Digitally Literate #253

Confuse, Divide, and Distract
Digitally Lit #253 – 7/4/2020

Hi all, welcome to issue #253 of Digitally Literate. Each week in this newsletter, I synthesize the news of the week in education, technology, & literacy. If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and let me know what you think of this work at

This week I worked on a couple things behind the scenes. More to come.


‘What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?’: Descendants Read Frederick Douglass’ Speech

The U.S. celebrates this Independence Day amid nationwide protests and calls for systemic reforms.

In this short film, five young descendants of Frederick Douglass read and respond to excerpts of his famous speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” which asks all of us to consider America’s long history of denying equal rights to Black Americans.


College Is Worth It, but Campus Isn’t

Bringing millions of students back to campus would create enormous risks for society but comparatively little educational benefit, an economist says.

With no indication that the federal government is prepared to step in quickly with a financial rescue plan for higher education, colleges and universities are being forced to choose between bad alternatives.

But a toll will be paid, and it will largely not fall on students. Dining-hall workers, custodians, secretaries, librarians, medical personnel — as well as older faculty members — are far more vulnerable.

Is Academia in denial?

In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both

We are not burned out because life is hard this year. We are burned out because we are being rolled over by the wheels of an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.

The benefits to society of schools being open are greater than the benefits of opening most other institutions. Although we can mitigate transmission within schools to some degree, the best way to ensure that schools can open — and stay open — is to keep community spread of the virus low. We can reopen schools in the fall if we close the bars and gyms now.

As we argue about masks, staying in, or going out to the pub…we’re losing an entire generation of our youth.

Our Ability to Process Information Is Reaching a Critical Limit

We are engaged in a world wide information war, as such disinformation is coming at us from all sides – from friend and foe alike.

This is designed to confuse, divide, and distract.

A growing body of research highlights the strain on our ability to read, understand, process, and take action on the flood of news with which we’re confronted. Some of the biggest events in 2020 have demanded more of our time, more direct action, and have been more emotionally taxing than we’re used to. The result feels like a mental DDoS attack that drags down our mental health, allows misinformation to thrive, and even makes the job of delivering news more difficult.

Zuckerberg once wanted to sanction Trump. Then Facebook wrote rules that accommodated him.

Starting as early as 2015, Facebook executives started crafting exceptions for the then-candidate that transformed the world’s information battlefield for years to come.

This is the biggest test of whether Facebook will ever truly put society and democracy ahead of profit and ideology. As much as they stonewall, we already know the answer.

We’re now seeing Facebook be more responsive when it comes to content on the platform as a result of the advertising boycott. We also see the impact of this ad boycott impacting Reddit as they overhaul their hate speech policies.

Stop criticising parents and start supporting their digital practices

How can society better support families in a digital age?

  • We should encourage parents to evaluate what’s on the screen, how their child is interacting with it, and what they gain from the experience.
  • Schools could embed digital literacy in the curriculum and foster positive connections with children’s digital lives outside the classroom.
  • Librarians, health visitors and youth workers could guide parents in imaginative or educational digital choices.
  • Government could address the risks, and facilitate the production of imaginative and educational content and ensure its availability for everyone.
  • Since the digital is not everything, society could also provide more playgrounds and clubs for kids to get together, and more affordable activities for families outside the home.


How to Make Your Tech Last Longer

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In a pandemic-induced recession, it’s more important than ever to take care of our smartphones and other gadgets.

  • Check your battery
  • Do a deep clean
  • Declutter your data
  • Protect your gear
  • Find a fixer



A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.

Malcolm X

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Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me.

TikTok excels at connecting users based on their identities, and as a result, there’s a corner of the app for almost everyone, from Cop TikTok and Doctor TikTok, to Lesbian TikTok and the teens who gripe about their strict parents. With more than 2 million people locked up in prisons or jails in the United States, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there’s a Prison TikTok, too.

Also…listen to this playlist if you have complicated feelings about America.

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