Digital Literacy: the awareness of technology tools and the knowledge of when and how to use them.
Today, many K-12 school systems have made great investments in the area of technology integration. Although this is a giant step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to truly transform the learning environment. To make this technological leap more effective, K-12 school systems must focus their attention on determining which technologies must be taught as well as how and under what circumstances they should be used. This pedagogical shift involves pairing the appropriate tools with the learning tasks in question.
Ultimately, the role of today’s educators is to teach students how to learn in a digital environment. In other words, we have to prepare students for college and career by preparing them for learning anything, anytime, anywhere. Since technology changes everyday, students must be able to adapt and learn how to use that new technology quickly and appropriately. This need becomes clearer if we take a closer look at what it means to be college and career ready today. In David Conley’s 2007 EPIC report, Redefining College Readiness, he mentions several relevant characteristics that define the ability to function in today’s “real world” environment. These characteristics are summarized into four distinct dimensions:
- key cognitive strategies;
- content knowledge;
- self-management skills; and
- knowledge about postsecondary education.
In light of Dr. Conley’s discussion of the complexity of college and career readiness, K-12 school systems must have a more open-minded perspective about how to make improvements in this area. Critically, implementing a comprehensive plan for teaching students about digital literacy is invaluable. Students with a strong grasp of digital literacy will be equipped with the skill sets necessary to navigate through the complexities of college and career readiness by directly or indirectly addressing several of the dimensions mentioned by Dr. Conley. Specifically, students will be able to develop deep content knowledge when lessons are brought to life with authentic technology integration that transforms the learning experience. Digital literacy would help students take full advantage of the digital learning environment. Students will also be able to utilize technology to enhance self-management techniques or compensate for self-management deficiencies. This dimension alone may have the greatest impact on students’ futures due to the long-term implications of personal efficiency and effectiveness on college and career success. Lastly, digital literacy would provide students with the ability to learn more about post-secondary programs, participate in opportunities to experience classrooms and other programs online, and then to make informed academic choices. So, digital literacy is a true essential for college and career readiness.