Digital literacy and why it's important
Digital technologies permeate every area of modern life and learning so students must be taught to develop effective, efficient and safe ways of utilising technology for the betterment of their learning. This includes developing digital literacy.
What is digital literacy?
The term digital literacy actually pertains to multiple literacies, and it should be considered in the plural and not the singular. Think about all the skills and the understanding required to be literate in reading; likewise, being digitally literate requires various skills and capabilities which will be explored more below.
Developing digital skills:
Operating digital devices obviously requires some digital skills. Just consider the skills necessary to know and understand hardware, file and device management, to connect to various networks and store data appropriately. There are skills related to creating and editing graphics and multimedia and of courses the skills of being able to navigate digital devices, understand the logic of menu systems, and know how to discover settings. The list goes on!
However, just having knowledge of the skills does not equate to digital literacy. Being literate means that you need to be able to use these skills effectively in given situations. This is an important aspect of digital literacy because children need to know when to draw upon those particular digital skills. They must identify when the skills are appropriate and then be able to apply them. We focus on teaching more than digital skills. We also develop students' digital capabilities.
Children are digital natives, and they tend to possess digital skills intuitively but could they use their technology skills alone to investigate complex issues and communicate ethically online?
The number one repository of information is, of course, the internet and it’s the go to source for many students. Students must know how to both locate information and then evaluate its quality, suitability, and credibility. This is why the development of digital capabilities, alongside the teaching of digital skills, are so critical.
What can parents do?
If parents are to aid children in gaining the best opportunities available to them, then they must support them in authentically developing their digital literacies. Don’t be afraid of technology, embrace it but provide guidance as to when, where and how to use it.
Try to encourage children to explore and develop their digital skills and digital capabilities and keep an open dialogue about their technology use and experiences to help them towards independence.