Teaching Digital and Media Literacy as Cross-Cultural Communication

Teaching Digital and Media Literacy as Cross-Cultural Communication

Mary Catherine Boehmer (English Language Fellow Program, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3082-4.ch015
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As technology increasingly becomes a part of our day-to-day lives in the United States and throughout the globe, there is a greater push for students to develop the digital and media literacy skills necessary for the twenty-first century. In the United States, students learning these skills often come from a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The diversity of the U.S. is one of its greatest strengths, but with this diversity come cultural differences in access to technology and how it is used across different cultural contexts. This chapter analyzes the constructs of digital and media literacy, the ways in which culture can be defined and how that can affect the intersectional identities performed in the social and participatory world of Web 2.0. It also examines access to technology and how technology is used for communication and accessing information in Russia, Germany, and Azerbaijan, and how approaching digital and media literacy through the lens of cross-cultural communication can help teachers to better meet the needs of learners from diverse backgrounds.
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Digital literacy and media literacy, and digital literacy in particular, have recently become a major area of focus in education. Much emphasis is placed on working with students to become both digitally and media literate, and many teaching positions list as a requirement that instructors have a background in technology. Yet, in educational settings, there is a tendency to focus on the development of discrete skills, providing physical access to technology in a given educational institution (e.g. SMART Boards, Wi-Fi networks, computer labs, laptop carts, and 1:1 iPad programs) and using learning management systems (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle) in the classroom. Emphasis is often placed on the use of technology in the classroom rather than on teaching students the various ways to access information, communicate, and produce content, and in what contexts a given format or medium is appropriate. Developing digital literacies can often take the form of learning to use given programs or devices rather than focusing on conceptual dimension of use (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008).

Compounding this is a lack of consensus on what digital literacy is. Since Gilster’s (1997) seminal Digital Literacy, there has been a seemingly endless revision to the definition due to constantly evolving technology which often outpaces any discussion of what digital literacy actually entails. In it, Gilster described digital literacy as the mastery of a set of core competencies necessary to access, understand, and use information from a variety of formats using a network of computers. Gilster noted that shifting in technology meant that digital literacy was ultimately the ability to remain aware of these shifts and to find ways to access information and communicate about issues and seek help from the network of people also connected to these computer networks.

Later, Bawden (2001) expanded on this broad definition of digital literacy and attempted to define literacy in terms of specific skills. Of these, he included the ability to accumulate information from diverse and reliable sources; analyze and evaluate the validity of retrieved information; understand content in with non-sequential and incomplete information; interact with both digital tools and more traditional tools; use networks of people to share ideas and access missing information; and publishing, communicating, and accessing information.

More recently, Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010) viewed digital literacy through the lens of 21st century skills, and listed three areas of skills: information, media, and technology; learning and innovation skills; and life and career skills. As a precursor to these skills, information literacy, media literacy, and information communicative technologies must first be achieved. Additional skills within these skill sets include the what was termed the “Four Cs of 21st century learning: creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration skills as part of learning and innovation skills, and the ability to adapt, lead, be proactive, and communicate effectively fall under the umbrella of career skills. Aviram & Eshet-Alkalai (2010) approached digital literacy as focused on discrete and practical skills. They included photo-visual literacy, the ability to analyze visual representations of information; reproduction literacy, the ability to use technology to create a piece of work using information accessed digitally; branching literacy, the ability to search for and access information in a non-linear way; information literacy, the ability to access, evaluate, and assess both digital and traditional information; and socio-emotional literacy, or connecting with others online and navigating those interactions.

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