Why literacy teachers need digital literacy

It drives me crazy people who are in leadership positions who somehow feel they’re now exempt from the need to learn further. People who work in literacy and languages know their stuff. At least they know it when it comes to traditional literacy. I am baffled by the number of people who work in that sector who lack technological literacy.

These are trained teachers, dedicated tutors and people who really make a difference in the world. Yet, when it comes to technology they flap around giving excuses not unlike their very own learners, trying to mask their own lack of skills. How about, “Oh, I don’t have time,” or “I don’t get all that stuff” or “What good is it going to do me?” or my personal favorite, “I’ve gotten along just fine until now, thank you very much.”

In today’s world where we use tools like the International Adult Literacy and Life Surveys Skills IALSS to demonstrate an individual’s strengths, it seems to me that this very scale should also apply to those who work in the industry, not just the learners.

It’s not enough to know how to turn on your computer and use your mouse. Maybe that would count as Level 2 on the IALLS scale? In today’s world, if we are talking about functional ability to use technology to interact and prosper, we’re looking at the need for skilled leaders – say Level 3 minimum, though even better, Level 4. That means knowing what social media is (and knowing how to use it), exchanging ideas with other professionals in a discussion forum and possibly even knowing how to Skype so you can connect with others far away at a low cost.

So, if you were to score yourself on the IALLS scale for technology, where would you rank?

If it’s good for the learner, it’s good for the leader. How are you supposed to lead by example if you’re not living what you want your learners to live?


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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

3 Responses to Why literacy teachers need digital literacy

  1. Loreto says:

    I have a sneaking lack of respect for people who don’t just LOVE learning new stuff. I think learning is fun. If my teacher doesn’t, I really want to go elsewhere.

    I understand that some kinds of things are harder to learn than other kinds of things. But shutting out the basic tools of communication is just too big a “thing” to ignore, especially if one is teaching – one of the more important forms of communication, yes?

    And a little note: the link to Stats Can isn’t working. It looks like the correct link got applied as a “title”, but the link itself is blank…

  2. Cecile says:

    I agree with you. Isn’t lifelong learning part of this process for the instructor as well? I don’t understand how a teacher, professor, or facilitator can deem themselves such when they have stopped learning. I have encountered,especially in literacy,the teachers feel superior, so they just do what they always have done because they believe their students are never going to know,after all, they have low literacy. This attitude is countermands the role of educator. The learner in this case is the superior one as they have an open mind and will surpass the teacher in time.

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