Digital literacy is one of those EdTech buzzwords floated by experts as being granular to 21st-century students. It’s everywhere, but figuring out what it means can be daunting. Literacy is simply the ability to read and write, so digital literacy should be achieving those goals using technology in the classroom. Here are the eight transformative technology-in-the-classroom skills required of the digitally literate student.

Social Media

The power of social media cannot be denied. Although its usage continues to be controversial in some circles, including education, its immediacy and reach are hard to beat as a communication tool. Most students are aware of the benefits of social media – now it’s your job to harness it by equipping students with the right knowledge to use it properly.

Cloud Computing

Today’s classwork means starting a report at school and finishing it at home. It requires switching seamlessly between the Chromebook in the classroom and the student’s computer at home. It means sharing a report with team members without worrying that you don’t have email addresses or they can’t read the format you published in. Cloud computing makes all that happen. It’s accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, on any device, by whoever you give access. Whether that’s one document a week or ten, people expect you to be that versatile.

Basic Educational Technology Tools

Digital literacy implies the same reading-writing skills but without paper, pencils, books, or lectures. It’s purpose-built and student-driven. As a teacher, you’ll want to provide the following:

  • Digital devices such as laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, or desktops for daily use.
  • A digital class calendar with due dates, activities, and other events.
  • Student email or some method of communicating quickly with students outside class time.
  • An annotation tool (like Acrobat, Notability, or iAnnotate), to take notes.
  • A device to assess student learning while it’s happening.
  • A class website or blog to share class activities with parents and other stakeholders.
  • Student digital portfolios to curate and collect student work for viewing and sharing.
  • Vocabulary tool so students can quickly decode words they don’t understand in their reading.

Digital Databases

Digital databases are the new library. They’re infinite, everywhere, and welcome visitors at all hours. Students should learn how to roam these virtual halls as soon as they’re expected to research classwork. This includes online access to their school library as well as dedicated databases like the Smithsonian and the History Channel.

Virtual Collaboration

Student study groups used to be hindered by finding a time that worked for all participants, agreeing on a meeting place, and then actually getting there. Virtual collaboration has none of those problems. Documents can be shared with all stakeholders and accessed at will. Many digital tools allow students to collaborate on a document from separate personal devices. Meetings can take place in the student’s bedroom or their backyard through websites like Google Hangouts and Skype. A wide variety of resources can be shared without lugging an armful of materials to the meeting and ultimately forgetting to bring half of them home. These get-togethers can even be taped and shared with absent members or re-watched for review.

Sharing to Build Knowledge

No one person can provide all we need to know on a subject. When everyone shares their knowledge and insights, the group grows in competency. That used to be attempted awkwardly with class presentations. Now, all it takes is a virtual curation of student work, presented through webpages, wikis, a YouTube stream, or another approach that fits the unique student group. Quickly and easily, everyone’s work can be shared.

Evaluate Information Found Online

Because students get so much more of their information online, they need the tools to evaluate reliability and veracity of what they find. This includes questions such as:

  • Is the site legitimate or a hoax?
  • Is the author an expert in this subject?
  • Is the information current or dated?
  • Is the data neutral or biased?

Digital Citizenship

Because students spend so much time online, they need to learn how to act in that neighborhood. This includes topics detailing the rights and responsibilities of digital citizens, such as:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Legality of online material
  • Buying items online
  • Digital footprints
  • Privacy and safety while traveling the digital world


Being a good citizen of the digital world is no different than the physical world. There are practical strategies that revolve around proper etiquette and an understanding of the culture that permeates a vast, anonymous, Wild West-like territory often defined by the accountability of those who visit it.