Charting a New Frontier in Literacy at #DigLitCon

Digital literacy has been on the tip of the tongue for many educators over the past several years. More and more schools are now placing a renewed emphasis on their students’ ability to find, evaluate, and compose information through digital mediums.

As such, there’s a growing need in Illinois’ education community for reliable, up-to-date digital literacy pedagogy. This summer, the Learning Technology Center (LTC) will take an important step forward toward filling that need by hosting the Digital Literacy Conference.

This one-day virtual event will bring together educators, administrators, and library media specialists from around the state to discuss the best ways to integrate digital literacy content into all classrooms. Sessions at the Digital Literacy Conference will center around several key competencies within digital literacy, ranging from visual and media literacy to digital resource ethics.

There are even more great reasons to attend the Digital Literacy Conference on June 4, 2021. Here are just a few of those reasons, as highlighted by #DigLitCon’s hard-working planning team.

A Focus on a Timely Topic

Even before the majority of instruction shifted online last year, many educators were already discussing how their students were learning to take in and interpret digital content. The Digital Literacy Conference will continue many of those discussions and elevate them to the next level, according to the LTC’s Director of Professional Learning, Brian Bates.

Bates says, “The Digital Literacy Conference will be an opportunity for educators to sit down with their peers and discuss what’s working in digital literacy education. That way, more educators can begin to see not only the importance of teaching digital literacy, but reliable methods for making it a part of their instructional practices as well.”

Bates also says that the Digital Literacy Conference will be a refreshing opportunity to look at how students interact with and utilize their digital resources, now that digital learning has become a norm in many classrooms.

“In many ways, digital literacy has to be a counterpart to other pushes to get tech into students’ hands. The Digital Literacy Conference will hopefully open the door to look at that other side and give educators a chance to see the soft skills students need to succeed in a digital learning environment.”

Literacy for School and Beyond

With its unique combination of content analysis and digital stewardship, digital literacy can be a major asset for students as they strive toward self-guided learning.

But as Bates points out, teaching digital literacy is about more than preparing students for future academic pursuits. Fully-fledged digital literacy can also help students thrive in their digital interactions outside the classroom.

“Every kid growing up today lives in a world of technology,” Bates explained, “in their free time, they’ll be asked to make decisions about what to believe on social media. Their future jobs will require them to not just use technology, but harness it to its full potential. Those reasons point to a need to raise digitally literate students who are ready to take on the digital world they live in.”

Bates also emphasized that digital literacy skills can help students navigate choppy digital waters on their own, outside the comfortable confines of a school-based learning environment.

“Young people today will eventually make decisions about their health, where to live, and what to believe based upon what they read and see online. Nurturing those critical skills now can help them rise to those challenges once they’ve left our classrooms.”

A Place in Every Classroom

When many teachers hear “digital literacy,” they might assume that it falls under the purview of library media specialists or English language arts teachers, along with other more traditional forms of literacy. But as the Digital Literacy Conference will strive to demonstrate, digital literacy can be learned – and applied – in nearly every classroom and at numerous grade levels.

“Interpreting graphs, analyzing imagery, and comparing news sources – these are all digital literacy skills in waiting,” says the LTC’s Nicole Zumpano, a nationally-recognized voice on digital citizenship, “once we recognize that students have a chance to hone their digital learning skills in various learning environments, we can begin to think more broadly about how those skills give students the tools to navigate a problem – regardless of its content.”

Zumpano also says that today’s educational standards point to the need for wide-ranging digital literacy learning, just as those standards call for traditional literacy learning across all subject areas.

“It’s not a coincidence that Common Core standards emphasize reading and writing proficiency in a variety of content areas. That same need to foster broadly-applicable communication skills apply to digital domains as well. Well-rounded students need to be able to interpret and talk about what they are learning online, and digital literacy skills give them the power to do that.”

Exciting Sessions Across 9 Strands

In order to bring this timely and widely-applicable subject to life, the Digital Literacy Conference will offer participants the chance to attend a full slate of insightful sessions. These sessions will be grouped into nine distinct strands, each focused on different digital literacy competencies.

One session many educators will find interesting is “Can Your Students Spot Falsehoods? Practical Lessons on Web Analysis?” Presented by Mia Gutsell, an Instructional Design Coach and Social Science Teacher with Bensenville School District 2, this session will demonstrate practical ways students can differentiate fact from fiction when reading online sources. Free lesson templates will also be provided so that teachers can put what they’ve learned into immediate action.

