I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to grow up in a world that wasn’t yet obsessed with all that is digital. My parents were the type who, despite having access to technology, chose to raise me in such a way that I learned just fine without it. I am not old by any stretch of the imagination, but I still consider my childhood “the golden years” for this reason. I look back on my youth and its absence of social media, over-sharing, and constant connection through rose-colored glasses. Perhaps this is why I did not own a smart phone until my senior year of high school, and only then because it was cheaper for my mom to bundle it on our wireless plan (RIP my QWERTY keyboard). Shocking, I know. However, despite all of this I have still become digitally literate.
But what is digital literacy?
In my opinion, the definition of digital literacy is the ability to express one’s self, communicate, and analyze the ideas of others via multimedia. When most people think of digital literacy, they automatically associate it with social media. I am now (as of a few weeks ago) one of millions upon millions of people who take part in the digital world through social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest (you will forever be my favorite, Pinterest!)… You name it, I am a part of it. Truth is, though, digital literacy is so much more than being able to navigate a newsfeed or publish a status. Digital literacy has become a way of life. Because so much of our world is located in the internet, both figuratively and literally, it has become necessary to know how to be a part of it. As they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
How does digital literacy affect me personally?
As the website Purposeful Technology states, “We will not be able to achieve a liberating, collective intelligence until we can achieve a collective digital literacy, and we have now, more than ever, perhaps, the opportunity and the technologies to assist us in the human project of shaping, creating, authoring and developing ourselves as the formers of our own culture. To this end, we must create the conditions for people to become wise in their own way.” We are at the point where technology is so intertwined with our existence that we would not be who we are without it. Because of this, I must choose to embrace it head or otherwise miss out on the amazing opportunities that it provides. Without digital literacy I would not be able to connect with friends hundreds of miles away, or read up an awesome ideas from a master teacher in another country. Without digital literacy I would be limited on how and when I hear breaking news, as well as what information I am exposed to. The internet and all that goes with it provides so many powerful benefits if one learns to use them correctly, and that is precisely what I am in the process of doing. With technology growing at the rate that it is I will probably never be done learning all that there is to know when it comes to digital literacy, but that is half the adventure.
What are the implications of digital literacy as a future teacher?
Digital literacy does not only affect me personally, but also as a future teacher. My childhood may have been technology free, but that is simply not an option for children in this day and age. They will grow up in a world entirely saturated in it, and there is no telling what kind of skills they will need to know for the job market in the next few decades. I must be able to prepare for this. As a result, I will need to incorporate as much technology as I can into the classroom where appropriate. There is a fine line; I belive that technology does not belong in every aspect of the classroom and that personal connections are still the most integral part of learning. This does not change the fact that technology is essential, though. Fortunately, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has issued a set of standards for teachers to follow in order to get the most out of teaching students digital literacy. It provides broad requirements that can be applied in an infinite number of ways, and I am very much looking forward to finding creative ways to tie them in to my future secondary English classroom.
While I will forever miss the perceived simplicity of living in a world that did not rely so much upon technology, it is my goal to move forward and do all that I can to learn about my digital surroundings. Not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit of my future students as well. I have come to terms that someday I will have a class of students that will have never seen a VHS tape in real life or think that I’m lying when I describe to them the boxy, corded phone-in-a-bag that sat in the trunk of our family car. I will not hold it against them. Quite to the contrary, I will do all that I can to help them keep moving forward. But maybe I’ll still pick up my rose-colored glasses and reminisce a time or two.