There is no denial behind the rise of digital technologies becoming a part of everyday life for some. These digital devices, such as cell phones or computers, have become so common in everyday use that at times can become inconvenient if individuals don’t own such devices. As society continues to progress with these digital shifts, it leaves an interesting question on how these shifts are affecting individual’s lifestyles beyond just the conventional calling or texting. In Danielle DeVoss et al.’s ‘The Future of Literacy’, a chapter written in a book focusing on expanding student’s writing and literacy, provided four case studies that explore the concept of literacy consistently changing as society advances digitally and implores the need to revamp the education system to properly meet these digital demands. In this essay, I will explore the contents within ‘The Future of Literacy’ as well as provide personal and peer digital experiences to show how it affects both classrooms and daily life experiences.
In Danielle DeVoss et al.’s, English professors, ‘The Future of Literacy’ begins with proposing literacy practices are beginning to change with the rise of digital environments. In particular, suggesting educators are not able to give their full support and truly challenge the new digital literacy skills students are learning on their own time. DeVoss et al. researches this argument through conducting four case studies that range from two different generations. Although having two different generations, a pattern DeVoss et al. found between all four cases was the lack of support educators could provide to promote student’s newfound digital skills, causing the case study participants to develop such skills during personal time. Leading to DeVoss et al. calling for educators to “change their attitudes about literacy in general, and they will need additional technology resources so that they can work more closely with students to learn about the new, self-sponsored media literacies these youngers are developing and practicing online” (209). In making this comment, DeVoss et al. argues that educators need to not only be open to the idea of incorporating digital environments but also get proper equipment to effectively develop students’ digital skills. Essentially putting all the focus and responsibility on literacy educators to educate and challenge students’ digital capabilities. Although I agree with DeVoss et al. up to a point, I found myself still considering other factors outside of classroom settings that could also play role in allowing students to easily understand the digital world. For example, all participants in the four case studies had previous experiences with digital environments in day to day lives. Therefore, already developed a skill beforehand and easily transitioned into society’s demand for these digital skills. However, if they were to include a case study where the participant that didn’t have access to digital devices beforehand and found it difficult to learn basic digital skills. Would the problem be the lack of support from educators or lack of accessibility to practice on their own?
When conducting my own research through personal experience, I found the problem was actually both. In an attempt to learn a new digital skill, I decided to learn 3D printing at MakerSpace located near my college campus. During this visit, an instructor who specialized in 3D printing gave us a quick run-down on the terms we’ll need to know, introduced the materials we’ll be using, and demonstrated how to use the 3D printer to get the final product. Once we became aware of what the instructor expected of us by the end of the session, it was now time to physically recreate what we learned on our own. First, we were instructed to follow a written step by step process on how to acquire a 3D model through downloading files and navigating through software. Next, we transferred the model to a 3D printer in a removable drive and navigated controls on the 3D printer to begin the print process. Once the model was finished, post processing consisted of improving the appearance of the printed model.
Moraski’s case in DeVoss et al.’s ‘The Future of Literacy’ compared to my experiences in MakerSpace was switched in roles. In Moraski’s case, she had already established the basic digital literacy skills needed in the classrooms like using PowerPoints. Therefore, when she sought out and practiced more advanced digital skills on her own time, she found the non-digitally exposed instructor wasn’t able to challenge the new skills she had learned beforehand. In my case, because this session was designed specifically to learn 3D printing, a digital skill I’ve never learned before, the trained instructor was able to challenge a new digital literacy skill for me because of their knowledge on 3D printing. However, interestingly I noticed even though I was able to complete the 3D printing process at the time, afterwards I forgot the majority of what I learned. The lack of having enough time to remember the steps until it becomes second nature is what I was missing compared to Moraski. I lacked having accessibly to consistently practice using the 3D printer, therefore in the end didn’t fully learn a new digital skill even though a trained instructor was present.
In addition, October 24, 2019, I conducted an interview at Houston Community College on Batiste, a fellow classmate, who also participated in the MakerSpace activities but instead chose to do laser cutting. When ask if they were able to connect this activity back to anything in their own digital experiences, Batiste responded with “I don’t know how that’s going to relate to anything in my life”. Batiste continues appreciating the opportunity and had an enjoyable time however couldn’t relate the experience back to themselves. I found this interesting as it brought a new factor I hadn’t considered. As established before, due to my lack of accessibility I wasn’t able to remember the new skills. Fortunately, the MakerSpace offers free access to their technologies to members who went through training. This means I’m able to rely on trained instructors to support me and have access to practice anytime I’d like. However, concluded through my peer interview it’s not just about having trained educators and prior accessibility. The relevancy and interest of the digital skill is a driving factor on building our digital literacy skills. This can be seen through all four cases studies as each participant became introduced to digital environments from the games on their laptop or the messaging apps on their phones.
As our technology continues to advance every day, it’s important to understand the importance of digital literacy. As the technology grows, the skills needed to understand will expand as well. In DeVoss et al.’s article ‘The Future of Literacy’ provided valid points on the impact digital literacy skills it has on our lives and how it continues to grow. Some of case studies provided were conducted during a time where digital literacy was just beginning so issues of untrained educators were relevant at the time. Now in 2019, it’s not just about having educators that support and properly adapt to new digital skills. It’s about having enough resources for the teachers and students, to be able to access such technologies, and incorporate them into our lives. Therefore, digital skills developed through educators and personal experiences would make it easier to adapt in future digital environments.
- DeVoss, Danielle, et al. “The Future of Literacy”. Writing about Writing: A College Reader, edited by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs, Bedford/St. Martins, 2011, pp. 486-513.
- Batiste, Karla. Personal interview. 24 October 2019.