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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

Digital Literacy

During the past year, educators have been tasked with find- ing new ways to meet students where they are physically, social-emotionally, and cognitively. Our world has become even more digitally connected, and Digital Literacy (DL) has taken on a much more urgent role. So, what is it, and why is it so important for our 21st-century learners? According to Cornell University, DL is “the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content us- ing information technologies and the internet.” It can be viewed as an over- arching term for a wide range of access points beyond computers and the internet. Visual, information, and media literacy are placed on an equal or overlapping level with DL. We must also include digital citizenship so that students know how to use the internet safely, respectfully, and responsibly. Equally essential elements are computer literacy, computational thinking, and coding. So how are teachers taking advantage of DL to augment and rein- force learning? Digital Literacy cultivates key 21st- century goals of critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, communication, and building resiliency. From the literacy perspective, DL provides opportunities for students to receive and evaluate information through video, visuals, audio, and text. Technologies an

d platforms can help students create responses through Voice-to-Text transcriptions, digital notepads, video discussions, and message boards. Through DL, access to literacy can seamlessly be adapted, modified, and enhanced. All voices can be heard by expanding communication platforms. Through technology, students can become immersed in virtual field trips, meet with experts, collab

orate with global cohorts, attend relevant live-action events, and participate in real-world problem-solving through citizen science projects. Imagine a classroom where students learn about habitats by taking a virtual field trip with VR headsets, then collect data on virtual online bulletin boards before live streaming with students from selected schools located within different habitat zones to discuss local concerns. Coding is a language. Providing opportunities for students to learn to code helps develop computational skills and enhances logical reasoning. When students code, they can apply strategies to real-world issues as they creatively find solutions. Coding builds think- ing skills and develops persistence and perseverance, both critical skills in developing grit, determination, and resilience. All in all, Digital Literacy provides alternatives for communication, expands options for collaborations with audiences beyond the classroom, and enhances opportunities to creatively solve problems and develop critical- thinking skills through logic and reasoning. Providing students with hard- ware, technology tools, and the ability to interact with others will expand op

portunities and help bridge equity gaps. We’d love to hear from you about how some of the articles presented in this issue of Science and Children have enhanced your Digital Literacy classroom experiences. Let’s keep the dialogue open as we learn about what works and what doesn’t within our classroom walls.

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