Digital literacy is a term that is being used frequently across education, but what does this mean? To be digitally literate changes over time and across contexts as technology and situations vary, therefore digital literacies can be seen, as a set of teaching practices that are supported by changing technology. In a world where technology is readily available to most, being digitally literate also means being both a creator and consumer of digital content by having skills, knowledge, understanding, values and attitudes, which supports both of these roles. However, in the education system, there is not equity in availability of digital access which creates a social divide. To address this, digital access needs to focus both on the technology and the capability of people to interact with technology, and teachers need to recognise that different experiences of children in terms of digital access and competencies are key components to becoming a digital citizen. Being a digital citizen has been described as someone who uses the internet every day.
There are many writers who have coined terms to describe children who have grown up with technology, Prensky (2001) uses the term digital native, while Tapscott (2009) called them the ‘net generation’ and ‘screenagers’. Brown and Czerniewicz (2010) used the terms generation X, Y and Z, other writers talk about the ‘app generation’. Regardless of the collective term used these children have grown up in a world where technology plays a large and important role in their lives. Children of this age are less ‘stuck’ and freely learn through the clever designs of devices that are intuitive and leads to learning without instruction. A good example of this is illustrated by The Hole in the Wall project (Mitra, 2007).
Teachers therefore, have to adapt and learn new pedagogies to support learning with technology. Teachers need to have a repertoire of communication strategies to engage children and support their learning. Literacy across the curriculum which is a responsibility for all, should include different types of literacies including digital literacy, indeed it is recommended that digital literacy should be included as an aspect in all subjects and not just in computer science.
Learning and teaching are complex, both tacit knowledge and practical wisdom are needed alongside a range of knowledges which Shulman (1986) outlines as;
· Subject knowledge
· Curriculum subject knowledge
· General pedagogical knowledge
· Pedagogical content knowledge
· Knowledge related to learners and their characteristics
· Knowledge of educational contexts
· Educational philosophy including aims and valuesThe teacher’s technical pedagogical knowledge relates to the teacher’s general knowledge of how to use the affordance of the technology to a make the learning more effective. Simply having technology available does not mean it is having an impact on pupils’ achievement, where installed software is inappropriate or where teachers lack confidence and the IT capability to use it, technology may be of limited value. Teachers also need to recognise that not all initial attempts in teaching with technology will be a success, but reflection on the experience will ensure that digital literacy evolves along with a growing understanding to its pedagogical power.
The concept of digital citizenship suggests the boundaries are not physical but digital. Therefore, understanding digital citizenship involves understanding the nature of digital technology, within the broader context of the technological world and networked society of the digital age. The education of digital citizens involves developing confidence and capability with digital technology and the digital world. This includes a focus on e-safety, ethical behaviour and digital rights, as well as responsibilities as part of developing good digital citizens, click here for a fuller explanation.
The use of technology has the ability to enable teachers to increase the value of the learning and increase the authenticity of the learning experience. One thing is true about learning with technology is that technology is constantly changing and as such should be seen as a tool to support learning if it is used well and thoughtfully.