Checklist: Skills and Tools for Digitally-Literate Teachers
Teaching digital literacy has become an essential part of today’s education, especially after being mandated by the Common Core and other state equivalents. With so many new technologies out there, it’s easy for teachers to feel constantly behind. This can lead to teachers being overwhelmed, which in turn can lead to burnout. To address this problem, we compiled a list of “Must-Have” digital literacy skills (with a few bonuses for extra credit) to help teachers and administrators prioritize teacher digital literacy professional development.
Keep in mind that if there is one truth in developing a digital literacy curriculum, it’s that the definition of digital literacy should be re-determined and set on a yearly basis, if not more frequently, as technologies and skills evolve. After all, just being able to use Excel five years ago would have been acceptable to some, whereas now it’s considered so routine that it’s barely mentioned in most district requirements.
14 Required Skills
✓ Functional Skills
Teachers should have enough grounding in digital technologies to be able to efficiently navigate them during class time. This understanding should be deep enough that when new technologies emerge, teachers have the literacy to puzzle out how to navigate them on their own or in conjunction with colleagues.
✓ Search Skills
Teachers should know how to navigate search engines in order to return relevant, respectable and safe results that represent a broad spectrum of perspectives.
✓ Evaluating Sources
Teachers should be digitally literate enough to be able to determine a reputable website from one that is untrustworthy, biased, dangerous, or outdated. They should be able to guide students toward attaining these same skills.
✓ Critical Thinking
At a deeper level, teachers should be able to think critically about the sources and digital tools that they find and rely on, so they can teach students how to think critically.
Teachers should have a deep enough understanding of the digital tools available to them so that they can propose and guide students through creative projects that stretch these tools to the limits of what they can do.
Teachers should be able to communicate on digital technologies in a manner that is appropriate for the platform at hand.
✓ Cultural Contexts
Teachers should have sensitivity to the varying cultural contexts that students bring both to the classroom and to digital technologies. They should know how to use technology in order to differentiate their approaches.
Teachers should understand digital and online safety. They should know how to teach the habits of a digital citizen and look out for their students online in a manner that still gives students independence.
✓ Insight on Technology Purchases
Teachers should be digitally literate enough that they can provide feedback on district technology purchases, guiding administrators wherever possible to match purchased technologies with classroom needs.
Since technology demands change so rapidly, digitally literate teachers will be able to adjust to these changes. That doesn’t mean mastery of every technology, but instead the willingness to be open to learning new technology and using their problem-solving skills.
✓ Knowledge of Chat Platforms
As tools like Mystery Skype and Google Hangouts make their way into the classroom, knowing how to use such technologies is key, in that they open up a world of access and knowledge. On these platforms, students can talk to experts around the world, take a virtual field trip, or even find an online mentor. Teacher literacy with these tools is becoming essential.
✓ Knowledge of PLN Platforms
Having a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is key to learning, growing, and staying on top of the latest and greatest digital and pedagogical innovations. Twitter is particularly popular among teachers. Learning how to navigate this platform will open teachers up to a world of information and perspectives both in and outside of their subject areas.
✓ Understanding of Data
Educational technology is often powerful because of the reams of precise data that it can provide on each student’s performance. Understanding this data will help digitally literate teachers differentiate their instruction and intervene with students who are struggling.
A digitally literate teacher will use digital tools to connect and collaborate with other teachers, whether on their team or across the world as they develop professionally and coordinate on projects across long distances.
✓ Multi-Platform Competency
It’s great when a teacher comes to school with a deep familiarity of a particular platform, app or technology, especially if that teacher is willing to evangelize that technology to other teachers. It is not, however, essential, as a truly digitally literate teacher will be able to adapt to other technologies beyond their immediate expertise.
✓ Coding Skills
Teachers who can code or work in HTML will have a leg up when it comes to developing their own classroom technology, as well as in teaching students directly about how to do these things. However, these skills are not necessary as long as teachers are literate enough to be able to talk about them in a cogent manner.