WHAT IS DIGITAL LITERACY?
Digital literacy refers to the ability to use and understand digital technology, communication tools and networks to access, analyze, create, communicate, and participate in a wide range of activities (What Is Digital Literacy and Why Does It Matter? | Renaissance, 2019). In today’s world, digital literacy is a crucial skill as technology is constantly evolving and playing a vital role in nearly all aspects of our daily lives. From education to work to personal relationships, digital devices, and the internet have drastically changed the way we communicate, access information and carry out daily tasks. Below we will explore the importance of digital literacy, its impact on society, and the steps individuals can take to improve their digital literacy skills while learning math online.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS TO HAVE GOOD DIGITAL LITERACY?
1. Support Educational Process
Technology plays a big role in today’s education systems across the globe. Especially after COVID, schools from elementary to post-secondary have been using various technological devices such as computers, tablets, and the Internet to help students learn. Having digital literacy skills makes using these tools easier and allows us to be more confident in how we use them. Without these skills, students may struggle to use technology and it could slow down their learning. Furthermore, you will find that more tests and classes are now taken online whether we like it or not. Therefore, it is important for students and teachers to be comfortable and confident with the technology they are expected to be using.
2. Navigating the Internet Safely
Digital literacy can give the tools, knowledge, processes, and resources to minimize risks and keep students safe. There are always new online risks being created by harmful people or groups making it important to keep yourself safe. You can keep yourself anonymous, be careful who you are talking to online, think before you click, and use strong passwords to protect yourself online.
3. Understanding Digital Responsibility
As technology becomes more prevalent, students can face ethical challenges like copyright, plagiarism, cyberbullying, and responsible communication. Digital literacy helps them learn about the ethics of copyright, plagiarism, and cyberbullying. Learning how to deal with these issues is a part of being digitally literate and digitally responsible. But even with this knowledge, they can still face those challenges.
4. Improves social responsibilities
Digital literacy enables people to socialize beyond their physical location by removing barriers for forming friendships and relationships. However, it can also expose people, especially young people, to online dangers such as predators or mature content. By being digitally literate, students can safely connect with others online. They can learn to make smarter choices to not end up on inappropriate websites or applications or to not end up talking to the wrong people online. Schools and parents should provide information on what are safe practices when going online and should also monitor what they are doing online.
5. Improve digital equity
Digital literacy can help close the digital divide, which is the unequal access to the internet. Despite widespread access to technology, there is still a large disparity in the digital skills of minority workers. By prioritizing digital literacy in K-12 education, schools can improve the digital skills of underrepresented groups, giving these students better chances for successful careers in the future. The three main reasons there is a digital divide are affordability, accessibility, and skills. To fix accessibility, schools are starting to help close the digital divide by providing computers or even tablets to their students in their libraries. To help with affordability, community partnerships with internet service providers can help to lower costs and there are also programs that offer subsidies to learners and families (Advancing Digital Equity for All: Community-Based Recommendations for Developing Effective Digital Equity Plans to Close the Dig, 2022).
6. Supports lifelong skills
Digital literacy gives students a solid foundation they can use with any type of technology, now and in the future. By learning basic skills like input/output, and how to use different hardware devices and operate applications, students have a transferable knowledge base that can be applied to new technology as it emerges (Why Digital Literacy Is Important for Students, 2022). Other skills they can learn are coding, Microsoft Office, social media, software and hardware skills, writing skills, presentation, graphics, and many more. Recently schools have been using computers more in the classroom and there are many courses schools offer that teach students these skills. Students can also learn these skills on their own by finding online courses or free online videos to teach them a new subject. Most jobs require basic digital literacy skills, so it is pretty important for students to learn these skills. It was found that about 84% of Canadian jobs require the use of basic computer and technical skills (What Is Digital Literacy? | Abclifeliteracy.ca, n.d.).
HOW CAN STUDENTS IMPROVE THEIR DIGITAL LITERACY?
- Don’t be afraid to try new things with technology
- Take an online course
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from teachers or parents
- Use technology with adult supervision
- Learning basic computer skills such as typing
- Developing critical thinking skills to evaluate the credibility of online information
- Practicing safe and responsible online behavior
- Learning about privacy and security
- Engage in digital literacy activities such as problem-solving
- Staying up to date with technology trends
WHY IS DIGITAL LITERACY IMPORTANT FOR TEACHERS?
Teaching Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship refers to the appropriate utilization of technology by individuals who use computers, the Internet, and digital devices to participate in society ethically. (Zook, 2022). The two biggest problems with digital ethics are academic plagiarism and cyberbullying. To prevent students from unintentionally plagiarizing, teachers should establish clear policies at the start of each school year and task. Plagiarism can have serious consequences for students in the future like losing their job or even facing legal consequences. Since COVID, people, including children, have been spending 20% more time on their devices. With this rise, students have been spending more time on social media, where most students are being bullied. Students on YouTube have been bullied 79% of the time, with Snapchat at 69%, TikTok at 64% and Facebook at 49% (Cyberbullying: Twenty Crucial Statistics for 2023, 2023).
Closing the digital divide
Digital literacy and tech-savvy educators play a crucial role in advocating for change and finding innovative solutions to bridge this divide. Did you know that 31% of urban schools and 41% of rural schools lack access to the Internet (7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy Is Important for Teachers, n.d.)? This lack of connection hinders students in these schools from utilizing the tools, resources, and platforms available to their peers with Internet access. The digital divide also extends beyond schools to households, exacerbating existing achievement gaps.
Help students develop critical thinking skills
It is not uncommon for adults and children to turn to Google to find answers to their questions, however, it does pose us with the question of “are these reliable sources of information”. Students need to ask questions such as, “Is the source an academic website or a marketing company?”, “When was the source last updated?” Is this information presented in objective or biased language? (7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy Is Important for Teachers, n.d.)” Asking the right questions can help students think critically about the sources they are using and hopefully train them to get their information from reliable sources.
