Sunday, February 9, 2014

Digital Literacy and Digital Ethics in and out of the Classroom

Our world today is driven by digital technologies.  From cell phones to tablets, to electronic readers, and computers, almost all our work and the majority of our entertainment is delivered, shared, and enjoyed digitally. We communicate via emails and texts, and many households no longer even have 'land line' phones, opting instead for cell phones.  Information is communicated in fragments - from texts to tweets to images, and is available via multimedia resources, empowering us to communicate with anyone, at any time, at any location around the globe - with the touch of a finger.

As a result, we now need to learn how to communicate verbally, visually, and digitally.

According to Wikipedia,
"Digital literacy is the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate, and create information using a range of digital technologies....
In TEACH Magazine's (6/13/2012)  Digital Literacy: What does it mean to you? David Rosen, Ed.D. noted that:
At one end of the spectrum digital literacy means basic comfort and competence in using computers, smart phones, electronic tablets, and other web-accessible devices. Toward the other end it means what some call information literacy, the ability to judge the quality of information one receives through electronic means. If literacy is getting meaning from print, then digital literacy is getting basic meaning from what your read through the use of a digital electronic device.
Digital literacy opens a door to digital learning. We are seeing the dawn of online courses, digital chautauquas and online study circles. We are also seeing the early stages of using digital technologies to learn anywhere, anytime, and as fast or slowly as one wants, with more easily accessible and better learning resources.

The Digital Literacy Portal (found at:, a U.S. Government sponsored web site - provides links and resources for digital literacy training to digital learners of all ages and levels of proficiency. It provides information and related links for:
  • Using a computer or mobile device - with new user tutorials, a free online typing course, and training on basic online computer skills (such as how to use a mouse; save, copy or paste a file, accessing CD-ROM, locating a saved file). [NOTE: there are also links that don't work here, maybe they're still in the process of sorting this out, but the links above all worked at the time of this posting.]
  • Using Software and Applications - with tutorials and links for word processing, creating spreadsheets, tables and databases using various Microsoft tools, Google Docs, and more.
  • Using the Internet - with tutorials on how to search the internet, how to delete cookies, how to browse and delete your web history, how to spot a virus, how to set up virus protection, how to avoid phishing scams, how to use windows and tabs, and more.
  • Communicating on the Web - with tutorials on how to share photos and videos, communicate using social networks (such as twitter, Facebook and Skype), and learn to be an informed digital citizen.
  • Child Online Protection - with a Parent's Guide to Internet Safety and how to help stop cyberbullying,
Along with learning how to use the computers, software, social networks, blogs, etc., also come responsibilities as 'citizens' of an extremely large community.  We have to understand and use software applications and procedures, while navigating them safely and ethically. For example there are safety and bullying issues, issues of copyright and plagiarism, issues of what information to share and what not to share, and how to evaluate the value of each website they may visit.
Wikipedia defines "Digital (or Information) Ethics" as:
"The branch of ethics that focuses on the relationship between the creation, organization, dissemination, and use of information, and the ethical standards and moral codes governing human conduct in society."
Digital ethics involve copyright issues and protection, intellectual freedom, accountability, privacy, and security.
Howard Gardner (via the Good Play Project) addresses various issues our kids face when entering the digital world. Gardner and the Good Play Project look at five ethical issues:
Sense of Identity
Sense of Privacy
Sense of Ownership/Authorship
Trustworthiness and Credibility
What it means to participate in a community
According to Gardner, some of the issues we must deal with are that:
  • Digital media creates an all new type of community - one of unknown size and duration and the notion that your community is one of friends and family no longer holds. The digital world is much more amorphous of unknown size and much more ambiguity. You can try on different masks and personas in the digital world.  You can have numerous identities which at best might be confusing to some youth and can move into realms of deception and harm.  This realm of identities is one that parents and teachers must explore with their kids and students.
  • There is a huge amount of information available that is incredibly easy to access. Before, to get information you went to the encyclopedia or the library. Now you can find information that is not always vetted or reviewed by peers and professionals.  We as information consumers must therefore learn how to vet and evaluate "truth" and objectivity.
  • Research is suggesting that increased time with digital play and exploration may lead to shorter attention spans, visual stimulus overload, lack of 'real-time' socializing, privacy issues and identity theft, less physical play and large motor-muscle stimulation.

Clearly as digital media and technologies advance, so too will issues of digital literacy and digital ethics. What I present here is the tip of the iceberg.

So as we navigate together, below are some resources.  Please feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below.

  • Learning about Creative Commons and the sharing of work. Here is a Howitworks Comic that helps explain Creative Commons license - an alternative to copyrighting.
  • Teaching digital safety - What is Digital Ethics  
  • Resource for teaching online research skills
  • Resource from Common Sense Mediawith a video library of over twenty 2-4 minute videos for safer online student/child work. These videos include titles such as: Digital LIfe 101 Animation, Cyberbullied by a Best Friend; Creating Online Identities; Perspectives on Social Media, Using Cell Phones Wisely; Posting Something You Regret; and many more.

In the meantime, thank you for your visit.
Please leave your favorite digital literacy links, questions, and insights, or even your favorite digital horrors and humors in the comments below.


  1. The problem is often that the copyright holders, who have longer and longer terms, are often litigious (and sometimes wrongly so.)


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  3. I usually catch a student that tries to cheat once every other year. I think most of them want to create things for themselves. They like making work for their portfolio. It is hard to catch everything.

  4. You are so right about this being the tip of the iceberg concerning Ethics in the digital world.
    One can hold all the trademarks and copyrights they can amass but if a thief in a country that does not honor those rights chooses to make use of ones work there is very little that can be done at the moment.

    That said there is a world full of creative people who would never dream of not making their work 100% their own.
    Good post on an important subject!

  5. A very pertinent post concerning digital Ethics - thanks for spotlighting this Meryl.

  6. Kids today don't know a world without lots of digital devices at their fingertips. They can be a great plus to learning, and a huge distraction. - Margy

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