Digital Literacy

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Have You Talked to Your Kids About Digital Multitasking?

As school gets back in session, something that has come up over and over again in research studies is that students who multitask with devices during class (eg: taking lecture notes while scrolling social media) seem to be able to process information in the moment but struggle to retain that information long term. Yet another study, published in the journal Educational Psychology, also reports lower exam performance and the risk of distracting other students.

Preventing AutoPlay Videos

Find yourself tripping into autoplay videos on Twitter, Facebook, Goggle Chrome and Safari? Not only does it grab your attention, but the attention of everyone around you as well! While publishers have already figured out that most people mute them, they are working on other ways to grab your attention. In the meantime, learn how to disable autoplay here.


Curious About How Conspiracy Theories Get Spread Online?

The latest online attacks against the teen survivors of the Parkland shooting is a good case study on how this happens and how quickly it occurs. An article in The Washington Post entitled We studied thousands of anonymous posts about the Parkland attack – and found a conspiracy in the making outlines the part that anonymous social media forums play in the process. It’s a primer on how misinformation is created on purpose, endures endlessly, and the havoc that it plays in lives of those who are targeted.

When Are Kids Instagram Ready?

Want to be the one to introduce the ins and outs of social media to your kids? Follow the adventures of one parent in doing so in a Well Family post on the New York Times site. And think about the advice the author offers about how to how to have a “social media talk” (akin to the “birds and the bees talk”) with your kids, as well as, ideas for when to create a usage “contract,” monitor use, and remain open to learning from kids about global connectivity.

Media Literacy and Great Video Essays

Kids are often given the option of creating a video in lieu of some kind of written assignment like an essay. However, even with a rubric to guide them on what should (or shouldn’t) be in the video, it can be hard to know what a really good video essay should include as well as look and sound like.  Fortunately, there are some great examples on YouTube. Here is a list of channels and videos. Check out how these video essays use narration, juxtaposing video footage, images, audio, and text to make the same kind of arguments that a writer would do in a traditional essay.

Codeswitching – Picking the Right Style of Writing for the Situation

Kids today have to learn to write differently for different situations – basically learn how to “code switch.” That’s the premise of a blog entry written by a seventh grade English teacher on the MiddleWeb site who feels that both parents and teachers need to understand the different contexts (school, eventually work and personal) where kids do or will communicate and help them explore those differences so they can make the right choices for each contextual situation. Without actually examining “code switching,” and practicing what is and isn’t acceptable in each situation, kids are robbed of the opportunity to understand completely why and when they need to make the switch from informal to more formal language or vice versa, a skill that they will need as they progress in their educational career. A common sense suggestion, perhaps, but as kids’ digital lives become so tightly intermingled with reality, it is very important to not only point out the differences between formal and informal writing, but make a case for each kind of writing and practice and even translate it – a bit like learning a foreign language.

Getting Your Kids to Put “Picting” To Good Use

Social Media, Apps, Homework, Digital Savvy, Digital Literacy

Images increasingly are taking the place of words on social media. This is a trend known as "picting," writes educator Chrissy Romano-Arrabito in an article for middle school teachers, but a good resource for parents as well. Romano-Arrabito reminds adults that new studies tell us that 90% of K-12 classroom time in the U.S. is spent with text-based materials, and 10% with image-based materials; but outside the classroom, 90% is spent with image-based materials and 10% with text-based materials. So what does that mean? In a cliché, “a pictures is worth a thousand words” Picting has arrived and to be literate kids will need to know how to create and manipulate images and video in very sophisticated ways to reach their peers – the adults of the future - and understand their world.

What can you do to help your kids use social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and other apps in productive ways? Romano-Arrabito suggests things like using Instagram to do a mini book report or chronicle a school project. Snapchat is an easy way for kids to video themselves speaking and test themselves on new vocabulary in a foreign language. YouTube is a great way to do a creative book report by creating a commercial for a book. Her article is full of other digitally literate ideas for helping kids use technology in creative and sophisticated ways.

Coding For Everybody

Whether you think your child is going to go in coding career direction or not, it is essential for today’s young people in understanding why technology can do what it does, what it does well and not so well, and why it is so difficult for it to do other things as an extension of their digital literacy. To that end, you might want to take a look at the games in the article Coding Across the Curriculum featured on the Edutopia site. While written for teachers, the article cites a variety of games and apps for all ages that parents can employ just as easily and even suggests things like having kids “build an animation in Scratch [a web-based coding language for building animations and games] for their next book report—a modern, digital update for the shoebox diorama. “

Teachers Want More Tech Training

Forty-one percent of educators say students learn faster with technology, but 78% say teachers need more training to use those tools in the classroom, according to a survey from SAM Labs. The survey found that 65% of teachers say technology use has improved student performance in math, while 56% report seeing improvements in reading and writing. Twenty four percent said that they think their students know more about technology than they do. That last percentage can be a problem as kids find schools and teachers “behind the times” and then feel they can circumvent educators by cheating or bullying.

Turning Your Kids Into Web Detectives

While kids are great at signing up for and using social media, chances are they are not very good at evaluating and vetting the news and other information that appears in their online feed. So what are some fact-checking resources your kids (and you!) can use to verify or debunk the information they find online? Some of you may have heard of sites like,, and The first two are mostly interested in truth in politics. Snopes is famous as a site to check out internet rumors. One you may not be familiar with is, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics and is probably aimed more at older students and adults. The last isn’t a site that performs the fact checking, but instead is a tool that lets you fact-check things you find online. The internet “Archive Way back Machine” lets you see how a website looked and what it said, at different points in the past. That can be very valuable to see how, for example, the US government treated different topics under different administrations or at different times under the same administration. Want to see The New York Times’ home page, on just about any day since 1996? It’s there as well as Google’s homepage from 1998. The site can be a little distracting though, so make sure kids know what they are looking for specifically before they dive in.