Teaching Digital Literacy To Students In 2023

Teaching Digital Literacy To Students In 2023
Summary: This era of online education and AI encourage the reevaluation of the concept of digital literacy and what it means for students.

Digital Literacy In Students: How To Get It Right

The concept of digital literacy isn't new. And yet, the post-COVID era encouraged this concept's rethinking or even redefinition. While it was about basic computing skills before, it's now about the intelligent use of information technologies and the internet. Indeed; the world is technology-dependent, and modern students demonstrate tech savviness in classrooms and during online courses. They know what to do with tons of devices and apps, consult teachers on WiFi boosters, join coding classes to become even more tech-savvy, you name it! But, can we really call such a friendship of our students with new apps digital literacy? Isn't it more about digital fluency?

Defining Digital Literacy

Cornell University describes digital literacy as "the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet." I would focus on "evaluate and utilize" here. Today's world of content shock, online threats, and post-truth requires responsible data processing. And that's what most students still miss.

I would describe digital literacy as the ability to navigate and consume online information, be safe and productive in the digital world, and properly communicate information to others. Depending on the context, digital literacy skills may include media and visual literacy [1]. The above tech fluency is also here.

With online education on the rise, it's critical to help students become more digitally literate for better understanding and interaction with techs and media resources in real-world situations. Not only can it help them navigate current educational needs, but it will make them prepared for future trends and career opportunities. While most know how to google information for homework and share images on Instagram, digital literacy goes beyond these skills.

Who Is A Digitally Literate Person In 2023?

In 2011, American Library Association [2] defined a digitally literate person as one who could use technologies, implement their technical and cognitive skills to process online information, and communicate that information to the public. Twelve years later, when AI is knocking on the door, and information clarity and hygiene are critical to support consuming safe, credible, and relevant content, a digitally literate person is also the one able to optimize their skills accordingly.

Digital literacy is about the safe, effective, and responsible use of techs and the internet in classrooms and personal life. Understanding its importance for students, which lies in educational progress, increased online safety, improved digital equity, and social opportunities, teachers may want to try some strategies for developing digital literacy in their classrooms.

How To Encourage Digital Literacy In Learners

Some schools have already established a focus on teaching digital literacy starting in primary grades; others aren't that up-to-date with the post-COVID reality and the new normal of online learning. Whatever your district, personal curriculum, or online course program, you can do the following:

  • Teach students how to evaluate the information they find online
    Explain how to judge whether the source is reliable and whether the info on a given website is true or false. I bet you'll agree with me if I say that the ability to find reliable sources is critical in the 21st century. To start, a teacher can provide a list of educational resources for students to see as examples of trustworthy websites. Research those resources before recommending them to ensure they are safe and reliable.
  • Discuss online privacy with students
    Take time to explain how to choose and save secure passwords, when it's not okay to share personal information, and how to use social media responsibly. Tell how their favorite apps or websites store information and what they do with it.
  • Help students understand online etiquette
    Discuss which images or texts are inappropriate to post and how to communicate online to prevent bullying, abuse, or other offensive behaviors. Encourage respectful communication: Students should understand they are responsible for what they say or do online.
  • Teach digital writing
    Tell students how traditional writing differs from online content so they won't confuse one for another. They should know how to include links and references in writing, revise texts depending on the target audience, choose and include images, etc. Just like you teach the difference between a personal essay and a research paper, it's worth explaining how a post on Instagram differs from a blog post or a press release for online magazines.
  • Discuss AI tools and academic integrity
    Plagiarism [3] and other aspects of academic integrity are the pain points for many educators. And these pain points have been activated even more after ChatGPT burst into the online space. While some bother about the threat [4] such AI writing tools can be to the world of education, others discuss the opportunities they bring for teachers.

But What About Students?

Tools like ChatGPT are super tempting to use for writing assignments. While educators struggled with essays students ordered from corresponding services before, now those students can ask AI to craft essays for them, which has nothing to do with integrity. But instead of banning students from using AI and threatening sanctions for plagiarism, discuss how ChatGPT works and how to use it for good.

Technologies grow, and they won't go anywhere, so it's time to focus on digital literacy, no matter where you are in this journey. Students need to know how to engage with the digital world, and you can guide them on the way to healthy and safe online interaction.


[1] Development of students' digital literacy skills through digital storytelling with mobile devices

[2] What is digital literacy?

[3] How To Avoid Plagiarism In Today's eLearning

[4] Is ChatGPT really a threat to the world of education?