Digital Literacy:
Techne vs. Literacy


In 2009, Schoolcraft College's Pageturners seelcted Herman Hesse's Siddhartha as one of the books for a campus read and I assigned the text in one of my composition classes. After reading the Siddhartha, students were asked to create a video inspired by the book.

Tabe Harold submitted an excellent video which he titled "The Story of Siddhartha: Education." In the video, Tabe did an excellent job of relating Hesse's book to contemporary education. The video was so well done, that I invited Tabe to co-present with me at the 2010 LAND Conference. When we screened "The Story of Siddhartha: Education" at the conference, it was well received because of the quality of both content and message.

In spite of its high quality, "The Story of Siddhartha: Education" does not demonstrate digital literacy because Tabe gave a personal response to Siddhartha instead of one based on research.

Techne is derived from τξχνπ which refers to technique or craft. Someone can be excellent when it comes to the craft of video production without creating a project based on research. An excellent result in using a particular digital technology does not necessary demonstrate digital literacy if the project does not involve investigation and evaluation.


One semester, I asked students in my early modern world history course to create public service announcements concerning a health issue. To successfully complete the assignment, students were required to conduct research during the historical period we were studying; not just in terms of public health issues but also of the society experiencing the issue. In the process of investigating resources, students needed to evaluate the resources they found for accuracy and credibility. Then, when they began to create their videos, they needed to know the audience to whom the video was directed.

For his public service announcement, Eric DeWulf created "Attention Citizens of Germany." Before deciding to focus on educating fourteenth century German citizens on proper beer steins, he did extensive investigation/research and evaluation on the plague throughout Europe, Asia, and China. "Attention Citizens of Germany" demonstrates literacy not only because of Eric's techne, but because his video is based on using digital technologies to investigate, evaluate, and create.

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As a way to help students better evaluate digital media, I often integrate memes into class lessons. During the Winter 2013 semester, three students — Tyler Hewitt, Courtney Remijan, and Spencer Wong — suggested that students would learn more if they were asked to create memes instead of just analyzing them. In the modern world history class I taught during Spring 2013, I did ask students to create a meme.

Samantha Floeter created a meme based on the oil crisis that took place in the 1970s. During her class presentation as well as in a paper submitted with her meme, Sam included information about the Emergency Energy Highway Conservation Act of 1974, the 1973 Oil Crisis,the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and a variety of other geo-political issues which she investigated and evaluated. Creating this meme allowed Sam to develop and demonstrate her digital literacy skills.