Why Digital Literacy Matters, & How It Can Be Cultivated In Classrooms

Why Digital Literacy Matters, & How It Can Be Cultivated In Classrooms

New Delhi, India: In a world where everything seems to operate online, from school assignments and job applications, to banking and everything in between, it's safe to say that digital literacy is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Unlike the '90s or early 2000s where smartphones were unheard of and the most that students used a computer for was typing up assignments, today's students are considered "digital natives". Younger generations are born into a world where smartphones, tablets and computers are simply part and parcel of daily life, and free tools like the Adobe Express design app make it easier than ever to create digital art online. This advancement of technology and the integration of technology into every aspect of our daily lives has made it essential to instil digital literacy skills in students.

But what exactly is digital literacy, why is it important, and how can it be cultivated in classrooms? In this article, we dive into everything you need to know about this skill and why it's one of the most important facets of education in 2023. Read on to find out more.

What Is Digital Literacy?

At first impressions, the term 'digital literacy' probably comes across as the basic understanding of how to use digital devices and software. While the ability to effectively use modern tech is indeed vital in this day and age, digital literacy goes way beyond just the basics.

Rather, it's an integral skill set that enables students to safely thrive in the digital world. It teaches students how to critically assess content they find online, understand the impact of their online presence, and navigate the digital word safely.

Why Is It Important?

So, why exactly is digital literacy such an important skill to instil in students? Let's have a look.

1. Preparing Students For The Future

As we further shift into a tech-centric world, it will come as no surprise that future job markets will require a workforce that is well-versed in digital skills. We're already seeing this happen right now, with many jobs lacing a premium on digital literacy and tech-proficiency. In the future, this is only expected to intensify, which is why equipping students today with the knowledge they need to thrive tomorrow is crucial.

2. Access To Information

With the dizzying wealth of information that is available online, digital literacy ensures that students are able to effectively access and utilise information to broaden their knowledge and perspectives. Rather than becoming inundated by an endless sea of data, students will be able to critically evaluate information and differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources. In a world where misinformation thrives, this is one skill that is absolutely paramount.

3. Increasing Online Safety

Unfortunately, along with all the good that technology has brought us, it has also introduced its fair share of safety threats and concerns. It's no secret that cybersecurity has become a major concern over the last decade, which is why instilling students with the skills they need to remain safe online is crucial.

4. Improving Communication Skills

Gone are the days where the only forms of communication were face-to-face conversations or handwritten letters. In today's world, students are required to effectively pen their thoughts down on a variety of different digital landscapes. From blog posts, social media posts and emails, digital literacy enables students to master the digital communication skills they need in order to thrive in the online sphere.

5. Global Connectivity

One of the biggest advantages of the digital age is how it has enabled people to connect across borders. Through this seamless connection, opportunities for collaboration and learning on a global scale have become boundless. Digital literacy facilitates effective participation in this interconnected environment.

A great example of this is seeing the impact that digital art can hold on people across the globe. Using design technology to produce cultural art like Holi posters or Raksha Bandhan cards, showcases to a global audience all these unique celebrations they may not be exposed to elsewhere. In this regard, digital spheres can provide an environment for unification and cultural enrichment.

How Can Digital Literacy Be Cultivated In Classrooms?

Of course, introducing kids to digital technology and the world wide web, is a lot easier said than done. After all, it's difficult for parents and teachers to monitor kids as they surf the web. So the best thing that we can do is make sure that the younger generation at least have the ability to think critically and assess any information they read online.

How do we do that? Here are just a few easy ways that we can cultivate opportunities for boosting digital literacy in our classrooms.

1. Incorporate Tech in Teaching

One of the simplest ways to cultivate digital literacy in classrooms is by incorporating tech in your very own teaching. Some examples include embracing video-based lessons, digitally sharing work, developing more assignments that utilise tech tools or software, or digital field trips that can be integrated into lesson plans to familiarise students with modern tech.

2. Digital Writing

Students should understand that there are two unique skill sets when it comes to digital writing and traditional writing. For example, unlike traditional essays, students should be taught how to use links and references in digital writing. They should also be taught how to further optimise digital content with the use of relevant imagery and media.

3. Teach Information Literacy

When it comes to misinformation, the internet takes top place. From deep fakes, to satirical content and everything in between, it's safe to say that not everything is as it seems online. Unsurprisingly, this can make it quite challenging for students to discern between what is reliable information and what isn't. With this in mind, classrooms should focus on teaching information literacy. By equipping students with the skills they need to assess information credibility, they will be much better equipped to distinguish between fact and misinformation.

4. Focus On Digital Responsibility

In an age where anyone and everyone is free to express their views online, educating students about digital responsibility and online etiquette is vital. As the saying goes -- the internet never forgets, and digital footprints have the ability to shape future job prospects. We've all seen it happen -- someone applies for a job, only to be rejected when employers discover compromising content on their social media platforms. This is why teaching students the importance of thoughtful and considerate online behaviour is key. Students should learn how to conduct themselves in a respectful manner online and cultivate a digital footprint that aligns with professional standards.

5. Discuss Online Safety and Privacy

We won't downplay the fact that the internet can be a dangerous place. This is why discussing the importance of online safety and privacy with students will enable them to protect themselves in the digital space. Teaching students to identify common online threats and methods of keeping their personal data safe and secure are key to safeguarding students.

In A Nutshell

As you can see, digital literacy plays a key role in empowering students to thrive in our digital age. By promoting and instilling these vital skills in the classroom, educators will be able to nurture a generation of students that are equipped with the skills they need to thrive both in their academics and future careers.