Virtual Learning

Digital Literacy — What’s Changed and What’s NEW

Digital Literacy — What’s Changed and What’s NEW


In a world that operates increasingly online, digital literacy is becoming more and more important to include in K-12 education. Many adults struggle with digital literacy as it is. For example, a 2019 Pew Research study found that 49% of American adults have no idea what private browsing is, though the same study did find that younger adults generally score higher on digital literacy assessments than older adults.


Technology is constantly shifting, and so our digital literacy teaching strategies need to reflect that. Let’s take a look at what has changed, what’s new and how this subject is impacting the curriculum across the United States. 


What is digital literacy?


Digital literacy is, according to the American Library Association, “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

The skill helps those who are proficient in it stay up to date easier, communicate better and avoid potential scams or online fraud. 


For students, digital literacy helps them efficiently engage in the digital world. Not only does it increase their ability to participate in the learning process, but will also assist in preventing social comparison, cyberbullying and other privacy violations.  


It is impossible to discuss digital literacy without taking note of the digital divide, the stark difference between those who have access to the internet and technology and those who do not. According to the Pew Research study, the more education someone has, the better their digital literacy will likely be. 


Integrating digital literacy into the classroom 


Most K-12 students today are digitally native, meaning that they grew up in the technological landscape. However, this does not necessarily equate to them being digitally literate. 


According to an article by EdSurge, scrolling YouTube or browsing Instagram are passive activities, while searching for information is a more engaged form of digital interaction. Teacher Josh Flaherty summarizes this concept for EdSurge, explaining, “This idea that kids, especially high-school-age kids, are digital natives and can easily learn digital tools [is] largely not borne out by the evidence.”  Because of this assumption, students may not be improving their digital literacy as much as they could be. 


According to the 2020 Literacy Worldwide Report, 25% of respondents felt like digital literacy deserves more attention. Overall, the report lists digital literacy as one of the “top critical topics for improving literacy outcomes in the next decade.” This includes the ability to use more technology in the classroom as a teaching tool. 


This issue is becoming increasingly important as more students are learning and working remotely. They are spending more time than ever online, communicating in virtual environments and exposing themselves to potentially false or harmful information. As a teacher or classroom leader, it is important to educate yourself and your students on digital literacy, which requires professional development that is often missing. 


New methods for digital literacy


In the magazine Learning for Justice, Dr. Joel Breakstone, director for the Stanford History Education Group, says digital literacy needs to be integrated into every course a student takes, instead of being a standalone class. 


According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 43% of K-12 students were enrolled in some form of remote instruction in 2021. This means that most of their education relied on some digital literacy skills, which they may not have had experience with previously. 


“What we need to do is give students the opportunities to practice with the kinds of sources they encounter every day,” Dr. Breakstone said, adding that, if budget cuts need to be made, digital literacy courses are often among the first to go. But when these essential skills are integrated with more traditional courses, it becomes more applicable to the real world.


As the world changes and continues to grow increasingly reliant on digital tools for education and everyday operation, digital literacy becomes more valuable and essential. Agile is here to share those new advancements. To learn more, reach out to us today.