Digital literacy has been dubbed as a fourth literacy. Whereas reading, writing and mathematics are considered as the cornerstone of being literate, literacy in this day is not complete if a person is not capable of accessing and creating digital information. Therefore it is important to talk about digital literacy in education and e-learning.
Digital literacy is strongly connected with e-learning and is highly relevant to contemporary educators. As an educator, you try to prepare your students for their life after education. The aim is not only to inspire and convey the necessary knowledge: you also want to equip them with the right tools for their future careers. Socially, as well as academically, their future calls for technological knowledge and digital skills, as an increasing number of our daily-life activities are executed with web based tools.
Today we find ourselves on a flipside of students who are digital immigrants as well as digital natives. Naturally, our “immigrants” are students who got acquainted with technology in their scholarly past, whereas natives have not known education without computers. Both groups find themselves to be very adaptable to computerised education, and are now being introduced to e-learning.
However, we should by any means not exclude those who are digitally illiterate. Think of seniors trying to study again, or are in need of re-training to improve their professional skills. Imagine educators who have mastered their subject for decades, and are now in difficulty trying to keep up with this digitally emphasised way of teaching. So how do we include those who are now excluded, and integrate them amongst todays digital citizens?
1. Digital literacy defined
In order to know if someone’s digital skills suffice, we should understand criteria for literacy. To determine if a person is digitally literate, we can ask several questions such as: does the person know how to manage a technological device, or how to go on the hunt for specific information on the web? Is the person aware of online social norms, codes and perhaps dangers? Is the person able to communicate and collaborate digitally? Also, can a person be creative online, and critical of other information presented? The 8 criteria for digital literacy are displayed below.
2. Encourage digital literacy: From fear to fascination
For those who are not digitally literate, technology and the digital world seem like a jungle they can’t pave their way through. To them, the online world seems like an incomprehensible universe they don’t want to enter. However, if you analyse the criteria for digital literacy, you see that the online world is analogous to the face-to-face world everybody knows. By emphasising these similarities, one can ensure a digital illiterate person that he or she is already familiar with ‘what is out there’. It is key to turning their fear to fascination an participation.
Lastly, it is important to show how these skills are necessary for their future. Some might argue that e-learning is not necessary for studying. Why not use a traditional library and do everything on paper and eventually know the same things as a student who studies digitally, one might ask. It is because the digital world enables highly efficient studying. Learning online is a highly targeted and fast way of learning. Due to his or her slow pace, a digital illiterate student will be easily overtaken by an effective, digitalised student. This will not only happen within the classroom, but also in the future job market. For equal chances amongst students of all ages and backgrounds, digital learning is absolute essential.
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