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”