In 2017, I wrote a two-part blog post (Part 1 & Part 2) focused on my experiences at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy as I shifted from classroom teacher to district technology integration coach. I shared several conversations with classroom teachers which led me to recognize how various perspectives on technology and digital literacy affect classroom implementation. As I write this updated blog entry, I am in yet another transition in my professional life, and so find it an opportune time to reflect on a new perspective which I’ve recently encountered: researcher.
What is a Researcher?
I Googled this question and created a word cloud from the top hits:
What strikes me most about this word cloud is not the large, prominent words clustered in the center. Rather, it’s the number of small attributions around the outside of the image. The number of descriptors used to define “researcher” is overwhelming. How can I possibly take on all of these responsibilities? How can I make a difference in this intricate web of identity?
Lenses of Digital Literacy
These questions lead me back to my experiences at the Institute. As a Tier 1 participant in 2017, I entered into the Institute seeking a defining parameter for digital literacy. What is it? How do I explain it to teachers in my district? I wanted this information in a nice, neat box I could carry with me and share quickly with others. What I learned in that first summer is that there’s no singular definition of digital literacy because we all approach it from different perspectives. Our beliefs, context, and intent shape how we define digital literacy. It took the experiences I had at the Institute for me to fully understand this. It took being surrounded by and working with other participants from all professional and personal backgrounds to fully grasp the dynamic nature of digital literacy. My definition varied from that of my dyad partner, a school librarian. Her definition varied from that of a videographer with whom we had several conversations. And his varied from the activist who joined us for lunch each day. I was further challenged in my definition of digital literacy as I experienced the Institute as a Tier 2 participant in 2018. Here I began to consider how leadership and digital literacy played reciprocal roles in their mutual development. How can I be a digital literacy leader? How can I lead with digital literacy?
And now, I put on a new set of glasses, look out of new lenses, and have to redefine what digital literacy is to me again. In this role I find myself defining digital literacy from more of an activist stance. How can we develop the technology and communication skills needed to engage in social justice work? How can we incorporate these into educational contexts? How can we be responsible researchers, practice open scholarship, while still playing by the rules of traditional academia? I also recognize the lack of digital literacy focus in many K-12 school contexts and question the most effective place for my work, energy, and research to correct this. I’m beginning to view digital literacy as a necessary part of preservice teacher education, while also recognizing the lack of importance afforded to digital literacy in teacher prep programs. This new lens requires I pull from all of my experiences at the Institute as I move forward and carve out my identity and refine my perspective as a researcher…a digital literacy researcher.
Meg Jones is a doctoral student in Literacy Studies at the University of South Florida. She was previously a technology integration coach in Citrus County, Florida, where she supported in-service teachers with digital literacies and classroom technology integration. She earned her Masters in Reading from the University of South Florida and Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy from the University of Rhode Island.