Literacy in a Digital World: Teaching and Learning in the Age of Information
Kathleen Tyner's book, Literacy in a Digital World, is an exhaustive, well-researched attempt at making sense out of the alphabet soup of multiple literacies found in the rarely intersecting worlds of education, technology, and the arts. This is also a must-read comprehensive guidebook for all artists and educators who want a deeper understanding of the educational theories behind the uses of a wide range of communication media.
Grounded in the world of the media arts, Tyner is unique among many of her peers on the media literacy circuit. She has always understood the vital links between theory and practice, criticism and media production, that inform her comprehensive yet open-ended approach to exploring the future of literacy in a technological age. She makes a strong case for examining the powerful roles of media in the increasingly technology-infused educational process, and for framing the educational uses of new communication technologies as a set of literacy skills.
Tyner takes the reader through the histories of converging multiple strands of literacies. She advocates for what she calls a "third way" to use literacy as a source of social power - "the ability to decode information in a variety of forms, analogous to the reading of print, but also applicable to audio, graphics, and the moving image, a process that Paolo Freire and Donaldo Macedo call 'reading the world.' If citizens can also manipulate and understand the processes to create messages and distribute them, that is, 'writing the world,' then literacy practices accrue maximum benefit to the individual." (p. 4)
Tyner also advocates for a closer, more reasoned examination of the rush to put technology tools in every classroom. She is not afraid to tackle the complex social, political, cultural and economic aspects of technology and education that influence how literacy training and educational policies are practiced in public education. Media artists and professionals will be heartened to read the many references to and case studies of arts-based media literacy practices that reflect the hidden history of NAMAC's leadership role in media education.
In looking at the history of communication and shifting meaning of literacy, Tyner draws extensively on the work of experts to explode the public myths about literacy, such as "literacy is neutral" or "there is only one kind of literacy." She points out the disconnects in different academic realms of research as she moves toward making a case for a new kind of multiliteracy that can embrace the diverse literacies tied to written, visual, and aural forms of communication that have converged via digital technologies.
As she attempts to define a new multiple literacy, Tyner examines all the different types of literacy modes that are currently in vogue. She identifies six major literacies - computer, network, technology, information, visual and media - and divides them into two categories: tools and representation.
After exploring all these literacies and the shortcomings of today's lumbering skill-based, rote learning educational system, Tyner advocates for pedagogies that explore new uses of information technologies that are inquiry- and project-based, student-centered, and experiential. She supports the adoption of media education standards, and provides examples from her work with Deborah Leverantz in Texas. She urges teachers to be researchers as well as practitioners, and ends with a call for educational strategies that "blend critical literacy, experiential education, and critical pedagogy...that have the potential to shape the course of modern education."
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