It is no surprise that as we proceed more deeply into the technological age that is becoming increasingly important to be Digitally literate. Our students are “digital natives”, as they have grown up immersed in technology and as such its use and comprehension can come as second nature. However, their comfort with technology should not be misinterpreted as Digital Literacy. Digital literacy is not only a measure of ones ability to use and understand technology, it extents to their maturity of conduct through it. By which, I mean their adherence to the rights and responsibilities through digital platforms and their mindfulness of the digital footprint created by technology use.
Digital literacy underpins the capacity of the individual and the nation to provide equal access to social opportunity and competition in the digital economy in which we live. Therefore the correct conduct of students through digital medium is paramount to their future success as citizens of this global society. So how as educators and parents do we teach students the true weight of digital literacy?
1. Communicate. Talk openly about the benefits and ramifications of participating on the global digital stage. Technology empowers students by giving them an international voice and connecting them with relevant global issues. Digital literacy enables students to participate in a global conversation about matters that interest and motivate students to learn.
However, Students must be made aware of the dangers of digital citizenship especially cyber-safety, privacy and the digital footprint they are leaving every time they post. Students should be engaged in discussing the possible consequences of their online conduct and taught to think about these consequences before posting content.
2. Show. Model the appropriate digital conduct to students. Show students the appropriate methods for honouring copyright and giving credit where credits due.
3. Consequences. Both positive an negative consequences should be enforced for correct and incorrect use of technology. If students are assessed on digital literacy skills they are able to focus on growing these skills over time.
On another note, we can foster the digital literacy of students by removing the focus from the technological tools used to the skills inherent in learning to use these tools. Let’s face it, in a couple of years the tools will be replaced so our students need to be comfortable experimenting with new technology. Student’s also need to learn to troubleshoot with technology and where they can find support online to help their learning.
Therefore as educators, we must be mindful of the skills we develop in students throughout their schooling career. Our main aim should be fostering the growth of active citizens of the world, which in this age means digitally literate individuals. Their digital literacy will enable them to be active participants in their technological world.