Digital Literacy is More Than Having the Knowledge of How to Use a Computer

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]This short video  clip is from a public forum hosted by The United Negro College Fund and the MacArthur Foundation on digital media and learning in multicultural contexts in March at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin.

“Digital literacy is more than having the knowledge of how to use a computer, what your software program does, what function or understanding how the hardware of your computer works. Digital literacy is also about using that knowledge to actually facilitate the learning process.” –  Clarissa Myrick-Harris, director of the UNCF’s Curriculum and Faculty Enhancement Program.

“Any narrative that you tell, whether it’s you texting a friend, whether it’s you creating a social media environment, a Google map or a Facebook page or whatever, all of that depends on an effective use of language,“ –  J. Michael Hart, assistant professor of English and communications at Huston-Tillotson.

From the first forum To Be Young Digital and Black

“The access gap hasn’t been solved entirely, but a significant portion of it has been addressed,” Watkins said in an interview. “It’s not about those without technology, but increasingly what scholars like Henry Jenkins and others call the ‘participation gap.’”

“This is not necessarily one that people saw coming,” Watkins said. “Young blacks and Latinos are migrating decisively towards mobile media, using the phone as their main access point or gateway to the Internet.”

“There is always this impression that black and Latino youth, particularly those who live in deprivation and attend less-high performing schools, have a lag in their use of technology and their engagement with it,” Watkins says. “But, in some ways, they are even more assertive in their desire to be part of the tech world. Young African Americans are the early adopters of the mobile web.”

Visit Spotlight ( for more interviews from the forum.

International Briefing on the U.S. National Broadband Plan

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]On March 26th the FCC gave the International Briefing on the U.S. National Broadband Plan it include a section on Adoption:

Launch a three-part National Digital Literacy ProgramAdoption

1.Create a Digital Literacy Corps-

  • Goal: Put Corps members into communities to help users get online and complete basic skills education
  • Also serves as workforce development/job skills platform
  • New appropriation to NTIA, to collaborate with CNCS (AmeriCorps,SeniorCorps) to design, fund and administer Corp

2. Increase capacity and training in libraries and community centers to provide digital literacy support

  • Goal: Increase infrastructure and capability of local partner sites to become the “where”–the locations for skills training and e-govapps support
  • New appropriation to IMLS, and guidelines created with OMB/IMLS

3.Create an Online Skills Portal

  • Goal: Give every American access to free, age-and language-appropriate content to impart digital skills
  • Created by collaboration among FTC, FCC, Department of Education, NTIA and others (along lines of, but in partnership with private and non-profit sector who develop such content
  • New appropriation to support initial content development, outreach and evaluation

Under Universal recommendations:

Ensuring that schools and libraries have access to affordable broadband

  • Increase flexibility and bandwidth
  • Remove barriers to shared use with other community institutions
  • Improve program efficiency
  • Foster innovation with pilot programs, such as funding for wireless connectivity for devices off campus

The Plan cites the CyberNavigators from the the Chicago Public Library.  The CyberNavigators offer small group classes and one-on-one sessions at 42 library locations throughout the city. One-on-one sessions are by appointment only and may last up to one hour.

You can read more about the Digital Literacy Corps

Teens and the Internet: The Future of Digital Diversity

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently posted the slides from a presentation given by Kristen Purcell called Teens and the Internet: The Future of Digital Diversity.

The presentation provides many useful statistics about current use patterns of various technology, such as Internet usage by age of user, Internet access by type (cable modem, dsl, etc), and the percentage of teens with cell phones.

Chief Executives of Netflix and CommonSenseMedia Comment On the Digital Divide

[tweetmeme source=”librarianbyday” only_single=false]

This New York Times piece Will the Digital Divide Close by Itself? From the Google’s Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age provides a look at and arguments about the digital divide from two different perspectives.

From Jim Steyer, chief executive of CommonSense Media and co-sponsor of the event

“every kid needs to be digitally literate by the 8th grade” and called for a major public education campaign to make that happen. He argued that technology and learning are synonymous and that schools, parents, and kids must get up to speed in the next five years.

On the other hand:

Reed Hastings, the founder and chief executive of Netflix, contradicted him directly, saying it would take well more than five years to bridge the divide.

Mr. Hastings, an avid education philanthropist and proponent of school reforms, argued that at the advent of any new technology — television, cars, even rockets — people get riled up and wring their hands over a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.

He said that gaps narrow naturally as the market evolves and prices drop, enabling more people to bring new technology into the home and schools.

Most interestingly:

“We need to shift our expectations,” Mr. Hastings said. “This is a natural part of the evolution of technology.”

If I understand this correctly he is saying that the digital divide is part of an evolutionary process where technology and access to technology will be ubiquitous. I’m not sure I make the connection.

Most importantly:

Failed school reform might point to the need for more efforts outside of the classroom.

This is where libraries need to step in. We need to help students close the digital divide because what that means, what were talking about is the same thing as transliteracy. Becoming transliterate closes the digital divide. If schools can’t or wont, libraries need to step forward. We’ve done it for years with literacy, we need to do it now with transliteracy.

Originally blogged at Commentary On the Digital Divide from the Chief Executives of Netflix & CommonSenseMedia | Librarian by Day.

%d bloggers like this: