How to Teach Digital Literacy in the Classroom

Middle and high school teachers are challenged to teach new courses and subjects every year.

Digital literacy is one of the hardest subjects for teachers.

Some teachers need to upgrade a school’s whole computer curriculum, while others need to forge a course from scratch. More teachers find themselves in these sticky situations every day — especially teachers who don’t have digital experience!

With the increase of courses on digital literacy, how are you supposed to teach it?

First, you need to know what “digital literacy” means.

What Is Digital Literacy?

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Digital Literacy encompasses a number of 21st century skills related to using technology effectively and appropriately.

While your state may not have specific standards, there are some common points all lessons on digital literacy should include.

So what topics should your digital literacy lessons include?

Information  Literacy

Today’s students rely on the Internet as a primary source of information for both school and personal use.

That’s why it’s important that you teach students how to evaluate information to ensure it’s accurate.

To teach information literacy, focus on effective ways to evaluate the quality and credibility of information and cover learning strategies that yield more credible results.

Ethical Use of Digital Resources

While your students may know they need to cite information from books, they could forget that they need to cite information online as well.

Talk to your students about intellectual property, copyrighted material, and the proper way to reference the information.

It’s especially important to note that copying text from a website is plagiarism just like stealing text from a book.

Understanding Digital Footprints

A digital footprint is all of the information a person passively leaves and actively shares about themselves online, especially on social media sites. Text, images, multimedia, cookies, browsing histories, IP addresses, passwords, and even Internet service providers all make up a person’s digital footprint.

Your students spend a lot of time online and may not always think about the implications of what they do. In your digital literacy lessons, discuss the consequences of what students share online.

It’s especially important to note that students can’t assume anything is private online. Whether it’s the new phone number they registered or the tweet they just wrote, it’s all available online.  

Protecting Yourself Online

With so much information available online, your students need to understand the basics of Internet safety.

Creating strong passwords, using privacy settings, and knowing what not to share on social media will start them on the right foot.

You can also delve into more technical parts of privacy, like virtual personal networks (VPNs), data encryption, and hacking. 

Handling Digital Communication

Today, most students use technology to communicate in one way or another. That’s why it’s so important to talk to them about how to communicate safely and appropriately.

That includes both personal and professional communications.

Almost every career requires digital communications at some point. If students don’t have a good grasp on responsible communications, their careers could end before they even had a chance to start. 

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying — the use of technology as a means to harass others — has become a daily occurrence across the United States.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, an average of 27.9% of students experienced cyberbullying over the past 10 years. Those numbers have jumped to an average of 34% since 2014.

The statistics about cyberbullying speak for themselves! Addressing it in the classroom can stop current bullies and prevent future harassment.

As a result, cyberbullying lessons are some of the most important parts of digital literacy classes.


Five Ways to Create Your Digital Literacy Curriculum

When teaching digital literacy, it’s essential to use digital resources. But with so many options, how can you choose the one that’s right for you?

These five options are the best resources you can use to teach digital literacy in the classroom.

To help you decide, we’ve noted how many of the above topics are addressed in each one.

1.   Digital Literacy Resource Roundup from Edutopia

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Topics Covered: 4/6

  • Ethical Use of Digital Resources
  • Protecting Yourself Online
  • Handling Digital Communication
  • Cyberbullying

 

Edutopia’s Resource Roundup is a list of articles, videos, and other resources to help you introduce digital literacy and citizenship in the classroom.

While most of the resources listed here aren’t actual lessons, you can use them as a piece of your digital literacy teaching strategy.

Try one of these ideas:

  • Show a few videos about using technology to spark discussion in your classroom
  • Review the “9 Key P’s” of digital citizenship (article by Vicki Davis)
  • Have students research cyberbullying using one of the resources
  • Create a classroom policy on the appropriate use of technology

 

2. Be Internet Awesome from Google

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Topics Covered: 4/6

  • Understanding Digital Footprints
  • Protecting Yourself Online
  • Handling Digital Communication
  • Cyberbullying

 

Google created Be Internet Awesome to teach kids the basics of digital literacy.

On the site, you’ll find Interland, an in-browser game that helps students become more aware of digital safety.

