Maximizing Digital Literacy in Your Classroom
Illiteracy of any kind is expensive. Some estimates suggest that worldwide illiteracy costs more than $1 trillion annually. Nearly three-quarters of a billion people cannot read or write. Illiteracy affects their access to the kinds of information you and I take for granted. GPS, Google, and even something as simple as checking an account balance or sending an email are beyond their reach.
Literacy is more than being able to read and write. It’s about using the written and spoken word for communicating and understanding. In today’s world, traditional literacy and digital literacy go hand in hand.
Digital literacy defined
Literacy allows us to comprehend the visual cues around us. These cues can be as simple as road signs, and they can be more complex, such as the directions for assembling an object.
There are several steps to digital literacy. First, one must be able to interpret media materials. Next, the user makes connections between pieces and types of media. This information is not stored in isolation, but rather, shared with others to enhance overall understanding. And finally, the digitally literate store these curated pieces in albums, folders, and pins.
Students must be digitally literate to succeed not only in school but also in life. It’s up to schools to teach these skills.
Ways to teach digital literacy in the classroom
One of the best ways to ensure your students are learning the skills they need is to make sure that you are teaching digital literacy standards. ISTE has developed a set of standards that address empowerment, digital citizenship, knowledge, design, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration.
You can help your students become digitally literate with these teaching tips:
1. Review Acceptable Use Policies. Rather than read the rules (or hope your students did it on their own), discuss them. Then develop responses for why the policies are in place.
2. Address cyberbullying. Bullying of any kind is never okay, but cyberspace seems to attract passive-aggressive behavior. Teach what cyberbullying is. Help your students come up with strategies to stop it.
3. Practice online safety. We teach children the importance of physical boundaries. We also have to address cyber boundaries: keeping information like physical addresses and passwords private, never meeting online contacts in person, and avoiding public networks.
4. Guide students in the technical aspects of digital literacy. Show them how software works, troubleshooting practices, and when to use informal and formal language in digital media.
5. Teach responsible digital media use. Show your students how to attribute the photos and memes they use, as well as give credit to authors.
You’ll also need to assess periodically how your students are doing. You can create your own assessments, or you can purchase them from reputable vendors.
Digital literacy is critical to future success. How do you assure that your students are learning digital literacy in your classroom?