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Weninger, C. (2022). Skill versus social practice? Some challenges in teaching digital literacy in the university classroom. TESOL Quarterly. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.3134
Digital literacy is viewed by many governments as an educational priority area, resulting in policies and curricula aimed at developing students’ digital literacy skills. This can present many challenges, including lacking teacher professional development, uneven digital infrastructure across school districts or unequal access to digital media among students. In this article, I focus on a different challenge that stems from differing definitions of digital literacy among educational researchers, teachers, and educational policy makers and the tensions that can arise from these differences for teachers who are tasked with developing learners’ digital literacy. Specifically, I discuss how I have merged a curricular mandate for a skills-heavy digital literacy policy with my theoretical conviction of literacy as social practice in my teaching of a tertiary course on digital literacy. To do so, I first critically examine Singapore’s recent digital literacy curriculum reform with reference to a larger divide between conceptualizations of digital literacy as technical, decontextualized skills related to employability on the one hand and as social practice rooted in students’ lived experiences on the other. Second, I discuss my efforts at combining these two perspectives in teaching digital media literacy, highlighting how we can foster digital ‘skills’ and critical engagement with digital media while providing space for playful and creative communicative practice.
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