Let’s face it. The world is changing at a rapid rate and technology is evolving so quickly that some of us have a hard time keeping up. Do you know who is ready to embrace new tech and move rapidly with these changes? Our students! Thursday, May 31st, 2018 is Digital Literacy Day in Toronto. It’s a day to celebrate how we and our students are participating in 3 areas:
- Finding and/or consuming digital information
- Creating digital content
- Communicating or sharing digital content
A few years ago, the Ontario Ministry of Education put out a monograph on Literacy for a Connected World which is an interesting read that is still relevant today. This monograph touches upon these 3 areas and asks us as Educators to consider how we might be preparing our students for a world that is becoming more and more technological.
Finding and/or Consuming Digital Information
I’m certain that many of us have asked our students to research for a particular topic for a project or presentation. In a day and age where students can Google everything, the challenge becomes empowering our students to be able to decipher and think critically about the information that is presented to them. I might be dating myself here but when I was growing up I had a set of encyclopedias that I took to be truthful and my main difficulty was discovering how to properly cite the information contained within. Now students are tasked with determining the relevance and accuracy of the information presented to them based on their searches. Many times I’ve had to tell students that Wikipedia may not be the most accurate source of information. How are we working with students to allow them to become great evaluators of the information presented? What steps can we take to ensure that they are able to determine which information is relevant and accurate when they are searching? I know that I have asked students to look at the source – where is the information coming from? Is it a reputable organization – but more and more, there are sources that seem reputable and yet they are perhaps not. In the past, I know that I have gone to my Teacher-Librarian to help with this and I usually stick to searches through our TDSB Virtual Library, but a critical question is, how do we move beyond this?
Another exciting part about consuming digital information are the assistive technology tools that can be used to make sure that more of our students can access content. The TDSB has an amazing Assistive Technology Site with more information on tools that support all learners.
Creating Digital Content
This by far is probably my most favourite part of Digital Literacy. Sharing a tool with students and seeing how they navigate it to create their own content to share with peers and teachers is truly exciting. We use the Google Suite for Education tools pretty much every day in our classroom. From sharing links and assignments in Google Classroom to collaborating in a Google Doc or sharing our learning through the creation of a Google Site, this suite of tools has simplified creation. Students can also receive timely feedback on their work and since the tools work so well together, they are easy to use in collaboration with each other.
I know that there is sometimes the fear of introducing a new tool that we ourselves are not proficient in but believe me, I’ve learned so much by introducing tools and having students be the ones who share and discover some of the tricks. It’s amazing how much you can learn from and along-side your students. Not only did my students quickly learn tips and tricks but they are often eager to share them with peers. What new tools are you learning about to share with students to get them creating? Consider your learning space. Is the focus more on the finding or consumption of digital information or getting students to create? You’ll notice a great shift in engagement when students are in creation mode. The possibilities are endless and they are eager to create. Let them.
Communicating or Sharing Digital Content
With sharing digital content, there comes great responsibility. I have to admit, this is the one part that gets me a little nervous. I have some amazing sites created by my students and the PUBLISH button at the top of the page is intimidating. I worry about their privacy and what doors that opens for these young students but I do understand the importance of building a positive digital footprint. Many of my students have worked on amazing projects that have the potential to impact the world and connect them to others who may help them bring their ideas to life in the real world and yet my fear restrains me from allowing them to freely press that button. I continue to be vigilant in addition to my due diligence in having these conversations around personal information being shared and being responsible for what we post. I wonder if my students were older if it would make a difference? How do we help students to share their digital content responsibly? What have you tried in your classroom or school?
As I said before, the world is changing and Digital Literacy is a part of Literacy for our students. How are we embracing the use of digital tools in the classroom? This Thursday, let’s celebrate Digital Literacy. The City of Toronto has a variety of activities that they hope will engage people in classrooms, schools and communities. For more information on Digital Literacy Day events in your neighbourhood, take a look this link on the City of Toronto’s website. Happy Digital Literacy Day!