digital literacy

How digitally literate are our children?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 | education, ICT in Africa | 1 Comment

In an web article Are children becoming ‘digitally illiterate’? author Alex Hudson laments the fact that learners in the UK can’t write computer programs!  He said:

As computers become ever more complicated, there are concerns that schools and universities are not teaching the basic programming skills that underpin some of Britain’s most successful industries.

What are learners taught in schools in the UK?  The article states:

[Children] learn about Word and Powerpoint and Excel. They learn how to use the applications but don’t have the skills to make them, …

It’s the difference between reading and writing. We’re teaching them how to read, we’re not teaching them how to write.

The narrowness of how we teach children about computers risks creating a generation of digital illiterates.

Well! This concern gives some food for thought for us in South Africa.

If the guys in the UK are concerned about the fact that their learners are digitally illiterate if they “only” know basic computer applications, where does this leave our children, who do not even have access to technology?  How will we be able to compete globally if our children don’t even have an opportunity to learn the basic skills, which are taken for granted in the rest of the world?

We still have a long way to go to ensure digital literacy for our children!

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Why must digital literacy be included in the curriculum?

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010 | education | 8 Comments

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.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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What is digital literacy?

Monday, November 15th, 2010 | education | 3 Comments

Digital literacy must not be confused with computer literacy. 

Computer literacy refers to the ability to use a computer.  This includes knowing where to press the buttons to perform elementary operations on the machine, such as switching it on and off and retrieving and storing information.  A computer literate person knows basic computer programs, such as word processing, and can use e-mail and the internet.

A first goal for teachers is to become computer literate – the next one is to become digitally literate.  Digital literacy is attained when you no longer focus on the technology itself, but use digital devices to perform functions that allow you to survive in a world dominated by technology.

Let’s look at an example to illustrate why more than mere computer dexterity is needed:

Information is dumped on you in unimaginable quantities and in different forms: text, graphics, voice, video and combinations of these.  Computers and other technologies present this information to you in digital format and computer literacy allows to you access the information sources.

Many lifetimes are insufficient for you to wade through all the information available to you right now.  How can you make sense of all this information?  Digital literacy will come to your rescue – it will provide you with those skills needed to search for relevant information, locate it, evaluate it, organize it, understand it and then use the results of your efforts to create new knowledge.

The internet is particularly challenging – it is rich in reliable and valuable information but it also contains conflicting and misleading sources.  Digital literacy is required to make the right information choices.  You also need to be digitally savvy to succeed in putting together all the information you’ve gathered to create new knowledge.

Teachers, if you have computer facilities in your school, don’t fall into the trap of focusing too much on promoting computer literacy as an end in itself.  Help learners to become digitally literate, empowering them to function as digital citizens in a world that demands nothing less from them.

For more technology tips for teachers click here.

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