Why do we need to worry about digital literacy if we are already growing up surrounded by technology?

While there’s no doubt that being adept at using digital tools and technologies is essential for everyone in the 21st century, possessing digital skills is not the same as being digitally literate. It’s a mistake to assume that exposure to digital tools and technologies automatically equates to the knowledge of how to use these effectively.

We are all tech-savvy digital natives. We know our way around a tablet, smartphone and laptop better than most. More often than not, we know how to do a voice search on an iPad, share selfies on Instagram, play a video game and send a GIF on WhatsApp.

But we lack is the knowledge of how to use these digital tools and technologies to communicate and achieve our learning goals.

1 Sending an email, DM or text The ability to judge the appropriate digital channel for online communication with peers, teachers and parents.
2 Using Microsoft Office/Google G Suite. The ability to: Articulate the benefits and drawbacks of each tool.Critically evaluate which is most effective for the project at hand.
3 Tweeting, posting to Facebook, uploading a video to YouTube, adding to a Snapchat story and posting a photo to Instagram. The ability to navigate social media safely, in order to: Protect their reputation by determining what private content is safe/appropriate to share.Recognize bots.Spot bias, prejudice and hate propaganda.Identify cyberstalking and harassment.
4 Conducting a Google search. The ability to effectively use online search as a research tool, including: Picking the right search terms.Evaluating results based on cues such as web addresses.Tracking information to a reasonable source.Assessing tone, style, audience, bias and purpose to determine the credibility of information.

The American Library Association defined ‘’Digital Literacy’’ as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

It’s important for professionals to critically think about media and the messages they get daily. The ability to weed out fake news, for example, will be a crucial 21st-century skill. We need to give our clients the tools and skills needed to process the vast amounts of information they’re exposed to each day.

A recent Digital Literacy Impact Study showed that learners with a solid grounding in digital literacy have a competitive advantage in the workforce. Because digital literacy is so essential not only to their academic success and future career success but also their ability to fully participate in modern society.

In short: if digital literacies haven’t yet become a core component of your learning experience, it’s time to rethink your strategy.