Dennis Baron: "From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technologies" (1)

"From Pencils to Pixels" addresses the idea of writing itself as a technology, comparing writing, which we consider to be a staple skill of life in this country, to the rapidly advancing world of computers and internet technology. However, Baron points out, the pencil was as scrutinized and doubted when it was introduced as recent technology often is today--many people could not accept the need for a portable writing utensil. Over time, the pencil became accepted by society, especially for use in schools. A literacy, Baron suggests, must establish a means of self-authentication (21). Technologies are adapted from their initial purposes as society finds ways to fit these new technologies into their lives. Because the World Wide Web is a source of information on many topics, both accurate and falsified (or just plain wrong), Baron emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the user to verify information and its credibility (31). Baron concedes that computers are going to become even more integrated into our lives, yet he sees the impact of computers on literacy practices as an eventual problem, one that can only be answered with time.

Baron's skepticism and resistance to computer technology is perhaps not as intense as that of the Lead Pencil Clubs of this country, but his apprehension towards computer technology peeks through his arguments and examples. But perhaps Baron is right--so many of us embrace the integration of computers in our lives, never stepping back to assess the influence these machines have on us, both in our personal and professional lives. A bit of skepticism is good, not only skepticism towards the wealth of information that the World Wide Web provides but also towards the impact of this information on our culture. Of course, some people have already sounded the sirens, alerting the public to the possibility of computers taking over our lives and wiping out the need for print publications. But Baron's hesitation is both prudent and smart--as he points out, literacies, including technology literacy, need a form of self-authentication. Perhaps we, as a technology-centered culture, need to look at technology more critically, at least until computers prove themselves to us.

Part I
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Part II
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Part III
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Part IV
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