The conversation with The Vancouver Sun reporter went something like this: How does your district definite digital literacy? Few people seemed to have a clear definition of what it means. No one seems to be nailing it down. Most districts are merely teaching students how to use software and hardware. I hear that perhaps Surrey is doing something different. Can you tell me how it looks in Surrey?
The reporter’s reference was the Canadian MediaSmarts website where you can find a definition of media literacy and a useful chart. There are a multitude of definitions and terms used to try and describe the notion of media or digital literacy. You can find a good article about it here.
What anchors our work on digital literacy?
We have talked about the skills required to be twenty-first century readers and writers, using the definition from the National Council of English Teachers (2008). See here. This gives us a frame that clearly places learning at the centre. We want teachers to think about the use of technology in this context.
How has it changed the learning?
Our focus is to find ways to ensure our use of technology transforms learning for students. We want students engaging in learning activities that are fundamentally different from what they were able to do before the introduction of technology. Here a Grade 6/7 teacher at Hillcrest Elementary describes what it looks like in her classroom:
Digital literacy in my classroom is not about an event; rather it is an integrated component of the planning and delivery of the curriculum. Digital literacy is embedded into the learning for all my students.
This past year when we were designing a unit for science the grade 6/7 teachers wanted to ensure students used critical thinking skills, creativity, and that they had choice in their learning. To do this it was decided to have each student create a website for other students to use from around the world. Doing so incorporated many of the skills that we know are essential for success in the 21st century. Critical thinking was used in researching and synthesizing information, as well as determining credible resources. Creativity was important in how the websites were designed, laid out, navigated. Media literacy was developed so students could incorporate different forms of media into their websites from images, to links, to videos. Collaboration was essential for success. Students valued each other’s opinions, accepting feedback on content and design, and utilized those students who became the ‘experts’ in the technology field pushing each other’s learning every step of the way. Finally, motivation and self-regulation were needed to ensure that each student was able to complete a website that they were proud to share with the global community. Students would spend many hours outside of the given time to ensure their websites were well thought-out, informative and creative.
Digital literacy was, and is, embedded into the learning of the class; it was not a separate subject. For our students to be ready for the future…the skills needed for students to be successful must be an integral part of their day-to-day learning.
There are teachers in Surrey, and all over the world, that are using technology to change the way we teach and how students learn. As we seek to understand, define, and teach digital literacy, we all become learners—teachers and students—navigating this new digital highway together.
Thanks to Anne-Marie Middleton (@AnneMidd) for sharing a window into her classroom. Hillcrest is one of the Innovative Learning Designs schools (Phase 1) in the Surrey School District (#SD 36). She works collaboratively with Ryan Hong (@RyanJHong), another great teacher at Hillcrest.