If I were trying to make real impact on digital literacy in schools, what would I focus on?

I am trying to make real impact on digital literacy in schools and this is what I focus on:

  1. Digital literacy as a means of empowerment and love for lifelong learning
  2. Outcomes first, then tools
  3. Technology creation not technology consumption

I see these focus areas as means to make real impact on digital literacy in school because teaching digital literacy is a contrast to the traditional academic education model and results in education that leads to empowerment and lifelong learning. We can develop children who are curious, engaged and creative and grow to become change makers, innovators and creators.

Empowerment and love for lifelong learning

Learning to program is a very different experience to learning in a traditional academic education model. Learning in a traditional school involves submitting assignments or completing exams where the student receives a grade or a score. Mistakes are recorded and considered an expression of failure.

Learning to program requires the student to approach learning in a completely different way. Students need to learn to be comfortable with uncertainty and learn from trial and error. Errors are feedback which guide learning. Students develop a hypothesis, test it, observe the results and learn from feedback. Learning is a lifelong journey and programming sets a solid foundation for lifelong self-driven learning. Learning to program teaches resilience, problem solving, scientific enquiry and mental fortitude.

Digital literacy can be an empowering skill. It can be a skill that allows one to create tools to be creative, collaborate, solve problems or express oneself.

Outcomes first, then tools

Here are some tips on how a teacher could approach lesson planning to achieve desired learning outcomes. Firstly the desired learning outcomes should be identified. In Australia I use the learning outcomes defined in the new Digital Technologies subject which over time will become mandatory in each of the States of Australia. The next step, based on the outcomes I design class activities to achieve the outcomes. Once the class activities have been designed, only then do I identify the tools and equipment I require to deliver the class activity.

I often see schools do the complete opposite approach. They first purchase technologies, equipment or subscriptions to online courses, then they work out how to deliver it in class. This approach leads to gaps in learning outcomes.

Technology creation not technology consumption

As an experienced educator teaching digital literacy in primary schools in Australia, I often explain to parents and teachers the difference between the skills of technology consumption and technology creation.

Technology consumption include skills such as using a spreadsheet, creating a presentation slides or using accounting software. These are skills that allow you to use existing commercial software.

Technology creation refers to developing your own software i.e. writing the program to build a computer game, animation or calculations. The skills include computer programming, computational thinking, design thinking and developing algorithms.

Teaching computer literacy or digital literacy skills requires the differentiation of these two concepts which are often bundled into one, but are actually very different and achieve very different learning outcomes.

With the right focus in the delivery of digital literacy in schools we can achieve great results. We can develop children who are curious, engaged and creative and grow to become change makers, innovators and creators. Through empowerment, sharing a love for lifelong learning, outcome focused lesson planning and a focus on technology creation we can revolutionise education.

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