Professor Chris Werry
December 9 2018
In what many call the “age of technology”, people have has countless resources made available at their fingertips through technological advancements and social media. It also seems that to many members of older generations, today’s youth has acquired any and all knowledge of technology, since they were born into it, and it has always been a skill of theirs. In her piece titled “It’s Complicated, The Social Lives of Networked Teens” author Danah Boyd asserts that this is not the case. She argues that teens only know what they need to for their everyday lives, and having mastered these daily tasks, it may seem that they know how to do everything, when in fact they only know what they feel they need to learn, and pick up certain technological skills quickly, but are extremely uninformed in other areas. Adults on the other hand, have had to learn technological skills at a later age in life, and they find it significantly harder to acquire these skills at an older age. Boyd utilizes the terms “digital native” for those who grew up learning any and all technological skills they would need in life; and “digital immigrant” for those who are tasked with learning later in life what others grew up with. Her overall argument is that although there are some that have been surrounded by technology since they were born, and there are others who are learning the same skills at a later point in their lives, neither group holds the key to unlocking all that technology can do for us. Both older and younger generations can benefit from learning more than just the bare minimum of knowledge regarding technology. Only through learning and exploring can we further our technological society and unlock the plethora of benefits technology we have yet to discover.
In her book titled “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens”, Author Danah Boyd addresses the stereotype that today’s youth has unlimited knowledge of technology and how to utilize it, and references “digital natives” in comparison to their older counterparts, who have to learn how to navigate this digital world, which is harder to do later in life, thus earning them the name “digital immigrants”. Boyd counters this claim with the assertion that nobody is truly digitally literate, and generations both old and young both have a lot to learn about all that technology has to offer. I will be analyzing Boyd’s text and her claim that generations both old and young can become digitally literate through education about the credibility of sources. She suggests that through education and teaching both “digital natives” as well as “digital immigrants” how to find reliable and credible sources, can we ensure a more digitally literate and well informed future for the digital world we are living in.
Boyd’s central claim is that although many assume that teens know everything there is to know about the internet, it is more often than not that when researching online, teens simply choose the first source that pops up on their screen, and make no further effort to research the source itself, and whether or not is credible or trustworthy. In certain cases, both students and teachers dismiss certain sources due to their lack of credibility, when in fact they are just as reliable in comparison. One of the world’s most utilized websites is Wikipedia, and while many think of the source as a shortcut way to getting information without it being reliable, in comparison, it is just if not more reliable than certain more “well-respected sources” such as Britannica. Boyd recounts a survey she did with high school students all over the country and their opinions on Wikipedia, where “In Massachusetts, white fifteen-year-old Kat told me that “Wikipedia is a really bad thing to use because they don’t always cite their sources. . . . You don’t know who’s writing it.” Brooke, a white fifteen- year-old from Nebraska explained that “[teachers] tell us not to [use Wikipedia] because a lot of—some of the information is inaccurate.”’ (Boyd 187). Almost all students seem to believe that Wikipedia is unreliable because they think that anyone can edit it, and you don’t know who is writing the articles that you are taking information from. Boyd counters this claim with the fact that “analyses have shown that Wikipedia’s content is just as credible as, if not more reliable than, more traditional resources like Encyclopedia Britannica. Teachers continue to prefer familiar, formally recognized sources. Educators encourage students to go to the library. When they do recommend digital sources, they view some as better than others without explaining why” (Boyd 187), while many assume that Wikipedia is an unreliable source that enables lazy student to gather information fast, in reality it is just as trustworthy as more well-respected encyclopedias such as Britannica. Even though students were firm in their beliefs that Wikipedia is a “bad source” to use on academic, researched assignments, they could not give a solid reason why it is unreliable, just that it is; “When I asked students why they should prefer sites like Encarta and professors’ webpages, they referenced trust and credibility, even though students couldn’t explain what made those particular services trustworthy” (Boyd 188). If schools were to implement more education of the credibility of certain sources online, and educate both students and teachers about what really makes a source trustworthy, society could advance further technologically and enable generations both old and young to utilize the internet to its fullest potential and use reliable, credible sources so that they can create well-researched and factually-based scholarly works.
Boyd’s primary claim throughout her text is that education is the key to creating a digitally literate society.
