The Digital Literacy Revolution

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
November 27, 2009


Bronwyn T. Williams’ article “‘Tomorrow will not be like today’: Literacy and identity in a world of multiliteracies” explores the beneficial effects of social technologies in terms of teaching young people about identity and literacy. Over time, the various forms of writing and communication used in society have changed significantly, particularly with the advent and subsequent exponential growth of the Internet. The rapid expansion of social networks that resulted from this technological explosion has provided today’s youth with new opportunities to portray their identities and build important literacy skills. This evolution in adolescent communication, and the social technologies responsible for this transformation, should be embraced by educational providers in order to foster a learning environment better suited to this generation’s academic needs.

The general consensus among a considerable number of parents and teachers is that adolescents are putting themselves at risk through their online communication by potentially exposing themselves to negative influences. Many of these people also believe that the Internet provides little educational value to children, and they are concerned about young people lacking social skills from using online sites in lieu of face-to-face communication. As Williams points out, the interactivity involved in online reading and writing demonstrates “how misplaced the concern is that young people sitting at their computers for hours on end are always socially isolated.” Oftentimes, adolescents are employing multiple technologies in order to socialize and in many cases educate themselves online.

Notwithstanding these parental concerns, the implementation of social networking and online communication into the daily routines of today’s young people has contributed to their proficiency with vital topics relating to their educational writings, such as audience and context. The widespread availability of information spanning an infinite range of subject matter allows adolescents to read more than preceding generations, albeit in digital form. Young people are increasingly turning to online media to build their knowledge, necessitating discussions between educators and their students regarding the “rhetorical and literary practices they have learned from reading and writing in diverse online settings,” as Williams suggests. The complex decisions that adolescents make regarding identity while they communicate online contribute to their acquisition of fundamental literacy skills, and teachers should recognize this in order to make their instruction more effective.

The literary proficiency young people develop as they utilize social technologies online can have tremendous educational applications, and this trend should be noted by educational providers in order to refine teaching styles to meet the changing needs of today’s students. Just as the arrival of the printing press brought with it new means by which writers could communicate and develop their literary aptitude, computers and the Internet offer opportunities for students to learn in innovative ways. As the usage of social technologies expands, so too does the need for embracing these online tools in the education system. Adapting instructional methods to adolescents in their acquisition of essential literacy skills will “help them understand the potential for connection and how … it reveals our hope in our common humanity.”

Word count: 498


1 Comment

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One response to “The Digital Literacy Revolution

  1. Students have a rich vocabulary; a rich language that is evolving into a cant that teachers and parents are excluded from. How can we expect to facilitate learning if we don’t take the time to learn their language? Their culture? The digital patois is the new acrolect, and teachers and parents are becoming clueless bumblers!

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