Being literate in your own language is an incredibly important and useful skill. We use our literacy skills to read books and articles, write essays, do our taxes, write poetry, read street signs, and read our emails. Though the world as a whole is more literate than we have ever been, there is another type of literacy that is fast-becoming just as, if not more important than language literacy. We teach English literacy in our language arts classrooms, we teach math literacy in algebra and geometry, we teach science literacy in biology and chemistry, we teach art literacy in both physical and performance art, but beyond a typing class or two in elementary school, digital literacy is often left on the wayside.
Being literate means that you have the ability to read, write, understand, and create your own content in a given area of literacy. Being digitally literate involves a lot of things including your literacy in your given language, your ability to type, understanding of “internet” jargon, slang, and vocabulary, the ability to use a variety of website from social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, to using google as a research tool and understanding what makes an online source reputable. Digital literacy involves so much more than just the things listed above, and oftentimes teachers assume that kids are already adept at all things technologically related because they are born of the 21st century. Sometimes teachers assume that kids are learning these skills elsewhere, in another classroom, outside of school, or at home. Some teachers don’t have digital literacy themselves and therefore have a difficult time teaching it to their students. Whatever the problem is it needs to stop. Incorporating elements of digital literacy into your classroom does require extra work, resources, and sometimes time. But the value of being able to access and use the internet is invaluable for students growing up in our fast-paced, technologically involved society. In fact, not including digital literacy in your classroom, whether it’s English, Science, Math, or Art, is a disservice to yourself and your students.
There are so many teachers who have already integrated digital elements into their classroom. A lot of their resources, ideas, lesson plans, and activities are online, accessible at the click of a button. NCTE has a wonderful list of lessons and activities to help you incorporate digital literacy into your classroom. From using websites to create animations, creating video, to webquests, and the integration of social media for blogging, peer response, writing groups, etc. there are infinite ways to incorporate digital literacy into your classroom no matter your subject area. It is simply a matter of being creative and applying new concepts to old lesson plans.
Digital literacy is also key for creating a connected learning environment, not only is it introducing another form of literacy and knowledge to students, it also shows how you can integrate other subject areas, styles of learning, and other literacies into your classroom. This cross-integration of subject and teaching style helps to create that connected learning environment that is so effective. Teaching the digital literacy of social media can allow your students to interact, discuss, and explore classroom activities, homework, projects, group-work, etc. as well as helping to create a tighter classroom culture and inter-classmate bond. Meeting your students in the field of digital literacy allows your students to take the wheel, with careful guidance, the right skills, and a good lesson plan; the freedom of the internet and the infinite possibilities therein, allow students to learn and grow in any subject area that interests them. What i love most about digital literacy and integrating digital elements and technology into your classroom, is that it is not subject, content, or even lesson specific. There is always a way to include tech in your lesson plans, there is always a relevant website or tool that you could use to expand and extend your student’s learning experience. I think that incorporating digital literacy and technological elements in to your classroom and instruction will help to expand your student’s horizons, cement social skills and build social interactions between your students, teach transferable skills that students can use in any classroom, or to learn and explore in any content area, subject, or area personal interest.