Empowering students through digital literacy

Caroline Kennard, international business development director at Britannica UK, discusses the importance of digital literacy education, both for career and personal development

With the rapid advancement of technology changing every aspect of our lives, it is no surprise that Parliament is undertaking an inquiry into how the education system fits into the digital age. Dubbed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, it focuses on how educators can make the current curriculum sustainable by increasing the use of technology.

With the current education system limiting the engagement of students, technology provides teachers with the opportunity to develop digital literacy skills while simultaneously providing pupils with enriching and engaging opportunities to learn and grow.

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Employers have now come to expect their workforce to have the skills needed to live, work, and thrive in a digital society. However, there is a real risk of some students being left behind in digital literacy due to their lack of resources at home. This, in turn, puts them at a disadvantage as they progress through their academic years and into employment.

The curriculum must move away from providing a rigid and exhausted exam route, which focuses more on school performance data than it does on individual students, and transform into a curriculum that provides greater opportunities for students to engage and further develop their critical thinking. It is only by embracing technology that students can be equipped for employment. We must break down the barriers that prevent creative thinking.

The curriculum must move away from providing a rigid and exhausted exam route, which focuses more on school performance data than it does on individual students.

Teaching digital literacy in schools would provide alternative ways to learn. For example, English teachers can use blogging to advance digital literacy, while citizenship teachers can present their class with real-world problems that encourage pupils to use their computational skills to come up with solutions, all the while instilling in pupils an understanding of what it means to keep safe on the internet. By doing this, educators are not only preparing students for the world of work but are also ensuring that they do not fall behind in an increasingly technologically advanced society.

This critique aside, education technology providers are being proactive by developing products that empower teachers and students to develop digital literacy skills. For example, in a time where fake news is flooding social media – the place where many young people find their information – it is more important than ever to equip students with tools that can filter out misinformation. This not only helps them identify credible sources at school but also helps them be as informed as possible about various events taking place in the world. It also protects them from the danger of being manipulated online.

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Technology is something that must be effectively used by educators, as not only a learning experience to enhance digital literacy, but also to open a whole new world to young people as they progress through life. By encouraging students to think critically and to think beyond what we believe is possible gives them the opportunity to understand social behaviors created by digital technology.

We often refer to this generation of pupils as ‘digital natives’ but we must not assume that they are born with an inherent understanding of technology. They may be quicker to learn and adapt these skills, but we should not rob them of the opportunity to learn more.