Education is an essential in the twenty first century. As many of my fellow college students know, it is extremely hard to get a job without experience or an education. So what does that mean for scholars? Or for those who want to get hired in a working position? It means finding an education that incorporates what is needed. And what is needed for jobs is getting increasingly different from the past as time goes on.
It used to be a big deal when someone could list proficient in Microsoft word or excel on his or her resume, now it is something that is implied. Companies want people working for them who are digitally literate. Becoming digital literate is not something promised to come along with earning a diploma but that might change soon.
The prestige Cornell University explains digital literacy to be this, “Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”
This means that to be digitally literate you have to be able to interpret things online or even post things online, but most importantly know how to work technology.
This is a big change from the past! Writing online is completely different than writing for other mediums. That is why a digital education is becoming a thing of importance. However this new age “bring your computers to class” idea is not presented flaw free.
There are negatives for the positives that a technology woven education can bring forth and these pros and cons can often be categorized within themes. One of those main themes is communication.
Communication is a positive because it is connecting people in ways that would never happen before, building new networks, giving access to tutors, connecting family through video instead of short broken phone calls, and even allowing students who might be too shy to talk in class add to the discussion through social media (Nel, Turkle, Rajchel).
For example in Sherry Turkle’s article “Alone Together”, She describes a situation where a young adult was able to video chat with her grandmother for an hour during the week instead of a 20 minute rushed phone call.
This kind of communication is a game changer. But it has negatives.
Turkle goes on to further say that despite being more connected with her grandmother the young woman often found herself multitasking while video chatting. The disconnection of this new communication method does provoke a lot of thoughts on how anyone utilizing this technology can remain present while having the ability to juggle tasks.
In addition some educators fear that communicating behind a screen or keyboard will lead to in class distractions and lack of focus (Nel). Now of course some students will fall to this and end up on Buzzfeed during class but there is an opportunity here for educators to open up the class to social media.
As John Pavlik says about integrating technology and social media into the classroom, “This Strategy to take advantage of many students’ natural inclination towards ubiquitous and often non-stop mobile device use. Rather than fight against the tide, so to speak, this is an approach to exploit it for educational benefit.”
That is very much what was done in a class Jen Rajchel helped with. In this class students had to write a “paper tweet” following the rules of Twitter but just write the 140-character snip-it on a piece of paper. The student wrote tweets based on some in class material and Rajchel reflected, “For the first time, everyone in class talked, and for the same length of time.” A demonstration of opening the class discussion to social media is very important, it begs educators to consider possibly using social media forms to continue the discussion or even just complement it.
But before educators can make these choices in classroom they have to learn the technology themselves. In a study done by Melanie Hundley and Teri Holbrook students studying to be teachers experimented with using multiple forms of media to create writing including a video essay.
Many of the participants in the study felt they were a student again instead of becoming the educator. There also was an overall opinion that though social media and technology is a good tool for learning it would be hard to incorporate something with writing. However the study concluded that teachers should be given an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the media before teaching it.
The confusion of educators, unsure of where to incorporate social media is not a small opinion. In a paper about social media incorporation to a university in Southern Africa multiple professors responded that they wanted to incorporate social media into their teaching but either did not know how, thought it might be too time consuming or could not find what they were looking (Nel). Despite these speed bumps many teachers did try to incorporate media anyway and were very pleased by the development of communication and academic interaction online (Nel).
Furthermore, media in the classroom often presents itself as a coin, there is a heads and there is tails. More often than not gambling with media has gotten educators a positive response and it has gotten students skills in digital literacy that they will need now and in the future.
I find myself in the same heads or tails situation with my own education and digital integration. My writing for digital environments class is the first class I have taken that has addresses my own digital literacy.
It has been great.
I find myself reading, writing, and acting online differently than I did before I took this class. Of course prior to the course I knew how to start a blog, how to tweet, and had multiple social media accounts but I felt all of that was completely separate from my education a college.
Since I’ve started this class I am able to use websites other than just scholarly journals and identify if they are trustworthy or not. I can also write better online and read blogs easier since now I can relate them to things I am learning.
Of course there are things I don’t like, for example learning how to write this web essay was a challenge. It is completely new style of writing for students who have had the formal essay format preached to them since the 7th grade.
I also find it a bit harder to go from reading web articles to scholarly papers that are not written to draw readers in. This is more of a personal downfall rather than something I would blame on having digital media in my class.
The only other negative thing about have such a digital classroom is that I tend not to take notes as much. But that is a positive hidden within a negative because frequently I am so caught up in the conversation happening in front of me I don’t want to take notes for the sake of not missing a part of the class discussion. This is where I think having an online conversation to complement the class talk would be super helpful and also just open the discussion further.
I think course like the one I am in, about writing in digital environments, are important because I thought I knew all I needed to know about writing and reading online and using technology in my education. Then I took this course and now I am learning something new everyday.
The things I am learning are super important too because I already know I am going to use them in future courses I may take and future employment opportunities.
Digital media is part of almost every company, organization and so forth. Even Mr. Clean has a Facebook and I bet the person who runs that page had no idea they would end up having to write Facebook posts for a cartoon man who makes cleaning products.
In a time where digital literacy and education are still trying to figure out their footing and how they can mix together to provide better education, knowing that I can tell future employers that I have taken a course in writing for digital environments, that I know how to make, design, write, and run a blog, is very reassuring.
I know that despite some roadblocks, like not understand how to break from formal writing mode, my experience with digital media and education is a positive one. My experiences make me suggest taking a course that integrates the two to my friends because I think soon enough, everyone will need to have a digital education to complement what they already know or are learning.
Holbrook, Teri, and Melanie Hundley. “Set in Stone or Set in Motion? Multimodal and Digital Writing with Pre-service English Teachers.” Journal of adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(6). March 2013, web October 15th, 2015.
Nel, Liezel, and Patient Rombe. “Technological Utopia, Dystopia and Ambivalence: Teaching with Social Media at a South African University.” British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3). 2015, web October 17th, 2015.
Pavlik, John V. “Fueling a third Paradigm of Education: the Pedagogical Implications of Digital, Social, and Mobile Media.” Contemporary Education Technology, 6(2). 2015, web October 15th, 2015
Rajchel, Jen. “Consider the Audience” in “Web Writing: Why and How for Liberal Arts Teaching and Learning.” Ed. Jack Dougherty and Tennyson O’Donnell. (University of Michigan Press/Trinity College ePress edition, 2014) web October 5th, 2015.
Turkle, Sherry. “Alone Together.” (Dis)Connecting in a Digital Age, pg 85-95. No date, PDF web accessed October 12th, 2015.