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Digital media literacy has undoubtedly changed the ways in which humans think, imagine, communicate, learn, retrieve, analyze, and build new information. Digital media literacies such as information literacy, reproduction literacy, photo-visual literacy, branching literacy, and socio-emotional literacy are not equally distributed among people. The absence or presence of one or more types of digital literacy defines a person's mode of thinking or even his/her digital media literacy as a whole. Digital media knowledge influences humans' learning and achievement in all fields. One of these fields is language achievement. To this end, the present study aims at a) investigating the degree to which Moroccan university students in Meknes use digital media tools and facilities in their studies, b) examining the extent to which those students are digitally literate, and c) explaining whether there is any effect of digital media literacy on English language achievement.
In every society, digital tools, technology, information creating, processing, distribution and creation of information are considered to be the building blocks, frame or the axes on which the political, social and economic life is constructed. Digital-media literacy has established new modes of communication and acts as the ultimate cradle for knowledge, communication and professionalism. Digital-media literacy has obliged every individual to have the basic required knowledge for living and working in a digitalized society, would it be professional or personal. It is underpinned to search, find, read, write, access, and criticize different digital and media formats using a computer. It bolsters the user's ability to have access to different information and for what might be called digital gifts and profits. Digital-media literacy and all the ICTs are now an essential life skill for every citizen. The ability to access and use ICTs has effectively become a barrier for some and a help for many and those who lack this kind of knowledge are seen as illiterate.
In education, ICTs have changed both ways of learning and teaching. A more propagated digital literacy has meant new ways and methods for leaning. In other words, ICTs have become essential to lifelong learning in the knowledge society.
The term literacy in the digital world denotes the same meaning it does in other fields and, therefore, implies the skill to use digital apparatus. Put differently, digital literacy can be defined as the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and analyze information using digital technology. It involves a working knowledge of current high-technology, and an understanding of how it can be used. Digitally literate people can communicate and work more efficiently, especially with those who possess the same knowledge and skills (Gilster, 1997). It can also involve more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments (Eshet-Alkalai, 2004).
Photo visual digital literacy
Utilizing, managing and operating visual formats is one of the essetial subskills that make the ICTs utilizer a visual digital literate. In 2004, Echet-Alkalai got a line that modern graphic-based digital environment require scholars to use vision to think in order to create photo-visual communication with the environment. This skill helps users to read and understand messages that are presented in a visual-graphic form.
This literacy was also seen as nested within a large of 21st Century skills, which are described as Digital-Age skills. It is described as the ability to interpret, use appropriate and create image and video using both conventional and 21st century media (Elkins, 2007).
Reproduction digital literacy
Reproduction literacy is the competence of personalizing all what technology in both hardware, software and web editing and modifying. It was defined by Benjamin as the ability of creating art and academic work by reproducing, modifying and editing existing graphics, texts, visual and audio pieces (Benjamin, 1994).
In connecting reproduction digital literacy skill to other fields, Eshet-Alkalai explains that this type of literacy is assential in two major fields: He spoted a) language learning, and b) visual art. He said that reprocuction literacy which is essential in writing, where pre-exixting sentences can be re-organized and re-arranged to creat new meanings and new interpretations. In the visual art, he stressed that with reproduction literacy, pre-existing audio and visual pieces can be edited and manipulated inorder to creat new art works. This shows the imprtance of this new digital literacy in the domain of language learning and education in general.
Branching digital-media literacy
It has been defined as "the ability of learners to form knowledge in a non-linear way as they work in a hypermedia digital environment." (Eshet-Alkalai, 2004: ). This non-linear branching nature of the hyper media space has pushed tech users to new dimentions of thinking that are necessary if they want to make an educated use of the hypermedia space. In other words, users of information used to utilize a limited non-hypermedia-based computer environment which enhance a more linear way of learning that was dictated by the non flexible operating systems which were much more similar to print. However, the modern hypermedia environment, Eshet-Alkalai argues, provides users with a high degree of freedom in navigating through knowledge domains, but at the same time confront them with problems that involve the need to utilize non-linear and branching information-seeking strategies and to construct knowledge from independent shreds of information that were accessed in a non-orderly and non-linear way (Eshet-Alkalai, op cit).
