Digital Literacy

Despite the emergence over the last twenty years of the computer and the access it gives us to the web, we are still not sure what it means to be digitally literate. To further complicate our thinking, the phone brought our access to the web closer. And on top of all of that, we digital immigrants, those of us who knew something before there even was a web, are still talking about the access to the web, instead of how we use it well! The question we suffer from is that we think it is too big! Our students do not.

Digital Natives

Digital natives are the students who grew up with the web in place and the need for speed in searching, finding, watching and understanding the fun and relevance of their content. So marrying the digital immigrant teacher, that’s me, with the digital native student, that’s the kids I want to teach, could be better informed with this definition for digital literacy:

More simply, Hiller Spires, a professor of literacy and technology at North Carolina State University, views digital literacy as having three buckets: 1) finding and consuming digital content; 2) creating digital content; and 3) communicating or sharing it.

EdWeek Article November 8, 2016

The Role of Creativity

The role of educational organizations is to foster better skill sets for digital natives to learn in the programs we offer with an eye to understanding that they have already searched the web more extensively than us immigrants. And I mean by that, they know more about searching from a very personal perspective. Educational courses need a higher standard for using the web than just one person’s viewpoint, so that leads us to a concept for a better consumption of digital content, creating digital content, and sharing that content. If a simple definition of creativity is taking two things and combining them to make a third, brand new thing, there is plenty of educational rigor needed in digital literacy.

American Library Association

The American Library Association has a wonderful definition that helps the educational focus for digital literacy: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” Now this really gets after how we in education can use the definition for digital literacy to guide our curriculum building efforts. This definition also weaves into our work the ideas of cognitive and technical, which is an uncomfortable place for curriculum builders. How will these two important aspects get built into classroom work?

Creativity and the Arts

And this also brings us to how digital literacy fits into work in the arts. Creativity with a small “c” is what teachers, artists, teaching artists, and arts classroom teachers all use every day with students. They set up curriculum that engages students because it doesn’t just allow students to make choices, it requires them to choose: How will they be creative? How will they solve the instructional problems assigned to them today? How will they create a new product today? Students engage with these instructional assignments because their view of the problem and their solution are valued by the teacher who designed their assignment. Creativity and the arts drive instructional improvement and student learning improvement by capitalizing on student engagement with digital literacy, creation of new material, and valuing the student’s opinion in what that should look like. It is up to us to design this educational experience to have creativity and rigor.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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