Digital Literacy

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The focus on digital literacy comes at a time when huge changes to the national curriculum guidelines for teaching ICT (now Computing) have been made, giving more weight to the acquisition of programming and coding skills and the creation of digital technologies than the previous curriculum’s focus on children as consumers of software. There are many reasons for these changes (for a more detailed analysis, please visit my blog page ) but amongst them is the assumption that children are now being brought up on a daily diet of iPads and apps and mobile phones and therefore have little need to be taught the “how to” prevalent in the previous ICT curriculum.

But is this a safe assumption? This will depend entirely on your viewpoint of what digital literacy is. The national curriculum defines it as ‘able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology’ (DfE 2012), which seems to describe the importance of understanding different technologies, the uses for which they are appropriate for, and how to be creative with them.  However, what it seems to leave out is the importance in being able to critique both the usefulness of, and the validity of the information from, said technologies. Children today are exposed to and utilise lots of different types of media via the internet and other technologies and video games, but can it be said that they have a critical understanding of them simply because they know how to use them? And does knowledge of IPad naturally make you literate in the world of animation creation for example? The term digital literacy is misleading because it implies a general knowledge that is common to all types of technology when in fact each innovation comes with its own vocabulary, ‘grammar’, biases and rules of engagement that both user and creator have to be literate in before there can be successful interaction.

Burn and Durran (2007) look at literacy in relation to the production of animations. Primary school children aged 7-9 and 10-11 were given the opportunity to create animations, the younger group under the theme of Fairytales and the older given the broad theme of Flight. What becomes clear during the different processes of production is how the activity provides them with a clear understanding – the literacy – of the moving image, techniques that can be used to construct meaning or portray bias and how, with that knowledge, they start to become discerning about what they will include, what shots they will take and which cultural references they will use. This then naturally leads them on to start to critically thinking about their own favourite animation and the intentions and design behind its production, such as noting that The Simpsons tends not to use over-the-shoulder shots (p.54), and pondering as to how many frames it took to film a Lilo and Stitch episode (p.57). It’s clear that this form of media education began the process of children starting to look at how the world was represented through moving image and critique this (p. 53).

But this is just one area and one technology. What is clear is that as children become exposed to more and more there needs to be an accompanying focus on gaining the necessary literacy for each piece of technology or information so that they can understand its power and how that is created and make judgements on that.

The term literacy can also be seen to refer to the explicit use of ICT in encouraging the necessary literacy skills within the classroom, and this is explored below.

Kirsty Lee

References

Burn and Durran (2007), Media literacy in schools: practice, production and progression, Paul Chapman

DfE (2012), National Curriculum in England: computing programmes of study, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/239033/PRIMARY_national_curriculum_-_Computing.pdf, accessed 24th November 2013

Today we were asked what it means to be literate, we could argue that being literate is being able to read, this may be the case in literacy but what would being literate look like in numeracy? Perhaps being able to write sums or getting the right answer? I think that being literate will appear differently depending on the topic. The session today was focusing on computing and its role in ensuring that children become digitally literate.

So what do we need to be able to do if we are to say we are digitally literate? Suggestions such as understand how a computer works, how we use a computer and what we can use the computer for were noted. Here are a few of my suggestions

  • It’s about computers, both what they are and how to use

  • It’s about iPads or other tablets

  • It’s about smartphones

  • It’s about creativity

So why use computers or digital literacy? Well it is accessible to everyone, creativity can be expressed, some people ‘get’ technology and others see it as more fun to name but a few.

The mention of the word fun brings me  to our session where we had the opportunity to use an iPad app called ‘puppet pals’ to create our own short story based on a fairy tale.

Working in small groups we had to agree on the story, create a script, take pictures of ourselves as the characters, find our backdrops and record our own narration. On the app there were some preloaded characters and backdrops that could have been selected which I can see would help children who are self-conscious. This type of activity would appeal to all, those who are happy to act and have pictures taken through to those who would prefer to narrate and not be seen. When we showed these videos to the rest of the group, although there was a lot of laughter it was an opportunity for assessment and for ideas to be shared and built upon. Did this feel like a piece of literacy work? No, but on reflection there were elements of literacy alongside art, music and computing. So digital technology has the ability to be used across the curriculum and in doing so gives us the knowledge to ourselves become digitally literate.

With the new curriculum coming into force next September and a having a bigger influence on the use of computing we owe it to our children to fully immerse ourselves in these programmes, expanding our range of resources and deepening our knowledge. If we find a programme that we enjoy why not use this with the children as although they may not feel like they are learning you know that they are.

Charlotte Moss

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