For students to be digitally literate, they not only need to learn how to use technology, but to be critical of the information they gather. Students are exposed to information digitally—articles, statistics, videos. They require explicit instruction that information might be old, biased, fake, illegal, or discriminatory. – Digital Literacy: What Does It Mean To You?
When we think about our role as educators, within the context of helping our students become media literate digital citizens, we need to consider the many factors that apply. Media is everywhere and they are growing up in a digital world. We can’t deny this and if we choose to do so, then we are providing a disservice to our students and not truly preparing them for their futures. Our job as educators is to work towards building an understanding of the individuals who walk through our doors on a daily basis. Understanding who they are as an individual is critical to engagement and building relations. Just as important is our understanding of how their brain develops. The teenage brain goes through a period of neuromaturation in which the brain essentially pieces together lower level thinking skills to help in the development of higher level thinking skills. The area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is what controls the regulation of complex cognitive, emotional, and behavioural functioning. Due to the fact that this area of the brain may not be fully developed until the age of 25, it can be hard for parents and teachers to understand why teens make some of the choices that they do. Understanding that teenage brains are still developing is critical to how we approach teaching about digital citizenship and media literacy. Many teens are often described as fearless thrill seekers. These videos might help you understand just why that is!
When we understand that our student’s brains are in a constant state of growth we are provided we an opportunity to embrace their inherent desire to learn about and try new things. We have the chance to guide them towards experiences that foster good decision making, critical thinking skills and for them to be knowledge seekers.
This week Staci shared the TedX Talk Creating critical thinkers through media literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDxABQED where we are encouraged to create opportunities that allow each student we engage with to connect what happens at school with what happens in their real lives. In order to do this, we must open ourselves to the idea that digital citizenship and media literacy NEED to be part of our daily classroom lives. Not taught in isolation but rather integrated into the lessons we teach and the conversations we are having. This is not something that will happen overnight but I would suggest that it is something every teacher CAN do.
The first thing we need to do is work together, collaborate, seek our professional development opportunities and most importantly: talk to our students about what they already know about the digital world and engage in conversations with them. Perhaps we can take a little bit of insight from Keegan Korf’s TedxTalk on just how to do that!