One of our most popular posts this fall was “Why Digital Literacy,” where we talked about the growing set of thought leaders speaking out about the importance of digital literacy. For some it’s a matter of training the next generation of entrepreneurs and engineers. For others it’s about matching skills to jobs and ensuring basic comprehension of the information ecosystem.
The digital literacy debates are escalating as we head into 2012; but as I listen, it strikes me that few have articulated what digital literacy really means. What constitutes a digitally literate high school graduate? What do I need to be able to know, make, or understand to be a digitally literate adult? The most thoughtful piece I read last year was by @betsymas at Google, titled “To learn how the Internet works is to learn civics.” She emphasizes that teaching students to code is not enough:
Understanding how to write code that builds an isolated piece of technology is like understanding how to read and write, or knowing the ins and outs of a particular subject like Biology. But understanding how the Internet works is like understanding the way society is governed. The architectural design should be taught in high school, the same way we teach about the design of the US Constitution.
Last Friday, as I was returning from vacation, I was amused to hear a network segment titled “2012 – the Year of Code” looping in all the airports. It was filled with catch phrases – “Code is the new Chinese.” “Code is the language of the next generation.” “First we teach math, then we teach code.”
The segment was provoked by the recent launch of Code Academy’s New Year’s Resolution Coding Class – “Code Year.” At Code Year, anyone who adds his or her email to a website receives free coding classes once a week for a year.
The Code Academy campaign is an awesome initiative, and they’ve managed to sign up over 100,000 people so far. Still, if 2012 is the Year of Digital Literacy, it’s time to dive in and think about a real Digital Literacy Agenda. We’ll try to unravel this further in the coming months. For now, I’ll leave you with Mashable’s Code Academy video… in case any of you want to learn how to code… whilst we debate!