In education, Spiro et al (1991)claimed that modern hyper media environments such as the internet, multimedia environment and digital database provide users with a high degree of freedom in navigating through knowledge domains, but at the same time, confront them with the problems that envolve the need to utilize non-linear and branching information-seeking strategies and to construct knowledge from independent shreds of informatin that were accessed in a non-orderly and non-linear way.
Information digital-media literacy
Information literacy was defined by Ashet-Alkalai as the ability of information consumers to make smart, approproate judgments and educated assessments while seeking and consuming information (Ashet-Alkalai, 2004)
Minkel defined information literacy as a filter which identifies false, irrelevant, or biased information and avoids penetration into the learners cognition (Minkel, 2000).
According to Doyle (1992), an information literate person is one who:
Recognize that accurate and complete information is the basis of intelligent decision making.
Recognize the need for information.
Formula questions based on information needs.
Identifies potential sources of information.
Develops successful search strategies.
Access sources of information including computer based and other technologies.
Organizes information for practical applications.
Integrates new information into an existing body of knowledge.
Uses information in critical thinking and problem solving
Socio-Emotional digital-media literacy
Social emotional literacy involves developing competency with "friendship skills, emotional recognition, problem-solving skills training, violence and substance abuse prevention, and social and anger coping skills" (Joseph and Strain, 2003). According to Connery and Doug, the necessity of socio-emotional literacy is in its importance in online communication as it is as traditional as face to face communication. They said that the lack of paralanguage communication like gestures and other visual clues makes it difficult for senders and receivers of messages to communicate effectively (Connery & Doug, 2011). What both authors said shows the importance of socio-emotional literacy in delving into the digital world, where a huge amount of communication takes place between individuals. They added that trusting individuals on chat sites, trusting emails from unknown sources, and making online purchases are tasks which require overt instruction or experience with online socio-emotional literacy (Connery & Doug, 2011). In this respect, Eshet-Alkalai (2004) claimed that socio-emotional literate users of internet know how to avoid traps, such as emails containing viruses, mostly experience, but also through some overt training.
In the domain of education and knowledge, the expansion of internet and other forms of digital communication, have opened new dimensions for learning through knowledge-sharing groups, discussion groups, knowledge communities, chat rooms and many other forms of collaborative learning (Scardamalia & Bereiter,1996 ; Dickinson, 2002; Ardichvilli et al., 2003).
Specifically, the study aims at a) probing the degree with which students use digital-media tools and facilities in their studies. It is also meant at examining the extent to which students of the English department in Meknes are digitally literate and c) investigating whether there is a relationship between the students digital-media literacy and achievement in English.
The research questions related to the study can be highlighted as follows:
-Why are the majority of students digitally literate?
-Why do digital tools and equipment highly used by students in education?
-Why do digital-media literate students excel at the English language achievement?
It has been noticed that the majority of students are digitally literate due to the availability of digital-media facilities; and by virtue of the digital-media environment which offers them all what they need in terms of both entertainment and studies.
The participants were 34 students from Moulay Ismail University. They formed the purposeful sample of this study. 17 of them are master program students in Applied Linguistics and 17 professional bachelor degree students. All of them belong to the department of English at the faculty of letters and human sciences at Moulay Ismail University in Meknes. The use of two groups with different levels had the aim of investigating digital-media literacy phenomenon in both levels with the same instruments and procedure. The difference in their university level did not affect the research validity given the fact that the level was not incorporated as a variable in the study. Both groups formed a homogeneous group in terms of the subject they study and the common characteristics they share such as a term project which they have to accomplish by the end of the academic year.
The group was assigned a questionnaire and two tests. The questionnaire was used to probe the students' possession of digital-media tools and facilities, the test of digital-media literacy sought to gain information about their digital-media knowledge and an English language achievement test was used to test their language proficiency.
