Draft for Paper 3

What Should be Taught in Schools

The digital era has progressed to a point where students can not be functioning citizens without digital literacy. Danah Boyd is a technology and social media scholar, that has taught at New York University and is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research. She wrote a book called It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens about how society is failing youth by not preparing students for the technical world. Boyd’s argument in “Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?”, a chapter from her book, is that young people are not being equipped with “critical digital literacy,” by focusing on the skills that are important that the youth need to know and why. The claims that I want to extend in her book, is about the youth becoming more media literate by: becoming technically literate, becoming aware of websites that uses algorithm and what algorithms do, and understanding fake news and website.

A large claim in Boyd’s chapter is the lack of standardized technical skills being taught or introduced to students, but I believe Boyd doesn’t speak enough on its importance. Boyd believes that the way social media is setup today doesn’t allow student to interact with the technology and coding. Coding is the base of almost everything we do on modern technology like: the software of our computers and phones, in our apps on our phone, and all websites. When Myspace was popular, users explore code to customize their profile and without this exploration many aren’t connecting with a large part of the digital world, coding. Since social media nowadays lack this quirk teens aren’t being introduced to the language of code, when knowing code is more important than ever. Boyd says that technical skills are increasingly important and teens don’t even have a basic understanding of how computers systems work, and if teens do want to learn more problems are, “ it takes time and effort as well as opportunities, networking, and training to become active participants in contributors(182 Boyd).” So it’s understandably difficult to create a basic standard curriculum, but it’s incredibly important and their is a lack of curriculum and students skills. Dian Schaffhauser, a freelance writer who writes about technology, who supports Boyd’s claims by talking about the real dangers of the lack of technical skill. In her article, “When Students Can’t Compute.”, she wrote, “Online education promises learning opportunities for all, but too many community college students lack the tech skills–and the access–to take advantage of these resources.” The technical skills need to be taught to people for them to be able to access learning opportunities. High schools are not preparing teens for college or to be digitally literate citizens. Which is the reason why Boyd talks about technical skills in her book. The Children’s Internet Protection Act is the only thing required by the federal government to be taught about the internet. This act forces schools to have two certificates making sure students are safe when using the internet. The extent of the teaching required by the 21st Century Act, which is under the CIPA, is schools must educate “minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.” This is a great Act for protecting our children, but this is the only curriculum required by the government to be taught to our children about technology. This is evidence that children are not being prepare for the real world and the mass of amount of technology people are required to interact with.

Boyd thinks technical skills is an essential part of becoming a digital citizen and people are listening. She states “Although it is not necessary to be technically literate to participate, those with limited technical literacy aren’t necessarily equipped be powerful citizens of the digital world(183 Boyd).” Many teenagers are jumping on the internet and learning the basics of social media, but aren’t learning the basics of computers and technology. Now we need to know Lawmakers are realizing the need for more digital literacy. A computer science bill, introduced by Assembly Member Tim Grayson, will be taking effect in California in July 2019 that requires standards for teaching coding and digital literacy. They describe “ ‘coding’ is the process of converting a program design into an accurate and detailed representation of that program in a suitable language.” This is a good start to teaching technology to students. There are many benefits to learning how to code that doesn’t have to do with being prepared for the technological based future. Dan Crow is a writer from a newspaper, The Guardian, is focused on the effects of technology. In “Why Every Child Should Learn Code” Dan Crow extends what Boyd writes by explaining more positives of teaching people code. He  is aware that not all jobs will require knowing code, but code teaches, “Computational thinking… it {coding} combines mathematics, logic and algorithms, and teaches you a new way to think about the world.” This shows the importance of teaching students coding that is just more than the saying that the future is computers. Students need to understand technology ,which starts with coding, to become digital citizen. Boyd and Schaffhauser claims people need to be taught technical skills and when the only thing required to be taught is about being safe in chat rooms, there is a lot more things that students need to be taught. Coding and the other benefits mentioned by Dan Crow will be taught in California thanks to a bill from Assembly Member Tim Grayson.

