Digital literacy crucial early in life, educators say
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1439, he remade the world. The age of broad public literacy -- the ability to read and write -- was under way, according to a speaker at an early childhood education conference at Westmoreland County Community College.
Nearly 600 years later, the world faces a shift as profound as the one Gutenberg's movable type ushered in, said Faith Rogow, the founding president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.
E-readers, iPads, the iPhone, interactive "smart boards," Skype, social media -- these and other products of the digital revolution are the 21st-century equivalent of Gutenberg's sublime invention, Rogow said.
In this new world, "what does it mean to be literate?" Rogow asked the 200 teachers attending the daylong symposium on Friday.
Reading and writing are part of the answer, she said. But so is the ability to navigate the new media landscape. For early education teachers, it means preparing youngsters "for the world they actually live in," Rogow said -- the world of interactive, instant communication and information-gathering.
For all the emphasis on new media, conference speakers emphasized these are "tools"-- similar to paper and crayon -- to be used to guide children "to be the people we want them to be," in Rogow's words.
The purpose of "media literacy education," she said, is to develop in children "the habits of inquiry and the skills of expression."
Teachers and parents, living in the day-to-day world, needed something more practical, and Rogow tried to provide it: Adults should be persistent in asking children, "how do you know that," during story reading time, with the followup, if needed, of "how can you find out" the answer.
Sponsored by the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, the conference featured 18 90-minute workshops on such topics as "There's an App for That: Selecting Quality Children's Books in E-book Format", "Message from Me: Using Digital Technology to Connect Children and Families" and "Using Media and Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom."
A second keynote speaker, Roberta Schomburg, a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media, stressed the importance of keeping playtime a part of early childhood education. She was more emphatic about the role of adults and human interaction in the education of children.
"At the core of early childhood education is the relationship" between children and their parents and teachers, Schomburg said.
"Technology and interactive media are learning tools, and it's how we use them that makes a difference," she said. "Just because it's electronic" is no guarantee that it's good for children.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.