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Zoe B. Corwin

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Digital Literacy—The New Frontier

technologyMy children attend a no-tech school. It’s no-tech not because of an articulated philosophy shunning all things digital, but rather because it’s a charter school and they don’t have the funds to provide computers in the classrooms. I actually love the “old-school” student-centered, constructivist approach they have been exposed to. The teachers are so creative and the projects students engage with are tactile, collaborative, and creative. Yet I do sometimes wonder if they should be learning how to learn/research/play with technology at school. I’m not terribly concerned for my duo since they have access to plenty of gadgets at home—and we guide them as they more frequently are assigned online homework and research. I also recognize that their digital learning is predominately organic and self-initiated so (thankfully) they guide me as much as I guide them. But as Stefani Relles’s post yesterday underlines, students are now expected to be digitally literate from pre-K throughout their schooling and beyond.

What are the ramifications for students whose parents can’t afford the most relevant digital tools—or who don’t know how to foster digital literacy? What happens if schools don’t have computers in classrooms—or if they do but teachers aren’t trained to use them in effective ways? How are those students affected? How do we ensure that all students have the opportunity to develop skills that will behoove them in our rapidly changing world?

A few weeks ago, LAUSD announced the first phase of a $500 million bond-funded initiative to equip all students with computing devices by 2014. In the first year, the district will spend $50 million to provide students at 47 schools with access to tablet devices and train teachers how to use them. It’s clear that the district recognizes the value of cultivating digital literacies—but what’s not clear is how well we (in a global sense) understand what computers and tablets can and cannot do. I am very interested in seeing how the program unfolds over the coming months. I am also interested in hearing your thoughts on what you think works (or doesn’t) in online/digital learning—at any level in the educational spectrum.

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