ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Literacy

Monday 29 November 2010

by Nik Peachey

In my last post ( ELT and the Crisis in Education – Part 2 )I touched on the area of digital literacies and made the assertion that these are, at least in part, the responsibility of the EFL /ESL teacher.

This is an issue that I believe is fundamental to changing the way EFL / ESL schools, courses and even publishers address the area of technology in English language teaching.

I think it’s true that many teachers still use technology as a gimmick or a reward to motivate their students and that very often the use of the technology in class, doesn’t really add greatly to the pedagogical aims of the overall lesson and I think this is something that we need to address.

I really feel that a better understanding among teachers of digital literacies and what they are, would enable more teachers to use technology and combine its sound use into the aims of their lessons.

One of the problems though with introducing the element of digital literacies is that there isn’t a great deal of specific understanding of what they are and opinions tend to vary a lot.  Many definitions tend to focus on the computer user as a consumer of information and include a strong focus on the ability to search for, locate and evaluate the reliability of sources. Many others seem to be technology or even software specific and centre around the ability to use a particular software such as spreadsheet or presentation software. Often the development of these kinds of skills is seen as the aim in itself, rather than the means to fulfilling a genuine life task.

Recently though I came across, what for me represents a much better description of digital literacy. I found it in a free publication  called ‘Digital and Media Literacy’ which you can download from here: Digital and Media Literacy

What I liked about this overall definition, is that it sees digital literacy as a cycle of 5 supporting interrelated competencies that include the creation of digital media and the ability to act as a result of this process to share knowledge within a community or society.

Essential competencies of Digital and Media Literacy

Essential competencies of Digital and Media Literacy: From 'Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action

Here is how the 5 competencies are described (Page 19 Digital and Media Literacy: Renee Hobbs 2010)

Essential Competencies of Digital and Media Literacy

1. ACCESS  Finding and using media and technology tools skillfully and sharing appropriate and relevant information with others
2. ANALYZE & EVALUATE  Comprehending messages and using critical thinking to analyze message quality, veracity, credibility, and point of view, while considering potential effects or consequences of messages
3. CREATE  Composing or generating content using creativity and confidence in self-expression, with awareness of purpose, audience, and composition techniques
4. REFLECT  Applying social responsibility and ethical principles to one’s own identity and lived experience, communication behavior and conduct
5. ACT  Working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in the family, the workplace and the community, and participating as a member of a community at local, regional, national and international levels

I feel, at last, that this is a framework on which we can start to hang a more specific set of skills and behaviours around which to base the aims of our inclusion of technology within our language teaching. If we can look to this framework to include along side the linguistic and communicative aims of our lessons, some element that relates back to the development of these kinds of competencies within a digital environment then I feel we will have taken a significant step forward towards the principled use of technology within our language teaching classrooms.

What do you think?
In the next coupe of articles in this series I would like to look in more depth at digital literacies and how we can develop them in the language classroom, but first I’d like to get your opinions on this area. So here’s a link to another opinion poll where you can compare your answers to other readers.

Also if you have a few moments please leave a comment below in response to any of these questions.

* How do you determine when and how you use technology in your classroom?
* Are you using technology systematically or is your use of it ad-hoc?
* What drives your use of technology in the classroom? Is it purely your own decision or are you influenced to use it?
* How, if at all, are digital literacies addressed within your school?


Nik Peachey

7 responses to ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Literacy

  1. […] ELT and the Crisis in Education – Digital Literacy […]

  2. @CreativeEdu says:

    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here: http://bit.ly/gPGftV

  3. Carolyn Edwards says:

    My use of technology in the classroom is governed chiefly by what the learners tell me they want to do with the class time, and by what resources are available.

    It has nothing to do with the institution whatsoever, and I think this is for several reasons. Firstly institutions cannot afford to provide the functionality, speed and look-and-feel of the personal digital technologies that individual learners and teachers can and increasingly do bring to the classroom. Secondly, actually addressing the pedagogical issues (that you have done so articulately) is a difficult and costly business for organisations, and finally, to do so would involve the sort of inter- and intra- organisational communication that, although deeply desirable, tends to run counter to the organisational culture (in the places I’ve worked anyway).

    I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who has decided simply to go it alone, ie. taken on the task of trying to understand what digital literacy is, and then of trying to become digitally literate myself, and then of trying to integrate it into my teaching, as an individual project that is entirely separate from the organisation for which I work, because it just wouldn’t happen otherwise. I think the autonomy which personal digital technologies give us as individuals is a real challenge to the role of the educational organisation, as well as potentially a huge pedagogical advance.

    I feel I need to try to acquire the skills and behaviours associated with digital literacy myself before I can presume to teach them to others (I’m not even sure I know what they are after four years of exploring this area) and it’s cheering and reassuring to hear fellow edtechies like yourself admit that we are all in the same boat.

    I’m looking forward to a time when this sort of discussion happens routinely in staff rooms as well as “specialist” online communities, no idea when it will be though – in any case, viva la revolución!!

  4. Rafael Leon says:

    I try to use technology as much as possible, as it helps students engage in their learning process; nowadays, kids and teenagers spend lots of time in front of the television and/or the computer, so bringing digital media to the classroom adds some degree of real-life experience, something students can relate to in their daily lives.
    I usually use digital media whenever is possible to contextualize the content I’m teaching. I usually use songs and videos, which are more “entertaining” than power-point presentations. However, the place where I taught at didn’t take digital literacy so seriously. The didactic book was to be followed at all times, which limited the possibilities to use digital media.
    I think that schools will consider digital media more welcome in the classroom as the new generation of teachers bring new ideas and try to change the current system. At least I hope so.
    Thanks for sharing this information! :)

  5. Wallison Abade says:

    In my opinion, teachers will not fight against technology evolution for much time. It is a reality that must be incorporated in the class. It is normal to see teachers that reject the use of computer in class, or a cellphone that can access internet. these are tools to help them in the future, In their jobs, they will neet to deal with technology, they will need to do more than one thing at a time, and if they can learn to think fast and develop those skill while they are in the school, the school will have done a good job, i mean, the idea is not block their intelligence, but to help them to develop in order to become a respectable citizen.

  6. […] ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Reading SkillsELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Literacy […]

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