What is Literacy in this new age of technology and emerging media?

What is Literacy in this new age of technology and emerging media? Does literacy count only in the form of ink and paper or has it become so much more? According to a New York Times Article by Motoko Rich titled Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?  “On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends” (Motoko para. 12). Because of this, literacy as it relates to technology, though it may be a form of literacy, more and more commonly referred to as digital literacy, it is very different from traditional concepts of reading comprehension and the mastery of reading as we have known it pre-digital age.

We cannot ignore the new forms of communication and new literacies. These are essential in order to learn and adapt in a digital age, however at the same time we must continue to find a balance between the mental process of scanning and switching attentions quickly from one mode of communication, text, sound, image, music, light, keyboard, voice, etc… to being able to sit and focus, to analyze with comprehensive depth texts that are part of our history, stories that were written and intended for the page and ink. In doing this we achieve a balanced mind and a more productive future.

The article goes on to state that “to Kill a Mockingbird” (Motoka para. 10) is not for all children. I agree with the statement however I disagree with the blanket concept that statement tries to make. Daily ink and page reading is necessary for all youth to develop deeper modes of thinking and the ability for longer attention spans. If the book happens to be the original Hobbit, or a swiftly tilting planet, or poems by Robert Frost, the length and form found in books, the beginning, middle and end, the author’s vision, as described above, all these are necessary components of literacy that cannot be left behind. Not everyone will read Shakespeare, however, like the internet claims to be, the ink and paper world of books is just as infinite in options. It is possible and preferred to teach our children when young that those options are and must continue to be valued.

The article also raises a point about the differences of the written text online and the written text in book, online being full of grammatical and spelling errors.  This I find not to be a viable argument however. It can be just as argued that word processing programs with auto correct harm one’s ability to spell. It very well may in fact. Text in books and online are constantly changing, new words are created. New forms of dialect are explored and excepted. One aspect of this is writing styles. It is more common to see and accept a conversational writing style, whereas 100 years ago that type of style would not have been seen.  Editorial styles over research based writings are also more common. So is this the fault of the digital age or does this just call to point the need for educators to focus more on filling the holes. In this do educators need to focus more on proper sentence structure, proper spelling and proper research skills, much like is taught in college preparatory course, in middle and high school classes? In addition to sentence structure, spelling, and organization of thoughts form beginning to middle to end, it is also necessary to teach digital literacies that will help children approach digital text with more ability to analyze and comprehend. Example of this is to teach website evaluation for research skills and proper notations when participating in online conversations. All of these skills can enrich the online experience and bring children closer to cognitive literacy.

The truth in this matter is that the digital age is not going to go away. Children will use the internet more and more as children and adults. The focus of the debate then should not be if one is better to incorporate in the lives of children, since they both will be part of children’s lives, but instead how can we ensure that children who are exposed to both digital and traditional literacies learn and maintain the deeper forms of comprehension needed to be successful in their life’s goals. According to the article books help instill continuous, focus and linear attention. In our children’s education we must continue to use the reading of books, even online classics such as can be found on Kindle, to help them maintain these literacies.

In essence it is possible to read with in depth conceptualization and literacy if the reading is diverse and if they are by example e-books. Even interactive eBooks can get kids excited about reading, where they can notate the stories and discuss in real time with other youth. The Digital age doesn’t have to change how we see literacy, it can expand the meaning of literacy into several different types and with innovation both forms of literacy can be maintained online.


Motoka, r. (July 28, 2008) Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? New York Times retrieved on Sept 19. 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/books/27reading.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

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