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Teachers, perhaps you can relate to this scenario:
You recognize that your students could use some help with evaluating information sources for credibility, bias and influence, one important aspect of becoming digitally literate. So you reach into your toolkit, find an appropriate lesson and teach away, only to find out your students had nearly the same experience last year.
It happens because trying to wade through the disparate content on digital literacy can be confusing and overwhelming – and time-consuming. Not to mention the lack of an agreed-upon definition for digital literacy and the skills it entails.
“For educators wanting to do a better job of teaching digital literacy, this is crazy town,” says LeeAnn Lindsey, Ed.D., an adjunct professor at Arizona State University and founding partner of Dig Cit Doctors, a digital citizenship education consulting firm.
That’s why Lindsey, along with Kristen Mattson, Ed.D., adjunct professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and co-founding partner of Dig Cit Doctors, lent their expertise to ISTE and Dell on the recently launched Digital Skills for a Global Society initiative. The program provides a unified definition of digital literacy and an interactive website, getdigitalskills.org, to help teachers, students and caregivers identify gaps in their digital literacy knowledge and get reliable resources to advance their skills in as little as 30 minutes.
“We haven’t had an in-depth framework to guide digital literacy knowledge and skills. This tool gives educators, students and caregivers a starting point, and with the questionnaires built in, they’re assured there’s a flow to the learning that builds skills over time,” Mattson says.
Digital Skills for a Global Society defines digital literacy as the knowledge of and ability to use digital technologies to locate information; evaluate information; synthesize, create and communicate information; and understand the human and technological complexities of a digital media landscape. Being digitally literate means having the skills to be an informed consumer, critical thinker, and creator in the digital world, and requires an ability to continuously learn and grow alongside technological developments.
It also identifies six skills for becoming digitally literate citizens who are curious, empathetic and sensitive to well-being:
1. Locate information
Use digital technology to effectively search for relevant and reliable information sources.
Analyze sources of digital information for credibility, bias and influence.
Determining meaning from various digital sources that represent multiple perspectives.
4. Express ideas
Create digital content to express myself and voice my ideas.
5. Communicate with others
Safely and responsibly collaborate with and learning from others online, including those who think differently.
6. Navigate technology ecosystems
Be aware that online actions influence your digital landscape, leave a trail and impact privacy.
“The biggest value of this tool is trusted content curation. When educators are looking for resources on digital literacy and their heads are spinning, they can go to the site, complete a questionnaire and have curated resources come back to them in a bucketed fashion,” Lindsey says.
“We did the heavy lifting to find short, concise, clear resources and quality lesson plans and videos that are current so that’s the information that makes it to classrooms,” Mattson adds.
Here’s what teachers, students and caregivers will find when they visit getdigitalskills.org:
Teachers can turn to Digital Skills for a Global Society to identify any digital literacy skills they’re missing and receive top-tier resources to use immediately in their classrooms.
“We want digital literacy to be incorporated into curriculum, but we often give teachers lesson plans without ever asking how comfortable they are with the subject matter. That’s like asking me to teach tennis and handing me a lesson plan when I don’t know how to play tennis. I can follow the lesson’s steps, but without tennis knowledge, my teaching is shortsighted,” Lindsey explains.
“This initiative really breaks down digital literacy and asks teachers to reflect on behaviors, knowledge and skills before providing lesson plans so they have the opportunity to fill in some of the gaps and make their instruction stronger when they do receive those plans. Teachers need both the content and the pedagogy-informed lesson plans, but one without the other is far less useful.”
Educators can send students to the website to help them identify and fill their digital literacy skill gaps. For example, if a student is unfamiliar with an aspect of digital literacy or new to a tool being used in class, they’ll get recommendations specific to their age, grade and specific digital literacy skill need.
“This is not providing 10 lessons in lockstep. Each student can complete the questionnaire, get resources back and then go through the resources that interest them,” Mattson says. “The curated content is personalized to fill specific skill gaps.”
Parents and caregivers
Parents and other caregivers who visit the site can also address their knowledge gaps and will receive resources so they can assist their students with various aspects of digital literacy.
Perhaps a caregiver isn’t familiar with the technology their students use at school or at home. Their responses to the caregiver questionnaire will point them to resources on things like appropriate screen time, monitoring online behavior or app selection, as well as tools to increase their own diglit savvy.