What is Digital Literacy and Why Does It Matter in 2023?

digital literacy

As an educator, you probably have strong opinions on your school’s math and social studies programs. But you may have some questions about newer additions to the curriculum, like digital literacy.

Students need to learn many things to become responsible, effective members of society. While some of those things have been taught in schools for centuries, like reading, newer skills have also become essential. One set of skills students need today is called digital literacy.

Let’s talk about what digital literacy is and why schools need to teach it.

What Is Digital Literacy?

digital literacy

Digital literacy is the set of skills you need to learn, work, communicate, and create things online. It can include everything from analyzing data to avoiding plagiarism to making a slideshow.

Digital literacy often gets confused with digital citizenship, which is the term for online safety, responsibility, and ethics. However, a good digital literacy curriculum will also include some digital citizenship topics. Ideally, students will learn safety and ethics practices as they learn how to use online tools.

Aren’t Kids Already Digitally Literate?

It’s true that most children and teens are extremely comfortable with the internet. But a student who loves TikTok may not know how to work with the spreadsheets they’ll use in high school. They may not know how to keep their personal information safe.

Today’s students need instruction on the less “fun” parts of technology. They need a curriculum that fills in their digital literacy gaps so they can grow into effective, responsible adults.

It’s also worth noting that not every student has the same opportunities with technology at home. Even today, some households do not have reliable internet connections or have a single device shared between multiple people. There is a digital divide between wealthier and more underserved communities.

Parents are not always equipped to teach their children key digital literacy skills. They may not have these skills themselves, especially if they work in fields that don’t involve much computer work. Schools can help bridge the gap between children from different backgrounds with a digital literacy curriculum.

Why Teaching Digital Literacy Is Essential in 2023

Older generations may wonder why students need digital literacy coursework. After all, they got by just fine without it. But the world has changed, and lacking digital literacy puts young people at a severe disadvantage today. Students are expected to use a variety of digital tools for school, work, communication, and many other settings.

High schools and colleges expect students to use ed tech software, Google Workspace tools, and more to complete daily assignments. Many jobs require fluid computer skills. Even low-tech job openings often require jobseekers to apply online today.

Digital literacy has become an all-but-essential skill, just like basic math. It’s a building block that students will need to move forward with nearly any pursuit in today’s society.

Keeping Your Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum Up to Date

digital literacy

Digital literacy is a key skill set for every student today. To equip students for their futures, many schools have digital literacy and digital citizenship curriculums. Unfortunately, these curriculums can become out of date much faster than, say, a reading curriculum.

Lessons that are just a few years old often fail to match current software layouts or reflect current usage. Here are just a few examples of where your school’s digital literacy and citizenship curriculum can quickly become outdated:

1. Popular education and workplace tools keep changing.

Digital tools can change dramatically in their layout, features, and functionality in a short period of time. If you want to know how to add page numbers to a document, a how-to guide from a few years ago might not help anymore. You need information based on your software’s current layout.

If your school’s digital literacy program teaches students how to use common workplace software or education tools, like Google Workspace, you need to make sure the instructions are still relevant. The easiest way to keep lessons up to date is to use a frequently updated digital literacy curriculum, like Yeti Academy.

2. Social media keeps changing, too.

Young people have been using social media since the early ‘00s, but they don’t use the same platforms they did back then or even a few years ago. Platforms wax and wane in popularity, and the ones that stay popular for long stretches tend to evolve.

If your digital literacy curriculum hasn’t been updated recently, it may be full of outdated social media references, screenshots of old layouts, and other unhelpful content. At best, it will make students roll their eyes. At worst, it will leave them without the information they need about the platforms they currently use.

3. High schools and colleges use more and different technology than they did a few years ago.

Most schools at all levels have been using technology for some time. However, education technology didn’t really take off at current levels until the pandemic happened. While students have returned to their in-person classrooms, not all of that new technology went away.

Students need to know how to use a lot of education and workplace software to get their assignments done. While some can pick up these skills on their own, others will struggle without help, especially if their parents aren’t familiar with the software. Even students who feel confident in their digital literacy skills may be missing some best practices, including safety practices.

4. There are new sources of misinformation.

Your students may have been told not to trust everything on the internet, but that doesn’t mean they can identify what is and isn’t true. And with new misinformation technology coming out every year, students need continuously updated information on this topic.

Your digital citizenship curriculum may have lessons about how to find credible sources, but if it’s older, it likely lacks information about some of today’s misinformation sources and issues. A curriculum from the 2010s may not have information about identifying fake photos, videos, or AI-generated text, for example.

How to Choose a Digital Literacy Curriculum

digital literacy

Ideally, your school’s digital literacy curriculum should include:

  • Commonly used tools in education and/or workplaces, like Google Workspace.
  • A digital citizenship component that emphasizes online safety.
  • Videos and images to help students understand what they are learning about.
  • Multimodal learning opportunities to help the lessons sink in, including hands-on projects that let students try using tools and features in different ways.
  • Gamification components or fun themes to help students stay engaged.

If your school or district needs an easy-to-use, updated digital literacy curriculum that weaves digital citizenship skills and practices into each of its courses, try Yeti Academy. Students and teachers love our fun, interactive learning platform. Our module includes all the resources a teacher needs to effectively teach each lesson, like lesson plans, activities, slide shows, and tests.

We offer two different Google Workspace curriculums. Our “Snowboard Shop” curriculum for grades 3-5 takes students through Google Docs, Drive, Drawings, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Gmail, Calendar, and Sites through a series of fun activities. Students practice using their Google Workspace skills to help our character, Sadie Shred, launch a successful snowboard shop.

Our “Theme Parks” curriculum for grades 6-9 covers Google Workspace in much greater detail. We teach folder and file arrangement skills, data analysis, Maps, Sites, and much more. Students have fun building a virtual theme park using the skills they learn. We also include some essential digital citizenship concepts in all of our curricula.

Yeti Academy also offers separate digital citizenship courses. We aim to teach students how to use technology safely and contribute to a healthy digital community. For grades 3-5, we offer Super Citizenship, a module with superhero-themed videos and an illustrated scenario-based quiz. For older students, we offer Sports PR Agency, which teaches digital citizenship concepts through individual work, collaborative projects, and problem-based scenarios.

Our digital literacy and citizenship curriculum is designed for easy use in classroom, remote, and hybrid learning environments. Try Yeti for free today!


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