Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Digital Literacy: Opportunities in the Learning Commons

In a few short days we will gather in Victoria for TMC 2014. I am very excited to be able to share some work I've been doing on the topic of digital literacy, and I'm hoping that our collaborative brain power can help solve a big problem.

Problem: There is a digital literacy divide. It parallels the general literacy divide, and as resources, government services, commerce and social structures move more and more online, digital literacy is being understood as a critical component of literacy. Digital literacy is not being addressed in a consistent way in education.

A significant body of recent research turns some popular notions about kids' online behaviours and associated knowledge upside down, as summarized in my paper, Myths, Realities and Opportunities: What the Research Says about Digital Literacy.

The myth of the digital native is dead. While our students may have facility with technology, they use it mostly for socializing and entertainment. Creative uses are far less common, as is the use of digital media for civic engagement. Adult concerns about online safety are generally overblown, and much of the behaviours that are sensationally labelled as cyberbullying are more likely online manifestations of "teen drama".

Kids learn what they are motivated to learn, and since the vast majority of use of digital media is for entertainment and socializing, their skills in these areas tend to be more sophisticated. It turns out, too, that our students want to learn more deeply about things like verifying online information, learning about what is legal and not legal to do online, and learning about how companies use personal information. We could help with that!

Educators Lack Confidence

Our students want to learn, but educators often lack the confidence to integrate technology meaningful into learning. This is the problem I'm hoping we can tackle together. Clearly this is a huge opportunity for the learning commons. But seizing that opportunity depends in large part on teacher-librarians' own level of knowledge and confidence with technology for learning. How can we bridge this digital learning divide in our own ranks? There's never been a greater opportunity for leadership from the learning commons. Are we prepared to seize this opportunity? I'm looking forward to delving into this problem with you more deeply at TMC 2014!

Anita Brooks Kirkland

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