“If we teach today’s students like they did yesterday, then we are robbing them of tomorrow.” (Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century, 2010). Schools and educators need to change the way they teach in order to meet the needs of today’s students. Students these days, in our society, have grown up digitally. The vast majority have access to computers and the internet at home, and at school. “Children are using computers far more than adults, and are exploiting the capacities of information technology to locate, publish and communicate information.” (Fluck, 2000, p.126). The skills that children have developed, simply through playing and exploring using different programs and the Internet, proves that they aren’t scared and are willing to explore their skills. Some students will need help in developing their skills and some students won’t have access to computers or the internet at home, but it is becoming more and more apparent that the vast majority of students are growing up digitally. Simply by being immersed in the ‘digital age’, children are free to explore the capabilities of technology. Jenkins et al, also refers to this digital age, as a ‘participatory culture’. “A participatory culture is one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another” (2006, p. 3). It is up to educators to provide students with the skills and the tools to know how to best use this media and technology, as well as using it as an effective teaching tool. “Our role as adults is not to be their policemen, but to be their guide,” states Boyd (2007, p.22). Teachers do not necessarily have to be computer experts, but need to be able to assist their students confidently.
There are some educators in schools who aren’t comfortable in using new technology, who struggle with the fact that they need to be computer literate in today’s age in order to allow their students to develop the necessary skills they will need in life. It costs money in order for these educators to be comfortable in order to teach and use the technology. “Getting teachers confident (or, in many cases, less techno-phobe) remains a worthwhile, expensive and sensitive task. We must realise that successful strategies for using computers to enhance learning opportunities in all subjects is the touchstone of future professional development.” (Fluck, 2000, p.127).
As stated earlier, ‘new’ literacies don’t override the importance of traditional literacy. Students still need to be taught these basic skills in order to be able to access new literacies. New literacies are being used in everyday life by the majority of people. Everything from checking your email, to ‘googling’ a question, to searching for a recipe, to playing a game on your mobile device, to accessing a friend’s photos on Facebook, are all utilising new literacy skills. We are so immersed in this culture of having instant access to, seemingly, the entire world.