I agree that digital literacy skills alone cannot replace knowledge as it is essentially the foundation for critical thinking and skill-building itself. My personal notion of learning new skills definitely means being knowledgeable about the 'what, when, where, why, and how' aspects involved. Otherwise, learning new skills without such background becomes completely ineffective and without purpose. People will simply become machines if they learn skills this way without any context or knowledge and Paul makes an excellent point on this in her article.
However, I strongly believe that the 21st century learner model from Alberta Education is not saying that digital literacy skills should replace traditional literacy:
As for the example above of googling the date of Black Thursday and not understanding the bigger picture around it, this is where a teachable moment can occur and where technology can be readily used to our advantage rather than our demise. Challenge students with effective learning tools such as instaGrok to research about the Great Depression themselves rather than delivering the information in a transmissive way. Throughout my practicum experience, I've found students nowadays to be incredibly constructive learners, not empty vessels waiting to be filled with information. In Sharon Friesen's study on 21st century learners, students themselves have voiced the following desires in their learning:
We don’t want to remember, recall and regurgitate
We don’t want to learn for the sake of tests
We don’t want learning made easy; rather, they want it to mean something.
We want to learn with the media of our times.
We want to do work that is relevant, meaningful and authentic.
- Sharon Friesen, 21st Century Learning and Learners
Friesen, S., & Jardine, D. (2009). 21st century learning and learners. Prepared for Western and Northern Canadian Curriculum Protocol by Galileo Educational Network.Retrieved June 6, 2012 from
Framework for Student Learning, 2011. Retrieved July. 9, 2013, from http://education.alberta.ca/media/6581166/framework.pdf
Paul, Annie Murphy. Digital Literacy will never replace the traditional kind. Retrieved July 10 2013 from http://ideas.time.com/2011/10/26/why-digital-literacy-will-never-replace-the-traditional-kind/