Rethinking Literacy in a Digital Age

For decades, literacy referred only to print text. In school, students were taught to read books and write essays. Students were considered literate when they could do both. Today, literacy is more complex.

Most of the text students come across today is digital. Instead of books and magazines, students are reading blogs and text messages. This requires a different skill set than traditional literacy. It’s time to rethink literacy and start teaching students digital literacy.

Digital literacy is not just the ability to read and write. It’s also the ability to effectively use digital technology to find and analyze information. Students who are digitally literate know how to do research, find reliable sources, and make judgements about what they read online and in print.

Why is it important to teach digital literacy? Students who don’t learn digital literacy skills will be left behind in our increasingly digital world. Access to higher education and the best career opportunities depends on students’ ability to navigate the digital world. Digital literacy is also something students will use in their daily lives.

Beyond high school, most students will never have to write a letter or essay by hand. Some may need to read print materials on a regular basis, but many more will need to read digital materials every day. Understanding how to use technology may be more important for students’ futures than knowing every rule of grammar or how to read Shakespeare.

Although many teachers fight back against the idea of abandoning traditional notions of literacy, this does a disservice to students. By focusing exclusively on text literacy and ignoring digital literacy, we are not setting students up for success.

The role of educators is not just to teach students academic skills, but also to prepare them to think critically about what they encounter in the real world. By arming students with digital literacy skills, educators can ensure their students are prepared for the world in the 21st century.

Of course, knowing how to read and write remain important skills. Without this basic literacy, it’s impossible for students to become digitally literate. Embracing digital literacy doesn’t mean ignoring traditional print texts. Instead, it means teaching students the difference between the two and ensuring they are prepared to deal with both.

How do you approach literacy in the classroom? Do you think educators need to focus more on digital literacy, or should we stick to teaching the classics? Tell us your thoughts!

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