The instrumentation was non-observational containing a questionnaire and two tests. The questionnaire contained 16 questions. It incorporated Yes/No questions and multiple choice ones. The questionnaire was used as an instrument to count the students' use of digital-media instrument and facilities in their studies. The questions covered the students' ownership of computers, their use of digital programs, their use of the World Wide Web, their ownership of other digital tools and equipment, their use of search engines, blogs, social networks, chat-rooms and the type of information they consume and produce.
The digital-literacy test contained five questions and was graded on twenty to fit the statistical hypothesis tests. It served as an instrument to test the students' digital-media knowledge. The English language proficiency test contained comprehension exercises, structure and grammar as well as listening. The test served as an instrument to probe the students' language proficiency in order to be used as a tool in the analysis of variance between the students' language proficiency and digital-media literacy. In other words, the students' marks will be compared with the students' ownership and manipulation of digital-media tools and facilities to see if there exists any relation between the two.
The subjects were collected in a classroom and were given both the questionnaire and both tests to be filled and answered in the duration of an hour.
After collection, the language test and the digital-media literacy test were corrected and graded on 20 and the students' marks together with the students' answers on the questionnaire were filled in the computer software SPSS (The Statistical Package of Human Sciences)
Data analysis and interpretation
In this study, two types of data analysis were applied; the qualitative and the quantitative data analysis. In the questionnaire which contains Yes/No questions and multiple choices ones, a qualitative data analysis was adopted. The students' answers were filled in SPSS and were analyzed in terms of frequency counts with numbers and percentages. The results were also displayed in the form of pie charts and histograms, and they were analyzed and interpreted.
The variables were analyzed using the corresponding statistical hypothesis tests to look for relations or associations between variables; a statistical test of correlation was used to evoke the dependence relationship which may exist between two quantitative variables, a One way ANOVA test was used to test the significant value between a qualitative variable which is the factor and a quantitative variable which is the dependent variable; and a Chi-square distribution test was used to test the relationship of independence or if any association exist between two qualitative variables.
Summary of the results
The students' ownership of digital tools was analyzed in details in order to discover the degrees of possession of each digital tool and to discover the ones they own more. The analysis of the results showed that the majority of students have a PC, but not all of them have a printer, EBook reader, a smart phone or an I-pad or even other digital tools. This distribution of possession of those tools demonstrates that the majority favor the ownership of a PC. The following diagram will illustrate this as flows:
The conclusion which might be drawn is that students prefer a personal computer because it is endowed with internet connection. The latest was shown to be owned by the majority of students. Thus, it can be said that ownership of a PC entails ownership of internet connection. Concerning factors for which students use their computers, they answered that they use their computers for both entertainment and studies, which is another reason that explains why they favor PCs.
The results also demonstrated that students relay on internet as their main source of information and read EBooks more than conventional printed ones which can be explained by the accessibility, availability, and easiness of use of those materials by the students.
In the entertainment side of the digital-media world, the results showed that most of the students do not have a chat room while they have a foreign friend whom they talk to via internet and the majority of them have an account with a social network in addition to an email box. This shows that students reject the solely use of digital-media tools and facilities for entertainment; however, they want to get informed and entertained all at once.
The number of students was also more representative in favoring social networking and search engines over web archives, chat-rooms, and blogs.
Concerning the display format, most of them preferred text and image formats over audio and video ones as it si demonstrated in the following diagram:
-Students of the English department in Meknes are digitally literate since they own digital tools and they rely heavily on technology in their studies.
-Students are aware of the importance of a PC in both educational and personal matters which explains its ownership by the majority.
-There is an overwhelming perception among students that IC is highly required.
-The PC possession and the IC possession go hand in hand. In other words, the same number of students who own IC owns a PC. Both of them accomplish each other.
-Students always use their computers since they serve them both personally and professionally.
-Students use their PCs in both studies and entertainments because they help them to access information, read, write and communicate.
-Students read EBooks more than print because EBook are more available, free and up to date.
-The majority of students do not favor enrolment in chat-rooms since they do not serve them much in their studies.
