What Should a Digital Literacy Curriculum Look Like Today?
In the 1990s, grade K-12 schools offered “computer” or “technology” classes that involved drawing tools such as Kid Pixs, typing tools such as Mavis Beacon, and strategy games such as Oregon Trail. Many schools continued to have these classes into the early 2000s with newer but very similar tools; however, these classes were later phased out as administrators and teachers realized that technology should be embedded into all curricula rather than taught as a distinct discipline.
While the move toward integration is a welcome change, done in isolation, we miss out on valuable time with students to have meaningful interactions with technology and develop a level of technological mastery. Therefore, you should do a combination of classes and integration. Today, schools are beginning to reintroduce “technology” classes in order to teach a new set of digital literacy skills. Embedding technology into curricula is essential for students and teachers to best learn to use tools, that is to learn by application; however, a move back to providing a technology class would give students the requisite time, skills, and knowledge to apply technology into all aspects of their learning. The focus of these classes is less on the tools and more on the skills and application of the tool.
What is modern best practice for designing a curriculum to provide fluency with and mastery over the hyper-evolving world of technology?
Below are four areas to consider when designing and developing a technology curriculum:
Flexible and Collaborative
In order for a technology curriculum to maintain relevance, it is essential that educational technologists or technology teachers review and modify the curriculum yearly. By regularly asking core subject teachers “what skills and knowledge do students need today to best use educational technology to further their learning,” we can create a curriculum that is collaborative. Core subject teachers often see their students’ gaps in utilizing technology in the classroom and, therefore, can typically speak to the specific skills and discussions needed to guide their learning. Using this direct input, educators can continuously re-craft their curricula to reflect and provide the evolving skill set of modern technology. Doing this yearly will allow for the curricula to be adaptable and flexible.
Tool and Device Agnostic
While designing the curriculum, ask “what skills and knowledge do students need?” Next, choose a variety of tools (and, if available to you, devices) that students can employ to both learn generally and obtain specifically the skills and knowledge identified. Allowing students to use a variety of tools will afford them an opportunity to build general technological fluency in skills and application rather than limit their competency to a particular tool. In addition, allowing students to experiment with a variety of tools will allow them to critically analyze which tool best fits their need on a case by case basis throughout the rest of their education.
Applied and Integrated Technology
Students need both applied and integrated technology skills. Applied technology involves coding, hardware experimentation, and using the physical and virtual tools relevant to the Maker Movement. Integrated technology involves teaching digital citizenship, digital leadership, and a fluency in all other professional/academic tools needed to succeed in presentation, research, document creation, and collaboration. Creating a curriculum that focuses on both sets of skills will best provide students with the ability to use tools both for completing specific tasks and general learning throughout their lives.
Reflection and Discussion
In the past, technology classes didn’t typically involve a great deal of reflection or discussion time. What was the need? However, countless examples of technology in the classroom have shown us how it is not enough to know simply how to use a tool mechanically (e.g. social media); rather, it is vital to know how to use a tool normatively as well (e.g. what you should and should not make public). The constantly increasing pace of change in technology requires that we provide time and space for students to discuss how technology is being used in the world as well as the benefits and challenges of technology. Topics for discussion and reflection should range from trending technology, to technology in the news, online bullying, screen time and brain development, social media use, and device use at home as well as related topics that students want to discuss.
Developing a digital literacy curriculum is challenging, but it is also an opportunity for educators to create real-time, applicable learning without having to conduct student assessments. This type of curriculum provides students with the skills and knowledge to be successful and thoughtful with technology in their other classes as well as outside the classroom. To provide students with a holistic education in digital literacy, we must continue to integrate technology into the classroom as well as maintain distinct, flexible, and collaborative technology classes.
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