Another part of digital literacy has to do with algorithms and most people, including students, don’t understand what they are or how they work. Boyd believes that the lack of knowledge of algorithms because trust in web engines and other things on the internet that may be biased. I think that people should know basics about algorithms like: what they are, how they are used, what websites use them, and why they are biased.  Boyd writes, “The results that a search engine produces may reveal biases in the underlying data, or they may highlight how the weights chosen by engineers prioritize certain content over others(185).” Boyd writes this in the context of people trusting the order of Google’s results page for being reliable. In reality, Google is a for-profit company with the goal of acquiring the most profit. Which their algorithms will reflect their objective and manipulate which websites get ranked higher. But Google is still considered to be a very trustworthy site that teachers recommend to their student perpetuating the cycle. This is because people are unaware of the algorithms and their bias. Sam Wineburg is a Professor of Education and History at Stanford University and the author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts  and Sarah McGrew teaches in the Stanford Teacher Education Program and together they wrote an article talking about the three things student should know about how to choose a trustworthy site from Google. In “Why Students Can’t Google Their Way to the Truth Fact-checkers”, Sam Wineburg and Sarah McGrew wrote, “Instead of trusting Google to sort pages by reliability (which reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how Google works), the checkers mined URLs and abstracts for clues. They {professional fact-checkers} regularly scrolled down to the bottom of the search results page in their quest to make an informed decision about where to click first.” This gives insight on how professionals find the truth and trustworthy websites. This extends Boyd’s argument by giving options for a solution and it shows that even though Google is biased that you can find good websites if you know how.

Boyd doesn’t talk about non-factual websites and their influence on students, but it is an extremely important part of digital literacy at this time and by talking about some quick tips to teach students this will strengthen and make Boyd’s chapter more modern. In Mike Caulfield’s “Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers”, Caulfield agrees with Boyd saying that, “the web gives us many such strategies, tactics, and tools, which, properly used, can get students closer to the truth of a statement or image within seconds. Unfortunately, we do not teach students these specific techniques.” Caulfield recommends four tips to fact-check: look to see if someone already fact checked this site or article, look at the articles sources, see if the sources are trustworthy, go through the process again. This gives people that have a lack of digital literacy skills a quick checklist to think about while reading and looking for trustworthy sources, especially for school. While other people would prefer to teach a more of a non-lateral approach by just looking at the article. Frank Baker a Media Education Consultant that has done hundreds of workshops for teachers and students on media literacy. Some of his recommendations for how to identify fake news is: a title in all caps, an excess amount of ads, and reading more than just the headline. He also gives some tips like check the sources and reverse engine source pictures that can be considered more lateral thinking, but most of them are based on what you can see on the site. Not just scholars are realizing that teens need to know how to tell the difference between real and fake news, Lawmakers are too. Assembly Member Tim Grayson, introduced a bill about digital literacy in California legislature. They wrote in the bill that “‘digital literacy’ means the skills associated with using technology to enable users to find, evaluate, organize, create, and communicate information.” This is important because it is now teaching young children not to trust everything they read on the internet. This also will lowers the influences on people by making them more aware of fake news and how real it could look. Some people think this bill will do more harm than good. Sam Wineburg disagrees that checklists are the best way to be teaching students on how to fact check websites. Sam Wineburg is a professor at Stanford and his study was cited in California’s bill on digital literacy. He told the Washington Post in“Why California’s new media literacy law for schools could backfire” that, instead of giving kids checklists, let’s teach them to spend a minute consulting what the broader Web says about a site or an organization before diving into it.” Wineburg’s worry is valid but if the checklist is how to check a website “laterally” like he wants then he shouldn’t be worried. Caulfield’s list is a step by step on how to read a text laterally. Checking things laterally is good, but it’s time consuming especially if its fake new on Facebook that people are just going to read the headline and believe. I think having a mixture of both laterally and non-laterally should be taught along with when to use either method. The idea, that one method is extremely better and Sam Wineburg is considered that that method is more harm, is completely ridiculous. At this point, something being taught to our kids about digital literacy can only be good. In conclusion, people are trying to teach students how to identify fake news and that is a step in the right direction for teaching digital literacy.

My position is that it is crucial to be teaching our students proficient digital literacy skills to prepare them for our highly technical world. I believe that youth becoming more media literate in technically literacy, becoming aware of websites that uses algorithm and what algorithms do, and understanding fake news and website is an extremely important part in teaching them how to become informed digital citizens. A large part of Boyd’s claim is that students are unprepared and I furthered her argument with the topics that I believe with increase digital literacy.

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