When I think about teaching digital literacy, the one common element I keep reflecting on is critical thinking. Critical thinking is a life skill that would not only help students in being digitally literate but in so many other aspects of their life. I think if we put more emphasis on that, specifically teaching to digital literacy would be so much more powerful. Critical thinking is a skill that is talked about in the front matter of our curriculum. Here is an example from the Grade 3 Social Studies curriculum:
I think one of the biggest challenges with teaching about digital literacy and fake news, is that many adults don’t even have these skills. It scares me to think about some of the information students may be getting from home, and then when they come to our classrooms we may have to do some unlearning before we can begin developing these digital literacy skills in them. The New York Times writes a great article talking about evaluating our sources and how we can help students develop this skill. This is also a very helpful article in understanding how fake news spreads based on a tweet made by a regular citizen with only 40 Twitter followers.
In order to teach students to think critically about what they see online, it’s helpful for them to understand why and how fake news spreads. Reflecting on this article one thing I noticed is how many opportunities there were for the facts to be checked, yet nobody bothered to do that. They just took what they saw as truth and then continued to spread the message. An activity like this video can be helpful for students (and adults!) to start thinking critically about the news we see.
It can be daunting to think about how important the skill of digital literacy is and the role we have as educators to help students develop this. I think it is important to start at at young age, start the conversation early. It would also be helpful to have resources and learning opportunities for parents so they can also strengthen their digital literacy skills.