The Internet is this Generation’s Dominant Text
In talks and presentations I’ll make the statement that the “Internet is the dominant text” of this generation. This means that (most) individuals use the Internet as the primary text for reading, writing, socializing, and communicating. Think about the last time you were talking with friends and someone couldn’t remember a basic fact. How long did it take for someone to pull out a cell phone and search for it online? The Internet has provided for us a common text that individuals globally can use to learn, socialize, and communicate. What does it really mean when we use the Internet in our literacy-based practices? What knowledge, skills, and dispositions do we need to build in our students?
The Internet is a literacy issue, not a tech issue
As a corollary to the earlier quote about the Internet being the dominant text, I also frequently comment that the use of the Internet is a literacy issue, not a technology issue. Literacy in this case is loosely defined as the ability to read and write and extends from there. Embedded in this definition is an understanding to the many facets associated with literacy and the “lifelong extended process of gaining meaning” from a critical interpretation of text.
Initially I believed that it was important to indicate that the Internet is a literacy issue because it is the primary text of our generation, but also to instill a belief in educators that it is needed in all classrooms, all grade levels, all content areas. My belief is that educators (K-12 and higher ed) need to authentically embed these digital texts and tools in pedagogical activities.
Given recent events I believe that the informed, effective use of the Internet really is a literacy. Recently we’ve learned that governments and business are tracking and spying us online. We now understand that this belief that we can be “private” online, or obfuscate our identity is all a thinly veiled myth. We also recognize the power that the Internet as a text or tool has in empowering nations and civilizations. This is evidenced by the use of technology and social media in the Arab Spring. Because of these events I believe that now more than ever we need to view the Internet and other communication technologies as a literacy. It is the responsibility of educators to empower their students by weaving these elements into instruction. It is not responsible, ethical, or chic for an educator to explain that “I just don’t get technology”, or “I already have too much curriculum to teach.”
As freedom, expression, and identity are challenged online, we need to develop educational opportunities for students to build the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to safely grow up online. We have no idea as to what the Internet or other communication tools will become as our students grow up. We need to prepare them for any eventuality.
I have to admit that because of recent events regarding safety and spying online, I have had a crisis of conscience regarding my advocacy of the use of the Internet as we progressively work, learn, and socialize online. This is primarily because I’m urging teachers and students to build more, and interact more online…without ensuring that they’re filly informed of what they’re doing. More to the point…I’m not fully sure of the complexity of challenges that exist in online spaces. After some time reflecting I believe the best course of action is to continue to push for a more informed, thoughtful, strategic use of the Internet focusing on three tenets: educate, empower, and advocate.
This first episode of Digitally Literate will tackle these issues as we try to better understand what it means to embed literacy-based practices online. You can watch live today at 1 PM (EST) and ask questions. Please feel free to visit the TitanPad during the show to view notes and add your own materials. The Hangout-on-Air and my reflection will be posted here on this blog, and on the NLC site by the end of this week.
Image CC by wikipedia