The term “digital literacy” is freely tossed around in educational circles at the moment, and there is an assumption that its meaning is abundantly clear – it’s the ability to use computers and watch films and switch on an iPod and upload a video to YouTube and things – isn’t it? Well, not really, I don’t think. In Proust and the Squid, Professor Maryanne Wolf quotes the contemporary scholar John Mc Eneaney who contends that,
“….the dynamic agency of online literacy challenges the traditional roles of reader and author, as well as the authority of the text. Such reading requires new cognitive skills that neither Socrates nor modern educators totally understand. We are only at the beginning of analysing the cognitive implications of using, for instance, the browser “back” button, URL syntax, “cookies”, and “pedagogical tags” for enhancing comprehension and memory.”
In other words, while as language and literacy teachers we have always felt uncomfortable about separating listening and talking, preferring to think of them as part and parcel of the same interactive process, it may be that moving into the age of the internet, and particularly with the advent of Web 2.0, we will have to think of reading and writing, not as two discrete activities, one passive and the other active, but as two elements of the same creative process. Not only that, but the development of reading itself takes on a whole new, non-linear meaning, as the learner moves back and forth through the text, flicking from one text to another making connections, or interacts with several texts simultaneously.
This amazing video from Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University, captures in 5 minutes the full implications of Web 2.0 for learning and teaching in general, and the way in which we are now learning to read in particular.