At the end of February, a resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives designating March 21st as National Digital Literacy Day. Sponsored by Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA) and six others, the resolution (H. Res. 81) is intended “to promote digital literacy, broadband access, and broadband adoption in the United States.”
The list of justifications for the resolution focuses on the need to close the digital divide by expanding broadband access and computer skills to citizens who lack them. It cites estimates that 100 million Americans have not adopted broadband Internet in the home, and one in five adults have no digital literacy skills. It also emphasizes the importance of digital literacy and broadband access for finding a job and getting an education.
It’s exciting to see a growing trend toward recognition of the importance of digital literacy.
National Digital Literacy Day will help in that effort and could make for a helluva parade down Fifth Avenue. Imagine thousands of marchers recording and broadcasting the event with their Google Glass heads-up displays while giant balloons shaped like Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s Surface tablet float overhead. And, of course, the parade would be spearheaded by the Digital Literacy Marching Broadband. (ouch, sorry)
Even more exciting would be to see government resolutions and promotional campaigns that focus on more than the digital divide.
Without question, too many people are without Internet access and basic computer skills. Closing the digital divide is critical to the future of millions of people and the economy. But the emphasis should not be on fixing the problem of digital illiteracy. It should be on the opportunities that the broad range of new literacies offer to everyone in every segment of society. The fear of being left behind or missing out is the wrong motivator for people or organizations that lack tech savvy. That approach can actually lead to increased technophobia for some people.
If someone lacks literacy 1.0 skills , do you motivate them by telling them they must learn to read and write or they will die alone and penniless, or do you show them an inspiring picture of their future and all the astonishing possibilities?
If you want to motivate someone to learn to read, take them inside a great book. Show them the worlds that can be theirs when they master the skills.
If you want to motivate someone to become digitally literate, take them into the world of games and socialization, invention and self-expression, productivity and influence. Show them a world they can participate in.
National Digital Literacy Day should not be targeted toward the lagging one third. It should celebrate all the new literacies and entice anyone and everyone to embrace and adopt a literacy 2.0 lifestyle.
The Digital Age is a science fiction novel in progress. It is being written and rewritten daily.
The message should be that digital literacy allows you to not only read the novel but also to be one of the authors.