I first encountered Ohler personally in the summer of 2006 at the NJPSA’s New Jersey Elite Conference where he delivered a great keynote. What Will Richardson is for blogging, Ohler is for Digital Storytelling.
The article begins with an excellent explanation of the depth and breath of literacy. I have found that too often we ask how can we make a student technology literate, when we never even think of defining what we mean by literate. There is a rich literature base around literacy and most articles tend to jump over it. Ohler does a nice job of surveying it.
A great takeaway from this article is the notion of teachers needing to “Experiment fearlessly.” with new media which really runs contrary to our decidedly 20th century notion of lessons being tightly grounded in realistic objectives. Promoting such experimentation in this age of accountability is no easy challenge and I think our ability to experiment as professionals will dicate whether we evolve learning in schools or it evolves without us.
Ohler makes a case for blogging as a separate kind of writing form, which while articulate, I disagree with as I find as much enjoyment and use from the work of the same person whether he presents it in person, blogs it, podcasts it, or writes it for formal publication. Ohler’s distinction isn’t one for me, rather new media for me is a blur of authority and perspective, of stimulus and response. Also, the idea of style being different is also not true, Miguel Guhlin and Will Richardson’s blogs are often essay like. While some writers write differently for the different mediums, I think the best tend to write in a similar fashion that suits them while conceding that the blogging medium is less formal.
Finally, Ohler rings that familiar bell of the fourth R. It isn’t that I disagree with the concept as much as I worry about following its natural progression; competition between the R’s. The larger competition for instructional time based on the importance of standardized tests has already relegated the arts (as well as, in many cases science and social studies) to the sideline. I think the idea of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) resonates more and the challenge is to integrate digital storytelling into the STEM paradigm.
Perhaps 21st century literacy isn’t another literacy, but really the primary literacy and the rest of the literacies are its history not its competition.