By Dr. Jameela Adeeb, Professor Of English & Media Studies
As the digital literacy field has grown and evolved, so too have its challenges and opportunities. Now more than ever students need to become skilled in technology but also understand the social implications of their decisions in technology.
One important factor is that we are not just teaching skills to students, but how they use these skills to make decisions for themselves. In a world where many of us take the easy way out when it comes to choosing our devices, I can attest to this notion. This means becoming comfortable with certain things and being able to put them into practice in our daily lives. What do you think about your car? What should you be looking at on your phone? And what is the last thing you want to see on your phone? These questions might be daunting but asking them is necessary to keep your life informed, knowing what you’re doing with your media consumption, how you interact with others online, or how you view yourself. Asking these types of basic questions will help us analyze how we consume content online, what kind of information we use, and how well-educated we are in different areas related to technology and social issues. An example would be “Which apps should I delete from my home screen?” or “Will I be okay if I don’t post any updates today?” A better question might be “How much time do I need before I start to feel anxious about the future and know I need to get up and update myself?” It may be easier for us to think of ourselves as technologically savvy individuals, but this is only half the picture. We need to consider not just what we’ve learned and understand, but what we’ve created and controlled. This includes having to choose things like settings, tools like Zoom, browsers, games, etc. I think most people realize that some of the best ways to control tech are by controlling how much of it they let sit on their device, and limiting access to certain sites, apps, and other parts of their life.
Digital literacy is important because it helps us to understand how we can use technology to better serve our community and the society around us. So, firstly, how can we teach students digital literacy? I believe that it starts with having an open mind. We all must learn as little as possible about the social aspects of technology. For me personally, this has been a very powerful tool in allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of how I view myself through the lens of technology, and the social implications that come with being connected to the Internet. In order to have effective digital literacy, we must remember to ask specific questions as suggested by Erika Colón, such as “Where might I find statistics on global warming? Do I care about it? Are people living in poverty? Is there anyone around who is hurting so I can share my story?” Each place and topic needs to be thought out thoroughly before answering. Then, we must understand the nature of our devices and how we consume digital content in our everyday life. How and why do we view technology. At the same time, what kinds of technology make us comfortable, or make us feel good? We must also ask ourselves which platforms work for us, and why they work for us. After understanding the answers to all these questions, we’ve got to consider how we can use technology to support social justice. From the perspective of a journalist, knowing what sources we can use and how to approach reporting, is crucial to creating accurate reporting that serves our communities, governments, and journalists of tomorrow. When our government doesn’t understand the importance of using technology well, then it’s our job to communicate that those who are not following steps to protect our environment, fix climate change, etc., will be held accountable. This is all rooted in digital literacy. The more you can look at every aspect of technology, the simpler your life, the better your decision-making process, and how you use it to support society.
In conclusion, this is the type of work that should never go unrecognized, even though technology always moves forward as a force for positive change. Just like digital literacy, everyone is responsible for helping the future of the world. That means that we should all be educating ourselves, asking critical, probing questions, and learning more often. You must understand the context of digital technology, both in terms of our personal and professional lives. So as someone looking into how to start using our technology for productive purposes, how can we encourage everyone to become more digitally literate? Use these tips, and you’ll become much more adept at using technology while staying aware of what you learn about your own journey. Thank you for reading!
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You can also read my book, Educating Students To Be Digital Citizens, available here