Why must digital literacy be included in the curriculum?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 | education

Digital literacy not only equips learners for future jobs – it also helps them to secure jobs.  We are faced with staggering unemployment statistics; anything that can contribute towards finding work needs serious consideration. 

The need for digital literacy is not restricted to white collar workers, such as office workers and professional people.  Blue collar workers also require digital literacy skills today.  In the past these workers performed manual tasks and high literacy skills were not viewed as all that important.  Technology has changed all of this.  The tools of blue collar workers are now digital ones – this means that they must be digitally literate. 

Proof of digital literacy – passing a test or having a certificate – is often a requirement for securing a job.  Companies spend huge amounts of money on technology training – it makes economic sense for them to employ people who already have digital literacy skills.  You will put your learners in an advantageous position if you equip them with these skills.

Even finding a job requires digital literacy.  Many jobs are advertised on the internet and we must learn how to find, read, interpret and respond to these advertisements.  A person who is dependent solely on paper based recruitment methods is losing out.

Learners – and teachers too! – need digital skills to present themselves well to prospective employers.  Technology can be used to prepare a neat, readable CV.  Many employers are using social networks to find background information about job applicants – they look at your Facebook page, your Tweets, and other places where they can discover who you are.

Some social networks – like Linked in – allow you to present yourself professionally and expose you to employment opportunities.

Anyone who participates in digital social networks leaves an indelible digital trail.  Everything you write, any comment you make, any picture you post is there for the world to see.  A person who recruits staff simply needs to Google your name and a flood of information appears about you.

Learners must know how to present themselves in the digital space and how to protect themselves.  What they put on the internet can work for them – or against them!

Digital literacy is no longer optional for job seekers – it is essential.

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8 Comments to Why must digital literacy be included in the curriculum?

Tuesday, 16 November, 2010

Digital literacy: Read the impressions of a community group who have just completed a one-year Saturday morning computer course at Cypress Primary School in Athlone…

Nurse: I no longer have to fear if someone asks me to do something on the computer. Before the course I couldn’t even do email.
Housewife: Now I can help my husband do bookkeeping for his business.
Unemployed: I went job-hunting and all I could find was jobs that required computer skills. Now I have done the course I have the skills and the courage to look for a good job.
Machine operator: I’m proud to say that now I don’t need to ask anyone else to do my typing, send my emails, use the internet.
Supervisor: I have made my own C.V. I use the internet to meet people and keep in touch with my friend. I have taken family memories from camera to computer and added sound to make it really professional.
Adult learner: I can help my sister with her school work.
Medical technologist: I feel more confident to take on new tasks at work and to complete them successfully.
Housewife: Now I help people create posters for local events.

These are all real people who will be receiving their certificates at an awards ceremony in a few weeks time. Isn’t this such wonderful evidence of the importance of digital literacy for all of us!

Kobus van Wyk
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010

Thank you, Kathy … I rest my case!

John Thole
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010

I like the examples that you have provided Kathy – they are real world applications of digital literacy. One of the things we have been discussing on a national forum is whether the school’s ICT facilities can be used to support the development of digital and other literacies specifically for parents of learners. This could enable the children to have improved support for learning from parents and other care-givers.

[...] Why must digital literacy be included in the curriculum? | Kobus … [...]

Mark C
Wednesday, 17 November, 2010

It should be in school but not as a separate subject. There are enough places to use ICT effectively within the current curriculum.
In many schools who have internet educators doing Life Orientation use PACE, then allow learners to type their own CVs, etc. If they don’t know, the internet is there. Educators have helped learners to apply for tertiary studies and bursaries online.
On the sly educators are using Facebook, but many schools want ban/block it. Learners are not allowed to use it. Educators much be teaching and learners must be learning. Being on Facebook, blogging and being on LinkingIn is considered to be a waste of teaching/learning time. Yet they are good marketing and socialization tools. Ofcourse, there are some dangers but….maybe we can use it effectively to get people excited about cyberspace in learning.

Testing..testing…testing…Internet works at the school.

Thursday, 18 November, 2010

Digital Literacy is like charity. It should start at home. The problem is that the digital divide hinges on the financial divide.
The school must therefore serve the community in a larger way. The principal and his staff should make the technology and skills and knowledge available to the broader audience within the feeder area.

Digital Literacy can also find its precipitation across the curriculum spectrum of the school.As soon as the staff are trained, they can seek avenues of using the lab and related technology in every learning field.

Blogging when doing a book review, e-Mail when writing letters, Cartoons when telling stories, Spreadsheets in accountancy, animation in Geography, PowerPoint when doing assignments are some areas of employment of the literacy that can be acquired just in time.

Leighton Forbes
Thursday, 18 November, 2010

Digital Literacy or Information Technology (IT) or whatever name you feel comfortable calling it, should clearly form part of any 21st Century schools academic programme. How this is shaped, written and implemented from Grade 12 down to Grade R is up to the relevant education authority and school administration. We need digital literacy and digital citizenship embedded in curricula because what we are talking about here relates to the Internet.
When digital literacy is embedded in the curriculum, it requires technology appropriate for everyday teaching and learning. Technology serves as a tool, not just for the sake of having it, but for making connections with others, whether it is reading, writing, visual or virtual. For this to happen, the infrastructure in schools needs to support connectivity to an online audience 24/7/365. That online space for teachers, students and parents is where the greatest opportunity for student and parent engagement lies. How this looks and is managed changes rapidly because of the nature of the internet.
Some big questions to ask is through which platform, application etc. do our students/teachers/parents in Africa access content? How expensive is this for them? Which applications online do parents access? What are the monthly costs for them? What do they access for free? Is there such a thing as free when talking about the internet?
I think also when Administrators can think about the ‘out of school’ digital literacies already taking place within communities, and how this affects families or business for that matter, we will see connections being made in the way ‘digital schools’ come into being in Africa.
How a schools audience of parents or students activates that digital platform is dependent on context, but nonetheless it needs to be 24/7/365. In this way we tap into the ‘lifelong learning’ scenario, learning seen not just as being equipped for the ‘job’, but learning in its broadest sense, seen creatively, applying thinking successfully to achieve a goal, complete a task, solve a problem or take action as a result of what one has learnt.
One of the greatest barriers experienced by schools to the successful integration of digital literacy practices and events worldwide is that students (particularly in Secondary/High school) now expect to be connected online and they share their experiences with each other 24/7. Most global school scenarios play themselves out in offline activities, unreliable internet infrastructure or rather restricted/expensive internet capability.
Also, generally speaking school-teacher -student-parent engagement is one way, namely, from the school. More student engagement at high school level using online platforms potentially could improve student’s and teacher’ s digital citizenship, in that issues relating to operating, creating, communicating and ethics using digital networks is recognised as a basic life skill.
Online, digital literacy enhances learning when it is supported by trusted networks, 100 percent of the time. When the infrastructure is sustainable, and the teacher’s ongoing professional development is seen as an investment, when connectivity and skilled- staffing are a priority for district wide Administrators, then we can begin to successfully address the challenges of what it means to be achieving in Africa and even excelling in a 21st Century economy.

[...] Digital skills are enhanced when learners use blogs – they will explore digital tools to make their blogs more attractive. [...]

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