As higher education’s embrace of digital media marches forward, it’s important we not lose sight of the research in which it is grounded. Digital literacy is not to be confused with the adoption of technology for the sake of technology or the veneer of campus aesthetics. Indeed, multimodal learning was “a thing” prior to touchscreen interfaces. Text written on vellum remains every bit as profound, if not more so, than text rendered on the face of an iPad; however, neglecting the widespread use of technology can have negative effects. While modern students have the same capacity to learn from slide projectors as did generations prior, they don’t have the same resources. Ask your students to compile an annotated bibliography on the pedagogy of digital literacy using nothing but slide film and microfiche, and they won’t get very far.
Discourse has shifted to a new vernacular of multimedia—what Wired founder Kevin Kelly calls “a second Gutenberg shift” in which book fluency must evolve to become media fluency.
Unfortunately for college students, binging on Netflix and YouTube does little to support this shift; in order to successfully negotiate the modern indices of multimedia, millennial students must be able to synthesize thought and technology. They must be capable of flexing between plagiarism and copyright, Decimal classification and Boolean logic, and letters and pixels.
The idea of media fluency isn’t manufactured from a desire to force multimedia into the classroom—but grounded in the realization that multimedia is often everywhere except for the classroom. Digital literacy is not about gambling on the pedagogy of tomorrow; it’s about investing in the global needs of today.
Students and educators both need the resources by which to engage these mediums. Here at VideoBlocks Education we recognize this need and have put together an eBook that highlights the seven skills and abilities required of 21st century learners. Download Digital Literacy On-Demand: Visualizing Best Practices in Higher Education, our guide to best practices for multimodal learning and digital media in the classrooms.