If I start with the premise that literacy has to do with a desire to communicate, then oral histories and cave paintings are artifacts of literacy. So too are books, works of art, music, dance, architecture, crafts, fashion and a myriad of other human expressions. As we humans strive to express the ideas in our heads, we create ways to do so. Literacy includes the desire to share ideas and information with your community, to learn and understand, to create and grow, to appreciate and critique.
In every generation, new mediums are created and old mediums are maintained, rediscovered or rejected. Therefore, digital landscapes are simply new spaces to occupy with our words, sounds, images, ideas and expressions. Our digital expressions are our cave paintings.
While I do believe that defining digital literacy (or digital literacies) can be useful, it seems to me that all the dissecting to find the small pieces and then trying to weave it back into a model leaves too much out. It is as if the act of pulling it all apart to name it leaves some of the magic on the floor that gets swept away when finally putting it back together and saying – this is it, this is the definition.
“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” ― John Archibald Wheeler
I really love is this quote from Wheeler and the idea that what we know is our island and the shore is our awareness of what we don’t know. As we learn more, our island gets bigger and so does our awareness of what we don’t yet know – our shore line increases in size. The more I learn, the more I realize that there is still so much to know.
I feel this way about digital literacy. When I got my first computer in 1992, I could not have predicted the ways in which I use computers in my daily life now. I think about my mother, who just turned 92 and who recently figured out how to video call me over Facebook on her iPad! My mother – whose first car was a horse, who grew up in a place where there was one phone in the entire village, who did not have a television until the mid 1950s, whose first motion picture was the Sound of Music in 1965 and she is video calling me! She has digital literacy. She has found a way to connect and communicate using this “new” technology!
So what does all this musing mean for me as a teacher in a digital world? This is the space I must occupy and I need to be both an explorer and a guide. I need to seek out, learn and understand new ways of expressing information and ideas in this digital medium while practicing creation, appreciation, and discernment.
I don’t know if this was what you were looking for, my fellow Extenders but it is where this Extend Activity on What is your definition of digital literacies for teaching? took me. For more about this Extending thing I am doing out loud in this blog, I invite you to join OntarioExtend.