I remember as a student with a young family and little money going to Sears so that our young son could play on the lawn tractors. Of course, that’s not the real point of the riding lawn tractors – they’re not a destination but a tool meant to help people accomplish their lawn and garden goals. Selecting the right lawn tractor (or foregoing the lawn tractor all together for a push mower and wheel barrow) requires that we critically consider why its needed in the first place. Doing so before beginning the conversation with a salesperson can help us avoid overbuying. Likewise cars aren’t a destination but a vehicle to carry us someplace. Selecting the right car requires knowledge of our intended destinations – perhaps public transit would be better if we’re only going to be using it to drive in a big city, while a car designed for all weather driving would be better if we’re going to be using it extensively in northern climates.
When we think about digital technology, though, we too often either treat them as a destination or as a one-size-fits-all tool. As such, we may assume we need to be using a computer, then we learn how to use it, then we start wondering how we can change what we do so that we can use the computer or other digital technology to instead accomplish the task. It’s like first buying a riding lawn tractor, then designing the landscape around our house, perhaps even buying and tearing down the neighboring house, so that we can use the riding mower to cut the grass.
This site provides some new ideas on how we can do digital media literacy training differently so that technology isn’t the destination, but instead a possible vehicle to get us to the destination. The workshops listed include lessons on using technology, but only after developing a clear idea of what the goal of the participants is first. In one way or another they also include critical reflection of the differences in accomplishing goals depending on the digital technology chosen, and how this might compare to accomplishing the goal if other, non-digital, tools and technologies were used instead. We hope you find these workshop ideas and the supporting resources helpful, and would love to hear from you accordingly. We can be reached at feedback at prairienet.org.