In this day and age, it is extremely important for students to learn digital literacy with every subject area. While we might say that most students have computers at home that they can use, and that this makes them an expert with computers, that isn't always the case. With the recession, many families cannot afford a computer at home, and, even if a student does have a computer at home, it may not have up-to-date software or an internet connection.
Equally important to remember is that, even if students do have access to computers at home, that doesn't mean they were ever taught how to properly use the software and the hardware. Furthermore, digital literacy applies to many other electronic devices besides computers.
A great way to start promoting digital literacy is through a classroom blog. You can set up your classroom blog using any free blogging software, such as Wordpress.com or Blogger, and post whatever you want on it. You can use the blog to function as a homework hotline, post tips and tricks for completing assignments, film video of the classroom for absent students or students who just need a second viewing of the notes for the day, or post related news articles and have the students respond to them.
The possibilities really are endless. By having students use and participate in a classroom blog, you are teaching them how to navigate through webpages, how to post comments on articles, and how to interact with posts and other commenters. This is a valuable lesson as more and more of our information is coming from digital sources, and these digital sources are often interactive with the ability to leave comments. In this way, with a classroom blog, you are teaching media literacy as well as digital literacy, and these are both equally important concepts to master before college or careers.
Sometimes, students struggle with what teachers see as the simplest tasks. Even emailing an assignment as an attachment can be difficult for students to do because they may have never sent an email with an attachment before. Its best to take a few seconds to show the entire class how to attach a file to an email, and even have them practice it before having to do it for real.
It is also a great idea to teach students appropriate email etiquette. Many students use abbreviated language with emails, which is not seen as professional. Students also might send an attachment without anything written in the subject line or body of the email. This is also seen as unprofessional in a work environment. If you require that they do these things with every email they send, it will soon become habit.
If your school has access to a computer lab, you should make use of it as much as you can. Just allowing students to use the computers in an educational setting is helpful to developing digital literacy. Whether it's a fun activity, or doing research, or typing a paper, just using the computers for school work rather than surfing around YouTube or Facebook can teach them all sorts of important uses for computers.
Cell Phones, E-Readers, and Tablets
It is vital to remember that digital literacy is not just about computers. More and more students are gaining access to cell phones, e-readers, tablets and many other electronic devices. If your school allows, it's sometimes a good idea to have students to use these devices in class to look up words and facts, take notes or just read electronic copies of books. We live in a digital age, and monitoring students' use of these devices can help teach them how to responsibly use them outside school.