Theoretical Perspectives

In 1985 Jonathan Anderson wrote:

“Microcomputers are beginning to be a regular part of most schools… and imaginative teachers are finding a multitude of ways in which these new resources can promote learning… Microcomputers can be powerful allies. For a start, they are highly motivating. More importantly, almost any interaction with microcomputers involves reading and writing of some kind” (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2007, p. 34).

How effectively have today’s educators embraced this prophetic statement? The need for ICT skills has been perceived since the 1960’s, yet it appears that an emerging gap exists between the experiences and values of student to educator generations. Seymour Papert contends that “children around the globe have entered an enduring and passionate love affair with the computer” (Thorpe, n.d.).

It may be assumed then, that many children in our schools are ‘digitally literate’ (a term popularized by Paul Gilster). It must be noted though, that a ‘digital divide’ exists not only between developed and developing countries, but also within our communities. Therefore, it is essential to consider those students who have not had the privilege of computer access. ICTs are essential tools in today’s society and digitally enabled communities have become a normal way of life. For today’s students to participate fully in their future, it is essential that all students’ become digitally literate - having the technical skills to adequately operate and navigate computers.

But what about the contended ‘love affair’? Should not educators capitalize on this phenomenon? Are not educators asking themselves ‘how does my learner best learn?’ Students are craving an education that is relevant, meaningful and engaging. Research indicates that “new and emerging technologies can highly motivate students to read and write” (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2007, p. 319). Digital literacies, such as blogging, fan fiction, remix and gaming provides students with opportunities to learn collaboratively and be participants within a digital community, bridging the global divide, igniting the imagination and promoting student-centered learning. These examples embody Wenger’s phenomenon of ‘horizontalization’, establishing knowledge sharing and knowledge creating networks. Furthermore, these collaborative learning environments provide learning that is both constructive and socially situated – as pointed out by Chris Fowler and Terry Mayes, pioneers of learning theories within digital literacies (Martin & Madigan, 2006).

Literacy is no longer a static construct, but is a rapid and continuous process of change. Digital literacy is seen as a life skill, and therefore is essential for today’s classrooms to embrace, as educators seek to prepare their students in becoming life long learners.

Much more could be discussed regarding the theoretical perspectives of Digital Literacies, but as time constrains us - A link within our wiki will be provided to access The Handbook of research on new literacies, edited by leading researchers in the field: Julie Coiro, Michelle Knobel, Colin Lankshear and Donald J. Leu, which provides further readings regarding the major issues, theoretical perspectives, and interdisciplinary research on digital literacies.

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