What are some ways that people's level of digital literacy can enhance in a  classroom environment?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Digital literacy is also known as the "New Literacy". It is defined as the capacity to use the visual input that is required for traditional literacy activities (reading, writing), and put it to use in more complex tasks which require the use of technology and tools.

The theory states that the application of traditional literacy skills into the completion of digital tasks creates further opportunities for learning since, as quoted by the Scholastic article "The New Literacy" (2005), students

need to think critically about how they translate data and information into effective communication [when combining new literacy and traditional literacy skills].

A classroom environment that is geared toward the 21st century paradigm of instruction should be "flat". That is, universal and approachable; open and filled with research opportunities. These research opportunities are best performed with technology, therefore, the 21st century classroom is a technology-friendly classroom.

Through cooperative learning and differentiated learning, students of varied levels of digital literacy can help one another to get to a zone of proximal development. This means that group work and teamwork makes the more knowledgeable students serve as facilitators to less knowledgeable ones. This is why cooperative learning is so important.

Those who are already at higher levels of digital literacy can work as initiators of projects and ideas. For example, the teacher can assign a digitally-savvy student to initiate a project involving the use of Audacity. Then, the student who is smart with this program will train others to use it. As more students become trained, they can also become trainers and use their natural curiosity to research other shareware programs similar, or perhaps more complex, than Audacity (to cite a specific example).

Another way to enhance your level of digital literacy within the classroom is by creating a "parking lot", also known a a "back-wall", or a "back-splash". This is a process through which the teacher will provide each student with a computer and, as the lesson is delivered, the students will post any questions and comments instead of raising their hand. This is ongoing, synchronous communication that could also enhance skills when the teacher allows students to conduct further research in the topic and have them share in the parking lot with the other students.

The way that this process is done is by creating a virtual classroom during class using Ning, or any other student-friendly website that features a live chat. After signing up all students, the teacher teaches the traditional lesson and, after introducing the essential questions, will "open" the virtual classroom's parking lot. From their desks, the students begin to ask their own question which the teacher will read as she teaches, or address the answers as she goes. After Q&A is over, the teacher offers additional research time and the summarizing of 5 facts that were learned from the research plus 5 from the traditional lesson. By pairing up students with poor digital research skills with students that are good at it, skills are learned or enhanced. Moreover, the chances of applying these same skills independently in the future are way higher when the main practice is done with peers.

Therefore as long as the classroom is equipped and ready, the students will also be equipped and ready to learn.

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