Teaching Literacy in a Digital World: 5 Things Educators Should Know

Constant advancements in digital tools and technology are changing the face of teaching.

For example, instead of relying only on printed materials, many teachers turn to blended learning curriculums in various subjects. And some teachers use digital screeners to assess students' initial understanding of a topic and then evaluate what they learned at the end of a lesson.

While these changes have certainly improved many aspects of everyday life, for educators who did not grow up in the same digital world as their students, there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to teaching literacy. Here, we've compiled five insights from literacy experts who have contributed to Shaped.

1. Volume and variety matter.

Research has shown that students who read more score higher in reading on the National Assessment for Educational Progress. This doesn’t mean that students must only read educational literature to achieve these results; encouraging them to read short stories, fantasy novels, and news articles can be very beneficial. To see improvement in reading achievement, students need to read significantly more in a variety of contexts, including for their own pleasure.

2. Reading can allow students to take a break from their digital obsessions.

Survey results from the Pew Research Center suggest that increasingly more students have smartphones and are online more frequently. Teenagers are naturally fixated on themselves, and as we know, social media can exacerbate this tendency. To open students’ thinking to a larger world, teachers can emphasize that books offer insights into different perspectives and cultures. Educators can encourage students to take a break from social media by inviting their students to open a book for a breath of fresh air, and by conveying to their students what personally draws them to reading.

3. Media literacy is important, but not all media are the same.

Students can’t be media literate if they don’t understand the word “media.” For example, new media and news media have significantly different meanings. Students need to understand the various types of media and be able to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each to move toward media literacy. 

4. Internet literacy precedes media literacy.

Media literacy is important, but you can’t be media literate without being internet literate—which, surprisingly, many people aren’t. To navigate the Internet, educators should understand what it is, how to stay safe, and how to properly search. For students becoming internet literate, they need to understand that “the internet” is not a citable resource. Instead of saying something came “from the internet,” students need to learn where information posted online is originating from.

5. Sound, images, and video dramatically affect how students interpret texts.

So each of these formats can be used to influence people in different ways. Having students conduct their own experiments to understand the effects of sound, images, and video can be impactful—how does each impact their perspective of the text they are presented with?

Determining ways to integrate the latest technologies into a curriculum can be challenging for some educators. By focusing on ways to teach literacy in today's digital world, tech can transform from being intimidating to being an incredible teaching tool.

Plus, paperback books are still here—they’ve just got company now! 

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To learn more about teaching literacy in our digital world, download our free eBook.