Dr Jenny Ostini writes:
The term “digital literacy” or sometimes “digital literacies” is frequently used in education and research settings. There has been a lot of work around defining digital literacy but less around the actual practices of digital literacy and the meanings that people create in their everyday lives.
Stories are a powerful way of accessing people’s understanding of the world in which they live. Not only what people say, but how they say it, the words they choose to use and the importance placed on different aspects of the story all reveal the meaning they are creating for themselves and others. To understand what digital literacy means in practice, it is important to examine people’s stories — their narratives — of their digital experience and what they see as the essential components of their digital literacy or otherwise.
Irving Seidman (1998) talks about “understanding the experience of other people and the meaning they make of that experience.” Susan Kirtley (2012) talks about the “power and persuasion in stories and storytelling” and argues that the great strength of technological literacy narratives is “that the responsibility for shaping, crafting, and analysing the narrative rests with the student, not the researcher.”
Using the literacy narrative method is about asking the research participant to reflect on their experiences, to draw conclusions about the importance of different aspects of their experience and to provide the context in which their literacies were fostered. While the researcher can direct the narratives through the questions asked in the interview and draw conclusions from the narrative content, the story belongs to the research participant.
The project on which I am working will study what digital literacy means in practice by asking people to share their stories about using technology. Click here to listen to a sample from my personal digital literacy narrative.
This project has several stages. In each, digital literacy narratives will be collected and analysed. These narratives will take the form of audio recordings, still photographs and transcriptions of the stories that will be collected and archived on a website accessible to the public. The archive will be a multi-media resource with the narratives displayed in a map based on the location of their earliest computer use experience. It is hoped that as the project progresses, other people, including the general public, will begin to contribute narratives to the archive.
Project outputs will include the multi-media resource of digital narratives and transcripts that will form the basis of analysis of the narratives. The project will contribute to academic research on digital literacy, provide information for education practitioners to work better with students’ concepts of digital literacy, and a community resource of digital literacy narratives that can be used by other researchers.
Image credit: Sharp Lynx 3d Camera phone by Andrew Hyde used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.
Kirtley, S. (2012). “Rendering technology visible: The technological literacy narrative.” Computers and Composition 29: 191-204.
Seidman, I. (1998). Interviewing as Qualitative Research: A Guide for Researchers in Education and the Social Sciences. New York, Teachers College Press.