Digital literacy

The Guardian newspaper has been running a campaign to promote computer science, digital literacy and IT in schools.

Digital literacy is one of the strands of the new ICT programme of study.  The new ICT curriculum defines digital literacy “as the ability to access, use and express oneself using digital technology including a critical understanding of technology’s impact on the individual and society.”  The Royal Academy of Engineering and the BCS (the Chartered Institute for IT) were both major stakeholders in the push for digital literacy to be taught in schools from the age of 5.  However it is important that digital literacy is not taught as a stand-alone subject.  It needs to be developed alongside computer science and IT skills.  Children should be able to use, navigate, create and share information, but they need to be developing these skills in an effective and critical way.  I think to be effective, digital literacy needs to be developed as a strand that runs throughout the entire curriculum so that these skills become transferable.  I think it is important to not separate the teaching of digital literacy from the teaching of science or the teaching of art, for instance.  In addition to children learning to engage with digital literacy in an effective and critical way, I think it’s also important that children learn to be creative with their use of technology, so they are not just passively learning it and using it, and one way in which this can be done, is to develop digital literacy in the context of creative subjects within the curriculum.

The need for strong digital literacy has perhaps never been more important and is still growing in its significance. However, what do we really mean by the term? Before the course I may have argued that digital literacy was essentially the ability to consume and create media using a wide range of programs and applications. However, now I would be more inclined to argue that digital literacy is not just the consumption or use of programs but additionally it is the ability to create programs and have an understanding of code. This of course is a big jump, however, if we took literacy in its normative applicable sense then surely to be literate is not just to be able to talk but also to write?

Nevertheless, I would also argue that digital literacy should empower learners to interact critically with digital media, enabling them to choose the best and most proficient way of achieving a certain aspect. By empowering learners this way they become indiviual learners who can access what they need to safety and can use digital resources to their own maximum effect.

‘To be digitally literate is to have access to a broad range of practices and cultural resources that you are able to apply to digital tools. It is the ability to make, represent and share the meaning in different modes and formats to create, collaborate and communicate effectively and to understand how and when digital technologiescan best be used to support these processes’ (futurelab: 2010).

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