Cheyney University of Pennsylvania has launched a new digital education initiative. The program officially titled “Technology Applications for Professional Success” is funded by Title III grants to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The project started off in a rather unique way that involved students — “updating” the university’s story on Wikipedia.
According to Dean of Student Affairs, Marcia Robinson, the goal of the program is to make sure students understand the way that technology and the new economy of information are having “an impact in our everyday lives.” Wikipedia is open source and almost 40 million people use it every day. It is the literal embodiment of the current and future information boom.
Though changing Cheyney’s Wikipedia page might seem like a small task and the program is focused on developing job skills employers want, the ramifications of the idea can completely transcend the simple updates.
Consider the fact that all information hosted on Wikipedia can be altered by anyone with a computer. Beyond that, updates are constantly being made to pages, with company employees and patrons regularly checking those pages for inaccuracies as well. For people learning the digital landscape, the effective ‘audit’ of your university’s information online is a great place to start and digital literacy progress.
The first step towards getting a person to accept misinformation is to convince them that everyone around them thinks the same misinformation is true, and the advent of the internet only makes that process easier.
In the era of fake news, it’s imperative that anyone who aims to be digitally literate understands the ease with which information online can be manipulated and served up to willing audiences. Companies are fully aware of this which is why you are probably being served up the information that you are every time you go online. One of the difficult aspects of making sure you don’t fall prey to bad information and can thus become more knowledgeable (knowledgeable = employable), is to understand the tools through which you acquire that information. Just look at the list from the National Association of Colleges and Employers and you will see that the ability to obtain and process information is one of the job skills employers want.
Most people don’t pay attention to the fact that the news they see on say, Facebook, is largely based on the views of people who already agree with them. Programs like this not only help students build the job skills employers want, but it gives them a better understanding of the digital world and potentially where they will fit. More than 30 percent of the Cheyney University students who responded to a survey on their confidence with digital literacy said they had never used a collaborative project tool like Google Docs.
Simply understanding how to use Google Docs is not all you need to get you hired, nor will it end our current obsession with “fake news.” However, the attention to the subject through a digital education program like the one offered at Cheyney, could be a step towards giving every student more power over the information they consume.