A Look at the Research
on Digital Literacies
and Today”s Learners
the research. Do learners’ everyday online
activities and emerging educational standards
suggest new mindsets, pedagogy, curriculum,
or policies that can help bridge learning in
and out of school, and what should these be?
is a Harvard-trained
and former school
teacher at the University
of Minnesota, where her
work focuses on how
people learn, teach, and
collaborate with emerging technologies such
as social network sites.
Learn more at www.
If texting is one of your preferred methods
of communicating, then you probably know
that the acronym in the title above means,
“At the end of the day, it’s just my two cents.”
This “netlingo” is part of daily life for the
majority of youth, who use text messaging, instant messaging, and communication through
online social network sites, over e-mail, and in
face-to-face communication, according to the
Pew Internet report “Teens and Social Media.”
Other studies suggest that many teens are
particularly adept at developing relationships
within these different interactional systems.
Today’s digitally literate youth have a distinct advantage. According to a survey by the
National Association of Colleges and Employers published in March 2008, employers
will not only use online social network sites
to check profiles of potential hires, but more
than 50% will use sites like Facebook and
LinkedIn to network with candidates.
Recruiters and recruits in entertainment,
business, higher education, and other industries
are beginning to capitalize on social digital
technologies to find new talent, make professional
connections, and promote their accomplishments,
according to the New York Times article “Status:
Looking for work on Facebook.”
What does education need to do to prepare
learners to be competent communicators in
this emerging online marketplace? How can
we as educators build upon and help learners improve the digital dossiers and literacies
they are developing in their everyday lives?
In my fall column, I asked: Who are today’s
learners? (See L&L, September/October
2008). In this column, we dig further into
New Competencies, New Literacies
The recently revised NETS for students and
NETS for teachers emphasize six core competencies applicable to a range of content areas.
• Creative thinking
• Communication and collaboration
• Research and information fluency
• Digital citizenship
• Technology applications
Teachers are expected to develop and model
these competencies as well as to facilitate their
development in students.
Moreover, the newly published Handbook of
Research on New Literacies argues that our notion
of literacy today needs to be dynamic and situationally specific. It is no longer feasible for anyone
to be fully literate in every Internet technology.
Digital literacy includes knowing how and when
to use which technologies and which forms and
functions are most appropriate for one’s purposes.
The three studies summarized in this article all
deal with instant messaging technologies but
analyze the learner’s activities and perceptions of
these technologies within very different contexts.
In their article “Instant Messaging, Literacies,
and Social Identities,” C. Lewis and B. Fabos
examined the role IM played in the daily lives
of seven youths and how their social identi-