I have to emphasise this is a draft – and in no ways a final version. I have to credit Doug Belshaw (
@dajbelshaw) for his work on defining digital literacy. I used it his work as a my starting point to look at further areas of interest. There was so much I could add in, but will try to in other sections. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
In the last few decades the Internet has become a technological and a social phenomenon. It has become a “fact of life, a way of being in the world, a producer of social subjects that, find it unremarkable, so unremarkable that it seems ‘everybody uses it.’” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:470) It has allowed new social access, eradicating the need for face-to-face communication.
To fully understand the term ‘digital literacy,’ literacy must be defined. At its very basic level, literacy is a form of communication, including the ability to decode symbols and messages for the purpose of sharing information and meaning. Current pedagogy (DfES.1999) goes beyond this, and as well as reading and writing, literacy involves the development speaking and listening skills. People must be able to encode and decode symbols to be classed as literate or subsequently illiterate. Although an ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’ (UNESCO) report addresses the issues in defining literacy:
“Literacy is a characteristic acquired by individuals in varying degrees from just above none to an indeterminate upper level. Some individuals are more or less literate than others but it is really not possible to speak of illiterate and literate person as two distinct categories.”
A simple definition of being literate as being ‘able to read and write,’ sets up a “false dichotomy (between those who ‘can’ and those who ‘can’t'), but makes no allowance for reading and writing using various tools and for different purposes.” (Belshaw. 2011:50) Literacy viewed as making and creating meaning “has generally dominated curriculum and pedagogy.” (Dighe & Reddi, 2006). It is a set of skills that complete mastery of is never attained, as there is always a way in which a person can be more skilled, or a better reader or writer.
Street (1984) outlines two different models of literacy, the autonomous and the ideological. The autonomous model, states literacy as being independent of and impartial towards trends and struggles in everyday life. An ideological perspective, view “literacy as an active relationship or a way of orienting to the social and cultural world”; (Lankshear & Kobel. 2008:97) its reiterated by Lewis & Fabos (2005) who perceive that “all writing is socially motivated.” Digital illiteracies are ideological and subjective; they adapt with change and constantly need to be developed.
A definition of ‘Digital Literacy’ began from Gilster’s (1997) book entitled with the same name. Glister was criticised for giving multiple definitions (Belshaw. 2011); however at the beginning of the twenty first century his work was beginning to have an impact. Glister (1997) did not describe digital literacy as a set of skills but “as an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources and regarded it simply as literacy in the digital age.” (Bawden. 2008:18)
There is ambiguity when digital illiteracies are referred to, Bawden (2008) paraphrases Eshet-Alkalia (2004) view that there are “particular inconsistency between those who regard digital literacy as primarily concerned with technical skills and those who see it as focused on cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of working in a digital environment.”(Bawden, 2008:24) Futurelab (2010) defines digital literacy as functional skills required to operate and communicate with technology and media with the ability to “participate in a range of critical and creative practices.” Belshaw (2011) in his doctoral thesis combines the work of many theorists and identifies eight core elements of digital literacy, namely:
Belshaw (2011) moves beyond looking merely at the technological skills required, but highlights that digital literacy captures the notion that the literacy practices referred to are enacted in digital spaces. Martin (2008) similarly breaks down digital literacy and reiterates that it is more than a set of skills. However this emphasises that the term ‘digital literacy’ is ambiguous, and continually evolving in new and innovative ways.
An aspect of computer-mediated communication, which is an integral part to ‘digital literacy’ are weblogs or ‘blogs.’ A blog is an “instant publication of text or graphics to the Web… [with] ways for people to provide comments or feedback to each blog post, the opportunity to archive past blog posts by date, and hyperlinks to other bloggers.” (Hufaker. 2004) This medium allows one or many contributors to present and express themselves online in a way that is not possible in traditional literacy.
Blogs are created and maintained for diverse purposes and as elements or dimensions of diverse social practices. Lanskear and Knobel (2008) identify some key topics of blogs, such as: personal diaries; critique of news events; to sell products; to express personal opinions; to achieve memories and so on. Though not to dissimilar to websites, blogs provide many advantages over traditional sites, including; providing a personal writing space; invite contributors and be managed accordingly and need little or no technical background knowledge. (Peter & Axel. 2006:2)
The educational benefits of blogs (Peter & Axel. 2006) allow children to develop their cognitive and critical potential though analytical thinking whilst reading, writing and collaboration on a topic to post. Its structure promotes taking critical risks and makes sophisticated use of language and design, (Peter & Axel. 2006:3) and provides a space in which children can reflect on their learning and review and comment upon other people work. Morris (2010) a class teacher, states, “blogging is authentic.” Students have a purpose and a genuine audience, where there can be a daily occurrence within a classroom. It gives children a meaningful audience “that will see their writing and personality through blogs.” (Ackerman. 2006:7) Traditional literacy conventions such as spelling and syntax can be taught in the “context of writing on the blog rather than stand-alone, one off lessons.” (Morris. 2010) Children’s lack of motivation directly collates with students not doing well (Kelly & Neal. 2002) where by framing tasks differently and giving students a real audience, “students are motivated to use technology to write.” (Ackerman. 2006:1)
Channeler (1997) states, “in the act of writing…we are written.” To motivate children emerging writing skills, to make writing purposeful, challenging and real to life, blogging offers this opportunity. Additionally, blogging provides a sense of community, where global connections can be made with other schools. Quadblogging develops this sense of community where each of the partnership schools has a week of hosting the blog, providing a focus for others to participate in and to make comments, offering an “environment where learning is not limited to the classroom.” (Huffaker. 2004) As the popularity of blogging continues, one provider stating 500,000 new posts every month (WordPress. 2012), is it an engaging medium for children to benefit from? And does it in turn improve their literacy skills? This research project aims to build upon previous research and asks the question:
‘How can one classes use of blogs promote positive attitudes in literacy?’
Word count: 1,076
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