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An excerpt from
Digital Literacy
by
Paul Gilster

Copyright © 1997 by Paul Gilster
This material is used by permission of 
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


 
 

Introduction to Excerpt
by
Trish Watson
NC State University
Raleigh, NC

"Now, at the turn of the new century, Web technologies are replacing TV, telephones, and newspapers as the primary means by which we are informed and entertained."
Introduction

This century has been one of change and growth, and media and communication have been among the most rapidly developing. At the turn of the last century, theatre, the telegraph, and the newspaper entertained and informed us. By the 1930s, movies replaced theatre as popular entertainment, and telephones had replaced telegraphs as primary lines of communication. In the 1950s TV replaced movies and, later, newspapers. Now, at the turn of the new century, Web technologies are replacing all three —TV, telephones, and newspapers—as the primary means by which we are informed and entertained.

"Our ability to adapt to the Web as it adapts to us will determine its future and our own." As each of these changes has occurred in media and communication, so too the mindset of the consuming, enjoying, learning public has changed along with them. Paul Gilster, in his book Digital Literacy (Wiley, 1997), describes how this latest change is occurring and how we can more readily take full advantage of the opportunities and adapt to the new possibilities, and sometimes dys-abilities, we encounter as we rely more and more on the Web.

Our ability to adapt to the Web as it adapts to us will determine its future and our own. Gilster is concerned, as the book jacket describes, with providing "Internet novices with the basic thinking skills and core competencies they'll need to thrive in an interactive environment so fundamentally different from passive media such as television or print.
 

"… we must operate the Web as dynamic thinkers no longer content to have information and entertainment merely presented to us." Below Meridian reprints two sections from Gilster's book. One, titled "The Spinning of the Web," covers some basic history of the medium—where it comes from. The other, "Interacting with the Media," gives some examples of the Web's potential—where we're going. To transcend passive media, to go beyond "electronic print" into truly dynamic networks, we must operate the Web as dynamic thinkers no longer content to have information and entertainment merely presented to us.

As we teach the next generation of Web users about the networks available to them, we are also giving them the opportunity to learn a mindset that can allow them to stretch and explore the potential of this interactive medium.  If we can help our students live up to the potential Gilster describes, we can hope one day that a final media/communication merge will erase the distinction between what it means to entertain and what it means to inform…

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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 2, Issue 2, July 1999 ISSN 1097-9778
URL: http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/jul99/diglit/index.html
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