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What is digital literacy and how has It changed your student's classroom?

For the first time in five centuries, print is no longer the primary means students use to learn about the world – information technology, in its many forms from movie to podcast, has replaced it. As parents, you might wonder what digital literacy is, and how it is different from the traditional forms of literacy you might be used to. 

Digital literacy and your child's classroom
How has digital literacy changed your child's classroom?

We asked Paul Keery from MacLachlan College about digital literacy and what it means for students in the classroom.

Q: What does literacy mean today?

A: Our goal has always been to teach students to be literate. In the past, literacy included the ability to:

  • Read and write
  • Think in a linear, analytical pattern
  • Understand basic cultural knowledge

In other words, being literate has meant being capable of thinking and communicating using the tools available at the time. In the 21st century, the meaning of literacy must expand to include the ability to use today's tools:

  • Audio and video
  • Laptop and tablet
  • Camera and editing software

Q: Can modern and traditional media forms be combined?

A: Absolutely. The rules for writing don't change; an essay or a podcast still needs to establish a thesis, provide supporting evidence, and present a strong conclusion. A story must include plot and characterization whether it is presented as a short story, a movie, or a podcast. But a podcast can include images as well as words; teachers need to be able to teach students how to effectively combine words and images using information technology.

Q: Isn't it difficult to use information technology in the classroom?

A: There are many challenges using IT in class, but they can be managed. If students have their own laptops (and many do), they already have all the tools they need. Students can work in teams of two or three with one computer. If necessary, much of the work (scriptwriting, storyboard drawing) can be done by hand, saving the computers for only actual recording and editing.

Our job as teachers is to ensure that our students are literate: that they can read, view, analyze, write and create using the media forms of our time. Like literacy, our tasks are ever-evolving; and like our predecessors, we will meet the challenge of the changing meaning of literacy.

—Paul Keery
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