Critical Digital Literacy
by Karin Zotzmann
The digital environment provides access to an infinite number of multimodal texts and genres and enables learning across borders with distant others. At the same time, teachers and learners need to be able to search for information efficiently, locate reliable resources, critically evaluate the quality, source, and relevance of the information obtained, and appropriately communicate with others in diverse contexts. In this presentation, I will argue that we need to go beyond digital literacy, in both teacher education and actual classroom practice, and raise critical awareness of the affordances and constraints of this environment as it is currently structured. While digital technologies are, in principle, neutral tools that enable people to communicate and learn in new and intensified ways, their relative lack of political regulation has led to a monopolization of this sphere by multinational companies. These multinationals generate surplus data through searches, clicks, and likes, harvesting engagement between others and employing semiotic resources to finetune business strategies and political campaigns. After presenting an overview of current approaches to digital literacy in relation to the affordances and constraints of the digital environment, I will outline key aspects of critical digital literacy and present various promising educational initiatives that can inform our practice in both language teacher education and actual language teaching contexts.
About the author
Dr. Karin Zotzmann works as an associate professor in Applied Linguistics at the University of Southampton. She has published on the marketization of higher education, intercultural language education, social class and intersectionality in language teaching and learning and academic literacy. More broadly, her research interests include the ways socio-economic, political and institutional factors and processes impact upon the teaching and learning of foreign languages and teacher education.