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Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

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Code words: The importance of teaching digital literacies

Below right: Dr. Janette Hughes, Associate Professor and Assistant Dean (Research), UOIT Faculty of Education.
Below right: Dr. Janette Hughes, Associate Professor and Assistant Dean (Research), UOIT Faculty of Education.

The so-called ‘post-millennial’ generation (sometimes tabbed iGeneration or even Generation Z) is growing up quickly, perhaps faster than any group before them. Most of today’s youngsters are almost immediately immersed in technology and many are quickly fluent with how to use the plethora of devices at their disposal.

These rapid changes are raising some poignant questions among parents and educators. Are children wading (if not diving) too quickly into the online world and powerful realm of social media? What sense of responsibility do kids need to have before they post their first messages or participate in chat rooms? Can a 10-year-old truly understand the implication of putting a threat in a social media message that triggers a weapons scare or police call, especially if no one has taught them? Who is accountable if the child isn’t?

Media Smarts (Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy) recommended in its 2010 report Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation that Canada create a national digital literacy strategy. But five years later, we are no closer to achieving this goal.

Dr. Janette Hughes, UOIT Faculty of Education

“We need to be having hard discussions about building a culture of digital citizenship and laying the foundations for digital literacy, even from a very young age,” says Dr. Janette Hughes, a digital literacies education researcher with the Faculty of Education at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). “Today’s kids are existing ‘in the wild’ when it comes to the Internet. The curriculum has not kept pace with the changes in our online landscapes. We used to talk about the ‘three Rs’ comprising ‘the basics’. We need to be thinking about digital literacy as a similar foundational skill.”

Dr. Hughes says the University of Ontario Institute of Technology’s enhanced Bachelor of Education program pays close attention to the intersection of technology and teaching, to help tomorrow’s educators engage with this new, participatory world.

“Our concept of digital literacy includes computational as well as linguistic knowledge, skills, and understanding that will increase the competence and confidence of students persistently left out of the 'digital native' demographic as well as their teachers. The courses move well beyond traditional content instruction and investigate uses of emerging digital media and interactive tools that disrupt traditional curricular and teaching/learning assumptions and practices driven by print-based literacies.”

How are today’s teachers going to fit all of these changes into the classrooms of the future? Some skeptics would argue today’s kids, especially older kids are distracted by technology, caught up with their devices being strictly for entertainment. Dr. Hughes says this kind of moral panic is akin to what happened with the advent of the radio, the TV and even the printing press.

“Now more than ever, it is vital to teach healthy learning habits in elementary school,” she says. “To be literate in the 21st century, students need to both read critically and to write functionally across a range of media forms and formats. These are not luxuries, rather, they are essential components of knowing and communicating.”