Head on over to Leading From the Heart and leave Tracy Rosen a comment on her thought-provoking post about revisiting digital literacy. Here’s the comment I just left her:

I am by no means a ‘literacy’ expert. For me, the idea of literacy means something like ‘fluency in the dominant information landscape(s) of your time, both as a consumer and as a producer.’ In the past, that has meant being an adequate reader and an adequate writer. It is increasingly clear that the dominant information landscape of our present and future is one that is digital, networked, interactive, hyperconnected, dispersed, rapidly-changing, multimedia, and so on. This new information landscape requires additional fluencies beyond those needed for a paper-based world.

Fluency in paper-bound text and graphics is still a necessary skill today. The need to be a high-level reader and writer is going to be around for a long while. But the dominance of the written word slowly will be eroded by other forms of audio/video expression. For me, the exciting thing about many of these new ‘literacies’ is that students and educators now have unprecedented opportunities to create things of value to the larger world, to have a legitimate voice, and to reach authentic audiences.

Like any good progressive, Chris Lehmann advocates emphasis on facilitation of students as digital citizens rather than emphasis on preparing students to be digital workers. I too am very much in favor of empowering students personally and on the citizenship front. But I also want my kids to have a meaningful, rewarding career (that, hopefully, also contributes to society in some way). And that means getting what Richard Florida calls a ‘creative class’ job – one that requires autonomy, independent judgment, creativity, innovation, creative problem-solving, and, yes, fluency with digital technologies. Creative class jobs are facilitated and enhanced by digital technologies, not replaced by them (as often happens with service or working class jobs).

So I empathize with your concern, Tracy, about respecting others’ approaches to sense-making. And I too am concerned with the differential access that developing countries and underserved student populations have. But I think the task for all of us is to bring them into the digital, global 21st century, not to define ‘literacy’ in ways that continue to disempower them socially and/or economically for decades to come (note: I’m not saying you’re doing this).

Here’s an old post of mine on social justice that might be of interest:


Thanks for a thoughtful, thought-provoking post. I look forward to reading others’ comments!