How do we become critical of media? Through the lessons from our teachers and educators. The people who are the lifeblood to the next generation of informed online participants should be armed with digital literacies, outlined in The Personal (Computer) is Political, the research report released last week for The Nominet Trust. In the report, I propose several recommendations for taking those important steps in that direction.
Educators are on the front line of web consumption, and have lots of practice in thinking critically about what they bring into the classroom. Web services should be no exception.
- Do not assume your students have any special knowledge. The ‘digital native’ requires digital literacy as much as you do, and in many ways more. That categorisation is based on fearlessness around technology rather than any genuine fluency.
- Don’t put your kids into technological systems you don’t understand just because it’s popular and everyone is using it. Think carefully about the underlying social assumptions the software is making: what are its economic principles? Its political agenda? How does it interpret social boundaries? Consider what its presence in the classroom says to learners about what should be valued.
- Be aware of the critical differences between real-world, online and digital identities, both in their technical and social constructions. All people (especially the young) are made of multiple, fluid identities and these shouldn’t be confused. Indeed, encourage the use of multiple identities as a way to empower your students in their psychosocial development.
- Consider that there are two forms of digital education: the temporarily relevant skills around a specific application and the permanent lifeskill of critically assessing the assumptions made by a piece of software.