Another session worth bookmarking is “Not as Boring as it Sounds: G Suite Tools & Copyright Compliance”. In this session, presenter Renee Bogacz, an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher in Channahon School District 17, will dig into the best ways teachers and students can ethically utilize content they find online. Along the way, participants will learn about copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons licensing, as well as how all three can be properly managed using an assortment of readily-available Google Workplace for Education tools.

These are just a couple of the exciting sessions the Digital Literacy Conference has in store for you. Be sure to keep an eye on the #DigLitCon homepage for further announcements about the full conference schedule in early April.

Reserve your Spot Today!

The Digital Literacy Conference is on its way, and we hope you’ll join this unique opportunity to dig deep into one of education’s most relevant topics. Register today over on the #DigLitCon homepage and take your first step toward harnessing digital literacy’s full potential.

Stay Tuned for More Updates from #DigLitCon

To keep up with the latest on the Digital Literacy Conference, including the upcoming conference schedule announcement in early April, follow the LTC on social media (@ltcillinois on Twitter and Facebook) or subscribe to our monthly newsletter. More information on the conference can also be found on the #DigLitCon homepage.

5 Things Students Should Do to Stay Safe and Secure Online

Note: This article was originally published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) on February 5, 2021. It has been republished here with their permission, and the permission of the author. You can read the original here.

Today is Safer Internet Day, an occasion to recommit to best practices for protecting digital identity. In the spirit of this important celebration, we’re proud to feature an article by the LTC’s Nicole Zumpano, originally published by ISTE. Each of its timely resources and recommendation will help you make digital literacy and internet safety a cornerstone of your classroom year-round.


As adults, we do everything possible to keep our computers, bank accounts and families safe. Our list of to-dos continues to grow as our use of digital technologies increases. While these tasks are rote to most adults, we can’t expect that our students will follow our lead.  

It is our responsibility as educators to make sure learners know how to do more than surf the web and consume media. All educators — from classroom teachers to technology coaches and school administrators — should lead the discussion on digital literacy. Here are some ways to make sure our students stay safe and secure online:

Teach students to conduct data mines (on themselves)

Students should do this every 3-6 months. While many will Google their names, we need to teach them to dig deeper. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Log out of internet browsers before searching (staying logged in can affect the results).
  • Search (using quotation marks) full legal names, nicknames and usernames.
  • Search Google Images with names/usernames.
  • Use multiple browsers, such as Chrome, Bing, Yahoo, Safari and Firefox.
  • Look beyond the first page of results. Go at least five pages deep until the name/username no longer appears. Take note of what kind of results appear (presentations/social media/images/etc.).

Here’s an exercise I give to graduate students, but it can easily be replicated for high school students.

Check privacy settings on social media accounts

Because many sites may be blocked during school hours, allow students to check privacy settings on those that are not. At a minimum, show students how to access privacy settings (perhaps through a screencast or screenshot). On each social media site, students should:

  • Check privacy settings to see who can view posts.
  • Go through “friends” lists and remove people who should not be there.
  • Search posts and remove any that they wouldn’t want a parent, teacher, employer or college official to see.
  • Look at tagged images that others have posted.  

Watch the video below to seen how Katrina Traylor Rice taught students about digital privacy while teaching a unit on the Bill of Rights.

Teach digital literacies

Digital literacy is a term that has many moving parts. Students need guidance on varying types of literacy, including media (how to “read” media), social (how to interact in an online environment), and information (the ability to locate, evaluate and properly use information).

Safety falls into this category as well. Students need to know, understand and apply password algorithms as well as recognize scams and understand how their data is being tracked and used by companies.

Stress the importance of digital maintenance

This is the spelling list or cursive practice of the digital world. It’s not glamorous to teach but essential for students to know:

  • Teach students how to download Google Drive files to an external drive.
  • Remind them to backup Drive files, important emails, smartphone photos/apps/etc. at least once a month.
  • Make sure parents have access to account passwords in the event of emergencies. Have them write the accounts/passwords on a piece of paper and place it in an envelope in a safe yet visible place.
  • Reiterate the importance of logging out of accounts, not simply closing the browser window.

Start early

Teaching digital responsibility is not just for middle school teachers or library media specialists. It’s everyone’s duty, and we must start with kindergartners. Consider developing a digital media scope-and-sequence to address what should be taught at each grade.

This is something that can be developed by teachers, students and parents alike. At a minimum, make a commitment with grade-level colleagues that you’ll help teach students how to be safe and secure digital citizens. A good place to begin is by reviewing the ISTE Standards for Students.

