A. Michelini

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Literacy in the Digital Age

What sort of literacy is need in the digital age?

Literacy is needed in all its forms in today’s digital age. The only difference between the digital age and any other age is in the modes of technology, which continue to change and develop with time. For example, paper used to be the newest technology 2,000 years ago thereby resulting in print literacy. Today, computer literacy provides a similar function as paper (i. e. communication practices) but through different modalities than paper and at a faster rate. This does not change the fact that literacy is needed both in print and digitally and will continue to be needed in new ways as various new forms of literacy develop. So, perhaps it would be more accurate it say that an open flexibility is needed in adopting new literacies practices in the digital age and beyond.

What are the characteristics of a technologically literate person?

Someone who can maneuver and manipulate different technological modalities.

How do people’s technological practices shape their literacy?

The more familiar one is with a literacy practice, the more fluent they will become. In other words, practice makes perfect. If someone does not have access to certain technologies, this will inhibit their fluency. Additionally, technologies that are similar will foster trans-technological fluency despite functioning as different modalities.

How can we best teach technological literacy?

We can best teach it by promoting interaction with technology, providing access to various new technologies in the classroom, and completing activities which engage students in technology and foster fluency. Additionally beneficial would be activities that allow students to work together so that those on various levels of fluency can help scaffold and bridge the gap created by home technological literacies.

What are the greatest problems that technology creates?

The greatest problems technology creates are human ones. We as humans have potential for great good and great evil and therefore anything we create can be manipulated the same way. Technology in and of itself should not be villianized or idealized.

What are the greatest benefits of technology?

Technology promotes interaction, connection, and communication, all of which have inherently positive potential. The more we can globally work together, the more we can (hopefully) move towards a common good.

Group Literacy Definitions

 

What is literacy?

The ability to communicate and perceive communication often but not limited to the channels of reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

What is illiteracy?

Partial illiteracy is being unable to perform in one or more channels of literacy. Therefore, we think that total illiteracy would occur only in extreme circumstances such as that of individuals lacking all brain function.

What are the characteristics of a literate person?

Maneuverability within the channels of literacy.

 

Literacy Narrative

My earliest memories of reading are like snapshots. I don’t remember the first books I read or figuring out letters. I believe that most of my memories start when I began to attend school in second grade, but I know that I was reading for about 3-4 years before then, having been homeschooled by my mom who was and is a voracious reader. I do know that all of my snapshots are full of sunshine – reading has always held positive associations for me. From my mom and I in fits of laughter over a series of books I can no longer remember the name of (and neither can she) to my dad explaining to me the curved swords of Narnia as he read to me at night. I remember asking question after question about the books in order to try and keep him there just a little bit longer. Having grown up religious, I remember the plethora of Bible stories. Cartoon stories of Moses or Jesus read by our babysitter’s voice as she creatively manipulated their voices into contortions that would make any story hilarious. I remember bringing books to church and making rhymes for my brother about it: Erch, Erch, go to church, don’t forget your books Erch! I remember being allowed to read before naptime and the one time I was punished by not being able to read. There were so many trips to the library I’m sure we must’ve gone two or three times a week. They had a Secret Garden section I loved to read in with benches and wooden flowers. All of my favorite book and movie characters also loved to read: Belle, Rigoletto, some I can no longer remember the name of. I even had two “Abigail” books: Abigail’s Alphabet and The Quilt Story which were probably my earliest favorites.

The Quilt Story

When I was 8, I had a memorization project for school that resulted in my dad and me memorizing Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” a defining moment for me poetry wise and literacy wise. I learned that I loved poetry, loved memorization, and that the act of memorization was both meditative and a bonding experience with my father. After that, I got hooked on Shel Silverstein and memorized “Messy Room,” “The Fanciest Dive” and a handful of others. I remember being asked to perform them for adults at parties.

"Messy Room"

Like my parents, and I’m sure because of them, I read voraciously through my childhood, spending my summers completing book challenges, reading inside and outside, carrying books with me places always. I read the Little House on the Prairie series and the series about both the mother and daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But my favorite (older) childhood book that I must have read at least 4 times between 4-5th grade was called Just Like Always and was about two best friends. I fantasied about having a friend like that.

Just Like Always

Writing seemed a natural evolution from my love of reading. I remember finding writing assignments I’d done for school in the trash because my mom simply couldn’t keep them all. I was, of course, devastated, but now completely understand! I started journaling in 4th grade in a blue, green, pink, and purple journal with flowers on the front. It was a mix of secrets, boy crushes, and ballerina drawings I can still see in my memory. When I was older and awkward, I threw it out because I was embarrassed someone would find it. I remember the first book I ever tried to write. It was called Bookworm and was supposed to be a horror book about a girl who gets eaten by the worms who grow out of the books she’s obsessed with. I was in 5th grade then and had also started writing my own poetry that same year. My first successful poem was called “I Can” and won me entrance into a junior writer’s conference that influenced the trajectory of my life forever. It was how I knew I had found what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

24 Hours Tech Free

Going tech free for a full 24 hours brought several things to light that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed, most of which revolved around the primary and most ceremonial aspect of my technology use – my cell phone.

