By Michael Hilkemeijer
In a digitally-dominated society, digital technology is having a profound effect on all aspects of children’s lives. Many of us, including young children, do take technology for granted.
“Digital literacy means having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies like Internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices” (Western Sydney University.
Young children need these skills and capabilities to be full and capable participants in their environment.
“Just as it is every child’s right to become literate, he or she should have the right to become a skillful user of ICT. Children should…experience ICT as a tool with vast possibilities for communication and information retrieval/sharing” (Sheridan & Pramling Samuelsson, 2003, p. 267).
Digital literacy in Australia
Digital technology continues to permeate our society and influence our lifestyles today to such an extent that the Australian Government has set out a roadmap to building a digital economy. This trend is occurring globally and it involves building digital literacy and inclusion from the ground up. However, the latest data on digital inclusion and technology for school age children indicate:
- Overall, digital inclusion has increased year-on-year since 2014, but momentum is slowing.
- Those facing socio-economic barriers are being left behind as services and communities move online. The digital inclusion gap is widening.
- More than 2.5 million Australians remain offline, mostly in rural areas and older age groups. A quarter of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples lack internet access.
- Digital inclusion is still significantly higher in urban areas compared to rural ones, and this gap varies between different states and territories.
- Digital literacy has increased each year nationally, but there is still work to be done in empowering people to safely and confidently use information technologies.
- There is an important new report (Connecting on Country) that focuses on closing the digital divide for children in Indigenous Australian households. Progress is flatlining in connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
- Affordability remains a key challenge and will only be worsened by the economic impact of COVID-19.
- The pandemic has been highly disruptive for students in low-income families, according to the report’s findings (as it has been for everyone).
Digital inclusion is about everyone being able to use digital technologies effectively with the Australian economy now experiencing an accelerated digital transformation in many parts of its economy and indeed in other parts of society. It means ensuring that digital literacy in education is embedded so that future workforces are prepared.
Digital literacy in Education
Why digital literacy is important in education?
Teaching digital literacy in education is important because it prepares children for their future digital workplace. It is about understanding that today’s children need different types of skills and technological knowledge in order to think critically, evaluate their work and engage in a global community.
It is important for children to engage with digital technology so that:
- Learn 21st-century skills and develop their Digital literacy and ICT literacy.
- Improves their attainment levels.
- Prepares them for an integrated society dominated by ICT developments.
- So that they learn the notion of using ICT as a tool for lifelong learning.
Digital literacy has become such an important issue that after a review of the Australian Curriculum ICT Capability Learning Continuum, it was decided to change the capability to Digital Literacy instead. It differs from ICT Capability in the following ways:
“Digital literacy encompasses the knowledge and skills students need to: create, manage, communicate and investigate data, information and ideas; solve problems; and work collaboratively at school and in their lives beyond school.
Digital literacy involves students: critically identifying and appropriately selecting and using digital devices or systems; learning to make the most of the technologies available to them; adapting to new ways of doing things as technologies evolve, and protecting the safety of themselves and others in digital environments.”
As a result, the Learning Continuum has also been impacted by this changed and has been restructured with five key elements – Practicing digital safety and wellbeing; Communicating and collaborating; Investigating; Creating; and Managing and operating.
Digital literacy in Early Childhood education
Digital literacy in early years education is about considering the use of digital technology in early childhood education for the early acquisition of digital skills to be part of young children’s communication development.
The position statement from Early Childhood Australia, the main governing organisation in Australia for young children in education, titled “Statement on Young Children and Digital Technologies” clearly outlines how digital literacy can be achieved in the early years through four aspects of digital play – Relationships; Health and Wellbeing; Citizenship; and Play and Pedagogy.
For young children, it means developing skills in the use of images and sound to convey information, ideas and feelings about themselves, their activities, and their environment through the use of electronic media. They will begin to develop skills to organise and analyse information.
Through joining our online training for early childhood educators you will learn how to support play with digital technology in early childhood education as we take you through step by step practical and immediately actionable strategies.
The course focuses on teaching digital literacy in early childhood education in the following ways:
- Understanding the importance of learning through play;
- Understanding what digital play is;
- Focusing on key aspects of digital play in early years education such as digital storytelling, creative play, promoting learning without failure (role-play), and outdoor play;
- Delivering early childhood pedagogy in play that integrates digital technologies.
This course covers up to 10 hours of CPD as part of your online PD for early childhood educators.
Course Cost: $360AUD