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Yet, the use of technology involves more than the ability of using a computer or operating a digital device to surf the web. It is also necessary to have another skill that let us use these resources properly in order to be successful in these types of virtual environments. This key element is better known as digital literacy.
Digital literacy is usually described as the ability of finding, understanding and creating new information using different technologies. One definition is given by Eshet, Y. (2004), who states that digital literacy consist on “utilizing digital reproduction to create new, meaningful materials from existing ones; constructing knowledge from a nonlinear, hypertextual navigation; evaluating the quality and validity of information; and have a mature and realistic understanding of the & quot; rules" that prevail in the cyberspace.”
Although this is a very complete and academic definition, I prefer another definition is given by Josie Fraser (2012) in an article for The Guardian where she defined it as “digital literacy = digital tool knowledge + critical thinking + social engagement.”I like this one, because it explains in very simple and words the real meaning of digital literacy. According to this perspective, a digitally literate person is not just the one who knows how to use the internet to search for information and evaluate the information found before using it, in fact, it is a person who is able to produce new information (critical thinking) and knows very well which medium to use (digital tool knowledge) according to the information that she/he wants to present to a specific audience (social engagement).
Basically, we can say that digital literacy empowers people to become more competent in society today as we are surrounded by technology and our ways of communicating and getting information has changed a lot in the last twenty years.
Therefore, nowadays it is extremely important to prepare our students to be digital literates, so they can “live, learn and work successfully in an increasingly, complex, information –rich and knowledge based society (Unesco, 2008).
For doing so, it is necessary to have digital literates teachers, otherwise, how can teachers help students to develop technology capabilities? Competent technological teachers should be able to:
- Use basic technological tools (hardware and software).
- Manage applications.
- Use the web and its resources.
- Make use of the networks to access information.
- Know how and when include technology in their pedagogical activities.
- Analyze students’ needs and their context in order to use technology properly.
- Adapt the use of technology to students’ reality.
- Create proper virtual learning environments.
- Design projects that involve the use of technology.
- Develop student’s critical thinking skills.
Personally, I love technology and as a teacher I do really think that we should certainly prepare our students to deal with today’s demands. However, I think that it is important that the teachers consider student’s reality and needs before planning a class or a course that involves the use of technology. We cannot assume that as we are in the 21st century all our students have access to technology, do students have technological resources? Do they have computers and internet access? Do institutions provide them with technological facilities (computer labs, internet access, etc.) what do they know about the use of the web? These are just some of the multiple questions we should answer before including technology in our classes
The following video explains in a very simple way what digital literacy is.
This one refers to how to include digital literacy in the classroom.
Anyangwe, E. (2012, May 15). 20 ways of thinking about digital literacy in higher education. theguardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/15/digital-literacy-in-universities
Eshet, Y. (2004). Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(1), 93-106. Norfolk, VA: AACE.
Lankshear, C. and Knober, M. (2008) Digital Literacies. New York: Lang Publishing, Inc.
Unesco (2008) ICT Competency Standards for Teachers. [Online document] Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001562/156207e.pdf