PLAYBACK: “Yes to Rap Music and Yes to Turn-of-the-Century Poetry”


11.15.10 | Renee Hobbs’s plan of action for digital and media literacy; new reports on U.S. broadband adoption and transforming education through technology; how libraries are reinventing themselves; and a farewell to “Caprica” and our favorite teenage hacker.


The Inalienable Right of Digital Literacy: The Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation have released “Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action,” written by Renee Hobbs, professor at the School of Communications and the College of Education at Temple University and founder of its Media Education Lab. It positions digital and media literacy as an essential life skill and calls for actions to integrate digital and media literacy “at all levels of education, and for public libraries and other community institutions to become additional centers of digital and media training.”

Hobbs articulates the urgency for updating our educational priorities in the report’s executive summary:

Today full participation in contemporary culture requires not just consuming messages, but also creating and sharing them. To fulfill the promise of digital citizenship, Americans must acquire multimedia communication skills that include the ability to compose messages using language, graphic design, images, and sound, and know how to use these skills to engage in the civic life of their communities. These competencies must be developed in formal educational settings, especially in K–12 and higher education, as well as informal settings. The inclusion of digital and media literacy in formal education can be a bridge across digital divides and cultural enclaves, a way to energize learners and make connections across subject areas, and a means for providing more equal opportunities in digital environments.

Read more at eSchool News and TechPresident.

Librarians Left Out: Even in a digital age, we still have to make sure we don’t reinvent the wheel. Librarian Buffy Hamilton, while admitting she finds a lot to like in the report, notes that it almost completely ignores the role of school librarians, who are in the ideal position to implement the report’s recommendations. She is especially unsettled by the report’s call for the development of a Digital and Media Literary Youth Corp that would place “recent college graduates” in—among other places—“school libraries and technology centers”:

While this DML Youth Corps is a lovely idea, I would suggest a better idea is Congress providing funding for every public school in America to have a highly qualified and fully certified school librarian. Instead of outreach in “school libraries and technology centers,” how about providing funding not only to put a school librarian in every building, but to provide funding to build a team of school librarians for every school where we can be embedded in grade or content level teams to truly infuse and integrate these literacies as a seamless and essential part of every student’s learning experience on a daily basis throughout the school year?

Hobbs responded Friday in the comments on Hamilton’s post that library media specialists and technology specialists, as well as teachers, are meant to be included in the term “educators.”

Plus: A recent L.A. Times story on libraries reinventing themselves to remain relevant comes complete with out-of-touch quotes about what kids might learn while playing video games and this exciting tidbit: at the Conjuring Arts Research Center, a magic library in New York, magician and librarian William Kalush is working to scan the entire collection—including 12,000 magic books dating to the 15th century.

The story, the latest in the L.A. Times series on how technology is changing libraries, the publishing industry and the experience of reading, looks at new innovations embraced by libraries:

In Charlotte, N.C., the library district built a separate complex, the Imaginon, with digital equipment that children and teens can use to make blue-screen movies, stop-motion animations and rap songs.

Those who spent their childhood reading “Treasure Island” and “Ramona” in a quiet corner of the stacks may resist the idea that libraries could become frenetic workshops. But advocates say equipping libraries with tools for digital creation may be one way to help young people interact with history and literature in a familiar medium.

“That’s how a culture reproduces itself,” said Anne Balsamo, a professor of interactive media at USC. “It doesn’t just make things up willy-nilly, but it also takes time to look back and discover the ways things were done in the past. So yes to rap music and yes to turn-of-the-century poetry.”

The Future of Digital Literacy: Last week I learned that the SyFy series “Caprica,” a pre-cursor to the popular “Battlestar Galactica” series, was cancelled for its lack of, well, popularity. The final episodes will air early next year. Over at iO9, Annalee Newitz writes a fitting farewell. I still recommend watching the first (and now only) season for a glimpse of how a teenager’s programming and hacking abilities literally change the world.

Education, Powered by Technology: The U.S. Department of Education last week released its plan for transforming U.S. education through technology. The National Education Technology Plan [pdf] puts forth goals and recommendations in five areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity. The plan also identifies far-reaching “grand challenge” R&D problems that should be funded and coordinated at a national level.

Broadband Adoption Rises While Gap Persists: It was the week for studies, apparently, as the Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also released a new report, “Digital Nation II,” analyzing broadband internet access and adoption in the United States. The report, based on data collected through an Internet Usage Survey of 54,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2009, found that even after accounting for socioeconomic differences, significant gaps persist along racial, ethnic and geographic lines.

While broadband internet use among U.S. households increased from 9 percent to 64 percent between 2001 and 2009, the “gaps between Whites and Blacks registered at 10 percentage points and between Whites and Hispanics at 14 percentage points, even after controlling for household characteristics. A similar analysis found the urban-rural gap to be 7 percentage points. A special section presents our findings on users with disabilities, who tend to be older and part of lower-income groups.”

Plus: Bringing this back to libraries, Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie gave a keynote address at the Opportunity Online meeting of the Colorado Public Computer Centers Launch, where he “discussed the state of broadband adoption, particularly in rural areas, and how it parallels other online revolutions in mobile connectivity and social networking,” and he “explored the reasons why a significant portion of Americans do not have broadband connections [and] the role libraries and other community anchor institutions can play in the next stage of building out broadband networks.” Watch it here:



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