In our tech-driven world, it’s safe to assume that a basic proficiency in digital tools is no longer sufficient for students! Not only is technology becoming more and more integrated into our lives, but it is also changing rapidly. In helping students develop digital fluency, teachers can give them the 21st-century skills necessary to navigate and thrive in the digital future that awaits them.
What is digital fluency?
Digital fluency refers to optimizing the use of digital tools to achieve a range of objectives. It goes beyond fundamental concepts of technological proficiency to encompass critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. While digital literacy covers the foundational knowledge needed to function effectively in a digital world, it is just a stepping stone towards digital fluency.
We can draw comparisons to being literate and fluent in a language. Just as literacy allows you to function in a language, fluency allows for more flexibility in how you use that language to create something new. This flexibility means digitally fluent individuals can adapt to new technologies with ease and use digital resources strategically according to the situation.
How can teachers help increase digital fluency for students?
Developing digital fluency is an ongoing process that needs to be approached from different angles. Teachers can foster these skills through classroom activities and “netiquette,” or online behavior guidelines.
However, educators do need to feel comfortable working with a range of tools, both basic and more advanced, to guide their students. Let’s look at the ways to cultivate digital fluency alongside digital literacy for students.
Activities that integrate technology for students to develop digital fluency
Expose students to various technology hardware and software to showcase their possibilities in class activities. In doing so, technology becomes an integral part of the learning experience, rather than exclusively teaching digital skills in isolation.
Having students complete assignments on different technology platforms and formats can also be a great way to demonstrate learning. Hands-on experiences such as these can help students actively engage in and experiment with how technology can work for them alongside the curricular content. Here are some ideas on integrating technology into lessons to increase digital fluency for students!
Create student podcasts with a curricular focus
Asking students to create a podcast puts an engaging (and challenging) spin on a curricular focus. Task groups with explaining a topic to their peers so they can practice information gathering and organization, script-writing to convey a message, and recording and polishing a piece of audio.
To up the stakes and add an extra level of authenticity, have students interview someone in their community or personal circle to link your curricular content to the outside world.
Create multimedia presentations to practice digital storytelling
Having students supplement their presentations with photos, videos, and interactive activities is a great way for them to express themselves while working with curriculum content. Alternatively, have students try out digital storytelling to tap into their creativity while using various digital tools to develop and present their narratives.
Teachers can integrate questions of ethics here, helping students find appropriate material, and give credit to those whose work they’re using. An online scavenger hunt for copyright-friendly items can add a competitive edge!
Work collaboratively to build a class blog
Aside from the tech know-how that comes from the practical side of building and maintaining a blog, students can hone their digital communication skills by writing for an authentic audience.
A class blog will also contextualize lessons around data protection and copyright while opening a conversation about creating a positive digital footprint. It can also serve as a digital class portfolio, so students have a visible timeline of their own progression.
Use Kialo Edu’s argument map as an alternative to essays
Try using a Kialo discussion as a digital alternative to an essay. Through its argument-mapping format, students apply critical thinking skills as they support or refute a thesis. They’ll question claims, break problems down, and consider alternative perspectives, leveraging the platform to come to reasoned conclusions.
To continue with the theme of digital use in the classroom, you might like to try having a discussion on the merits (and downsides) of using AI to keep students critically engaged with the key issues in a rapidly changing area!
How to blend methodology with technology to increase digital fluency
Switching up classroom approaches can be a motivating way to get students actively engaging with the class content and their peers in a digital space.
Emphasize project-based learning to increase critical thinking skills
Project-based learning can capitalize on students’ natural curiosity and their interest in technology, while emphasizing real-world problem-solving. Having students conduct online research to get the background to a topic, for instance, provides practice in finding, filtering, and evaluating information, and separating fact from opinion with a critical eye.
Such information literacy skills are vital to becoming a digitally fluent thinker. Students can use a digital tool like Kialo to explore key questions by gathering evidence in their project, which helps them gain practical digital skills in level-appropriate tools when designing their final product.
Build in digital collaboration opportunities for students to evaluate each others’ work
Building in opportunities for collaboration in a digital context is crucial for students to thrive in a digital world. A great way to do this is to have students work in shared docs. Asking students to create a writing task together will help them gain experience in areas such as version control, giving (and receiving!) constructive feedback, and digital rhetoric.
A great way to get started is to have an online class discussion. Kialo discussions are designed with collaboration in mind. Students can work together to unravel complex issues through a digital argument mapping structure. Try having them work together to map out issues relevant to their local community to help foster civic literacy skills!
Make students responsible for their own learning via a flipped classroom
Taking a flipped classroom approach on occasion encourages self-directed learning. Students need to navigate learning platforms, access resources and manage their own progress. To try a flipped approach on Kialo Edu, teachers can create their own discussion to add lesson content and ask students to interact with it outside class by adding comments and voting on it.
Or, a Kialo discussion can support the in-class stage of a flipped classroom. Set up a discussion on a debatable question related to the content students have studied at home to give them the opportunity to apply their new knowledge! And since teachers can observe their students’ contributions from afar, they can easily support their students when they spot gaps in their understanding.
How netiquette can support digital fluency
Netiquette, or internet etiquette, is an essential part of digital fluency. It not only cultivates digital citizenship to create a positive and respectful online environment, but it also supports effective communication and collaboration in digital spaces.
Netiquette refers to the unwritten codes of conduct that should guide behavior online. Though students are usually adept at finding their way around a digital space, they may need guidance when it comes to making responsible choices online — especially with potential perils to navigate, from cyberbullying to privacy concerns.
Just as conduct in the real world can vary depending on context, there will be different expectations in different online spaces. However, there are firm rules of thumb that students should strive to follow and bear in mind when interacting with others digitally!
Encourage students to show respect for others online
Encourage students to be mindful of how they engage with others online. It’s easy to forget that there’s a real person on the other side of the screen and that abusive or unpleasant discourse can leave a lasting, damaging impact.
Added to that, gauging tone in text can be tricky, and online anonymity can lower inhibitions that lead to us making responses we wouldn’t dream of face-to-face. Given the nature of much of today’s online discourse, shaping individuals who will contribute positively to our interconnected online world is worth the time investment!
Students need to understand that their online activity isn’t isolated from their non-digital lives. Comments, photos and interactions can (and do) come back to haunt online users, even years later. Encourage students to regularly review their online presence to make sure it aligns with their values.
And, by teaching students what appropriate and credible online content looks like, educators can further help them protect their online reputation. Establishing a firm guideline of “Think before you post” is a valuable lesson for us all to live by!
Train students to employ a healthy dose of skepticism for online content
Between scams, unethical actors, and cyber-security concerns, it’s best for students to approach all online interactions with a skeptical eye. By now, students of all ages are used to sharing much of their lives virtually, so they should be encouraged to remain cautious. For younger students, this may mean reiterating the importance of keeping passwords secret and explaining how strangers can hide their true identity online.
For older and more experienced students, they can start considering ethical questions, such as having a Kialo discussion on online privacy open the conversation on striking a balance between privacy and safety.
We’d love to hear the techniques you use to set your students on their way to digital fluency. Please do share your ideas with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on any of our social media platforms.