The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 18, 2012

Digital workshops in Charlotte help improve media literacy

Posted by Dr. Alexis Carreiro

The James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University teaches digital media and literacy to students and the community, with Knight Foundation support.  Here, Dr. Alexis Carreiro describes some of the school's recent digital citizenship workshops.

Recently, five faculty members from Queens University of Charlotte led ten digital citizenship workshops throughout Charlotte, N.C.

The digital citizenship program, which I created, is part of a required Modern Citizenship course at the university. The course, which all traditional undergraduates take in their freshman year, explores what it means to be a citizen in contemporary society and encourages students to contribute to the communities in which they live.

This spring, part of the course focused on digital citizenship and how it relates to modern society. It's part of the Knight School’s “Knight Vision” that aims to help people see how they can use digital technology in meaningful ways that contribute to the social health and long-term viability of their communities.

As part of the service-learning course requirement, students helped create a digital citizenship website and then worked one-on-one with community members (as personal digital consultants) at workshops throughout Charlotte.

The workshops occurred at four local libraries, a community center and the Stratford-Richardson YMCA.  For two weeks in March, 79 Queens University students helped 83 community members navigate the digital citizenship website and become more digitally and media literate. 

Here's what some of the students and community participants had to say about the workshops:

·      “Wow - what fun - I am 82 years old and my new teacher was able to teach me several things in a very short time that I really wanted to know.” – workshop participant

·      “This was such an awesome experience. I brought six students for the Charlotte Housing Authority who are new computer users. This was a great experience for each of them.” - workshop participant

·      “I learned that there is a large population of citizens that are digitally illiterate. I never really realized the scope of this problem, especially considering how our society is becoming more and more digital. I also learned that this issue would divide the population. Instead of people only being divided by income, people would also be divided based on digital access and literacy.” – freshman student

·      “After attending the service-learning project at the Main Library in uptown Charlotte I realized how oblivious I was to the fact that a large percent of the older generations are technologically challenged.  By helping our elders learn how to use current technology, we are strengthening our community by providing this knowledge…Taking part in the service-learning project made me realize how much I take for granted …Technology is something I use each and every day. It is even included in the majority of classes that I take. When I am on my e-mail, Facebook or Twitter, I never stop to think about how lucky I am that I have so much knowledge about each one of those.  After helping Jack Hargrove, I will certainly stop to think how many people all over our country are illiterate when it comes to using important technology such as a computer. If everyone in the nation was knowledgeable on how to use digital media, it would be easier for our world to stay connected and news would spread even more quickly than it already does. I feel as if our core class has already made a difference by teaching our Charlotte community how to set up an email account, set up a Facebook page, and even create a website.” - freshman student

·      “I worked with a woman [and] almost every time she accomplished something new, she would say things like, “This is so great!” Anyone observing could tell that she felt emboldened just by listening and looking at the expression of excitement on her face. [My student] knew that she was achieving a greater degree of digital and media literacy and thus becoming better able to conduct and understand the affairs of her own life. She knew that she was becoming more capable of being an active citizen. Participating in the workshop allowed me to help myself as well as other people. I am far from being a “life-of-the-party” party person, and I tend to keep to myself far too often. Before the workshops began, I expected that I would only be able to awkwardly (and fairly unsuccessfully) aid the person I was assigned to help. Not to be immodest, but I rose far above my expectations, and I realized that I do possess the potential to provide friendly and valuable aid to a stranger.” - freshman student

·      “I learned a lot from this experience. I was extremely nervous going into it, [I thought] that I would not be able to help my citizen figure out their needs, or that I just wouldn’t be the person they were looking for. I realized that I know a lot more about technology that I thought, and that it’s not that hard to talk to people in the community. My citizen and I were able to talk and laugh while we figured out their solutions to her problems. We actually got along really well. This taught me to be more confident in myself when meeting new people.” - freshman student

For more information about the Digital Citizenship program or the Knight School of Communication,  contact Dr. Alexis Carreiro:

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