Saturday, May 14, 2011

Response to Dr. Burton's Thursday Post

I am hesitant about building off of the DigCiv digital literacy presentation and trying to expand it to other students. I have the feeling that we can be more effective in helping other students improve their digital literacy on a face-to-face, or facebook-to-facebook basis rather than trying to change the curriculum at the school itself.

I believe students are interested in learning about any tools that will help them get their homework done more quickly. ;) (For a list of such tools and tutorials, you can see the blog I created for the Digital Civ course here). As Dr. Burton argues, we're all digital natives with varying degrees of literacy, and I theorize that the best way to increase digital literacy at large for our fellow students is to be better collaborators ourselves; to spread what we've gleaned from this class throughout our social networks, rather than create a series of tutorials or pressuring the administration to adapt to the changing times. I think there is a lot of interest in gaining skills in these areas among BYU's student body already.

Dr. Burton has written about the inflexibility of the department (because it is an institution which by definition is slow to change) in adapting to digital literacy, and I am pretty sure I heard someone in the audience at the DigCiv presentation call students who adhere to these theories "Gideonites" or "Burtonites" in the same vein as Dumbledore's army ... I think you get the idea. (And I'm trying to imagine older, more established professors here at the university being encouraged to change the way they have taught their whole lives - stand and lecture from your notes - to include some of these newer ideas in education ... I just can't.)

Photo attributed to Rainer Ebert | Flickr

Like Dr. Burton has said, this experiment in literacy online is just that ... an experiment. Who's to say if the genre of blog will stick around as a valid forum for the expression of intellectual ideas? I think if it is a valid genre, it will stand the test of time and ubiquity. If the field of criticism or writing is truly going to shift mediums, it will do so like the leviathan of culture shifted from manuscript to printing press and it will do so at an ever increasing rate all on its own.

Photo attributed to Rosa Menkman | Flickr

So what is our responsibility? To make sure we are prepared for whatever shift does occur and that we share our knowledge. When we become professors ourselves, we can use these tools to teach our students, but expect the institution to change right now? Hmm. I think our discussion in class on Friday was so great because my mind started racing about how much I want some friends back home to understand the importance of literature and to read more. These friends' digital literacy is ahead of their book literacy. Making Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (my assigned book for the semester) accessible and interesting to them (and my future children - I plan to homeschool) is of paramount importance to me -- as literary critic, Helen Vendler would say, to teach them to "love what we love."  My next post will be on my myriad of ideas for how to make this book accessible to my friends and family.

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