-The majority of students utilize social networks, because they serve them in studies, sharing information and entertainment.
-Next to all students have email boxes since they help them receive and send email and because they are required by their teachers and institutions.
-More students have foreign fiends because they have social network accounts which help them to make encounters with other people from other countries.
-The majority of students use search engines to do university tasks. This is due to the easy use of their interface, because they can search the students' queries and because they constitute the gateway for other web pages.
-Most of students use a paper and a pen to write. This can be due to the fact that students are still traditional and still not ready to change a behavior which they have applied since they were in their early stages at schools.
-Next to all students use simple search engines and not customized or Meta search engines since most of them are not informed about the existence of such search engines.
-Students are not interested in the ownership of other digital tools like I-pads, smartphones or EBook readers as they are interested in PCs; because they do not need them as they need PCs and may be because students are not financially able to own all of them all at once.
-Students' main source of information is internet since contains free and easily accessed data. It also offers a variety of materials and can entertain and teach at the same time.
-While using internet, students utilize social networks and search engines more than blogs, chat rooms or archives. First, because they are easy to use and because they serve them to accomplish their tasks, to get informed and to be entertained. Second, because archives belong to the deep web which is difficult to use and since blogs and chat-rooms are less useful than the rest.
-Students find themselves more relaxed while reading text than accessing other formats like video, audio or photos. Because information they seek is mainly in the text format.
-Students who are digitally literate are better language achievers than those who are digitally illiterate because those literates might have contact with the language more, access information more and they make more use of language in the virtual areas they access.
-Students who have a PC and IC are better in language achievement since those tools enhance their language proficiency in several ways.
Implications of the study for language teaching
It is recommended that teachers should utilize technology in classrooms so as to provide an interactive environment for language learning situations. Computers, for example, can interact with other computers, other media and with other people. They are also required to encourage students to use technology and other communicative social networks and software to make pen pals, use the language and interact with students overseas. Furthermore, they need to embrace the range of goal types and levels of sophistication in learning as students' progress from beginners to more advanced stages. Hence, the teacher should apply technology in tasks for language learning and using needs to recognize the fact that students learn through progressive modification of their interlanguage. In addition to this, they should know that digital-media literacy enables students and teachers themselves to participate in a range of language contexts and maximizes authenticity.
Implications for curriculum developers
The language curriculum should include how to use language in technology and vice versa. In other words, it is not sufficient to provide a rich curriculum for language learning. There has to be a purpose to the use of technology. It should also incorporate the use of technology (e.g. on video tape, or in software), but the content must still be created since technology does not provide the content of any language curriculum. Curriculum developers are also required to integrate media to facilitate learning rather than simply multiplying the media available to students.
Implications for educational institutions
Universities should be equipped with technological tools such as computer laboratories and internet connection as it helps them to create effective and individualized learning environments for all the students. They are required to help students learn more than the basics. They should teach them how to develop learning skills such as thinking and problem solving skills.
As stated along this paper, digital-media literacy is now an essential life skill and all students are required to have the basic level of competency to participate effectively in the new digitized world as more and more information, materials and services are becoming available and accessible. Students require basic ICT competencies to benefit from those facilities and services. Digital-media literacy does not contribute in accessing information or entertainment only, but it also influences other skills such as language proficiency. To clarify this issue, this paper proposed a conceptual framework in addition to a case study research that refines the term digital-media literacy into several skills that were deeply investigated from different perspectives. The obtained results agreed with other results from previous case studies that were conducted in different contexts. This shows the degree to which digital-media knowledge is affecting language achievement.
The present paper has investigated the students' digital-media literacy and its relation with English language achievement in addition to a deep analysis of the students' ownership and use of digital-media tools and equipment; however, it did not go in detail to see what language skills are mostly affected by digital-media knowledge. May be future research would shed light on this. The study also investigated digital-media literacy in general, may be future research would see, for example, the relation between social networking and language achievement. Future research might also evoke the radical issue of digital-media literacy and modern language pedagogy.
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