power Point documents.  There was no hint of the ubiquitous nature of the internet let alone student e-mail.  A typical day would involve investigating the available manipulations of a Microsoft office suite plus a well-guarded Google search engine.  That’s not to discredit the development of these essential skills but I would imagine they do little to stir independent and creative critical thinking.    As a ‘day reliever’at one school I was showing a student how to embed hyper links into his Power Point only to find out that he had his own WordPress site and YouTube channel with over 20,000 subscribers and was earning handsomely from an affiliate membership with YouTube!   Not only were the students bored,I was bored.   I am inclined to believe this is a major reason why so few students were taking I.C.T. as an option of choice.

In fact,I find it amazing that in 2012,I.C.T. remains a subject for option.  A New Zealand Government document ‘The Ministry of Education Strategy 2006-2010’ aims to reflect the needs and values of an evolving society.  It identifies the importance of developing digital literate citizens;

Just like the ability to read and write,ICT literacy will be an essential life skill – an economic and social necessity.   “Without [ICT literacy],there is a risk that people will be cut off from job opportunities and unable to take part in the full life of the community”. (New Zealand Government,2005,pg. 18)

I.C.T. literacy needs to be embedded across all subjects,as it entails far more than simply creating beautifully ordered documents.  It’s about making connections,it’s synthesising information,it’s keeping yourself safe online,it’s knowing how to make the system work for you.  I was fortunate to be at last years’NetHui and heard Earl Mardle give his take on what it is be digitally literate he says,

A young man called Narces Benoit saw what was happening and whipped out his cellphone to record the scene. One of the cops noticed what he was doing,broke off his shooting gallery duties and came charging at Benoit,waving his gun and screaming at him to get out of his car and hand over the cellphone,which he did.

The cop them smashed the cellphone under his boot and arrested Benoit. Nevertheless,within a few hours,the video of the event was going viral on Youtube because,when he saw the cop rushing at him,Benoit had the presence of mind to take out of the phone his digital media storage card and put it in his mouth.

The difference between Benoit and the cop is what I call Digital Literacy.


At last it looks as though the I.C.T. curriculum is in for an overhaul at least in the U.K.    A couple of recent articles on the BBC  site Royal Society offers ways to overhaul ICT teaching and School ICT to be replaced by computer science programme caught my eye.

There are many reasons why New Zealand schools may be slow in their uptake of ICT cross-curriculur,lack of technical support,lack of professional development,lack of vision,leadership,time and resources.  However with the advent of broadband on our doorstep it’s the perfect opportunity to breath new life into our lessons and to let students take ownership for their learning by immersing them in a digital world that is so familiar to them.  Utilising digital technologies expands the curriculum to be so much richer,more creative and puts the student in the drivers seat of their learning.   Students can then start to develop the skills and confidence to direct their own learning and we can move away from educating to the masses to more personalised learning programmes.    Making use of the vast array of courses offered by the Virtual Learning Network  and  Te Kura the Correspondence School students can tailor their learning to suit leading to more engagement and student ownership.






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