Digital Literacy

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Supporting Kids Digital Lives

A recent article published in The Journal discusses the need to prioritize the social and emotional well-being of students as they have been forced into almost a completely digital life during the pandemic. Remote learning and Zoom “visits” with family and friends are only two of the ways that the role of media and technology has been cemented into young peoples’ lives.


The digital context in which young people are interacting is core to their life experiences, emotions, relationships, and identity development and is something schools and parents will need to acknowledge and address as they enter the new school year. The social and emotional wellbeing of students, particularly in and around the digital world, must be a priority for both educators and families as everyone tries to figure out what the “new normal” entails, and should be a constant subject of conversation. It is important for parents and teachers to really listen as kids talk about their individual experiences online. Many kids have acquired an array of digital skills, and probably some bad habits, during the pandemic. With that in mind, parents and teachers cannot be cowed by how proficient kids may have become nor overly shocked by where they may have wandered online. Instead, be open to their new expertise and willing to help them figure out what positive directions to take with the tech-saavy they have acquired.

Journalists Provide Media Literacy Lessons for Students

Despite a spike in online misinformation, studies show that more K-12 students are unable to discern reliable information pushing some schools to include media literacy lessons in their curricula. Peter Adams, senior vice president of education at the News Literacy Project, says such lessons should be integrated throughout the year, and suggests two programs to help students “call BS on misinformation.”


 Checkology, a free e-learning platform, is designed for students in grades 6-12 and provides interactive lessons from journalists and media experts on how to apply critical thinking skills and interpret and consume information. The NewsLitCamp, which is designed for educators, also relies on journalists. In this program, a school partners with a local newsroom to bring teachers, school librarians and media specialists together with journalists for one day to learn about issues such as journalism standards and practices, news judgment and bias and the role of social media. Perhaps a good program to suggest to your school?

Snapchat Offering Digital Literacy Program

In honor of Data Privacy Day recently, Snapchat  launched a digital literacy program that will provide monthly tips from a variety of experts to help users protect themselves online. Called “Safety Snapshot," the new channel appears in Snapchat’s curated content section, called Discover.  Snapchat also is unveiling a filter that features a swipe-up link to access additional privacy resources, produced in connection with the Future of Privacy Forum.

Checkology 101

Interested in learning how you and your kids can navigate today’s challenging information highway? Use the interactive lessons on Checkology, which includes free materials available for anyone to use on the News Literacy Project site (a more extensive set of lessons is available for a fee to classrooms as well). You will learn how to identify credible information, seek out reliable sources, and apply critical thinking skills to separate fact-based content from falsehoods. Checkology will give you the habits of mind and tools to evaluate and interpret information. And just for fun while on that site, take the news literacy quiz about fighting falsehoods on social media. What do you know about the various social media platforms’ misinformation policies?

Why Kids Need News Literacy

Students are prepared to get behind the wheel and navigate busy roads, but not to investigate a complicated information superhighway, writes Liz Ramos, who teaches history and US government at a California high school. In a recent commentary, Ramos writes that the US election has highlighted the importance of teaching news literacy in schools so students learn to think critically and be informed, engaged citizens.  She cites Finland as an example of a country that is teaching information literacy in grade school, seamlessly integrating it across subjects. In math class, students learn how statistics can be used to distort. In art class, they see how the meaning of an image can be manipulated. In history, they examine propaganda, and in Finnish language classes, students learn how words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

Child Influencers? Beware of What They are Promoting

Almost half of child influencers ranging from ages 3 to 14 are promoting food and beverage products through their YouTube videos, with over 90% of them being for unhealthy or fast-food brands, researchers reported in Pediatrics. The findings also showed that videos featuring food or drinks were viewed over 1 billion times.

The Social Dilemma and Digital Literacy

Netflix’s recent documentary The Social Dilemma has become a topic of conversation on television, radio and podcasts lately, and many teachers and parents are using it to teach digital or media literacy. The definition of digital or media literacy – according to the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) – is “the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, CREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication” and there couldn’t be a timelier topic. Take a look at this article  from the MiddleWeb site for some ideas on places to start with your kids at looking at this topic, and as a guide to the documentary.

Employers Value Tech Skills, But Soft Skills Lead the Way

This is a good reminder for parents and kids. Although job descriptions may demand stellar technical skills, it is the superior soft skills that are landing more and more jobs. According to a recent study by LinkedIn, the number one skill requirement in recent job postings is communication skills.

The History of Emojis

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is an emoji worth? Dating back to 1995, emojis have become such a large part of our communication that approximately 5 billion are used every day -- and that's just on Facebook and Facebook Messenger! The most used emoji on Twitter and Facebook is the crying with laughter emoji, whilst the heart is the most popular on Instagram. In a fascinating piece on the World Economic Forum site, you can take a quick look at the history and growth of emojis that may or may not leave you with a "laughing face with tears of joy."

Digital Literacy Challenges Remote Learning

According to a Bridgewater State University survey of more than 700 teachers in 40 states, the lack of digital literacy skills of both students and their parents caused problems with remote learning last spring. Heather Pacheco-Guffrey, an associate professor of science education, said data showed students and parents often have the skills to consume technology but not to create with it, such as using Google Docs to collaborate and joining Zoom calls.

How can you help your kids? Ask them to create things on the computer – books, flipbooks, cartons, cards, craft projects, brochures, maps, menus and so much more. And remember, just because it comes out of the printer, doesn’t mean it has to be done “done.” Think about ways for what they create on the computer be displayed and distributed, beyond using technology or social media. You want your kids to be producers and distributors with the help of technology, not just passive recipients.