Since the definition of what it means to be a literate individual has evolved to include digital literacy, it is important that every teacher considers the implications of this within the context of his or her classroom. As educators, we must help our students to gain the skills necessary to “efficiently and effectively [find] and [evaluate] information as well as quickly [adapt] goals in response to the complexities of the environment” (Lawless and Schrader).
What does this redefinition of literacy mean for the classroom?
1. Need for Direct Instruction
It is not enough to expose students to multimedia sources; they must be taught how to read online. Kuiper & Volman (2008) maintain that although schools have been using the Internet as an instructional tool, it “was not designed for children nor was it designed to be used in educational settings.” As such, even though much of it has become intuitive, there is still much to be taught. Instruction should include discussions about the use of hyperlinks, images, layout, font, style, reliability of sources, targeted audience, motivations, etc. By engaging in these discussions, examinations and practices within the context of each discipline, students then become more equipped to critically consume information and not become victims to “misinformation” (Kuiper & Volman, 2008).
2. Exposure to Traditional and Multimedia texts
In, Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Text to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning,” author Michael Manderino (2012), suggests that we must redefine “text” to include multimedia sources. He, in no way advocates for the replacement of traditional texts; instead, he suggests that we need to expand the “meaning of text’ and acknowledge that “when students create intertextual connections across multiple texts…they are engaging in complex disciplinary practice that is personalized instead of distant and voiceless” Therefore, a careful collection of various types of sources to study a specific text, issue or topic would provide a myriad of voices as well as rich contextual information.
3. Providing a Context
With the vast amount of information available on the Web, it is important to teach students how to search for, and find, information. Once found, they must have a context within which to use that information (Kuiper & Volman, 2008). In this case, context truly become key because it allows students to sift through what they find and only keep what is relevant to their inquiry purpose.
4. Reading between Visual lines
Since a key feature of the Web is its visual component, students need to practice and develop skills that will allow them to interpret, analyze and construct meaning from visual components. For example, in a lesson where they are using a blog as a multimedia source, it’s important that they learn how to be attentive to the written text, as well as its visual accompaniments.
5. Navigation Techniques
One of the key literacy skills that teachers must help students develop is navigating the Web. Interestly, research has categorized digital learners as: “knowledge seekers, feature explorers, and apathetic hypertext users” (Lawless and Kulikowich 1996). I think that if students are aware of their habits as navigators, they would be more inclined to consciously search for information and think about how their habits might be impacting their learning.