Digital literacy is just not about technical expertise but also about the behavior of mind surrounding technologies used for a specific reason. The significance of digital expertise is understood for 21st-century learning. However, the focus is mostly on skills instead of literacy. Digital skills involve what and how. Digital literary relates to why, when, who, and for whom.
For instance, teaching digital skills must consist of guiding students on downloading images from the internet and incorporating them into PowerPoint slides. Digital literacy emphasizes supporting students to identify correct images, determining copyright licensing, etc. Students must also be informed about using substitute text for images to assist those with visual disabilities.
The focus of digital skills would be on using the appropriate tools (Twitter), while digital literacy would comprise of detailed questions. When should Twitter be used? Who are the individuals who would be at risk when they do so?
Teaching digital literacy does not indicate digital skills in a vacuum, but doing so in a reliable framework that makes sense to students. It indicates teaching gradually instead of successively, which would assist learners in understanding better and more clearly over a period. Once students have the expertise to use various platforms, they must be allowed to select the appropriate one.
When students are encouraged to use technology by teachers, they must be reminded about the risks involved in placing personnel information online. Students must be briefed about how Facebook’s privacy settings constantly shift without seeking user permission. The importance of password-protecting their devices must also be highlighted to the students. The risks of blogging/tweeting, including opening channels for abuse, must also be recognized. Students must not be involved in discussions in the public domain without knowing the consequences they would be facing. Though teachers must avoid putting students in high-risk situations, it does not indicate avoiding teaching digital literacy.
It is vital for students to understand that even though technology provides significant power, it also limits us in several ways, and we have to question the cost-effectiveness of the technology. We can only begin to put the seeds of this critical literacy in our classes and hope students will transfer this beyond the classroom and into their increasingly digital identities and lives.
Digital literacy is not about the expertise of using technologies, but using our judgment to maintain awareness of what we are reading and writing. Teachers can sow the seeds of digital literacy in classroom sessions, but students have to transfer this beyond the classroom into their evolving digital identities.