Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Digital Literacy

Essential skills.

April 20, 2015

I have a somewhat unusual background for an academic historian.

I was a college dropout, worked in business for several years, then returned to college, became a first-generation college graduate, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in American History.

I worry everyday about the skills my institution, Rutgers University — Camden offers students to prepare for them for successful careers.

Sixty-seven percent of the students at Rutgers — Camden are transfers and many are among the first generation in their family to attend college. Most are working and going to school at the same time. They are practical and looking for a degree that offers prestige and the skills to open doors in the 21st century job market.

We are committed to the idea that every student needs 4 major skills: reading, writing, arithmetic, and digital literacy.

Yes, today’s students have grown up in a digital world, but that doesn’t mean they know how to effectively use digital technology to enhance traditional skills that have made the humanities, social sciences, and even the sciences and mathematics the heart of a liberal arts education.

To answer the needs of students for the 21st century job market, we established a Digital Studies Center (http://digitalstudies.camden.rutgers.edu) where students from any academic major may earn a Digital Humanities Certificate. We are also seeking approval for a double major BA in Digital Studies that requires students to complete the major requirements in a humanities or social science field as well as Digital Studies.

The Digital Studies Center contracts with academic departments and other offices on campus to produce projects as well as help offer classes within the existing liberal arts curriculum emphasizing hands-on digital training.

Our Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH), part of the History Department, publishes the online Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (http://philadelphiaencyclopedia.org). Students work as interns or even staff in a digital platform preparing them for careers in public history, communication, and many other fields.

Our Fine Arts Department emphasizes digital technology as well as traditional skills. Student interns work in many roles on campus and in the broader community applying those skills.

Every classroom at Rutgers—Camden is equipped with an Apple TV for utilizing flipped classroom technologies. Our Instructional Design staff holds an eLearning Conference (http://idt.camden.rutgers.edu/2015elc/) each spring for faculty and the college sponsors teaching fellowships for faculty interested in learning new digital skills for face-to-face, hybrid, and online courses.

Digital Humanities will not “save” the traditional humanities, but we cannot stand still. Digital literacy is as fundamental for success as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

It is our responsibility to offer students those skills as part of the traditional humanities and social sciences curriculum.

Kriste Lindenmeyer is dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences & the Graduate School at Rutgers University—Camden.


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