You can learn more about Interland here: Resources to Celebrate Digital Citizenship Week

Google also has a Be Internet Awesome Curriculum to help teachers in the classroom. The curriculum has five topic areas described as the Internet Code of Awesome.

Those areas are:

  • Share with Care (Be Internet Smart)
  • Don’t Fall for Fake (Be Internet Alert)
  • Secure Your Secrets (Be Internet Strong)
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind (Be Internet Kind)
  • When in Doubt, Talk It Out (Be Internet Brave)

 

The curriculum is a free PDF that includes lesson plans for 16 classroom activities.

The level of detail is perfect for you, the teacher. Google even notes which ISTE Standards each section addresses.

You can use these lessons pretty much as-is when teaching digital literacy in the classroom.

However, the curriculum doesn’t include formative assessments.

So while this resource will be valuable in teaching digital literacy, you’ll need to create rubrics and quizzes yourself to assess your students’ learning.

3. InCtrl

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Topics Covered: 6/6

  • Information Literacy
  • Ethical Use of Digital Resources
  • Understanding Digital Footprints
  • Protecting Yourself Online
  • Handling Digital Communication
  • Cyberbullying

 

InCtrl is a website with lessons and activities that teach key concepts of digital literacy.

InCtrl is highly focused, with the target audience of the lessons being grades 4-8. Each topic area includes videos and lesson plans for corresponding activities.

Similar to Be Internet Awesome, the lesson plans from InCtrl tell you the standards they cover.

And just like Google’s curriculum, there are no assessments to test your students’ knowledge.

Everything you need to teach the lessons is there — you just need to decide how to assess your students.

4. Common Sense Education

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Topics Covered: 6/6

  • Information Literacy
  • Ethical Use of Digital Resources
  • Understanding Digital Footprints
  • Protecting Yourself Online
  • Handling Digital Communication
  • Cyberbullying

 

Common Sense Education is one of the best known digital literacy websites.

It’s dedicated to helping young people act responsibly and safely when using technology.

They have a large database of content to teach digital literacy to students in grades K-12.

The curriculum includes lesson plans, videos, interactive content, assessments, and other resources.

With all of that information, you won’t run out of ideas. But the website can be pretty overwhelming for a teacher.

Start out by reviewing the Scope & Sequence area to see what lessons are available for your grade level.

You can also look at the one-hour tutorial to become acquainted with the resources.

5. Business&ITCenter21 from Applied Educational Systems

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Topics Covered: 6/6

  • Information Literacy
  • Ethical Use of Digital Resources
  • Understanding Digital Footprints
  • Protecting Yourself Online
  • Handling Digital Communication
  • Cyberbullying

 

At AES, we have content to teach digital literacy under three topics: Digital Responsibility, Digital Citizenship, and Web ResearchIn total, there are 18 lessons and 9 activities for teaching digital literacy in the classroom. The lessons and activities are grouped into 7 units:

  • Digital Responsibility
  • Digital Literacy
  • Digital Communication
  • Online Safety
  • Seek It
  • Find It
  • Evaluate It

 

Along with the digital lessons and activities, our curriculum includes lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, student worksheets, automatically graded assessments, and other resources to make your life easier.

Compared to the other resources for teaching digital literacy in the classroom, Business&ITCenter21 requires the least amount of work from you.


How to Implement a Great Digital Literacy Curriculum

Now that you know what to include in your digital literacy lessons, how do you implement your curriculum?

It can be overwhelming to compile your lessons and activities into a comprehensive curriculum to teach digital literacy.

Many teachers use a variety of materials and strategies when teaching digital literacy and citizenship.

Digital resources tend to work best since you’re talking about technology anyway!

A great blended learning teaching strategy can give you the best balance of student engagement and meeting your course goals.

So how can you blend different resources to create the best digital literacy curriculum for your students? Here’s one way you can plan:

  • Use Business&ITCenter21 as your main curriculum and to assess student learning and give grades
  • Use videos from Edutopia or InCtrl as a way to start each lesson
  • On Fridays, let students play Google’s Interland as a way to reinforce what they learned that week
  • Sprinkle in extra activities from InCtrl and Common Sense Education to supplement important lessons

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