Digital Literacy: Social Justice

Dec 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Uncategorized

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This public Facebook group tracks the insights, collaborations, discussions, resource sharing, and collective intelligence of our BLSE Writing, Technologies and Digital Cultures class. Feel free to explore and interact, to skim through our files, to reach out to individual members or address the collective with queries and problems, to share your own resources and thoughts—to feel the might that comes with having access to and participating in social networks filled with knowledgeable nodes. As Rheingold says, “Let’s work small-world networks to our advantage” (253).

Use the comments section below to discuss this theme, or to let us know that you’ve joined the Facebook group. 

“Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace” (Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture 3).

“These are skills some youth are learning through participatory culture, but they are also skills that all youth need to learn if they are going to be equal participants in the world of tomorrow” (21).

“Young people who spend time playing within these new media environments will feel greater comfort interacting with one another via electronic channels, will have greater fluidity in navigating information landscapes, will be better able to multitask and make rapid decisions about the quality of information they are receiving, and will be able to collaborate better with people from diverse cultural backgrounds” (10).

“’Closing the digital divide will depend less on technology and more on providing the skills and content that is most beneficial’” (13).

“But it turns out that the techno-utopians were wrong. The same biases that configure unmediated aspects of everyday life also shape the mediated experi­ences people have on the internet . . . Cultural prejudice permeates social media” (boyd 158).

“Information literacy is not simply about the structural means of access but also about the experience to know where to look, the skills to interpret what’s available, and the knowledge to put new pieces of information into context. In a world where information is easily available, strong personal networks and access to helpful people often matter more than access to the information itself” (172).

“The transformative potential of the internet to restructure social networks in order to reduce structural inequality rests heavily on people’s abil­ity to leverage it to make new connections. This is not how youth use social media” (173).

“The good news is that knowledge and know-how can spread through online networks as swiftly as well as pervasively as a viral video. And it’s up to us to do so. Let’s work small-world networks to our advantage. Spread some of what you’ve learned through your own network and see if you can inject it into disparate networks you might not connect to.” (Rheingold 253).

Educators should foster digital literacy in their classrooms because it enables students to master the skills necessary for successful navigation in society. Digital literacy supplies marginalized students with one of the best means to transform their own situations and the world around them.

Arguably, the biggest problem educators see in their classrooms is one of educational inequality. Perhaps that is why our class frequently paired discussions of equality with discussions of digital literacy. The naïve among us took the class hoping it would somehow deliver the solution to closing the achievement gap that exists between the rich and the poor, the black and the white, those with disabilities and those without. That mere technology access will offer up a panacea to structural inequities is a misconception. Our texts assure us that technology reveals inequity, but that does not solve that problem.

Awareness of that dilemma is essential. I place it at the end of my essay, not for dramatic effect, but to return to the tension of what we must teach and what we must teach and to pose the metaphorical question: How can we find a way to teach our students 25 new words a day?

My answer to the question is this: We cannot teach our achievement gap students 25 new words a day, and with our inability to do that, we fail to secure educational equality for them. However, if we foster digital literacy in our classrooms, we can teach them the skills they will need to bridge the new achievement gap, the one called the “digital divide.” Digital fluency—the knowledge of the digital world’s workings, the ability to find information and connect with networks to achieve goals, the ability to sift through information and weigh the reliability of sources, the means to be heard and to produce information—will be more important to our students’ survival than the basic reading and writing skills short-sighted standardized assessments measure because digital literacy encompasses these skills. Students who receive digital literacy instruction will have basic reading and writing skills, but they will also know how to gain access to vital information, which Rheingold claims is central if “people are to govern themselves and become citizens instead of subjects” (240). Students will know how to influence and change the world around them in a way similiar to the “activists who helped lead the revolutionary changes in the Middle east and North Africa” through their maneuverings on Facebook (234).





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