Open Thinkering


What is ‘digital literacy’? It’s certainly not this…

Microsoft have proudly announced their Digital Literacy Curriculum. They’ve no doubt about what they mean by the term ‘digital literacy’ – the strapline to the bold title on their site being, ‘Helping you develop a fundamental understanding of computers.’

Oh. So, they’ll be teaching you about Mac OSX and Linux, then?

Right, so it’s Microsoft-only operating systems, yes? Well actually, in theory, no. They do say:

What if I don’t use Microsoft products, or have older versions installed?

The only software required to run either version of Digital Literacy is a minimum of Internet Explorer 6…

Oh, right then. So in practice, it’s Windows only. And what else do I see?

Aha! So after 3 introductory lessons, they get to what they would term the ‘good stuff’ – Microsoft propaganda. Hmmm… I wonder what programs they’ll be using for their introduction to word processors, spreadsheets, email program and IM clients? πŸ˜‰

It’s just an adult version of what’s going on in most UK schools, really. And I think it’s shameful. I’m still not entirely sure how I’d define ‘digital literacy’ (it’s the subject of my Ed.D. thesis after all…) but it’s definitely not a souped-up idiot’s guide to using Microsoft products.

And to think, this has the backing (and presumably the funding) of the following:

What would your ‘digital literacy curriculum’ look like? Mine, for one, would look at digital literacies, and involve using a variety of operating systems and programs. That would get at something underneath the processes involved for specific operating system and programs and get a bit more to the fundamentals. πŸ™‚

4 thoughts on “What is ‘digital literacy’? It’s certainly not this…

  1. This is absolutely shameless. After Microsoft lost a huge lawsuit requiring them to give a bunch of money to schools to purchase technology (at least in the US) because of anti-trust violations. The idea that they would develop a curriculum for schools, which no doubt many schools will take hook line and sinker, is simply shameless. Private companies and manufacturers have no business writing curriculum for schools anyway. Any bias they have will be blatantly shown in their product (or in the promotion of their products through the curriculum). This is like if Nike developed a physical education curriculum and took the stance that their shoes were the heart and soul (no pun intended) of all physical activity.

  2. Parts of it look very like the ECDL (which I'm not overly impressed with). It also looks like there is a strong emphasis on systems (aka Windows operating systems!) and business applications (aka Microsoft Office). It may be that the "Computer Security and Privacy" and the "Digital Lifestyles" courses are more interesting but it is difficult to say for sure as the course outline you can view on the web is very light on detail. For example, Information literacy ideas might be there in the Computer Security and Privacy course, but it is hard to tell from the outline. In theory I should be able to look at the course outline (in more detail?) in Word format… but what I actually get is the opportunity to download an exe file – not much use on a Mac. I tried launching the online assessment – but it doesn't work with Firefox on a Mac. I could go to a Windoze machine and investigate this a bit further… but it has to be said I'm not inspired to try.

    Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of social networking/Web 2.0/Read-Write web stuff. Also, the Digital Lifestyles course seems big on "Explain", "Describe" and "Identify" but lack any mention of "Create"!

    We are currently looking at the Digital Cre8tor course. Do you have any experience/thoughts on that course?

  3. Doug,

    It seems like most digital lit curricula are simply platforms to push product – even the well-known Intel Teach to the Future focuses on MS tools at the expense of others.

    We do some simple, two day trainings that we’ve titled Digital Literacy and started with the following definition:

    β€œThe ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information.”

    It’s a definition that is in a lot of places but it’s one that made sense to us. And because we’re working with teachers, not students, it’s one that they can use to help think about ways to integrate tech into their instruction.

    We have also shortened it a bit so teachers have a simple walkaway:


    Thanks for the insight!


  4. You already have 3 “puffers of righteous indignation” so let me offer this for variety: caveat emptor. It says Microsoft right up there at the top of the page. Anyone who thinks that a for-profit company is going to sink several hundred man-hours developing something that may not help sell more product (either directly or indirectly, in the short- or long-term) needs their head examined. Especially, as this curriculum “is … available at no cost.”

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