When people think about literacy their first thought is the ability to read and write. Well, there is more than one type of literacy. There is financial literacy, health literacy, social literacy, etc. One more type of literacy that is fairly new is digital literacy.
What is digital literacy? According to the Ministry of Education, digital literacy is defined as “the interest, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate, analyze and evaluate information, construct new knowledge, create and communicate with others.”
In this day and age, digital literacy is an essential skill to learn. According to MediaSmarts, students by the end of Grade 12 should be competent in these 7 digital literacy skills:
- Ethics and Empathy – This category addresses students’ social-emotional skills and empathy towards others as well as their ability to make ethical decisions in digital environments when dealing with issues such as cyberbullying, sharing other people’s content and accessing music and video.
- Privacy and Security – This includes essential skills for managing students’ privacy, reputation and security online such as making good decisions about sharing their own content, understanding data collection techniques, protecting themselves from malware and other software threats, and being aware of their digital footprint.
- Community Engagement – Resources in this category teach students about their rights as citizens and consumers and empower them to influence positive social norms in online spaces and to speak out as active, engaged citizens.
- Digital Health – Digital health skills include managing screen time and balancing students’ online and offline lives; managing online identity issues; dealing with issues relating to digital media, body image and sexuality; and understanding the differences between healthy and unhealthy online relationships.
- Consumer Awareness – These skills allow students to navigate highly commercialized online environments. They include recognizing and interpreting advertising, branding and consumerism; reading and understanding the implications of website Terms of Service and privacy policies; and being savvy consumers online.
- Finding and Verifying – Students need the skills to effectively search the Internet for information they need for personal and school purposes, and then evaluate and authenticate the sources and information they find.
- Making and Remixing – Making and Remixing skills enable students to create digital content and use existing content for their own purposes in ways that respect legal and ethical considerations and to use digital platforms to collaborate with others.
Another aspect of digital literacy is digital citizenship. The Government of Canda defines digital citizenship as “acting ethically by deciding whether certain actions are right or wrong.” and using “knowledge to judge if our actions online are appropriate, and empathy to understand how our choices affect others” (Digital Citizenship: It’s about how you act online).
A policy planning guide Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, published by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, also defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate and responsible online behaviour or as the quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities (12).” This policy guide states that people must learn a set of skills, called Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship:
- Digital Etiquette – the standards for behaviour in online spaces or when using technology.
- Digital Access – to the ability of all students to participate fully in digital society.
- Digital Law – legal responsibilities for our electronic actions. It includes issues such as sharing or use of copyright materials, hacking into systems, digital identity theft, or posting illicit photos
- Digital Communication – any electronic medium by which people communicate, such as cell phones, social networking services, email, and texting.
- Digital Literacy – describes the process of learning about the appropriate and inappropriate use of technology. Skills such as searching for information, evaluating the content of websites, collaborating in networks, and organizing the abundance of information available online.
- Digital Commerce – the buying and selling of goods electronically. Students need to be taught to make intelligent decisions when purchasing online.
- Digital Rights and Responsibilities – the privileges and freedoms inherent in participation in digital society as the expectations that come with them.
- Digital Health and Wellness – includes both physical and
psychological considerations. Physical and psychological issues
might include potential health risks of overuse of technology
- Digital Safety and Security – relates to the strategies and precautions that individuals should take to ensure their security online.
(Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools)
Dr. Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt’s article they state that “students must learn to approach news and information with a critical eye in order to identify intentionally misleading source,” especially since the internet is swamped with false, outdated, and/or biased information or worse sketchy websites. The best way to combat this is to teach students to competent use all of the above skills. Although the Saskctwach Curriculum does not have outcomes and indicators to teach students how be digitally literate, educators can treat the articles, USE UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools, and the policy planning guide, Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools, as unofficial curriculum for digital education.
Educators can also integrate digital literacy like how Treaty Education is integrated with other subjects. For example, the category Finding and Verifying – the skill to validate a website or a source of information. When students are researching for an essay or project they must find valid information that will help their assignments. Educators can easily teach this skill in English, Social Studies, and science classes. There are many resources that teachers and students can use to use as reference to test a website such as this blog post, What’s News: Fake, False, Misleading, Clickbait, Satire, or Carefully Reported?
Another example would be Digital Health, the skill of being aware how the use of the internet, social media, phones etc, have an effect on physical and psychological health. This can be taught in health class. In Grade 6 Health outcome USC6.1 “Analyze the factors that influence the development of personal standards and identity, and determine the impact on healthy decision making (including cultural norms, societal norms, family values, peer pressures, mass media, traditional knowledge, white privilege, legacy of colonization, and heterosexual privilege),” can be used to teach students how to develop good decision making, concerning the use of the internet.
Although the official Saskatchwan curriculum does not state that teachers must educate their students on digital literacy it is still a teacher’s duty to teach and keep their students safe offline and online.