The first is that I could identify with people who say their phone is like an appendage. It certainly is for me. I could not shake the feeling that I was missing something, some ghostly limb that flinched and itched but was impossible to scratch. For the first few hours, this awareness was a mix of relief and vulnerability. The relief stemmed from a place of habitual baseline anxiety, where I worry about butt dialing, texting back, and generally being available to people. Miraculously, this undercurrent of responsibility I did not even know was a constant had vanished, effecting a series of random giant exhales that initial hour. It was also reminiscent of mindfulness practices I’ve attempted in the past. I felt uncannily present, aware, grounded in the here and now. Strangely, this generated in me a sort of “check point” for things I had fasted from or done as mindfulness exercises in the past. For example, because I’ve previously done a mirror fast (where one abstains from looking in mirrors in order to focus less on outward appearance) or junk food fasts, I found my internal voice halting me – wait, am I allowed to do this? before glancing in the mirror or indulging. To my own wonder and amusement, this mental gate keeper ensured I was kept in check for the duration of my abstinence from technology.

On the flip side, not having my phone also caused me to feel very exposed. I knew that if I forgot my keys, got locked out of my building, or had any kind of emergency, it would take me longer to find help. These thoughts were not at all comforting and I was exceedingly grateful that my cohort planned several meeting places in order to ensure that one could seek out others should they choose or need to do so at anytime. This vulnerability was coupled with a sense of potentially profound loneliness which thrust me towards social situations I normally would not have sought out. As it turns out, my introvertedness is often simply a need to spend time with people who are not physically available. I regularly seek out time alone with my phone or other technological devices which connect me to those who love and know me best. The idea of sitting at home without any way of contacting anyone sounded atrocious, especially at night, and so I socialized with those physically near me until I was literally ready to fall asleep. While this was of comfort, spending time with people who I am not as close to as my family or best friends back home left me feeling rather sad and I was on the verge of tears at one point, missing not so much the appendage of my phone, but my usual community of support and love. Not that I am always in touch with them, but typically I talk to them on Thursdays, at the end of the week, which is when this tech free experiment commenced.

By the next day, my relief, sadness, and vulnerability had all turned to annoyance. I had a running list in my head of things to check by the time I could use my phone again: work email, texts I hadn’t received a response from, a list of things I needed from Walmart (partially already written on my phone). Most of all, I missed music, something I listen to almost constantly in the background of my everyday activities. I went for a run with a friend, which offered some reprieve to my now sorely missed appendage(s), as almost nothing about running was different sans technology. I also began to write in depth about this experience, which I absolutely loved. As an avid writer, I journal every week and often find it easiest to express my thoughts in some kind of text. Rarely is this without the use of technology, but writing with pen and paper felt like the familiar escape I craved and fulfilled me. It was by far the best part of this experience.

Actually, I take that back. While that was the best part of my individual experience, doing this as a group with my amazing cohort members was the icing on the cake. It enriched our relationships, bonded us, made me feel connected when I otherwise would have felt so alone, and really showed me how much we are in this together, not just with this assignment, but in every assignment, as a working whole.

Time Travel & Technology

By reflecting on two movie clips adapted from H. G. Wells’ book The Time Machine, it becomes clear that our relationship with technology has changed drastically. In the 1960 version of the film directed by George Pal, several things are immediately apparent. Within the first fifteen minutes of film, there are no active women spoken of or mentioned, outside of the older lady who has made the men dinner. The only comments are on her usefulness of bringing mail (when something is said to the effect of “well woman, go on!”) and compliments on the cooking. This is important because it sheds light on the ideology that technology is assumed to be exclusively masculine. Not only does George invite just a few close male friends, but it is assumed that Mrs. Watchett would be excluded from the technological festivities. Additionally, there is an underlying mistrust felt by all characters except for George in relation to the new technology presented (the time machine). None share his excitement, and Anthony’s minimal support is the closest George gets to someone sharing his interest. The rest of the characters are a mix of impatience and misunderstanding. None are quite ready to accept it when the time machine disappears and they all scurry off as if nothing worth their time has actually happened at all. The celebration of the new year – consisting of people banging pots and honking horns in the street – is much more successful at capturing their attentions. These near primal noises contrast starkly with the new age sights and sounds of the time machine that George has just introduced them to. They are far more invested in staying put, despite his willingness to share his technology. Adding to this picture is the quick comment thrown at the man who has an automobile to “get a horse!” This shows how technology was perhaps viewed at the time, as something to be fearful of, resistant to, and not worth one’s time. It is by no means exciting or something to be shared, but rather, isolating. It is the “other.”

In contrast stands Simon Wells’ interpretation of The Time Machine, filmed in 2002, which shows a different attitude towards technology while capturing the same story line. Technology is still isolating and not necessarily to be shared, but we see people pressing in, concerned for Alex (the main character here). There is no shadow of fear over technology, perhaps partially because it is not revealed to other characters here, but the effect is that the audience feels the wonder of Alex’s invention without the tone of hesitancy or caution to undercut it. Additionally, it seems that Mrs. Watchit (the same woman as Mrs. Watchett in the 1960 version) has just as much of a role in Alex’s life as his concerned friend. Moreover, the entire purpose and reason for the technological invention of the time machine is a woman. This fact is clear and obvious from the beginning.

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