Should Schools Focus on Digital Literacy to Help Students’ Creativity?
Under COVID 19 schools have had to depend on technology but after students return how should schools best implement technology in the classroom.
With 2020 looking like a bad Black Mirror episode the opportunities for Generation Zs work and academic progress seem bleak. Before this crisis they were the most likely to pursue higher education and inherit a strong economy with record-low unemployment. However, the tides have changed and although a few businesses may be blossoming, most are buckling under the weight of a looming economic crisis which is bleeding the future of the new generation as many wait at home stressed and ridden with anxiety.
Another characteristic of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) is that they are referred to as ‘technoholics’. They were born into a world of the smartphone and social media where many knew how to interact with technology before they could walk. Unfortunately, they are also dependent on technologies for their sense of self worth, social life and interpretations of the world. It is a drug that has consumed all, but for young minds the dependency during quarantine has caused stress and anxiety where they have overdosed and now want to return to the real world with their friends and the adventures they have missed outside.
Charley Brooker (the creator of Black Mirror) stated that he is not anti-technology but that his explorations are about its misuse and how it can use us. It is definitely a dangerous drug with ramifications we are not even aware of but in a forever connected world can we afford to give it up?
If anything technology shows its colours in how we use it. In Black Mirror terms, like with any drug, do we use it or does it use us? The aspects in how we use it are known as Digital Literacy. It is the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.» ( Rubble, M. and Bailey, G. (2007). An example of this could be the dinner table. For those using their phones and scrolling mindlessly through social media they are digitally illiterate as they are unable to show the ‘when and how’ whereas the people with their phones away are digitally literate as they are demonstrating that they know when to use it.
For those who are digitally literate the world is their oyster. Looking at the most needed hard skills of LinkedIn in 2020 the majority are digital. From video production to UX design employees are demanding that potential candidates are digitally literate. If you choose to be an entrepreneur instead and go it alone Digital Literacy is more vital as the first step would be establishing a social media presence. With hoards of ‘Digital Nomads’ invading and gentrifying European cities such as Lisbon we can see that digitally literate people playing in the ‘Gig Economy’ are holding a great deal of power. If we ask for an idol from Generation Z they are unlikely to respond with a film or rock star but are more likely to respond with their heroes from YouTube or Instagram. Young innovators who create digitally and know when and how to use it. How then can schools digitally empower students not for the future but for the current workplace?
There is a resilience in schools for teaching Digital Literacy. Many teachers and administrators feel threatened in incorporating digital practises into their curriculums as they do not understand the new online world with students’ digital addictions often being blamed on parents. In fact, it is the responsibility of schools and education to teach about ‘when and how’ to interact with technology and unfortunately schools have been negligent.
I have been going to educational conventions for the past twenty years and for the majority of this time whenever there has been a speech about. implementing technology into the classroom, the speakers have always had an approach to calm fears teachers may have. In effect Ed Tech has not really made the progress it could have due to the resilience of an ageing workforce. Myself included. However, Covid 19 has thrown us now in the deep end where we only have technology to depend on in order to maintain our classrooms and offices. In a positive aspect it has been the learning curve education – institutionally has needed.
When we go back to the classroom it is as teachers that we have to find a balance between digital and traditional methods. After all, they are Digital Natives. In previous classes I have asked students to break down their uses of technology into passive and active (or creative) behaviours where they document their use into the two categories. A basic example is below:
The list goes on and on, but what I found was that students were aware of their tech trending flaws and could easily identify their passive and active behaviour with tech. The sessions soon turned into somewhat of an A A meeting where students as young as eleven would exchange stories of addiction with one another about their passive behaviour. When talking about their active behaviour they became animated due to the sheer joy of creating something themselves and they would network with each other on potential projects. I. believe this is what true Digital Literacy is, to overcome one’s tech addictions and be empowered in order to productively engage in their digital world.
Another issue to confront would be the criteria for success we establish at school. Traditionally speaking, we ask students to produce a written piece with only the feedback, validation and critique given from one source: the teacher. Does this aged method reflect the real world?
Not at all, companies use various mediums whether it’s video, photos, interactive websites etc. They draw on different factors to engage an audience and the validation of the piece is given by how many people they have reached. This authentic practise should be established at schools, where students decide on the medium they wish to convey their message and then they look at strategies for reaching an audience. In order to take ownership of their work (instead of throwing it in the bin after being given the mark) they have to negotiate the criteria of success with their facilitator of learning; the teacher, and then their validation is given by an audience and not a single source. In fact, with traditional marking we can say that it stifles creativity as it is one person’s critique, which if negative, can demotivate a students passion for the given subject matter. A good idea would be if Medium could produce an offshoot platform for students where they could share, comment and reach an audience with their written work from school. A global platform for students in sharing their ideas.
The incorporation of Digital Literacy cannot be a prescriptive topic for the teachers to give their two cent opinion. All generations have digital active and passive behaviours so it has to be a collaborative learning experience, with flexible syllabuses where learning is a two way experience.
The past twenty years has caused Generation Z and others to be passively addicted to technology because we are still learning ‘when and how’ to use it. It is time that education provides students with the keys to their digital world by enabling them with the power of content creation. The internet can be a dark place but flooding it with students’ work with the help from facilitators and not prescribers of knowledge can only make it brighter.