Digital Literacy

To segue from my last post on tweeting to learn, “tweeting to announce” also reigns as a commonplace. My graduate advisor recently tweeted that she accepted a position in literacy at James Madison University.  Her existing position at Virginia Tech, as program director of a Master in Education: English Education program seems tenuous, and Rachel Spilka’s explanation of the changes in our workplace in Digital Literacy for Technical Communication: 21st Century Theory and Practice helped me recognize a shift I see. Spilka says “More of us are migrating to jobs with other titles and responsibilities, and increasingly, we are identifying ourselves not as members of any one field, such as technical communication, but rather, as cross- or multi-disciplinary.”  That seems to be exactly what I see occurring in higher education and education. I see a shift from English Education to Literacy to Digital Literacy. As Spilka chose to define and use “digital literacy” I would posit New Literacies, in its place, as described in Lankshear and Knobel’s book entitled New literacies: Everyday practices and social learning.

To unpack this trend, I think it helps to see that secondary education now embraces the fact that literacy is the responsibility of all content areas. Science, math, and social sciences involve reading and writing in their curriculum with a different focus on literacy than we saw a decade ago. For example, my daughter, who is in the 8th grade, reads and writes about a current event each week in her Algebra I class. If this reading and writing across the curriculum is not happening, then the teachers in that content area are deemed deficient in their pedagogy. It’s a good thing this switch has happened and continues to progress, because the expectations for instruction in English classrooms involve literacies that run the gamut from allowing images to do some of the communicating to oral skills to persuade audiences to written composition using multimodal literacies. Add to that tall order of skill preparation the fact that high school students need guidance in applying to colleges, and it’s no wonder that writing centers are popping up across the country in high schools. Digital literacy simply needs more of our time.