Digital Literacy: Preparing Students for a Global Tech-Based Economy
Digital literacy is certainly necessary for K12 students in order to succeed in school and beyond. However, instilling proficiency with technology can be challenging for students to learn and teaches to teach. Tools such as Learning.com’s easy-to-use instructional activities can aid teachers in ensuring their students are ready for the 21st century workforce. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 2, 2012, an administrator described how the Longwood Central School district in New York used Learning.com to increase digital literacy among its students, as well as report results to the state.
The Common Core State Standards are aimed at ensuring all students have the knowledge and skills to be ready for college and the workforce. The ELA standards focus on reading, writing, and speaking skills that are grounded in evidence from literature or informational texts. The standards encourage students to engage in regular practice with complex texts and academic language. The math standards work at developing coherence by encouraging students to think across grades.
Students should pursue conceptual understanding, fluency, and application within major topics. These standards relate to college readiness by requiring students to demonstrate independence and build strong content knowledge. It is not just about reading and answering questions, but what students can do with that information. Both woven into the math standards and explicitly stated in the ELA standards is the requirement of using technology and digital media strategically and capably. Using technology in the classroom helps students learn concepts in new ways.
Charting data on a spreadsheet can help information visually come alive in an engaging way that using a pen and graph paper cannot. The U.S. Department of Education funded Smarter Balance and PARCC, two consortia of states, with grants to develop new assessments that are aligned to the Common Core. These assessments must be rigorous, valid, provide achievement, growth, and college readiness information, and be administered online.
The two types of questions students will see on these assessments are “technology enabled” and “technology enhanced.” Technology enabled questions require an interactive tool to answer a traditional question, while enhanced questions have students using interactive tools to create something. Digital literacy plays a very important role in a student’s ability to properly take assessments. They must employ skills such as basic typing, copying, and dragging. However, complex Internet research may also be required, prompting students to evaluate information, think critically, and properly cite sources. Students who use technology at home or in the classroom are found to perform better on such assessments.
Therefore, it is important to equip all students with the tools necessary to complete these tests. A sample Grade 3 question from PARCC has students selecting and dragging soybeans into a field as many times as needed until 3/4 of the field is full. This technology enabled question simply requires a student to understand how to use a mouse and the concept being asked in order to answer. The second part of the question requires the student to explain their answer, which necessitates typing skills. Grade 7 PARCC students may have to answer a question that asks them to calculate the speed of an object based on charts, graphs, and data tables.
Knowledge of and experience using spreadsheets would prepare a student for answering this question, which required dragging and dropping and written analysis. Smarter Balance tests contain performance tasks that are technology enhanced. A sample question for sixth graders has several in depth steps, including researching a topic on the Internet and watching a video. Students need to know how to find this information, as well as think critically about what type of information is valid and appropriate. They must analyze the video, do some writing, do some more research, and create an outline in a word processing tool.
Finally, some sort of visual must be created and the student must record a speech. The Common Core ELA standards being tested here clearly depend on proficient digital literacy.
Our administrators, educators, and faculty are taking intense steps to ensure all of our students are digitally literate. Since our district is diverse socioeconomically, it has certainly been a challenge. All students must take a computer literacy assessment that will be reported to the state for federal reporting.
The New York State Department of Education mandates that all students must be “technology literate” by the eighth grade. Its definition of technology literate includes:
- Having an understanding of the concepts behind computing equipment, network connectivity, and application software.
- Being able to responsibly use the appropriate technology to access, synthesize, and evaluate information to increase learning in all subject areas.
- The ability to acquire new knowledge for on-going and lifelong learning in the 21st century.
Teachers are also mandated to meet technology competency standards that ensure their ability to use tools effectively in supporting student achievement. To begin to improve our students’ computer literacy, I turned to the state Department of Education website. Learning.com was listed as a method of measuring and reporting student growth in technology literacy.
Since I was also looking for activities for students to do in preparation for their assessment, Learning.com was perfect for our school. It is an instructional system with grade-appropriate subject matter to support the goal of digital literacy.
To implement the system, all K-8 teachers took the technology literacy assessment to determine any professional development needs and help teachers understand what their students would be up against. Teachers also received 2 hours of pullout training on Learning.com’s instructional activities and how to use the content to maximum benefit for each student. A committee was then formed to develop curriculum for each grade level using Learning.com’s resources.
Students are assigned a 30 minute period each week in the computer lab to work on Learning.com assignments. These materials focus on word processing, multimedia and presentations, telecommuting and the Internet, spreadsheets, and more. We have definitely seen growth. In 2008, 670 eighth graders took the Learning.com technology literacy assessment and only 53 percent met the proficiency standard. In 2012, 654 students took the exam and 72 percent met the standard.
Learning.com has helped us help our students be more prepared. Teachers use Learning.com’s resources for various types of instruction. The keyboard is taught in a grade-specific way. Kindergartners are learning what the letter “B” looks like, sounds like, and where it is found on the keyboard. Older students are taught about proper keyboard fingering. Since New York schools are required to teach Internet safety, we also use Learning.com’s high quality resources for this.
Not only have students benefited from Learning.com, but the teachers are as well. By using the instructional tools aimed at the students, teachers were gaining a more in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Simply doing the student activities increased teacher proficiency. Learning.com is a one-stop shop for providing students with the tools needed for digital literacy.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to http://www.districtadministration.com/ws100212.