Not Teaching Digital Literacy is Teaching Students to Become Illiterate

Three main discussions and readings inspired me for this posting. The Ministry of Education’s monograph – Critical Literacy , a video by George Couros @gcouros, and the #hwdsb focus of critical literacy.

Today’s students are trying trying to take a drink from a fire hose when getting information from the internet was a concept introduced to me in a speech by Sam an #HWDSB student. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he is right. Teacher’s can’t be the keepers of all knowledge, how can we ever compare to the amount of information the internet possesses! Teachers need to teach digital literacy and teach students to be critical of the media around them.

In order for teachers to teach critical literacy a few things need to happen. We need to develop and maintain a culture that embraces digital media and teach students how to interpret these messages. Teachers must embrace students’ beliefs, interests and backgrounds and understand they are creating their own identity from a diverse population of influences. We must consider students’ ideas and ensure all are represented in an equitable way.

When teaching digital literacy we must realize all messages on the internet have meaning and contain a belief that each person may see differently. We must know that different media sources serve different purposes and they each have their own language that we must try and help students to decode.

Youtube is a great example of multiple media sources coming at a student in any given time. When I was a child, a sample conversation went like this…Did you watch G.I. Joe yesterday and all my friends would say yes at the same time and we would all start talking about it. Today’s conversations are different, students are getting their information from the internet and it would be my guess that close to every student in your class has their own favourite Youtube channel and there is little duplication. My point is this, the source of information is so much more vast than just a few years ago, we need to teach students to understand what they are seeing, not try to control it.