The Epic Guide to Digital Literacy in Education

What is Digital Literacy? It’s more than just a new buzzword for modern educators and administrators. We’ve all known about literacy within the classroom, but the definition is changing to include the technology that is now infiltrating classrooms around the world. According to Cornell University, digital literacy is “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies…” Digital literacy is no longer confined to the books students can hold within their hands. It even extends past eBooks to include websites, social media, videos, and collaborating with others across the globe.

Students must learn how to find quality sources and evaluate their effectiveness in order to help them accomplish their purpose or task. They must also learn how to use those sources to inspire their own original ideas to be shared with others. These skills are crucial to helping students succeed past graduation. Digital literacy helps students interact with their digital world effectively.

Why is Digital Literacy Important?

Digital literacy is crucial to helping students become lifelong learners. It teaches them essential life skills as well as academic skills.

In looking at the image from the University of Southern California of Bloom’s taxonomy, digital literacy can engage students in the process of learning in all aspects. Students can use technology to help them remember new information. They could watch a video or create their own video to demonstrate understanding. Students could create infographics to show processes. They could even use social media to get answers to their questions and interact with people around the world.

Digital literacy is more than online reading, so schools should treat it differently. Schools have the opportunity to help students expand their knowledge beyond the four walls of the building. They help students use critical thinking skills to evaluate the quality of digital sources and information, which in turn helps students communicate better.

By teaching digital literacy to students, they are being prepared to enter adulthood and be successful in their careers. This is part of being a good digital citizen. Students don’t always know what they send out into the digital universe will be there forever. Teaching them how to be a positive digital citizen is crucial.

Digital Literacy in Education

Many students have access to a personal device of some sort. It could be in the form of a phone, tablet, or computer. So, whether or not the school gives out devices, students are still accessing information from around the world through myriad sources. The challenge is to help educate teachers and parents about digital literacy so they can help students navigate the digital world. Consider hosting afterschool seminars for parents and students to come together in order to learn about how to appropriately use their devices. Utilize professional development to educate teachers about digital literacy and how to relay the information to their students.

Another crucial aspect of digital literacy is digital citizenship. This involves teaching students how to appropriately and safely interact with their digital community. With phones in hand, a post to social media is just a finger tap away. Teach students what it means to be a good digital citizen by explaining the potential consequences of a poorly thought-out post.

Digital literacy also involves helping students be more aware of cyberbullying—currently a huge concern for many students and parents. Help students think before they post something online. Teach them about the appropriate amount of personal information to share about themselves with others on the internet.

  • Should they tell someone where they live?
  • Should they give out their phone number?
  • Should they write a mean post on Snapchat or Instagram about the person who made them mad at school today?

All of these are things that students might do without thinking about what could happen next. Schools have a great opportunity to help students make better choices in the digital world by promoting and teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship.

Digital Literacy in the Classroom

Student engagement can be a challenge, but incorporating digital tools and resources helps. Rather than standing in front of the room and lecturing about a topic, have students research and start interacting with material right away.

For example, in a math class, students could go around the room or school and take pictures of items that are at 90-degree angles. They could then compile those photos into a video with drawings to demonstrate the angle in each photo.

In a science class, instead of labeling a diagram of where the planets are located, students could work together to create a webquest that travels through the solar system. Groups could create an interactive page for each planet with pictures and information.

Digital literacy is a great tool for differentiated instruction. Students can be assigned different tasks within the same lesson. In an English classroom, one group of students might be doing research about an author, while another group reads or listens to a text written by that author, and yet another group works with the teacher on a necessary skill. Using an LMS, teachers can even assign different assignments to each student or group of students. This is especially handy for graphic organizers. All students could be learning about the main idea, but they are each assigned a different leveled assignment to help them comprehend the concept.

Collaboration is also influenced by digital literacy. Google Docs is a great tool for collaboration. Students can all be on the same document at the same time while working on their own devices. They don’t have to be in the same location anymore. They could also use social media to pose questions. Ask their favorite author a question about a book on Twitter. Follow scientists working with new technology. Use their digital world to gain information and insight.

Lastly, digital literacy helps students expand their knowledge. In a science classroom, students can digitally dissect animals that schools cannot bring into the school. History classes can take field trips to ancient Egypt. English classes can visit the Globe Theater. There is so much information, and all teachers have to do is help students access it.

The Impact of Technology on Digital Literacy

Technology has and is moving our world forward at a rapid pace. Helping students keep up with technology is part of digital literacy. Once students graduate from high school, if they don’t know how to research or how to present themselves online, they are at a disadvantage in the workforce. Schools need to take a proactive approach in teaching students about their online presence.

Many of the jobs that are available for students after they graduate are now being automated. There is a push for students to learn more about STEM classes. These involve science, technology, engineering, and math. More and more jobs require the employee to have a working knowledge of basic technology. These fields in particular are growing extremely rapidly. Jobs like a software developer, statistician, and civil or environmental engineer are just a few interesting STEM careers that require plenty of digital literacy to be able to complete the tasks.

Students are already accessing information on the internet. Teach them how to make the digital world work for them.