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Digital literacies are not solely about technical proficiency, but about the issues, norms, and habits of mind surrounding technologies used for a particular purpose. – Doug Belshaw, educational researcher

What is digital literacy?

Digital literacy requires a variety of strategies and skills.

In exploring what digital literacy is, we must first differentiate what it is not, so that teachers do not spend instructional time teaching digital skills. Digital literacy involves critical thinking, as to the authenticity of a source found on the web. In contrast, an example of a digital skill would be to  use the internet as a source to download images and inserting them into a formatted presentation, regardless of the software, that process is considered only a digital skill. Moreover, taking it a step further in the instructional process, a digital literate student would use criteria, taught previously by the teacher, that would focus on helping students “learn” to choose appropriate images, recognize copyright licensing, and cite or get permissions.

Second, communicating and collaborating with others in the digital space is another example of digital literacy. Encouraging students to use technology, should come with a reminder about the risks of placing their information online and give them choices of how much personal information to reveal. For example, I was not aware or did I recognize the ways in which Facebook’s privacy settings continually shift without user permission. Additionally, posting a photo today might mean something to a future employer later. Students may not be aware of password-protecting their devices, and having different passwords across platforms. In addition, there is a risk in blogging, tweeting, which also include the potential for abuse. How does one determine what is a sensitive topic?

Nonetheless, one example are the blog posts in The Yale Herald from John Bouvier Kennedy “Jack” Schlossberg, the youngest child of Caroline Kennedy, and the only grandson of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Although seemingly controversial, Mr. Schlossberg’s opinions on relationships; women owned by their masters; communist leaders; and social views can be permanently found online in The Yale Herald’s blog. Alternatively,  it is difficult to change the record of digital content fit for purpose and understandings later. More importantly, honest, responsible, and ethical approaches to accessing, and using digital content; in addition, to acting in ways that respect others is a critical aspect in teaching digital literacy that both children and adults should be more cognizant. Consequently, teachers in 21st century schools have to teach students how to find, evaluate, use, and create digital content in meaningful ways in elementary and high school, so that students use it appropriately in the real world.

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