The New York Times has an interesting discussion on the effect of the Internet on literacy skills
The article quotes various academics as stating that frequent book readers have better vocabulary and comprehension skills. They dismiss the Internet as a place for developing literacy skills.
And yet our children are doing more of their reading on the Internet than ever before.
More significantly, when they go to work, our children are going to have to be highly ‘Internet literate’, and skilled at what I call ‘search and sift’: they are going to need to be able to search the internet, and draw useful and accurate information from the millions of informative, intelligent, and often misinformative and poorly researched web pages. They are going to need to be able to spot the reliable and discard the garbage.
When he was in seventh grade, Hunter was one of 89 students who participated in a study comparing performance on traditional state reading tests with a specially designed Internet reading test. Hunter, who scored in the lowest 10 percent on the traditional test, spent 12 weeks learning how to use the Web for a science class before taking the Internet test. It was composed of three sets of directions asking the students to search for information online, determine which sites were reliable and explain their reasoning.
Hunter scored in the top quartile. In fact, about a third of the students in the study, led by Professor Leu, scored below average on traditional reading tests but did well on the Internet assessment.
Those skilled at ‘search and sift’ are going to become valuable employees, regardless of their skill at traditional literacy and comprehension tests. But for the most part, few people seem to recognise the value of teaching our children how to navigate the shark-infested waters of the Internet:-
Some simply argue that reading on the Internet is not something that needs to be tested — or taught.
“Nobody has taught a single kid to text message,” said Carol Jago of the National Council of Teachers of English and a member of the testing guidelines committee. “Kids are smart. When they want to do something, schools don’t have to get involved.”
Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford who lobbied for an Internet component as chairman of the reading test guidelines committee, disagreed. Students “are going to grow up having to be highly competent on the Internet,” he said. “There’s no reason to make them discover how to be highly competent if we can teach them.”
I think that Internet Literacy is going to be much more important in the future than ‘traditional’ literacy. Read the full article here