What does digital literacy mean to you?
What would improved digital literacy mean for your students?
“Digital literacy includes the ability to find and use information (otherwise known as information literacy) but goes beyond this to encompass:
- collaboration and teamwork,
- social awareness in the digital environment,
- understanding of e-safety and
- creation of new information.
Both digital and information literacy are underpinned by critical thinking and evaluation.” The Open University
The difference between digital skills and digital literacy
Digital skills are a mixture of office technology learnt at school – such as email, Microsoft Office to create documents, slide shows and spreadsheets – and using social media and creating web content.
Digital literacy is about a person’s place in the modern world. It is what they use, share and contribute. What happens when someone googles them?
Clearly, they depend on each other such as using OneDrive for collaborative working.
“For example, teaching digital skills would include showing students how to download images from the Internet and insert them into PowerPoint slides or webpages.
Digital literacy would focus on helping students choose appropriate images, recognize copyright licensing, and cite or get permissions, in addition to reminding students to use alternative text for images to support those with visual disabilities.”
Bali, M, 2016
Digital Literacy Techniques
Here are a variety of techniques you could try. After you have read and picked a few you may wish to use these Digital Literacy Activity Sheets to help with planning. Read on:
Use the collaborative features of your dynamic online learning environment.
We use Moodle and Blackboard and they both have modules you can set up on your course pages for students to learn from each other. We have used forums on Moodle for students to share ideas and ask questions which we and the other students answer. This encourages thinking about what they share and how they use online communication to solve a problem. More on this later.
Submit both formative and summative pieces online.
This encourages work outside the classroom, makes feedback faster if you are happy marking online, and encourages reflection. They can get some automated feedback as well. See the explanation of Turnitin in the section below on Plagiarism and Proofreading.
Student blogs and journals
This also supports reflective practice. Your online learning environment may have its own built-in module for setting up journals. Alternatively, students can create blogs like this one on WordPress which is free.
Develop Critical Digital Literacy
Train students to choose verified sources. Encourage them to ask questions of every website they use:
- Who is writing?
- Is there an instution publishing the article that uses peer review e.g. a university, industry leader or government website?
- Can you find another article or video that supports what they have written?
- Can you trust the newspaper or the broadcaster, based on previous experience?
- Is this second article just a copy of the same text, or is there evidence of other research?
- If it is about law, is it a UK article?
- Are the statistics used credible?
See also Sources and Synthesis below and also my guidance on Better Searches.
Teach about Fake News. It is possible to develop the skills needed, though discussion and activities.
To get into the bigger question of how we teach the difference between satire and a news story that has been deliberately spread, we must do some reading ourselves: Improve your own knowledge to support this with “Ten key readings for our distrustful media age” by Gianfranco Polizzi of the London School of Econonics and Political Science.
Smart use of Wikipedia
Show students how to choose resources by checking the references. If they use Wikipedia, suggest it should be only as a starting point for a new topic. They can use the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia page, click on them and explore the original sources. It may be useful to have a discussion about whether they should pay for such a useful website that does not pay for itself through advertising. What alternatives are there?
Smart use of online forums for research
Forum posts by experts and enthusiasts on specialist web forums can be the answer in a technical subject. Tell students to compare forum posts before accepting the answers found. These can be checked against verified sources such as the manufacturer’s support site or other recognised support websites.
Smart use of online forums for collaborative learning
Forum posts by students can mean practice writing about a topic but also means that solutions are found more quickly. Students can post questions. Students can reply to questions posted on the forum and so can staff. Staff can inform students quickly. It can be linked to their email so they get a message without already being on the forum. Your online learning environment may have its own built-in module for setting up forums. If not you can use a social medium. See my post on the sensible use of Social Media and Learning Technologies.
If you want to regularly use one that does not have irrelevant things appearing from the rest of their lives, you can try Edmodo. This also meets the Safeguarding requirement not to be able to send and receive private messages that are not through a college/school system. See www.edmodo.com
When I ask students to work on a presentation in a small group they automatically open PowerPoint Online and they use OneDrive to manage the files and the sharing. They are careful who can edit and who can only view. Similar tools exist as part of Google Drive and Google Docs.
Smart use of presentations
Whatever software is used, Prezi, Sway or PowerPoint, slides can help by being limited to headings, diagrams and short bullet points, allowing the student to talk fluently about the detail of the subject. If students find this difficult to embrace due to past experiences, ask for an image-only presentation. Avoid students talking down into their and speaker notes by only allowing one word of phrase per bullet point on their speaker notes.
Encourage use of a variety of IT tools to manage projects
These can include Gantt charts, spreadsheets, tables in Word, quizzes they can create online as questionnaires to gather information. They can also be used for a quick way to plan. This could be a table with dates that each part should be completed by. They could also use mind-mapping software such as MindGenius. They can type in words or phrases and move them around to order them or categorise them later. See my post on Social Media and Learning Technologies and scroll down to the section on MindGenius.
