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Highly connected children:
implications for education
by Edna Aphek
- 1

In the past decades tremendous digital-technological innovations have flooded our lives. The impact of these inventions on socialization, ways of thinking, and modes of learning, is far reaching. The new digital technologies challenge many of our concepts and beliefs and make new demands on us as to understanding the new high-tech, digital culture .In order to do so one has to be skilled in digital literacy.

According to Yoram Eshet-Alkalai, a scholar from the Tel- Hai College in Israel, the new digital literacy is penta componental[1] .These five cognitive thinking strategies can help the perplexed:

1. Photo-Visual Literacy

2. Reproduction Literacy

3. Lateral Multidirectional Literacy

4. Information Literacy

5. Socio-Emotional Literacy

Let me elaborate on each of these components:

1. Photo-Visual Literacy

Eshet- Alkalai points out to the shift from alphabetic literacy to Photo-Visual Literacy, in which icons have become the new letters. This Photo-Visual Literacy is based on the notion of using vision to think.

If we look for example at our computer desktop, at out car panel or at the cellular phone, we’ll see that they all give us iconic information. These photo –visual signs serve as shortcuts for action and do away with the mediation of the cognitive skill of deciphering and understanding the alphabetic symbols.

The use of emotics e.g.; L ;-),(-: and the shortened internet writing such as b4b and cu, all emphasize the tendency to break away from the traditional, alphabetic writing.

2.What is Reproduction Literacy?

Reproduction Literacy could be likened to what John Kao calls jamming: “taking a topic, a question, an idea, disseminate it, break it, manipulate it, and reassemble it...creating something new”[2]

Dali’s Mona Lisa with the moustache, could serve as a good example of what Eshet means by reproduction literacy.

In the information world, an enormous amount of information and spiritual creations are ‘out there’ in cyberspace. Billions of pages carrying artistic work, articles, essays, music and graphics, can be accessed and made use of.

We are therefore, faced with a new challenge –to use these existing spiritual treasures in innovative ways, thus creating new concepts and forms.

3. Lateral literacy

A strategy much needed for deciphering and navigating in the new digital literacy, is lateral- multidirectional thinking. This literacy marks a shift from the more structured, well planned traditional book- like literacy.

Unlike the closely structured book environment in which the amount of information and the order of presenting the information are predefined, the net environment is open to rearrangement.

Linear structures following sequential logic, give room to non- linear, hypertext, associative structures. On the one hand this loosely netted structure fosters creativity and is open to new creations and interpretations, on the other hand the new open- ended exploratory environment is dynamic and even chaotic.

New cognitive skills are needed in order to navigate freely, yet mindfully among the many sites, and from site to site, while using the hypertext. The ability to focus, as well as integrative and summative skills are necessary in order to reconstruct knowledge out of huge chunks of information arrived at in an unstructured manner.

4. Another problem, we are faced with, is that of reliability: how do we know that what we read, saw or heard comes from a reliable source? How do we evaluate the information gleaned?

Yoram Eshet suggests a cognitive tool in order to cope with this problem: Information Literacy: Trust nobody

This literacy acts as a filter:” It identifies false, irrelevant, or biased information, and avoids its penetration into the learner’s cognition.... without a good command of information literacy, how can one decide which, of the endless pieces of contradicting information found on the web, to believe? Which of the news on the web to trust? Which political opinion posted on the web to adopt?” [3]

5. The fifth literacy advocated by Eshet Alkalai is the Socio- Emotional one.

Much of the work and information sharing done on the internet is conducted in cooperative learning or any other form of information sharing: in chat rooms, online communities, groups and forums. Meeting of the other and Cooperative Learning necessitate socio-emotional abilities.

The socio- emotional literacy also has to do with the ability to tell right from wrong and good from bad: to know how to roam the web with discretion and to tell the sincere and honest person from the imposter; to spot disseminators of hatred and pedophiles, and to take precautions at the chat room and the instant messengers. This literacy has to do with protecting oneself from the dangers of the digital, highly- connected world and at the same time to guard the rights of the other by adhering to the rules of netiquette: the etiquette of the net.

[1] Yoram Eshet Alkalai, Digital literacy: A new terminology  framework and its application to the design of meaningful technology-based learning environments
[2]  John Kao, Jamming : The Art and Discipline of Corporate Creativity, HarperBusiness,1996

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