What is Digital Literacy and How to Use it in the Classroom

Michelle Bouslog
Michelle Bouslog
M.A. Ed. in Ed-Tech, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota

For centuries, humans have used literacy skills to communicate with people and interact with  the world. But in this early millennium, with the widespread influx of technology affecting all aspects of life, including education, a new type of literacy has dawned that students today need to harness. Digital literacy is a term used to describe the way people interact and communicate together with the use of technology. Being digitally literate is having the capabilities to live, learn, and work in a digital society. There are many reasons why digital literacy is important, many ideas for incorporating it into the classroom, and many ways to encourage students to be digital citizens.

The Value of Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is starting to gain recognition as one of the most valuable tools one can teach students for a life of learning. Students today need to have the ability to use technology to find, create, evaluate, and communicate information. They need to understand credible sources and be able to cross-check information they find on the web. Being digitally literate means that a student has the abilities to collaborate and work as a team, become critical thinkers about information they find and arguments they hear, and develop into a digital citizen that considers issues and works to solve complex problems that are based on a deep understanding of diverse values and world views. These skills need to be taught, and that can take a great deal of reflection and thought.

Encourage Students to be Positive Digital Citizens

Encouraging students to be positive digital citizens starts with educating them on what it means to be a contributing and safe member of a digital society. How does what they put on the web impact and influence others? How can students use their social media platform to uplift and unite others in their schools and communities? How can students shed light on the struggles they face and come together to help solve problems? These sorts of discussions and lessons can help shape students into constructive digital citizens that will use their voices appropriately and constructively.

Teaching Digital Citizenship

There are many different ways to teach digital literacy skills and digital citizenship. It can be helpful to start familiarizing students with the ever-so-important “Ps” of digital citizenship: passwords, private information, personal information, photographs, property, permission, protection, professionalism, and personal brand (how students want to be seen). To practice these ideas in the classroom, students can design a class blog or create a class Instagram or Twitter account (if use social media is allowed and encouraged by your particular school district). Teachers, meanwhile, can choose a digital literacy topic of the week that students study – for instance, how proper use of social media platforms can contribute to being  a safe digital citizen.

Digital literacy has only just come into the picture in the past decade, but it is making it easier and more immediate for people to connect. It is necessary for schools to teach students how to be positive and contributing digital citizens that use their digital voice in a constructive and safe manner.

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