Get More Digital Literacy Techniques
See my Prezi slideshow for a lot more on this: Improving Digital Literacy Prezi
It covers habits to avoid and habits to cultivate in your students.
My students seem to have all missed the class at school on summarising. It appears to be a challenging skill these days but it has become even more important in the Internet Age. This is because there is a tendency to scan pages rather than actively reading them. This seems to be with the goal of quickly finding only one short answer that looks like a fact. Summarising forces you to make decisions about what is important. This often leads to more understanding. Try printing out a long article and highlighting one subtopic in one colour and another subtopic in another. You can also do this in Word with the highlighter tool. Here are some other things to try:
- How to summarise, paraphrase and use direct quotations Webpage from De Montford University Leicester
- Summarising a written text BBC Skillswise page still current
- Plan an exercise that asks them to read a web article and then summarise the text into bullet points. Below is what one of my students did with a Business article you can read here.
Why is Effective Communication Important in Management?
- To lead you must have effective communication skills.
- Managers who communicate well are likely to be good problem solvers.
- Employees who show an aptitude at verbal and written communication are more likely to advance up the corporate ladder.
Better Employee Relations
- The best managers understand the need for building alliances.
- Effective communications skills are a must for breaking down barriers.
Gains in Productivity
- Managers must clearly articulate strategies and plans so that an employee team knows what to do.
- Managers are the linchpin of a company’s productive efforts.
- If the manager can’t make the employees understand their job then the work won’t get done properly.
Sources and Synthesis
Encourage your students to leave behind the habit of using the first result they find. Demonstrate on the board how you select from your search engines. Show them beyond the first page of results if you need to. They need to decide whether the text or image is copyrighted. See Better Searches.
Any research involves taking other people’s ideas, comparing them with other information and choosing the general points from all of them.
Sources could be text, video, audio, online or offline. Ask them to make notes on each one, picking out the parts they understand best from each one. Use one of the summarising techniques above. This supports constructivism. Only then should they close all the original sources and write their own original document. This way it is much easier to produce a document in their own words. Tell them, “Don’t waste time converting words from one text using a thesaurus. Instead, use notes from more than one source.”
This diagram shows the steps necessary to summarise the main points from at least two different texts:
Referencing other people’s work
Ask students to include just the name and year within their main text, then give full details in the bibliography on the last page of their document. For example:
Coxhead (2009) states “Wikipedia is not a primary source (although often a good provider of references to original sources). Wikipedia articles are mainly useful as overviews.” This shows…
According to BBC News (2001) Bloggs also said that it would cut the amount it spent on improving stores. This implies that…
Tackling Plagiarism and Poor Proofreading
Do both with an online submission system that checks both. For years these were the domain of universities but now there is software such as Turnitin. It gives a report on spelling, punctuation and grammar. It also reports on similarity with online texts and previously submitted work. This can integrate with your existing virtual learning environment e.g. Blackboard or Moodle.
Here is an in-depth guide to using it in Moodle.
I use this for the students to submit an essay to, in order to check it themselves before submitting to the final upload link on Moodle.
If you don’t have this set up at your institution, Grammarly has one online: www.grammarly.com/plagiarism
Here are some more practical demonstrations to share with your students:
- Better Searches Blog post I wrote for staff to use with students
- Research-and-Referencing poster I made for Derby College – PDF format
- Don’t-Distort-Images Colour Poster/Handout on 3 pages I made to improve the use of images in documents while embedding the maths concept of proportion – PDF format
- PROOFREADING_CHECKLIST Poster I made to remind students – PDF format
- Speech Notes a website that uses the computer’s microphone to recognise speech and write it to the screen for you to copy to a Word document afterwards. Try this but if you don’t get on with it, you can search for other software. It worked well when I tested it.
- and the reverse: From Text To Speech – Free online TTS service. Free web-based Text To Speech (TTS) service. Convert online any English text into an MP3 audio file. Good for students reluctant to read your handouts but also they can use it as an alternative check – it won’t read out words that they have missed out.
- iTest-Digital-Literacy-UofExeter A useful digital literacy test and reflection
- iTest-Digital-Literacy-UofExeter-ColourBlind A version I made that does not depend on colour recognition.
- Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning (CALL) Posters of Apps and resources to support learning and special educational needs and disability (SEND). There are lots of things that you might find interesting for encouraging learners to support themselves but the legal poster is for Scottish Law: www.callscotland.org.uk/downloads/posters-and-leaflets
Create your own activities to suit your subject
Gain a deeper understanding and get guidance on what different aspects of digital literacy to include with these worksheets for teachers to work through:
Digital Literacy Activity Sheets
Refresh your use of Active Learning using Geoff Petty’s excellent resources. Apply them to the modern world where students don’t remember pre-internet learning.
Briggs, S. 2014, 20 Things Educators Need To Know About Digital Literacy Skills
OU 2016, Digital and Information Literacy Framework
Bali, M, 2016, Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both
JISC, 2016, Quick guide – Developing students’ digital literacy
National Literacy Trust, 2017, Fake News and Critical Literacy