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Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges

reviewed by Michelle Boule - August 09, 2013

coverTitle: Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges
Author(s): JuliAnna Avila & Jessica Zacher Pandya (eds.)
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433116936, Pages: 240, Year: 2012
Search for book at Amazon.com

This collected volume of case studies and research on the way digital literacies in education affect students in a participatory culture is excellent both in its scope and application. The introduction itself is a superb examination of why digital literacy is essential in a successful learning environment and why there are so many challenges to its integration into the educational system.

The volume is comprised of three parts: Disruptive by Design; Teacher Education and Critical Digital Literacies; and Resisting Dominant Narratives. Each part contains three articles. Each article is both grounded in research and practical. The authors discuss the bigger picture issues as they examine the integration of digital literacy in the wild, but they go further to explain how their particular study can be applied at a macro level elsewhere. It is this breadth of scope and the accessible way the book is written and arranged that make this such a great addition to the field.

The first section, Disruptive by Design, examines the way students use digital tools to create content and how that content reflects or challenges the world in which they live. It is interesting to note that in the first study, though the students were given freedom to define their own storytelling, they still created videos that reflected popular media culture. In the second study, students with low access to technology were given tools and a safe space in which to create their own digital stories. The safe environment allowed the students to discuss complex social issues they face in and out of their school environment. The last study in this section highlights a program where students were asked to participate in a global video sharing community. The process revealed that students need to be able to experience composing and participating across different mediums for learning to be well-rounded.

The middle section of the volume, Teacher Education and Critical Digital Literacies, discussed digital literacies in practice both for students and for teachers. The first study in this section is one of the best of the book. It discusses the experience of one Norwegian teacher as she plans and executes her teaching around the fact that all students own a laptop. It is truly exemplary because it shows the importance of using technology, not to enhance the current learning environment, but using technology to create entirely new ways of organizing the classroom. It is also important to note that the students created higher quality work in this class, as opposed to other classes utilizing the same technology, because their work was out on the Internet and not hidden behind firewalls or passwords. The second case study was done in a school located in the challenging South Central area of Los Angeles. The students at this school, of whom less than 35% finish high school, face enormous challenges in their education. The teacher used interactive games and role-playing to create a discourse on social issues in the community. The issues were defined by the students themselves and they helped to create a fluid environment which extended beyond the walls of the school building. The last chapter of this section is a discussion on the lack of critical and reflective components in the technology skill standards set for teachers. The discussion is based primarily on the standards set forth in the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (TPACK) guidelines for teaching. Like with students, training teachers in technology should not be done in separate learning environments, but the technology should be integrated into the curriculum of all training subjects.

Part three of the volume is entitled Resisting Dominant Narratives, and it shows how digital literacy can challenge dominant cultural beliefs. The first essay challenges the reader to examine how preconceived notions about a school and the students can frame the way teaching and digital literacy and access is accomplished. The case study takes place in an alternative school where students are sent as a last resort. The school is not given new technology, though other schools in the area are, because the students are not seen as worthy of the resources. The author makes a heartfelt and research based plea for educators to examine how our own prejudices influence how we approach teaching and technology. This essay manages to balance the emotion and the research with finesse. The second essay discusses the effectiveness of combining content creation with critical examination of sources. The author argues that both must occur for digital literacy to be complete. It also examines how the global marketplace effects how we define literacies and our understanding of information itself. The last piece in this volume is entitled “Hacker Literacies” and seeks to define how hacker mentality can be applied to literacy. The idea of hacking has affected the way we interact, create, and consume online. Both critical and participatory literacies benefit from the inclusion of hacker mentality, which encourages empowerment in relation to media and not simply through its consumption.

The volume is concluded with a thoughtful summary and a call to action. Many questions and alternative practices are discussed within the pages of the book. It is encouraging that this volume is not simply a collected body of research. Each part includes research, practical application, and why each question matters globally. This volume of work would be useful for a wide range of readers including educators, researchers, and policy creators. This volume is highly recommended as a practical guide to digital literacies and as a basis of a theoretical framework for future study.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 09, 2013
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17208, Date Accessed: 5/21/2022 7:43:21 AM

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About the Author
  • Michelle Boule
    A Wandering Eye
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE BOULE is a Geek Librarian living in Houston, TX. Michelle went to Texas A&M University and received her MLS from Texas Woman's University. Michelle was a Social Sciences Librarian at the University of Houston and a technology trainer. Currently, she is a freelance writer, trainer, and social media manager. She believes Joss Whedon is a genius and is a geek for life. Her recent book, Mob Rule Learning: Camps, Unconferences, and Trashing the Talking Head is about the power of unconference methods in organizations and education. Michelle can be found online at A Wandering Eyre, http://wanderingeyre.com and on Twitter as @wanderingeyre.
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