In his book Net Smart, Howard Rheingold writes that for any of us to become knowledgeable connected world users and citizens, each of us needs to develop and continually strengthen five areas of digital literacy. People who use the web wisely and with good results develop fundamental skill in five literacy areas — attention, participation, collaboration, network awareness, and critical consumption of content.
As the lives of children, online and off, grow more complex by the day, we adults spend a good deal of our time helping them learn more about the lives they will live in a 21st Century world. We are accomplished at mentoring children in the parts of their lives that are offline, but often teachers and parents simply react to digital life problems rather than build fundamental digital literacy skills that will help children avoid problems. For kids to really be prepared to develop the five literacies that Rheingold describes, they need to build up a foundation of knowledge about the connected world environment.
How is it that children, pre-adolescents, and teens can understand how to use digital devices, consume digital culture at an early age, and even figure out digital device problems for their parents, but have only the barest knowledge about how to relate thoughtfully to people online, take complete advantage of digital resources, and solve problems rather than create them? The reason? We adults have so often put the cart before the horse. We give children their own personal devices or let them borrow ours — gadgets connect in various ways to the entire world, albeit different ones at different ages — and only gradually go about teaching the fundamental literacy aspects later on and especially when something goes wrong. Continue reading “Digital Literacy 101 for Kids, PreK -Grade 6: A Checklist”→
The questions cover digital-age habits such as reading newspapers, using mobile phones, and watching television, as well as a fair number of lifestyle issues. It’s interesting to do, and the score places each quiz-taker on a continuum with a range of generations from people in their 70s and above (called the silent generation) to boomers and down through millennials.
Once you answer the questions and get a score, it’s possible to change answers and see how the score changes. A quiz-taker can also look at graphs that depict how various generations of test takers fared in a more scientific survey.
This short exercise can help the parents of 21st Century kids develop a keener sense of how the behavior of various generations changes as digital life intensifies. Teachers may want to give the quiz a try because it can help them gain more insight into the lives of their 21st Century learners.
I scored 70, so I have a lot of digital-age millennial characteristics. On the other hand, despite the fact that my husband is digitally literate, he scored 30 (losing a lot of points for reading at least one newspaper each day and texting rarely). It was especially interesting to look at the graphs and see how we compare to other people in our age ranges.
Parents and educators can learn a lot about children’s digital lives — and the importance of helping young people develop strong digital citizenship skills — by listening to a series of broadcasts from National Public Radio (NPR) on raising digital natives (also available in print). The radio reports focus on children’s experiences in daily connected life and present wide-ranging information about the responsibilities of parenting 21st Century digital kids. All of the stories are posted at All Tech Considered blog, but I’ve included links for each story below.
The entire set of news stories, shared by a number of different NPR reporters, contains information that can help parents and educators think more carefully about how to strengthen their roles in children’s lives.
With more than 30 years as a teacherincluding over 20 in the educational technology field, I’ve heard many kids reflect thoughtfully, and not so thoughtfully, on their parents’ digital skills. Kids often wonder why parents don’t always model the digital citizenship expectations that they want their children to learn and apply.
Here are the eight most common “I Wish” statements that I’ve heard expressed by children over the last 16 or 17 years. Two of them, I can report, my daughter also mentioned to me ages ago.
Kids Wish Their Parents and Other Adults Would
Try to learn a lot more about computers in particular and technology in general.
Stop saying they don’t know much about technology (mom’s especially)
Do not use Blackberries and phones at sports games and school events
Learn to play some of the kids’ online games.
Understand more about helping with searches on the Internet.
Understand how hard it is to learn the technology rules and regulations and not always threaten to take away technology access when there’s a problem.
Stop automatically saying that new things like Wikipedia are questionable.
Don’t act dumb about technology – act like you want to learn new things.
Take some time to read these thoughtful and well-written pieces that address the challenges of parenting digital kids and offer solid guidance. They sum up just about everything a parent needs to know.
Collier examines the need for parents to build insightful and trusting relationships with their digital world children. She notes that we adults should think carefully about any decision to use secretive monitoring and instead consider recognizing the need for honesty and trust whenever we address the lives of children and adolescents who work and play in the connected world.
There’s no substitute for a parent being online, observing and adding his or her two cents when required. Yes, it is time-consuming — but it’s best to communicate openly by transparently monitoring children’s digital activities and modeling the trust and honesty that we want them to develop in their own lives. Perhaps, Collier muses, we are even making digital kids safer, since they are less likely to be seeking ways to hide out or at least take cover online.
Technology reporter Matt Richtel shares information about two recent studies that examine, on the basis of educator surveys, how today’s digital children may be learning differently than in the past. Although individual responses are subjective, the results of the surveys “are considered significant because of the vantage points of teachers who spend hours a day observing students.”
It all comes down to attention span. In both surveys, teachers expressed concern that students, used to fast-paced, always changing activities, are less able to focus on an academic task for a prolonged period.
I recently discovered an interesting comment on a Linked In discussion, part of the ed-tech topics that I often follow.
The conversation asked the question, “Are tablets and iPads the new textbooks?” and the discussion was about an Educause article,E-Books in Higher Education: Are We There Yet? Educause is a non-profit sector organization that aims to help individuals “who lead, manage, and use information technology to shape strategic IT decisions at every level within higher education.”
In the Linked In conversation, Randy Tanner (Linked In profile) described the research of a colleague who is a doctoral candidate at Capella University whose dissertation research investigates the influence of iPads, tablets, and smart phones on pre-schoolers. According to Tanner:
One amazing fact she shared is that the typical 4-year-old is technically more competent with tablets and smart phones than the average adult. Think of the impact to primary school methodology. This isn’t the tech-savvy Millennial Y-generation; this the post-Millennial Z-Gen who may never touch a desktop PC and categorize laptops with 8-track players.