Fostering Digital Fluency
We have all seen the headlines about online safety, cyberbullying, sexting, and phishing scams. But how does that play out in our classrooms, and how do we help our students navigate things that we are still learning ourselves?
Our plates are already full, and yet, this is another layer that needs to be front and center. Our students cannot be left to figure it out for themselves. When I first went 1:1 in the classroom I was on Facebook, but beyond that, I knew nothing about digital citizenship or digital footprints. But, quickly, as my students started using their devices, it became apparent that I needed to learn. I relied on resources such as Common Sense Media and Nearpod’s digital citizenship lessons to learn alongside my students. We reviewed scenarios, asked each other ‘what ifs’ and practiced being good citizens in my classroom.
What I’ve learned since then about being digitally literate goes way beyond those first conversations. But, I still feel there is much more to learn. Today, I present digital fluency at conferences, workshops, and online courses. There are three major branches that teachers need to be equipped with. The big three are vocabulary, where to find resources and online identity.
If you asked me 10 years ago what phishing was or what my digital footprint looked like, I probably would not know what you were talking about. Even today, you go online and hear terms like digital IQ, fluency, literacy, and citizenship. Many don’t know the difference between these terms. I like to explain the subtle differences in a riding a bike analogy. If you are a good digital citizen, you can identify a bike and will recognize others using a bike correctly. Digital literacy is knowing the ins and outs of basic riding. Digital fluency is when you bike with friends, teach each other tricks on the bike, and help others use their bikes in ways they never thought possible. We don’t want students to just ride a bike, we want them to travel, explore, and create new paths. Everything they do along the way raises their digital IQ.
If you search for any of these terms or look at the hashtags on Twitter, you will find many great lessons and ideas on how to teach these important skills to your students. I still rely on Common Sense Media and Nearpod for many of my lessons because of their robust content, and they are meaningful for students. I’ve expanded my resource base to include individuals, and programs that model what I want my students to know. Websites such as DigCitKids offer resources from a student’s perspective. I’m excited to investigate a new site called GoBubble that offers a safe place for students to learn positive social media habits. I use Hyperdocs that foster student agency and inquiry. The lessons need to be rich in content, fun and engaging and have to allow for exploration, and conversation.
Maybe this one seems more obvious, but I model a positive digital footprint on my social media sites. Too often we hear stories of inappropriate content being displayed on social media sites by educators or our students. How do we expect them to know what is ok, and what is not ok, online if we don’t model it ourselves? Students should be using the internet to foster the 4C’s, but I’d add in cyber awareness as a fifth ‘C’. Students need to be offered the opportunity to be engaged in creative and collaborative activities on a global scale. It is up to us, their facilitators of learning experiences, to guide them.
Digital fluency is our goal for our students. But the path to get there really relies on us having a common language and outlook. Fostering fluency means giving students the opportunity for creating, collaborating, communicating, and thinking critically online. But it also means they have cyber awareness and strong digital citizenship. By sharing a common vocabulary, using robust resources, and having a strong online identity, our students can do amazing things in a safe and engaging environment.
Assistant Coordinator for Model Schools
New York, USA