Digital Literacy and the Enculturation of the Young

by Judith J. Pickens
May 3, 2011

The art and science of storytelling has been at the heart of all good education from the beginning of the humanity. Since before technology, before media, before printing or even writing, education was passed from generation to generation through storytelling. The stories told around the fire before written histories may have had elements of myth and legend and exaggerated truth in them, but they all served the same purpose: the enculturation of the young and the drawing together of the people whose stories that were kept alive.

Today’s media serves much the same purpose. The stories we see on the large or small screen, the images in video games and advertising are all meant as a means of enculturation, the “process by which an individual learns the traditional content of a culture and assimilates its practices and values” according to Merriam-Webster.

To not use today’s media in education is to miss an essential opportunity. Media isn’t going away and unless we sequester ourselves and our children on a deserted island, media will continue to educate our youth. So it behooves us to teach them how to use media appropriately and how to effectively evaluate the media they come in contact with every day. We need to teach our youth how to see and hear the story media tells with discriminating eyes and ears. Then all media can help support youth development because our youth are learning each day to evaluate, analyze and then produce their own version of the story.

At Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide, we believe in teaching digital literacy. We believe in the appropriate use of media to help our members learn and broaden their educational horizons. Through Club Tech, Boys & Girls Clubs educate their members not just to be consumers of media but producers of media so that their voice is heard and they too can be “educators” just as other media are. We help them to evaluate what they see in all different types of media so that they can choose.

Media educates. It is up to youth development professionals to guide and direct our youth to learn about media so that they don’t just learn from media but learn with media and use it to reach their full potential and grow into “caring and productive citizens.”

Judith J. Pickens has more than 30 years experience as an educator and human services professional. As Senior Vice President of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Ms. Pickens is responsible for developing and implementing national programs in five core areas: Character and Leadership Development; Education and Career Development; Health and Life Skills; The Arts; and Sports, Fitness and Recreation. Program & Youth Development Services is one of BGCA’s largest and most creative departments. It is mission-driven and acutely aware of the needs of children, youth, families and communities worldwide.