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Aren’t we already the “digital literacy corps”?

I asked Fran Bullington, fabulous blogger and media specialist from South Carolina, if she’d allow me to share the post she wrote yesterday in response to Matt Ricthel’s New York Times piece, Wasting Time is New Divide in Digital Era.

The article pointed to studies pointing to a new divide–that children of poverty spend more time than children of wealth wasting time with gadgets, gaming, and connecting on social networks.

And that the FCC plans action.

In fact, it’s planning to layout $200 million to send a digital literacy corps to schools and libraries.

Huh?  Our schools and libraries?  Or those schools and libraries from which full library programs have been eliminated?

Fran writes:

Calling School Librarians to Action! Another Attempt to Undermine Our Jobs

My blood is boiling.  I read this article online today after it was shared on Twitter by Rebecca Oxley (@LibrariansFTW).  This excerpt is what got my dander up.  And that is a dangerous thing to do with a Southern gal:

Fran Bullington

Looks like the FCC has no idea that our schools have a ready-made “digital literacy corps” in place.

Chairman Julius Genachowski was quoted in the article.  He recognizes the importance of digital literacy, but he is ill-informed. He does not know that there are already trained professionals in many schools who work, against great odds at times, to train our students and who volunteer to teach parents these skills.

Let’s not let him claim ignorance before spending this money.

Send him an email( informing him that WE ARE THE DIGITAL LITERACY CORPS (feel free to copy or adapt the following):

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.”  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.  As a school librarian, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills.  I collaborate with classroom teachers to teach lessons in which I incorporate these skills.

However, the recession has had an enormous impact on school libraries.  Many programs have been completely cut; others are being run by volunteers rather than a certified school librarian; and other programs have lost their assistants, whose job of handling routine procedures freed the school librarian to plan with teachers.

I noticed that the FCC is considering “a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.  Why not instead funnel these funds into school library programs to allow trained, certified professionals to teach the skills?

I look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue.

Will you contact the FCC?

Image used through a CC license:

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. BeretBrenckman says:

    Thanks for the link to the article and the email address of the FCC official. I wrote him immediately!

  2. Rebecca Oxley says:

    Thanks so very much for sharing this with us, Joyce. I think this has been on every school librarian’s mind since this article hit yesterday. In fact the article itself is a completely skewed point of view regarding links between low socioeconomic status and race to so-called digital “time-wasting.” $200m probably won’t save all the SLM programs that have been slashed or imploded, but it’s ironic that it’s not too far from the amount promised to fund public and school libraries during the Bush administration under the Library Science and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Act: funds that were promised but never fully allotted and dispersed. It also points to a major problem, an old problem: why don’t people know that teacher-librarians already fulfill this role in the school environment? Likewise, why don’t people know what’s already happening in the public library setting? There’s a veritable history of proposed solutions and movers & shakers who are exercising them- so why does this problem persist to the extent that it threatens the entire profession? And how can we solve this particular problem regarding the proposed FCC Digital Literacy Corp right here and now?

  3. Alison Francis says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I just sent an email to Mr. G!

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