Why digital literacy is so important

I'm currently contributing to a reference group that is working on developing a strategic document around the development of digital literacy for all NZ students, as an embedded and fully integrated disposition required to function effectively as a learner and a citizen in the third millennium. 

Like similar groups that are tackling this issue – from school staffs through to governments and NGOs – there's a continuum of things to address,  from a focus on the ability to use digital technologies effectively (skills)  through to the issues around responsible use and safety etc. (citizenship). 

A couple of months ago, the PEW Research Centre published a report titled "Teens and Technology in 2013" in which they explored technology use among 802 youth ages 12-17 and their parents. The slideshow above was created by Kristin Purcel to present the key findings of this report , and outlines 10 important facts we should know about today's teens.

  1. Among Teens 12-17, social network site growth has slowed particularly Facebook, but Twitter use is growing rapidly.
  2. Today's teens are sharing more personal information online than teens have in the past
  3. Today's teens do care about online privacy
  4. Today's teens do take active steps to manage their online reputations
  5. Parents of teens are very aware that online content can impact their teens' lives
  6. Most teens educational environment include the use of at least some digital technologies
  7. The internet has fundamentally altered how teens do research, but not necessarily for the worse
  8. Digital tools can benefit kids' writing skills and abilities according to teachers.
  9. Teachers are divided as to whether "digital natives" are all that unique.
  10. A digital divide persists in the area of educational and technology

As educators we have a responsibility to explore how these sorts of findings are relevant in our context, and to consider how we must respond if we're to make our educational offerings relevant to today's learners. Further, we have a responsibility to ensure that both what we are teaching and how we are teaching it is modelling the sorts of knowledge and behaviours that will prepare our young people to live as confident, capable and connected learners in their future lives and careers. 

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