Digital Literacy– What is it?

Digital literacy– what is it? I’ll admit that I myself had some questions about what this term meant when I signed up for the class. I understood the importance of using technology in the classroom, but I never gave much thought to the processes that a teacher must undergo to produce useful and relevant technological lesson plans. But, as I researched digital literacy, I began to develop a working definition of digital literacy, which is the ability to seamlessly integrate technology into lesson plans, and ensure that the technology used in the classroom furthers students’ understanding of the curriculum. Essential elements of digital learning include relevancy to the material being learned, reliability of the digital source being utilized, and technological competency of the teacher. If digital resources used in a classroom aren’t reliable or relevant, and the teacher isn’t masterful with their use of technology, then, really, what’s the point?

Digital literacy, while a useful skill for a teacher, is not the pinnacle of achievement in understanding how to use technology in the classroom. The term “literacy” implies an adequate, while not stellar, understanding of how to integrate technology in the classroom. A digitally literate teacher may be able to formulate an online lesson plan, but the lesson plan may not be relevant to the course material or come from a reliable source. A teacher that is digitally fluent, on the other hand, has the ability to perfectly complement the class curriculum with digital resources. For example, I had two teachers in high school who attempted to use online resources in their classroom. One teacher expected us to complete a long and tedious online worksheet about Beowulf that was almost identical to work that we had already done in the class. The other teacher had us view online animations that helped us visualize some hard-to-explain biological concepts. The first teacher displayed digital literacy, while the second teacher displayed digital fluency, and his online resources were much more helpful in understanding his course material.

As a future educator, I think I have some necessary skills for becoming a digitally literate teacher, because I have grown up in a generation that gets all of our information online. I can develop PowerPoint presentations, use Excel to help calculate students’ grades, and, most importantly, figure out how to turn on my own projector (a skill many of my high school teachers seemed to lack). However, even though I may have basic computer skills, locating reliable resources online is a skill that I need to develop. With the variety of “educational” sites available, it is hard for me to sift through what is relevant and reliable and what is outdated and nonessential. Through trial and error as an educator, I expect to learn what sites are useful to me and which ones should be avoided. In fact, I have already begun searching for sources that may be helpful to me as a science teacher, and I remember using McGraw-Hill Education frequently in my high school science classes. McGraw-Hill provides many useful animations, such as the ones found here. While this link only provides a couple animations, animations for any scientific concept can be found on the site, and provide visual learners with a valuable tool for understanding course material.

Now that digital literacy has been defined and explored, the most important question begs to be answered– how can we develop ourselves into digital learners and leaders? While this question may seem to be abstract, a concrete answer can be formulated. To become digital learners and leaders, we must simply keep up to date with current trends in technology, and seek out online sources that excite our passion for learning and simplify difficult concepts. In conclusion, digital literacy is an essential skill for any teacher to possess, as it helps teachers develop modern and effective lesson plans, and can help teachers locate resources that clarify topics that may be difficult to teach.

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