HOW DOES MATHPROJECT HELP WITH DIGITAL LITERACY?
1. Taking Responsibility During Math Lessons
We teach students how to be responsible during our math classes and even outside of math classes. Using Google Classroom we make sure that students hand in their math homework on time and are responsible for what they upload. We make sure that students understand the repercussions of copying answers from other sources (ie. the answer key and Google). We also make sure that they respect what is said and written in sessions. Also, before tests, students must submit an integrity form stating they will abide by the test rules and not cheat. Responsibility with online work helps students become better digital citizens and students because it holds them accountable for their actions. As well, when the situations arise, our students learn about plagiarism, cheating, and cyberbullying and learn to make responsible choices.
2. Managing Privacy During Math Lessons
MathProject has different policies and procedures in place to ensure our students have the privacy they need to feel safe and comfortable in session. We have camera settings on in sessions, and multiple teacher controls on our platforms to ensure that if anything happens our teachers and management can have control. Online privacy is an important aspect of digital literacy because it helps individuals understand the risks and consequences of sharing personal information and sensitive data online. By learning about privacy online, students can protect their personal information and respect others’ privacy.
3. Asking For Help During Math Lessons
We encourage new students, parents, and teachers to ask questions about how to use our systems such as Google Classroom, Google Sheets, Conceptboard, and others. We offer orientation sessions to new students and parents, documents to families and teachers on how to upload, submit, grade, etc. Additionally, our math aid hours help students with any questions they may have on homework or general queries. Asking for help improves their digital communication skills because it promotes how to effectively communicate using digital tools, such as forums, chat rooms, and email. It helps students develop their problem-solving skills by getting them to identify and express the problems they are having and provides the opportunity to learn how to address these problems in the future. In turn, this skill transfers outside the session because it allows students to identify the root cause of a problem and find creative and effective solutions.
4. Math Lessons on Google Classroom
Google Classroom is our main platform for our students as of 2023. We use it for our sessions so we can interact with our students and assign homework. This teaches students how to use meetings as well as submit digital copies of their homework and tests. Teachers can make announcements to the class, grade and provide feedback on homework, and communicate with students when necessary. Teachers have control over the classroom stream, with the ability to mute settings, preventing students from posting or communicating with others. This ensures that our students are safe and it also prevents cyberbullying from happening. Google Classroom encourages digital citizenship, emphasizing respectful communication, adherence to online policies, and the protection of intellectual property when interacting with teachers and peers. This platform fosters awareness that Google records every submission, chat message, and class activity digitally. It also offers easy accessibility on various devices through email.
5. Math Lessons on Conceptboard
For math classes, we use a platform called Conceptboard, which allows teachers and students to work on math problems together. This teaches students how to write, present work, and collaborate on a digital platform. It can also teach students how to use their tablets in an educational and efficient way, rather than writing with pen and paper. They can even use it in their personal life, for example, if they have a group project or as another form of presentation. Conceptboard teaches students digital literacy by providing them with a collaborative online workspace where they can learn to effectively communicate, organize, and share information using digital tools. This can help students develop skills such as digital collaboration, information management, and critical thinking, as well as gain an understanding of online privacy and security. Conceptboard provides educational resources and tutorials to promote safe and responsible technology use, enhancing students’ digital literacy.
6. Math Performance tracked on Spreadsheets
At MathProject, we use Google Sheets for each of our students’ performance reports. Each performance report displays students’ homework grades, due dates, comments, test dates, textbook links, and other essential information. Using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel teaches students how to read and use spreadsheets which is a very useful tool to not only use for school, but also in their personal and professional lives. They find that spreadsheets are invaluable for data organization, simplifying math with shortcuts, creating tables, and mastering valuable skills.
In conclusion, digital literacy is an essential skill in today’s technology-driven world. It’s proficiently utilizing technology, like computers, mobile devices, and the internet, to access, analyze, and communicate information. With the rapid advancement of technology and the increasing dependence on it in both personal and professional life, having strong digital literacy skills has become increasingly important. Boosting digital literacy can improve job opportunities, enhance personal productivity, and enable more informed and meaningful global engagement. Thus, it is imperative that individuals of all ages invest in building and improving their digital literacy skills.
- What is Digital Literacy? | abclifeliteracy.ca. (n.d.). ABC Life Literacy Canada. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://abclifeliteracy.ca/digital-literacy/
- Why Digital Literacy is Important for Students. (2022, April 19). Learning. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.learning.com/blog/reasons-digital-literacy-is-important-for-students/
- How to increase your digital literacy. (n.d.). Adobe. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.adobe.com/acrobat/hub/how-to/increase-your-digital-literacy
- 7 Reasons Why Digital Literacy is Important for Teachers. (n.d.). USC Rossier Online. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://rossieronline.usc.edu/blog/teacher-digital-literacy/
- What Is Digital Literacy and Why Does It Matter? | Renaissance. (2019, February 8). Renaissance Learning. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://www.renaissance.com/2019/02/08/blog-digital-literacy-why-does-it-matter/
- Cyberbullying: Twenty Crucial Statistics for 2023. (2023, January 26). Security.org. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from https://www.security.org/resources/cyberbullying-facts-statistics/
- Advancing Digital Equity for All: Community-Based Recommendations for Developing Effective Digital Equity Plans to Close the Dig. (2022, September 23). Department of Education. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2022/09/DEER-Resource-Guide_FINAL.pdf
- Zook, C. (2022, March 8). What Is Digital Citizenship & How Do You Teach It? Applied Educational Systems. Retrieved February 7, 2023, from https://www.aeseducation.com/blog/what-is-digital-citizenship