Adding Digital Skills to the 3 R’s in Education

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

The boy’s father glanced up and saw his son dancing around and mouthing words to a song. He thought nothing of it until his son came up to him, holding the family’s iPad.

“Look what I made!” the son said as he shoved the iPad in front of his father and pressed the play button.

The father was amazed as the video of his son dancing was perfectly synched to the music and included special effects.

The use of video editing software is just one among many digital skills that children are learning both in school and at home. While shooting music videos at home can be fun, parents need to think about what type of digital skills their children will need to succeed in the future.

Fortunately, the International Society for Technology in Education has already been thinking about this issue. They have highlighted six areas that students should know before they graduate from high school.

The first area is for students to be able to use technology with creativity and innovation. Much like the boy who created the music video, students should know how to use technology to build new ideas and express them. This can include writing a blog or developing a podcast.

A second digital skills area is for students to be able to communicate and collaborate with others. While adolescents can be quite proficient in communicating with their friends, they also need to be able to communicate with a more diverse, global audience. This means using digital tools to present their ideas clearly and share information.

Complementing the development of communication and collaboration skills, students will need to be able to do research and evaluate content found on the internet. They need to learn that not all information is equal and how to sort out information that can be trusted from that which can’t be. In addition, they will need to be able to cite that information appropriately and run research.

A fourth area is for students to use digital resources to help them problem solve, think critically and make decisions. Learning how to use resources found on the internet to help solve real life problems takes practice and guidance from teachers and parents.

Digital citizenship is the fifth area and it may be one of the most difficult to learn. It relates to the skills students need to navigate the tangled junction of where technology, ethics, culture, and law meet. These skills are the modern day equivalent to civics though they are more complex given the global reach of the digital world.

The final area is for students to know the concepts and operations of the technology they are using. While students can do amazing things with their technology, few seem to know how the system of technology works. Without this understanding, it will be difficult for them to keep pace with new developments when they are adults.

Looking through these six areas can be exhausting for parents to think about. Not all of these areas need to be mastered overnight. It is helpful to think of these six areas of competence as providing a framework from which you can help guide your children and adolescents as they start to use a variety of digital tools.

As parents, you don’t need to know everything about technology. However, you can take the time to talk to your children and adolescents about the technology they are using. Try to get them to think about how it works, how they can use it to express themselves, and how they can make sure what they are saying is clear to a wider audience. These skills will develop and before you know it, your children will have the digital skills needed to succeed in adulthood.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Tuesday on September 20, 2016

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