• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


Literacy in the Digital Age: Part II


May 18, 2011


Let’s get right to this issue: what role does technology play? Technology, undoubtedly disruptive in our age, would be an easy target upon which we could throw blame. No argument that it plays a role. The precipitous rise in violations of academic integrity may be cited as a quick kind of evidence of the collision between intelligent reading and writing skills – or I should say the lack thereof! – and the all-too-facile use that students are making of those technologies to undermine our efforts to teach and their abilities to learn. But in our haste, we may be making technology the scapegoat for a multitude of sins. There are other phenomena in our culture where responsibilities lie.


In this conversation, I hope to shed light on a spectrum of those responsibilities: some with students, some with instructors, much with the political and cultural climate in which we live. Together these issues that are in confluence with technology. It is that confluence that explains what troubles and excites us about the future of literacy, not only statistically – how many people can read and write – but what people do with those skills, whether they actually use them for critical thinking, to exercise incisive intelligence and with verve for civic discourse.


Without irony, then, I will make the case for why higher education must invest meaningfully in information literacy to see that future flourish with the promise that has brought us all here today. Let me presage the conclusion: The only way we can make for a bright future in higher education given the pressures we are under and the challenges that we face, is to subordinate technology to foundational values that have grounded and sustained us for millennia.



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