Redefining Literacy in the Advancing Technological Society

W. Ian O’Byrne in his own words | A Network50 Spotlight

By Ian O’Byrne

If I were to characterize my work, I would suggest that I am an educator, researcher, and a hacker/tinkerer. I like to build and break things. The building and breaking of things helps me think through the way they work, or how to make them work better.

I am currently an Assistant Professor in Literacy Education at the College of Charleston.

My research focuses on the literacy habits of individuals as they read, write, communicate, socialize, and participate in online and hybrid spaces. This work has included my work as part of the web literacy initiative. Much of my work recently is tending toward issues associated with “open”, as well as privacy, security, and empowering all users.

I believe there is a tremendous amount of power in literacy and education. I also believe that all individuals should be able to learn, and interact as literate individuals in society. These forms of literacy are changing as the Internet becomes the dominant text of this generation. To be fully literate now and in the future, individuals need to be able to use traditional and digital texts for literacy practices.

I believe that we are presented with an opportunity to reconceptualize the manner in which the Internet changes learning and literacy practices. Researchers and educators will have the opportunity to redefine what it means to be literate in the advancing technological society. As whole segments of our lives continue to be integrated into online interactions, it is paramount that we identify opportunities to educate, empower, and advocate for all individuals as they engage with these digital and hybrid spaces.

The World Wide Web has become this generation’s defining technology for literacy. This technology facilitates access to an unlimited amount of online information in a participatory learning space. Multiple theories and years of research have investigated the literacy practices in these online and hybrid spaces. Yet, as early adopters, history’s first generation of “always connected” individuals do not have the knowledge and skills to critically explore, build, and connect online. Simply stated, students are often not provided with opportunities in school to practice the web literacies necessary to read, write, and participate on the web. The Mozilla Foundation and community of volunteers have worked to address this paradox by creating a Web Literacy Map. These efforts seek not to simply understand the web but to empower all individuals to help build a better open web.

W. Ian O’Byrne

Ian O’Byrne is an educator, researcher, and entrepreneur. His research examines the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online and hybrid spaces. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston. He is a member of our first cohort of “Network50.”

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