education, technology, and everything else

teaching digital literacy

Posted by Miranda on January 6, 2008

Just before the holiday break, one of the students came to me with a request. He and a buddy are planning to bicycle across the US in order to raise money for a school his father and others are building in Kenya.
He asked if I would help him construct and maintain a web site on this topic, because he was at least digitally literate enough to know that raising money for his cause would be aided by having a web presence.
I told him I could not commit to maintaining his site but I would certainly commit to giving him the knowledge he would need in order to do that himself.

He didn’t know what a web host was when we started discussing that, didn’t know how to go about getting a domain name registered to him, didn’t know how to code a web page (and still doesn’t, but he’s learning). He did not know that .com denotes a commercial venture and .org a non-profit.

Yes, I know it would be easy for him to get a free blog on one of the hosting sites available. But he wants to do some things with his site that a free blog hosting service wouldn’t provide and a site of his own will give him a little more flexibility.
I have suggested that he think about incorporating a blog. He didn’t know what a blog was.

Last night he got his first page up. Yay!

I’ve also been thinking about my son. He wants to learn about web design and I think he’ll have a much better chance of getting into his chosen (so far anyhow) college, the Savannah College of Art and Design if he has a spiffy online portfolio. So over the weekend I bought him a domain name and an account at ICDSoft, where I have a couple of sites hosted already. His first assignment is to design an index page with links to my subdomain. Because I need a place to play, and my free space at ValleyNet is pretty limited.

Then, this morning, I was doing my usual browse the blogs over coffee and I ran across this at the Fischbowl, from a post in September, Is It OK to be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher:

The more I think about it, the more I think it’s analogous to the 20th century. In the early 20th century, people who couldn’t read or write could be pretty successful. By the middle of the 20th century, that was still true, but it was getting harder to be successful (and certainly those that could read and write had much more opportunities available to them). By the end of the 20th century, there was very little chance of being successful if you couldn’t read or write. (Note that I’m defining “successful” both in economic/employment terms, and in terms of citizenship/personal fulfillment.)

There is no teacher at the school where I work that can guide Peter through buying a domain name, a hosting account. There is no teacher that can guide him through designing and coding a site, optimizing for search, using the Google Webmaster tools.
There is only me and I’m staff and busy staff at that. Most of my communication with Peter has been via email, although we’re meeting for 45 minutes on Monday.
I know this isn’t stuff that is considered important to a student in a high school but in their future lives won’t they need to know how to use the Web? Not just access it, not just read it, but create it?


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