Starting Digital Literacy before the horse bolts

We’ve tipped our toe into the twitter sphere. I began using twitter a couple of years ago and saw how it can enable professional learning in such a targeted and self directed way. It’s been a challenge to convince others that it doesn’t have to be a medium where you’re bombarded with trivial tid-bits like  finding out what Brittany Spears had for breakfast. But we now have quite a few teachers who are using twitter regularly for professional reading. The question for many is now, “Do we introduce Twitter to our students too?”

My recent trip to Brisbane, EduTech 2013, gave me the opportunity to ‘masterclass’ with Alan November (@globalearner). One of the messages from this session was how important it is for educators to embrace Digital Literacy as one of the many ‘literacies’ that we teach. One such skill that is part of digital literacy is that of being able to communicate effectively to a wide audience. Twitter can provide the ‘voice’. But why start so early? Some teachers are giving their 5 year old students opportunities to tweet. Why can’t we wait until they are adults to figure out the social media dos and don’ts?

The answer, I believe, lies in the building up of Digital Citizens or Global Learners or Global Stewardship. We have begun a 1:1 program in Year 5 this year. BTW, I liked Alan November’s rephrase of this. He calls it a ‘1 to the world’ program. Did you notice my subtle inclusion of the twitter friendly acronym? Anyhow, it has become increasingly obvious to us that beginning a child’s journey into the use of 1:world devices needs to start earlier than the teenage years. When talking to parents of teenage students (often the older siblings of our current year 5’s) they grieve over their child being taken over by technology. Smart phones, tablets, any kind of mobile technology is ruling their lives. This group of children have skipped the Cybersafety and Digital Citizenship curriculum in primary school (because it wasn’t on the radar then) and are expected to be able to deal with the onslaught of mobile technology right when they are ‘finding themselves’ as young adults. It’s like they are the Lost Generation.

It provides very strong evidence to begin a child’s digital literacy, Global Learner Training and Stewardship at an age where they can start embedding some good behaviours. Some educators believe that Year 3s are a good age to embed the sort of behaviours that will allow them to deal with mobile technology with well-being in mind. We hope this would sufficiently equip them to be ethical users of technology when they become teenagers.