Technology has transformed and shaped all aspects of our lives. The Educational Sector adopted technology and has gained benefits from the tremendous opportunities in the digital world. In order to maximize the use of technology, educators and students must acquire certain skills, such as Digital Literacy. The more digitally literate teachers are, the more they can utilize their skills in their classrooms to empower innovation and creativity in new ways.
As technology penetrated classrooms, it’s essential to obtain computer literacy and digital literacy skills. However, one must distinguish the difference between both. Computer literacy relies on IT skills in using both hardware and software. Whereas, digital literacy relies on three main aspects: critical thinking, digital environment ethics, and how to deal with digital social challenges.
So, what is Digital Literacy, and why it is important for Educators?
According to the American Library Association, digital literacy is defined as:
“Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”.
In a shorter definition, digital literacy is using technology confidently to deliver educational content, it focuses on the abilities to find, evaluate, and compose information into digital content in various types using technology through different platforms. The rapid change from traditional schooling to virtual and online schooling around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic proved the importance of digital literacy for educators.
7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy is Important for Educators and students :
- Enabling teachers and students to optimize search engines in creative ways.
- helping to raise awareness about digital citizenship.
- minimizing the gaps of the digital divide, which refers to difficulties in accessing and using technology.
- inspiring students to utilize social media platforms in school projects.
- tailoring the learning experiences depending on the individual needs of students.
- helping teachers in making the right decisions to use the appropriate digital tools in the classroom based on student’s backgrounds and cultures.
- assisting in providing Ed-Tech companies with feedback to help improve and enhance digital products.
How to be digitally literate?
Due to the rapid technology development, teachers may feel confused and backdated when it comes to the use of technology. Especially, since young learners are exposed to technology at an early stage. Thus, it is essential for the teachers to equip themselves with a set of digital skills to provide their students with the best learning experience and raise awareness on how to use technology properly.
Core Skills to be Digitally Literate:
- Functional skills:
In today’s world, most children are familiar with using technology at an early age. Therefore, they start school knowing all the basics of using technology like searching the web, opening, and using online documents, and using apps. This makes it necessary for teachers nowadays to acquire a solid knowledge of the fundamentals to add value to the skillset students already have.
- Search and navigation:
The ability to find, and allocate sources of information, and the right content through search engines is an essential skill. After finding these resources, teachers need to analyze, evaluate, and apply critical thinking skills to check the relevancy of the content to their lessons.
- Content generation:
Creating meaningful and engaging content differs from one teacher to another depending on their personal styles and experiences. Thus, once a teacher finds the right digital content or tools, it needs creativity to apply these correctly in their lessons and teaching resources.
- Critical thinking:
In digital environments, it’s essential for the educator to critically evaluate the resources and digital tools against the lesson’s objectives and individual needs.
Educators should also teach students how to think rationally and critically about data and information they find digitally. Consequently, they can empower the creation of active learners rather than passive ones.
The most important feature of digital content that it should be designed to be shared easily. In order to communicate that content, certain guidelines need to be followed. Sharing can be done through learning management systems (LMS), or video conference applications. Once the students understand the platform and how to collaborate, the sky is the limit.
One of the main duties of teachers is to create digital citizens and spread awareness of online E-safety habits.
To fulfill this, teachers should be aware of websites’ policies and privacy terms and conditions, to mitigate risk and respond to any concerns. In addition, teachers should have enough knowledge about safety and privacy concerns for social media and live streaming sites and communicate the same to students.
In cooperation with parents, teachers should foster an open environment in which pupils can ask questions about the danger that they may face in the digital world. Teachers need to supervise students’ manners and teach them to be independent, at the same time.
The ultimate goal is to enhance the teaching-learning experience for students and teachers so they have access to a better quality of education. Technology can be an option through which this goal may be achieved.
Teachers should be flexible to accommodate and adjust various changes in technology whether it is the hardware or software. In order to deal with any unexpected situations in the classroom, teachers should be capable of bridging the gap between old and new technologies so all students can have enhanced and smoother learning experiences.
- Variety of culture:
Teachers need to keep in their minds the different backgrounds and cultures of students in the classroom. They should be sensitive to the different approaches their students utilize technology and the relevant cultural boundaries.
Digital literacy is a vital skill for teachers and students. As new generations are exposed to technology from early years, they became tech-savvy by nature. Therefore, educators need to shape and develop their digital literacy competencies to be up-to-date so as to deliver educational content and lessons in more interesting and engaging ways for their students. While leveraging on their skills and technology, teachers can achieve the best outcomes to serve their teaching goals.