Trading a Tweet for Your GPA: Nelly Elzayat on Using Digital Literacy to Enhance Adolescent Literacy
Today, we pass the digital pen over to our Literacy Research and Education Outreach Resident, Nelly Elzayat. Currently based in Cambridge, MA and a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Nelly is studying and working extensively in the realm of international education. In today’s post, Nelly shares with us her latest research on digital literacy and it’s integration into curricula both domestically and globally. You may read her report in it’s entirety by checking out Using Digital Literacy to Enhance Adolescent Literacy.
Today’s adolescent reader is engaged with digital texts that range from electronic books to websites to mobile phone texting (Larson, 2009), yet our middle school and high school classrooms do not reflect this component of adolescent life. Textbooks continue to be predominantly in print, and the main mode of communication between the teacher and the student is face-to-face interaction that occurs mostly in the classroom. Nevertheless, some educators have managed to capitalize on the predominant technological aspect of adolescents’ lives to raise student motivation levels, and in turn enhance their literacy skills.
Sheelah Sweeny (2010) describes a US literature teacher who sent her class an assignment to summarize a Shakespearian passage through a mobile text message, and required the class to respond in the same way. Another teacher required his students to post a minimum number of tweets each week. The result was a strong sense of community among members of the class.
On a more global level, organizations such as UNESCO have capitalized on the use of mobile phones in some of the world’s most remote and/or unsafe areas through programs like Mobilink-UNESCO in Pakistan, an initiative designed to increase girls’ literacy rates. After four months, the percentage of girls who achieved an A level on literacy examinations increased from 27 to 54 percent. For many reasons ranging from societal norms to security issues, these girls would usually not have the opportunity to leave their homes to go to school, let alone improve their literacy skills. Digital technology has helped them to overcome these obstacles and enhance their literacy skills.
So far, incorporating digital literacy components into school curricula has been dealt with on a case-by-case basis and is mainly dependent on individual teachers and their enthusiasm for technology. In order to make these changes nationwide, policy-level changes will need to be introduced. David O’Brien and Cassandra Scharber (2008) argue that these should be predominantly policies that deal with teacher pre-service and in-service training, and professional development, that would better prepare teachers to incorporate digital literacy in their classrooms and lesson plans. In addition, education standards would have to be revisited to include digital literacy as a core component of school curricula.
Advocacy organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) are calling on teachers and policymakers to incorporate technology in the classroom. ISTE developed the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) which are defined as “the standards for evaluating the skills and knowledge educators need to teach, work, and learn in an increasingly global and digital society” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2012).
It will be challenging for educators to continue to label digital literacy as an out-of-school practice. In fact, digital literacy might indeed enhance the literacy skills of adolescents by increasing their levels of motivation, and thus improving their comprehension levels. Digital literacy plays an important role in adolescents’ lives and will continue to play a role in their future careers. If preparing students for professional life is among the goals of middle and high schools, then digital literacy will have to be incorporated in adolescent literacy school curricula.
Image Available Under CC LIcensure by mozzercork
- Nelly Elzayat