Digital Literate Lives

I have been thinking a lot about digital literacy lately. Along with a group of teachers in my district, I am participating in a book club reading Troy Hicks’ Crafting Digital Literacy. Have you read his work? If not, you should. He has also written a book called The Digital Writing Workshop. Check him out here.

My, how times have changed.

When I was a little girl, I went to the library weekly with my mom to check out books. I could choose ten and keep them for three weeks. I remember loving a series of biographies on different famous people (Annie, Get Your Gun was one-I pretended to be Annie Oakley in my log cabin in the backyard). I also read Pippi Longstocking, and, as I got older, books by Judy Blume and the Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews. I remember putting my name on hold lists to wait for books I really wanted to read.

The only memory I have of writing as an elementary student was when I was in fourth grade. We had to write a one-page report on every single President of the United States. Every Sunday afternoon during that school year, I sat at our dining room table with my pencil and notebook paper and diligently copied from the encyclopedia in cursive to accomplish my reports.

I was a bit more creative in middle school-but only at home, not at school. I started a journal in which I wrote my own poetry and sometimes copied the lyrics from some of my favorite songs (“Major Tom” by David Bowie was one). I also clipped pictures from interesting magazines and taped them into the journal. Isabella Rossellini and Marilyn Monroe intrigued me so I included a lot of images of them.

Now, my daughter reads books on her iPad. She has a kindle app and we purchase them from Amazon and they arrive instantaneously. She does have to ask me before she buys, but gratification is quick. Lately she loves Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and the digital images look just as cool digitally as they do on paper.

Her writing at school is much more narrative in nature. She brought home her journal from second grade and the entire book was a lengthy chapter novel she had created with, I think, much inspiration from friends. Although her piece was on paper and written with a pencil, it had very little in common with my presidential reports.

If she is curious about a topic, she doesn’t go to the encyclopedia. She quickly turns to Google on her iPad to see about finding answers. We often have conversations about how to find reliable internet sources in order to get the most timely and accurate answers.

Her literacy experiences are very different from mine. And, I am sure there are many children whose literate life is much more technologically oriented than even my daughter’s life. For example, I just finished reading an inspiring blog post from a teacher about how to help students keep digital portfolios of their work.

Literacy is changing rapidly for both ourselves and our students-what are some ways we can keep up?