Random Events: What IS Digital Literacy?

digital literacyDuring testing yesterday, a teacher commented that her students were struggling to write the required responses on the computer. She said they had been writing every day, but don’t have access to computers to draft their work on, so they aren’t composing electronically. This is problematic because the standardized tests are taken electronically.

At a social event, I attended over the weekend teachers suggested they have been teaching just fine for the past 30 years, why now must the Common Core come along and tell them they have to change everything? Hasn’t what they’ve been doing worked? They think it has been quite effective.

Twitter is bursting with the hashtag #digilit.

I want to read a new book, and it’s a lot cheaper on my Kindle. Do I save the money and have it now or order a hard copy? Immediacy and portability vs. the ability to stick notes inside the pages and jot in the margins? That’s really helpful in book clubs. I can refer to a page. People with Kindles always say, “Oh, I read it on my device” so they can’t tell us which page to refer to. I’m sure there’s a way to do this on the Kindle. But no one I know has figured it out yet.

Jeanette Isaly, a 4th-grade teacher, played this beautiful Ted Talk; Every Kid Needs A Champion, by Rita Pierson for her students yesterday. They listened hard and were moved with emotion.

I read a Washington Post article that fascinates me. There are hyperlinks to resources that I disregard until I reach the end of the article; then I come back to check out the links. Sometimes this takes me down a rabbit hole, and I’m tied up for an hour working my way through an article. I learn a lot, but I take a lot of time.

I get an email from NCTE. I love NCTE. I can’t believe I haven’t attended one of their conferences until this school year. It was an amazing experience. So much literacy. In the email is an article about a new book by Franki Sibberson and William L. Bass called Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8. Suddenly all the seemingly random events start to come together.  Digital Literacy.


You can hear an interview with the authors and read the first chapter online here.  (How generous! Thank you, NCTE!) This brought it all home. Digital literacy isn’t just being able to navigate the web, play Minecraft or use a Kindle. It’s all of that and more. Franki & Bill make a compelling argument for why we cannot teach as we have for the past 30 years (for those fortunate enough to have been teaching so long!) One reason is the world is changing exponentially. Watch Did You Know 2015?  I’m pretty sure you’ll agree. This short video Did You Know, in 2028 is also pretty compelling even if you don’t buy everything it suggests. If we want our students to be prepared for the demands they face in their world, we cannot teach them the way we were taught. But Franki & Bill delineate what digital reading means for classroom teachers. Here are a few key points:

  • Digital literacy needs to be integrated as a regular part of the school day. Not as an add-on. It must be integrated.
  • Students need instruction on navigating linear text in digital format, non-linear text with hyperlinks, texts with integrated media and texts with response options.
  • Skills we have always taught into must be expanded with digital tools. For example, determining importance:  new digital tools aren’t always linear. They have hyperlinks and embedded videos that make this a much more complex skill. We need to plan teaching points and support around the digital elements.

I can’t wait for Digital Reading’s release later this month. And I know the next book I read is going to be on my e-reader. If we’re going to teach it, we’ve got to use it!  (Franki & Bill will be hosting a Twitter chat, #nctechat on Sunday, May 17 at 5pm PDT.)

kids with digital tools

Here are a few more resources I have been exploring around digital literacy:

What is your understanding of digital literacy? Why do you think it is important to make digital literacy part of your regular instruction? Let’s continue the conversation and the journey together.


About Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be You

Principal at the School at the north end of Los Angeles Harbor where AWESOME happens. Working to make the world a little more wonder-full.
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2 Responses to Random Events: What IS Digital Literacy?

  1. jarhartz says:

    Great resources Dayna! I saw Frankie and Bill at NCTE and can’t wait for their book. Thanks for the link.

    Those hyperlinks are rabbit holes. I don’t know if it’s me or the media, but I do feel a bit scattered reading sources electronically. The interesting thing is I feel like I absorb bits and pieces in a very subliminal way when I read online. I can’t quote it, but the information is there.

    There is a part of me that still needs the trade book in paper form, but I do notice a shift. I’m better at it than I use to be. I’ve also noticed the impatient and easily distractable part of me leans toward the ebook versions. Hmm. That says something about the type of readers that might need particular types of text.

    As a teacher, I realize I’m lucky to have gotten digital tools early. We’ve tried a lot of things and it takes just that. Trying things out. Just today had a bit of a panic attack thinking what will happen when my six-year-old iPads call it quits. Eeek…

    Liked by 1 person

    • daywells says:

      I agree! The hyperlinks are indeed rabbit holes! So much to take in and so much we need to experiment and get comfortable with.

      Funny – I think it takes more of me to get comfortable with digital text. Although I read a lot on line – I don’t really do many books that way. Prolific reader friends do, however. I started a new book on audible – great in the car … Just doesn’t really seem like I’m reading tho!


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