Part 1: I say Part 1 because this topic has so many facets to it – but let’s chunk it – starting with internet searching.
Digital literacy, digital fluency, digital leadership. These terms get thrown around a lot lately with the hope (and subtle expectation) that teachers are teaching digital skills to their students. This can be a daunting task for many educators who may be very literate, and even fluent, in personal use of digital technology, but are still trying to wrap their head around how technology tools can be used – and managed – to deepen learning experiences in the classroom.
But first, let’s outline what is meant by digital literacy and what is meant by digital fluency. Digital literacy is the ability to know what to do when online, and how to do it. It is knowing the language, symbols, visual representation and flow of technology use. A digitally literate person is very capable of using technology as a tool, but how effectively will they use these tools to disseminate, evaluate or manage information? Digital fluency is the ability to know why a tool is being used, and even when to use it. In the elementary classroom, this can begin to take shape in the form of internet searching that needs to be explicitly taught to students.
I often use the analogy of crossing the street – as parents and teachers we would never send a small child out into the world without teaching them the safety rules first, and being confident that they had internalized them. The internet is the big, wide world. Why would we ever send a child ‘out there’ without giving them strategies and going ‘with them’, multiple times, before letting them go independently? By using with our class age appropriate search engines, such as KidRex or Kiddle in the primary grades or Safe Search Kids for junior levels (and modelling for them time and time again how to manage searches) we are demonstrating to students why this tool is being used, when to use it, and how to develop metacognition, higher order thinking skills, problem solving skills and online etiquette.
Check out my YouTube channel for these videos on how to upload kid-friendly engines to the face of classroom iPads for safe searching: make these engines a habit in your classroom!
In the words of Will Richardson, we need to teach kids how to network and find information. We need to teach kids HOW to learn, not WHAT to learn.