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Buddha knows best, or why ‘digital literacy’ is so hard to pin down.

The more you try to pin down a concept, the more slippery it becomes. I’ve been collecting definitions of various terms relating to the topic of my thesis (‘Digital Literacies‘) on my wiki and have found almost as many definitions as there are authors. In fact, I’m considering beginning my thesis with this quotation from Buddha himself:

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. (Buddha)

Why is it, for example, that whilst everyone seems to know and understand what it means by good old-fashioned ‘literacy’, there is such confusion in the digital domain? Conceptions and definitions of ‘literacy’ in this regard range from the overly-simplistic:

[Digital literacy is] the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers. (Gilster, 1997)

(what about iPods? TVs?), to the laughably complex:

Information literacy is not a fixed or static phenomenon; rather, it is a self-renewing panoply of capacities using critical thinking, metacognitive strategies, and, perhaps most important, creative abilities, dispositions, and native talents to foster self-motivation, to construct new knowledge, to build up expertise, and to acquire wisdom. (Center for Intellectual Property in the Digital Environment, 2005)

The trouble is that all the definitions I’ve come across capture something of the essence of the nebulous concept that is ‘digital literacy’. Perhaps the problem lies with the fact that we conceive standard literacy as being a state that is achieved, rather than an ongoing process? If this were the case, then it would be easier to define digital literacy as being something akin to the ability communicate effectively using contemporary digital tools. But even that is a bit wishy-washy. Hmmm, more work needed methinks… :-p

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10 ‘Home Truths’ about Schooling and Education

I was frustrated last night as dougbelshaw.com wasn’t working and I couldn’t post the following. These came to me at various points yesterday and kind of melded themselves into a blog post.

So here’s what’s on my mind:

 

 

  1. For there to be ‘good’ parents there must be ‘bad’ parents. The same is true of teachers.
  2. It is almost impossible to effect a fundamental change in worldview in an individual whom you see as part of a class of ~30 for less than an hour per week.
  3. To learn how to ride a bicycle you have to take the stabilisers off at some point. In the same way, Internet safety cannot be taught effectively in an artificially closed, filtered, environment.
  4. More content ? more achievement.
  5. Being good at passing examinations does not mean an individual will be of benefit of society or ‘flourish’ (in an Aristotelian sense)
  6. Technology often serves to magnify talents and, moreover, weaknesses in pedagogy.
  7. If some pilots knew the same about flying as some teachers know about ‘real’ teaching, the aircraft would never get to its destination.
  8. It may be a cliché to cite time-motion studies that show that the majority of time in school, children are waiting for something to happen. This does not mean, however, that the situation has been rectified.
  9. If the school is a business, then each department should know how the others fit into corporate aims and philosophies. If it is not, and is child-centred, it needs to have a holistic approach. Either way, most schools need to improve communication between subject areas.
  10. One of the chief functions of schools in the 21st century is to babysit children for ever-increasing periods of time (think: extended schools).
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