× Careers in EducationElementary EducationHigh School EducationEducational TechnologyTeaching StrategiesSpecial EducationPrivacy PolicyTerms And Conditions
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Fostering Digital Literacy in the 21st Century

Digital literacy is more than just knowing how to navigate different apps and computer programs. It also involves understanding the ethical and societal implications of using online resources.

Educators need to be aware that not all students have the same opportunity for digital access. In fact, many communities struggle with poor internet speeds and limited technology.

Online Safety

As technology becomes increasingly ingrained in daily life, it’s important to ensure students have the digital literacy skills to navigate the online landscape with confidence and responsibility. Educators should encourage the development of critical thinking and ethical decision-making in students through the use of tech-savvy curriculums promoting digital literacy.

This can be accomplished by integrating digital literacy lessons into academic subjects like media and information literacy, research, or data analysis. Incorporating digital literacy across subject areas allows students to see the practical applications of these skills in real-life scenarios.

Teaching students how to avoid unsafe or inappropriate content online is also essential. With the growing prevalence of misinformation, deepfakes (AI-manipulated images, video, or audio), and intentionally deceptive viral content, it’s more important than ever to teach students how to evaluate a source.

This can include recognizing phishing scams, protecting private information, and understanding the importance of copyright laws. It’s also important to foster awareness of the permanence of online actions and encourage empathetic, respectful online interaction.

Digital Citizenship

As new technology and social media platforms become more prevalent, teachers need to teach students how to use them responsibly. This is where digital citizenship comes in, a concept that encompasses everything from the ability to recognize and avoid misinformation to the awareness of how others may perceive their online actions.

It also includes an understanding of the importance of empathy in a world where Internet communication lacks vocal tone, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues that help people understand each other. In addition, it includes a focus on consuming quality media in a balanced manner, much like any healthy diet.

In the library/learning commons at the Oshkosh Area School District in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Wathen teaches a series of lessons on digital citizenship each month to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. In doing so, she and her staff rely on the free Common Sense Media curriculum, which focuses on topics such as media balance, cyberbullying, privacy, passwords and more.

Internet Etiquette

It can be easy for kids to forget that the Internet is a real community full of people. In fact, online interactions require certain rules of etiquette that can be taught and modeled to students.

For example, it is not good netiquette to write in all-caps on the Internet because this can be interpreted as shouting and will be considered impolite. Also, if children are communicating in a group chat they should avoid insider jokes that only some members of the chat will understand. This can lead to a flame war, where a person or group is attacked with strong personal criticism. Using profanity is not considered good netiquette, either.

Providing kids with the proper social conventions for interacting online will help them become responsible digital citizens and safe in cyberspace. This is a crucial part of any tech-savvy curriculum promoting digital literacy and should be taught to kids at a young age. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to discover their child has been harassed, bullied or has been approached by predators online.

Understanding Online Information

Students are increasingly being tasked with creating, collaborating, and sharing digital content, which means that teaching them how to use a range of tools is a necessity. They also need to know how to navigate through the plethora of information on the internet, which often requires some level of critical evaluation.

For example, discerning between fact and misinformation is essential to online safety. Teachers should focus on teaching students how to search efficiently and effectively, and assess the accuracy of charts, graphs, and other data sources. They should also encourage students to question the points of view, lifestyles, and values that are represented in the content.

Interestingly, prior to this research, scholars had only sporadically considered the ways in which functional and critical digital literacy intersected. In particular, they had paid little attention to how digital specialists – including information, IT and media professionals – deploy skills and knowledge in their daily work, even though these are the very same skills that young students must cultivate in order to survive on the Internet’s countless information platforms.