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.
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.
- Opinion Poll: Digital Literacy in ELT
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?
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