Author Leah Anne Levy of the University of Southern California reinforces the claim that it is crucial for teachers themselves to be digitally literate, so that they can educate and mentor younger generations in order to create a technologically savvy society. She emphasizes the fact that many people simply choose the most convenient source available to them, without using digital literacy skills to research the credibility of the source itself. She states that “there is a significant difference between Googling an answer and understanding why…Simply Googling an answer does not provide students with true, deep learning. And while most students understand how to use a search engine, it is up to teachers to provide students with the additional skills to bring the answers to the next level” (Levy 2018). It is vital that teachers have the knowledge to educate their students on the reliability and credibility of sources to better enable them to become digitally literate. She also argues that we have only scratched the surface of all the internet can do for us, and “Digitally literate teachers know how to inspire students to use today’s technology as a powerful toolset to expand their learning opportunities” (Levy 2018). The importance of education about technology and the internet is crucial to helping the next generation of innovators have a advanced background on the inner workings of technology itself and how it can be better utilized, but also the credibility of the sources they are using. This deeper understanding of technology is useful not just to understand the technology we already have, but to help innovate the technology of the future. As teachers master digital literacy with their lessons, they can collaborate with peers to share technology and work toward improving learning outcomes for their students…Digitally literate teachers see technology for all of its creative potential,” (Levy 2018). Both Boyd and Levy stress the importance of education in terms of technology, and how today’s teachers can pave the way for the next generation of digitally literate students through guiding them on how to sort through and use only reliable and credible sources, and how to use the internet to its fullest potential.
In his article titled “What is Digital Literacy?”, author Matthew Lynch covers the broad term of digital literacy, and what both students and teachers can do to become more digitally literate themselves. Lynch concedes that younger generations do have more knowledge than their older counterparts, but they do not hold the key to all technological information; she makes the claim that “Most students already use digital technology, such as tablets, smartphones, and computers, at home. Many students already know how to navigate the web, share images on social media, and do a Google search to find information. However, true digital literacy goes beyond these basic skills” (Lynch). Lynch makes the claim that although students know how to use technology, they do not know how to use it to its fullest extent. He also asserts that in order to be truly “digitally literate”, one must be able “to weed out false information and find reliable sources” (Lynch), the ability to find reliable and trustworthy information on the internet is a key element to being able to navigate the digital world. He also touches on the fact that educators have felt increasingly pressured to teach their students how to hone the new skill of digital literacy, Lynch makes the claim that “educators are increasingly required to teach students digital literacy in the classroom. In many ways, this is similar to what educators have always done in teaching students to read and write. In other ways, however, digital literacy is a brand new skill.” (Lynch), in this new digital age, it is becoming increasingly important that students become able to find trustworthy sources, and through educators teaching them the skills they need, they will truly become “digital natives”. Lynch asserts that the primary method by which individuals can become more digitally literate is through teachers being digitally literate and knowledgeable themselves. Both Lynch and Boyd emphasize the fact that education is the key element to teaching people of all ages to become more digitally literate, and it is crucial that educators expand their own knowledge to intrust in the generations of tomorrow. There is no denying that technology has become a common part of our everyday lives, and it is only through education of both older and younger generations will we be able to keep up with the times.
Author Marc Prensky describes in his article titled “What does it mean to be a digital native?”, what he calls “The war between digital natives and immigrants”, as a conflict between two groups with drastically different technological abilities. He makes the claim that try as they might, the older generations simply cannot function properly in today’s world without knowing how to use some form of technology, as the younger generations continue to learn more and more to try and keep up with the ever advancing technological advancements, He acknowledges the fact that in today’s digital world, there is a lot of pressure to learn how to navigate digitally; “Connecting with one another in the modern world requires a knack for social networking and texting, which is the norm for the digital native. But for the immigrant, it can be akin to learning a whole new language” (Prensky 2012). It is by no means easy to learn how to utilize technology, but Prensky stresses the importance of educating yourself in order to keep up with the quickly changing times, “innovation will only press forward “faster… And faster and faster” (Prensky 2012). Boyd challenges Prensky’s claim that today’s younger generations have become digitally literate, and counters argument by saying that without proper education, technology will continue to advance with a society that does not know how to properly utilize all that the innovation has to offer. The digital age we find ourselves living in today is one of fast paced and constant change, and without education on how to use the internet to our advantage, we will be left in the dust as the online world races into the future without us.
Technology is often a topic of hot debate. The gap between old and younger generations and their knowledge about technology has only broadened in recent years. Author Danah Boyd addresses the assumption many hold that younger generations know everything there is to know about the internet, and older generations have miles to catch up; she refutes this by saying that no generation has unlimited knowledge of the internet, and the only way that we can keep up with the ever changing technological advancements is through educating generations old and young on how to use the internet to effectively, and find credible sources so that our information is factual. Learning more about what the internet has to offer can enable today’s society to become more digitally literate, in order to help us tap in to the seemingly limitless amount of resources that technology has made available. Technology and the internet may appear like a vast expanse of information we can never hope to fully comprehend but through education for generations both old and young, we can make use of all the internet has to offer; and the possibilities of what can be achieved are limitless.
Teach.com. “What Is Digital Literacy?” Teach: Make a Difference, 26 Apr. 2017,
Levy, Leah Anne. “7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy Is Important for Teachers.” Teaching Salaryin California – Blog | USC Rossier Online, 25 July 2018, rossieronline.usc.edu/blog/teacher-digital-literacy/.
Lynch, Matthew. “Digital Literacy Is the Most Important Lifelong Learning Tool.” The Edvocate, 20 Jan. 2018, http://www.theedadvocate.org/digital-literacy-important-lifelong-learning-tool/.