Being alert — being aware of online actions, and knowing how to be safe and create safe spaces for others online — is one of the five competencies of the #DigCitCommit campaign. Watch the video below to learn how you can get involved in the movement.

Digital Citizenship Resources for Every Classroom

Digital Citzenship Image

What is Digital Citizenship?

Digital Citizenship is more than just teaching students how to be safe online. Good digital citizens know how to use technology to foster better online communities with both local and global relationships. They can identify the validity of information and use technology to communicate responsibly and respectfully, even with individuals who don’t share their views. Good digital citizens use technology in a positive way to share ideas and participate both locally and globally.   

Why is Digital Citizenship Important?

Data (2019) from Cyberbullying Research Center shows that 37% of students – more than 1 of every 3 – have experienced some form of unwanted harassment or mistreatment with technology. This represents an increase of 35% over studies from 2016. Research done by the Pew Research Center suggests this number may be much higher among teens, perhaps up to 59% of this age group has been affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those affected by bullying have increased risk of depression, anxiety, academic problems, and a number of other factors that lead to decreased quality of life.

According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), teaching digital citizenship can “help create thoughtful, empathetic digital citizens who can wrestle with the important ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity.” Helping our students develop into good citizens, digital or otherwise, empowers our communities to become more positive places in the future. 

Digital Citizenship Teaching Resources

A number of resources are available to support educators and parents as they work together to improve students’ digital citizenship skills.  

  • Common Sense Education has developed a free, comprehensive digital citizenship curriculum for all grade levels.  Resources include both online and offline activities, and parent engagement ideas are also available. Make sure you check out LTC’s webinar discussing these resources!
  • Google’s Be Internet Awesome curriculum is also free and is supported by a series of fun and challenging interactive games called Interland.  
  • Edutopia has curated an extensive listing of resources that can be used by educators and community groups to support digital citizenship. 
  • ISTE had developed a variety of resources supporting digital citizenship in schools, including classroom resources, professional publications, and an online course on teaching digital citizenship.

Closing

Teaching digital citizenship has never been more important to building a positive, collaborative, and safe online community. In addition to the resources noted above, follow the hashtags #DigCit and #DigCitCommit on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and trends in digital citizenship instruction. 


Bibliography

Today’s students have access to more information than ever before. Many students enter the data-rich world with few skills to manage the myriad of opportunities and pitfalls they might encounter. This is when the concept of Digital Citizenship becomes relevant and evermore important. 

What is media literacy and why should you teach it in your classroom?

How many advertisements do you come across in one day- ten, fifty, hundreds, thousands? Some sources say we encounter 4,0005,000 ads a day all trying to persuade us to do something, believe something or buy something (while making money for their shareholders). We may not be consciously aware of seeing these ads, nor are our students who are exposed to the same content we are on a daily basis. Are students equipped to recognize when they are being manipulated? Probably not. Media literacy is a skill, not a topic. It is the responsibility of every educator; in every subject, in every school.

The goal of teaching media literacy is to educate our students on how to question what they see. Media literacy has dozens of “subtopics” that can be explored year-round in your classroom. This post shares some fun media facts, concepts, and resources to get you started.  

Media Literacy “Fun Facts”

  • Media is not good or bad; it is just a tool that delivers content.
  • Adults spend 12 hours, 7 minutes a day consuming media.
  • It is estimated that 6 companies own close to 90% of media.
  • Magazines print different editions for different areas and demographics.
  • Advertisers focus on women’s bodies as “parts of a whole”, so they always have something to fix.
  • Personification in advertising plays to our emotions and seeks to have us form “relationships” with products, giving alcohol names such as  ‘Jim Beam’ to imply that we are not drinking alone).

Media Literacy Concepts

  • Media constructs our culture.
  • Media messages affect our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
  • Media uses different “persuasion” tactics to get you to do something, buy something or believe in something.
  • Media constructs fantasy worlds.
  • No one tells the whole story.
  • Media messages reflect the values and viewpoints of the media maker.
  • Individuals construct their own meanings from media.
  • Media messages can be decoded.
  • Media messages contain “texts” and “subtexts”. Each person creates subtext based on prior experiences, prior knowledge, opinions, attitudes, and values.

Nicole’s Favorite Resources

Digital Citizenship Week Recap

The Learning Technology Center of Illinois participated in Digital Citizenship Week October 15th-19th, 2018. Throughout the week, LTC staff curated and shared various digital citizenship resources through social media channels. Here are the full collection of resources from Regional Educational Technology Coordinators for use with your students.

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