Language Matters

What we call something matters because different words mean different things. If I tell you my husband gave me flowers, you might smile. If I tell you that my husband gave me a bouquet of twenty-four of my favorite yellow roses, you can “see” what he gave me much better–and you know that my feelings are more intense, too.

Sometimes what we call something matters because of the inherent meanings in the word. If we call someone a child or an adult, the listener or reader will understand the person differently, expect different actions and reactions, and respond differently to the description.

Sometimes, though, the words matter because they mean different things to different people.

I was in a meeting this week (or last week, so many meetings!) and they asked what we were calling or would call or might call what we were talking about. Throughout the meeting most of the people discussing the topic said etextbooks. Some meant a specific thing and said iBooks. When they asked, however, the name changed to digital media… That doesn’t include a lot that previous commenters at the meeting had been talking about; they had been talking about online packages of PDFs of lecture materials and readings they had prepared for their students. Now, I wouldn’t even have called those etextbooks, but what the people organizing the meeting were trying to talk about wasn’t actually what we thought either. They were –apparently– talking about how we can add non-written components to our classrooms and homework in some format. They wanted to talk about videos and music and moving presentations and movies and film clips and… When they explained what they were talking as digital media, the conversation changed abruptly.

That is one of the reasons I found the article “Digital Literacies and Web Literacies: What’s the Difference?” interesting. Another is that I’ve already been introduced to misunderstandings of digital literacy. A third is that I have had difficulty differentiating between different kinds of literacies in the past.

So, what does “Digital Literacies and Web Literacies: What’s the Difference?” say?

Doug Belshaw says this is the topic of his dissertation and involves work with the Mozilla Foundation. He talks about 8 essential elements of digital literacy and 5 elements (same or different?) of web literacy. My favorite part of the reading is the ending.

[He is asking] whether Web Literacies constitute either (or both) a necessary condition for Digital Literacies? In other words, could somebody claim to have developed Digital Literacies without having developed Web Literacies?

I’m fairly sure you can guess my answer. 🙂

And the answer is? In the graphic:

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