Teaching Digital Literacy in the Classroom

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Digital literacy is an important skill for your students to learn. This lesson will provide strategies and tips for teaching digital literacy in your classroom.

Digital Literacy Defined

Every day, you and your students are surrounded by devices that are made to make life easier. The first thing you see when you wake up is most likely a phone screen telling you the time, date, weather, and a myriad of other useful (or sometimes useless) information. However, it's easy to forget that these devices are also powerful tools of creation and learning.

Digital literacy can be defined as the various skills, knowledge, and abilities that enable a person to use electronic devices effectively. By promoting the learning of digital literacy in your classroom, you can enable your students to effectively use all of the various devices in their lives to enhance learning. The tips and strategies in this lesson will help you incorporate methods for teaching digital literacy in your classroom.

Make Time for Digital Literacy

Your students are most likely no strangers to interacting with digital devices. However, they probably only use smartphones, tablets, or computers for playing games or watching videos. The most important thing you can do to promote digital literacy in your classroom is to give your students time to use various devices effectively for learning.

But, what does effectively using a digital device for learning look like? By effectively, I mean using these devices to research, synthesize, and create work. The more you have your students practice using these devices for these purposes, the more they will begin to see the devices as tools for learning and creating. This means incorporating digital literacy into your lessons.

For example, a lesson that would have had students writing something in their notebooks could instead be done using a computer and a word processing program. Instead of having students create a poster with scissors and glue for a presentation, they could create the poster on a computer and use a recording device to make a video.

Introduce the Tools Slowly

Imagine being a fourth grade student. Your teacher sits you down in front of a computer and tells you to make a video explaining something you need to research on the Web. Now imagine that prior to today the only thing you've ever used a computer for was watching funny videos of cats.

While many (if not all) of your students have been using digital devices for most of their lives, they are probably not used to using them to research, synthesize, and create work. Giving your students ample experience with these tools is important, but they won't learn anything if you don't introduce the tools to them slowly and purposefully.

Just like you wouldn't expect your students to pass a math test on the seven times tables without actually teaching them the seven times tables, you shouldn't expect your students to spontaneously know how to use digital tools effectively. It's important to explicitly teach your students how to use these tools. Many schools have computer classes where students will learn these skills, but it's important to be sure that your students know how to use the tools before you expect them to reap the benefits of digital literacy.

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