Today’s Requirements for Digital Literacy
Digital literacy is becoming increasingly important as a means to keep children safe on the internet. The online world is expanding every day, and the education system needs to equip learners with the right tools and strategies to understand how to navigate it. Let’s take a look at the ever-changing requirements for digital literacy in K-12 education.
What is digital literacy?
The term “digital literacy” has been floating around in the educational zeitgeist for many years now, but what it encompasses has shifted over time. The American Library Association reports that digital literacy is someone’s ability to obtain and use information from digital communication technologies to “find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”
Those with a high level of digital literacy can navigate online spaces while recognizing legitimate sources of information and identifying potential fraud. When people are well-versed in the digital world, they can communicate more effectively while protecting themselves. This skill is extremely important for students, who may be entering online areas in their learning process. Here are some additional benefits of being digitally literate:
- Increase student engagement: This is especially important for students participating in online learning or from a primarily online environment.
- Improving academic performance: When students are able to navigate the internet, they can more easily leverage digital resources to benefit their learning experience.
- Reduce social harm: For modern students, a cultural understanding is often crafted from their online experiences. According to the Pew Research Center, “Nearly half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (46%) report ever experiencing at least one of six cyberbullying behaviors.” Digital literacy can help prevent bullying and other harmful behaviors.
Adults and children alike can benefit from digital literacy, but teachers and school administrators have a unique opportunity to educate learners about how to prepare for an online world.
Who needs digital literacy?
Digital literacy isn’t just for kids, but instilling these skills when they are young helps them establish the necessary skill set for successfully navigating their future. Anyone who uses the internet or finds themselves in online spaces needs digital literacy. This is true in America and every other country in the world, and it all boils down to information literacy. The value of being able to navigate digitally comes because that is where most people get their information.
While digital literacy might not be a specialization for all teachers, there should be elements of digital literacy taught throughout every lesson and subject.
What should a teacher focus on in the classroom? Here are some of the most critical components of digital literacy that every learner should become proficient in, regardless of age:
Most teenagers spend about 12 hours a day online, according to the Research and Academic Computer Network (NASK). Because of the amount of time that students spend online, from their personal life and free time to classroom and learning activities, students are spending a lot of time in digital spaces. Knowing how to navigate these areas will keep students moving toward their educational goals.
In the ever-expanding digital world, what it means to be safe online changes as quickly as technological advances. Zippia reports that “Computers’ speed and power have generally been doubling every one and a half to two years since the 1960s and 70s.”
Having a faster computer means a more reliable connection, but it could also mean access to more dangerous parts of the internet. As speeds increase, so should education about online safety and how to avoid things like malware and scams.
Being responsible online is an underrated skill, but it’s more important than ever as people spend more and more time on the internet. Just as teachers help students understand how to act ethically in the real world, they need to guide the children in the right direction and teach them how to behave online. This may include instructing concepts like plagiarism, finding reliable sources of information, and building a positive community.
Skills like these are valuable for many people, regardless of how old they are. But when younger people are equipped with digital literacy skills, they can proceed through the rest of their lives safer when online.
Digital literacy strategies
Now that we understand that digital literacy is important, the next step is actually to apply teaching strategies in the classroom. Here are some ways to incorporate these kinds of skills into lesson plans:
- Thinking critically is a key component of digital literacy, and it can be easily woven into other kinds of lessons, from finding sources for an English paper to communicating with other students online.
- Use social media in an efficient and effective way in the classroom and teach students other ways to use these platforms to expand their educational knowledge. In addition, it’s important for children to learn about how to protect their privacy and be safe online.
- Encourage students to think about their digital footprint and identity when online.
- Practice digital literacy skills in real-life situations that they can apply when they leave the classroom.
Every school district is different, and these strategies can be applied in ways best suited for the particular student or classroom. Work as a team with other school staff to develop a method that works the most effectively for the school district to improve digital fluency.
The future of digital literacy skills
Integrating digital literacy into the classroom requires foresight and a firm grasp of what modern digital technology use looks like. According to a survey by the nonprofit research organization Common Sense Media, there is a “17% increase in screen use among teens and tweens in the last two years — more than in the four years prior.”
Because students are online more than ever, many may understand how to use technology, social media, and other digital tools at a higher level than their teachers. Classroom leaders need to have the resources and time to educate themselves in order to better equip learners with digital literacy skills. The end goal is for the student to leave school and improve their digital citizenship, but this is often a moving target.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “roughly three-quarters of public schools (72 percent) reported that they provide training on digital literacy for their students, and 25 percent provide digital literacy training to their students’ families.” Despite the fact that schools across the nation are struggling with increasing learning gaps or budgeting issues, digital literacy remains an important consideration.
With more students gravitating to an online learning environment in their higher education, they need appropriate skills to navigate the digital world and be academically successful. UpskillWise reports that “there are 52% of graduates and 39% of undergraduates using online learning platforms and 80% of companies have integrated online learning.”
This means that knowing how to find information and communicate online is no longer just something that is nice to understand, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary as a lifelong skill. Digital literacy skills are applicable in the classroom, during a student’s downtime, and in their future as a participant in the workforce.
Because of the increasing importance of digital literacy, it’s essential to integrate these skills into everyday classroom learning. As a teacher or an administrator, it’s your job to provide students with this knowledge.
Are you ready to boost learners’ proficiency online? Agile Education is here to help with our industry insight and additional tools. Reach out to our team today to get started and learn more.