Why Teaching Digital Literacy is More Important Than Ever

The students of today are what you can consider as “naturals” when it comes to digital technology. These are the kids that grew up alongside the development of modern media of communication. From an early age, gadgets such as smartphones and laptops have been widely available for their use. The large-scale integration of modern technology in their daily lives is evident in the proliferation of internet terms. How usually do you hear the term “just Google it”?

It’s tempting to think that technical know-how is the most important skill needed to maximize the wonders of the internet. After all, anyone can instantly access a wealth of information with just a click of a button, provided that they have the gadgets and knowledge necessary to execute this action. As previously mentioned, today’s youth possess this very skill. But how far can technical know-how take you?

Digital Literacy Goes Beyond the Technical

Digital literacy is another important skill that must be instilled upon the youth. It pertains to the ability of students to appraise properly the gargantuan amount of information that they will come across on the internet. Yes, using Google to search for information relevant to a specific lesson is easy. But how many students pause to evaluate the accuracy of the data presented to them?

Researching on the internet is perceived to be very simple and almost effortless. However, this gives the youth a false sense of security. They are susceptible to the notion that the internet “knows everything” when the reality is that the “facts” they obtain from the web are only as reliable as the sources of information. How many times have students resorted to using copy-paste when tasked to research about a subject? Even more common is the tendency of students to perceive the top Wikipedia result as the best source of information, even though virtually anyone can edit a Wikipedia article.

Being Digitally-Literate: Using a Critical Approach towards using Technology

It’s also worth noting that digital literacy has consequences that go far beyond the intelligent use of the internet. It’s not just about ensuring that what you take in as facts are actually from credible sources of information. Being digitally-literate also means being able to successfully use technology in pursuit of a higher calling – that is, the calling to become a socially-responsible and globally-aware citizen. This can be made possible by emphasizing the need to couple practical skills with critical thinking.

What Pursuing Digital Literacy Entails

Now that the significance of being digitally-literate has been established, it’s time to direct our focus on how we, as educators, can successfully train our students to take on a critical approach when going through online information. Fundamental to this mission is the accomplishment of the following tasks:

1. Engaging students in discussions about validity, bias, and reliability. Only by having the right mindset can students accurately evaluate a specific source of information as credible. Assessing various texts in a way that is academically-critical is possible only if the student has a solid sense of who/what can be rightfully considered as “authority” when it comes to information dissemination.

2. Making students aware about the social implications of information accessed online. Once students are aware of how different groups may use the internet to forward their interests, they will be more likely to look beyond the surface and identify any information that are misleading or are simply inaccurate. Building on research skills and the ability to verify sources will prevent the youth from consuming and falsely believing propaganda and biased notions.

Your thoughts? If you have other ideas that can help our educators, feel free to leave a comment below!

Maria Dublin
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Maria is a writer, an editor, and a law student. She plays for the Philippine national touch football team, and does a lot of travelling during the holidays.