Virginia Tech Libraries are embarking on a digital literacy initiative, which focuses on “support[ing] all learners in exploring, evaluating, creating, and sharing a variety of digital content, including data, information, and media.” This work matches much of the work I have been doing all along in the writing classroom when I talk about digital resources and digital composing.
For the next few weeks, I will share some relevant classroom activities and assignments that align with the digital literacy work on my campus. I’m starting my series with an activity that focuses on defining what it means to be a digital native and, by extension, what we mean when we talk about digital literacy. Establishing an understanding of these two terms provides the support for all the future activities in this series. Depending upon the length of your class sessions, you may break up the activity into more than one session.
- Establish what students already know and think about the terms digital native and digital literacy. Ask students to write what they know about the terms, using whatever strategy they find most comfortable (e.g., freewriting, listing, clustering/mindmaps).
- Have students share their notes on the two terms in small groups, working together to identify similarities among the responses and the strongest ideas they have recorded.
- Ask each group to present the similarities and strongest ideas they have identified, writing notes on the board or presenting from a shared slideshow.
- With class input, group related ideas that have been shared, rephrasing and reducing as necessary to narrow down the list of characteristics. Identify this synthesized list as the first draft of characteristics of the terms for the class.
- Explain that the class will next compare the first draft to ideas that are presented in infographics about digital natives and digital literacy.
- Share my Digital Literacy board on Pinterest, or share your own collection of infographics. Preview each of the infographics briefly with the class. If desired, you may limit this activity to a single infographic or a small number of infographics.
- Assign each group a specific infographic to analyze. Alternately, allow groups to choose an infographic, first-come, first-served style.
- Ask students to return to their small groups and examine the infographic closely, using the following questions to guide their conversation:
- What facts about digital literacy and/or digital natives are included in the infographic?
- What support is given for the facts?
- What is the source of the facts? Are the sources reputable?
- Do you agree with the facts in the infographic? How well do they match your experience?
- How do the facts in the infographic compare to those in the first draft that the class created?
- After students have discussed their infographics thoroughly, ask them to consider whether to change or add to the first draft of characteristics. Have groups identify their points generally, explaining that the whole class will decide on the specific details of changes or additions.
- Once small groups have finished their work, ask each group to share their infographic along with the basic points of their analysis of the infographic, relying on their answers to the questions in Step 8 to structure their presentation. Ask each group to end their presentation by explaining any changes or additions they recommend as a result of their analysis.
- Once the group presentations are complete, sort the changes and additions that have been suggested. Ask each small group to reconcile the relevant changes with an existing characteristic and/or to draft additional characteristics.
- Have groups submit their revisions and additions to you. Before the next class session, combine all the characteristics into a new draft. Make copies to distribute or create a slideshow of the revised characteristics.
- During the next session, pass out copies or share the slideshow with the class. Ask students to review the new draft, and as a class make any additional changes to the characteristics. Explain that this revised, new draft will be used in future activities.
Next week, I will share a follow-up activity that asks students to think about how their characteristics relate to the idea of online identity. If desired, however, you can use these alternative activities:
- Ask students, working individually or in small groups, to create their own infographics that present one or more of the characteristics that the class has established.
- Treat the class list of characteristics as a collection of hypotheses about digital natives and digital literacy. Have students, again individually or in small groups, research a characteristic, looking for supporting data. Ask students to prepare a formal oral presentation of their findings as well as any recommendations to change the characteristic they have investigated.
- Have students write narrative essays that describe a specific incident from their own lives or that they have observed that relates to one of the characteristics. Students’ stories should support or refute the characteristic they focus on.
Any Ideas to Add?
I would love to hear some new ideas on discussing digital natives and digital literacy with students. Do you have ideas to share or infographics that I can add to my collection? Please leave me a comment below with the details, and come back next week for my follow-up activity that focuses on online identity.