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Coiro and Hobbs at #AERA2017

Julie Coiro and Renee Hobbs presented their work on digital literacy on Thursday, April 27, 4:05 to 5:35pm at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Meeting Room Level, Room 210 B at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in San Antonio, TX.



Read the abstract or download the full paper

We aim to understand digital literacy through our collaborative, transdisciplinary and applied work with K-12 educators, college faculty and librarians who share our interests in the intersection of education, information, communication and media studies. Through sustained engagement with more than 500 adult learners who have participated in an intensive, media-based professional development program, we have collaboratively built a joint understanding of digital literacy that resonates across elementary, secondary and higher education; spanning the disciplines of literacy education, communication, and media studies with relevance to those in formal and informal education settings like libraries, museums, and nonprofit organizations.

Our approach to digital literacy draws from a rich theoretical lineage in education, communication, social sciences, and the humanities. Our current work aims to identify how teachers develop the skills, competencies and habits of mind that enable them and their students to use digital media texts, tools, and technologies for inquiry learning. Unlike traditional approaches to scholarly collaboration, where ideas are leisurely discussed around the seminar table, our work is located in pragmatic action. Through designing, implementing, and assessing a professional development program, we conceptualize digital literacy in relation to the needs of experienced, mid-career practitioners whose motives for wanting to incorporate digital texts, tools and technologies into the curriculum vary widely.

We see the use of inquiry learning with online texts as a fundamental literacy practice. Digital media offers transformative implications for pedagogical practices that put learners and teachers at the center of an increasingly networked social world (Aspen Institute, 2015). Digital media make it easy for learners to have choice and voice in ways that make student-directed learning a reality for every learner. Thus, digital literacy embodies Dewey’s dream of learning as focused on real-world problem-solving that awakens students to their democratic social responsibilities; learning for which knowledge and deliberative dialogue are used to understand and address problems we find in our neighborhoods, our communities and in our world, helping to create a more just and equitable world.

For this to scale, however, digital literacy education practices must be integrated within existing structures of school. Unlike many in the digital media and learning community who consider digital literacy to be largely a theoretical matter (Stornaiuolo, Smith and Phillips, 2016) or primarily activated in out-of-school, informal, interest-driven experiences (Ito et al, 2013), we situate our vision of digital literacy in the applied and very pragmatic context of formal K-12 education, where the uses of media and technology are inevitably situated in relation to the structures of school (with its mandate for grades, curriculum, and standards). As we define and introduce educators to digital literacy through professional development, we work within the real and challenging constraints of how school structures shape learning, teaching, and social relationships.

In this panel session, we share our vision of digital literacy and articulate how to promote voice and choice through digital inquiry, creative expression, and collaboration. Through these experiences, educators reflect on how they can use problem-solving and deliberative dialogue to advance literacy and leadership competencies that support systemic change in the context of their work.