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The Importance of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century

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Increasing developments in technology and digital communication continuously affects learners in both contemporary educational contexts, and informal learning environments. It is fundamental for educators to acknowledge the benefits and complications of digital literacies to secondary students, as they implicate learners’ potential for achievement in the twenty-first century. Additionally, a socio-technological society affects the relevance of digital literacy to dramatic arts education.

Various digital literacies exist within both informal learning environments and contemporary schooling contexts and involve an array of complex cognitive, motor, sociological and emotional skills. A lack of these skills increasingly implicates one’s full potential of being a competent student or empowered employee and limits their ability to navigate digital reproduction, hyper-textual navigation and assess the quality and validity of the information. The current world socio-technological context, which promotes media technologies and digital and multimodal communication, requires learners’ understanding and awareness of the utilization of technological tools, along with practices of appropriate use.

Glister (1997) recognizes the fundamental application of the Internet in contemporary education to assimilate students into a socio-technological society.

Critically analyzing the credibility of online sources is an imperative skill for twenty-first-century learners to acquire within a safe educational context. An array of standardized testing is preeminent within modern education, such as the higher school certificate, and requires in-depth research for learners to achieve in the top percentile within these norm-referenced assessments. Therefore, it is imperative students develop skills and an understanding of how to validate information to obtain accurate knowledge relating to their subject area. Furthermore, the ability to critically determine the reliability and validity of information is advantageous for students entering the workforce as it assists them in researching product and decoding information.

In addition to this, digital literacies, such as multimodal texts, are an important pedagogical practice within contemporary classrooms as they account for a myriad of learners. “Students have diverse preferred learning styles and effective instructors must design and deliver courses which utilize the four physiological learning styles of visual, aural, read-write and kinesthetic”. Multi-modal texts and sources incorporate an array of digital literacies including, video, voice-over and information and communications technology (ICT) which employ a range of learning modes. Hence, it is conceded that digital literacies are fundamental in a modern educational context, as it caters for a diversity of learners. Furthermore, learners’ exposure to a variety of multi-modal texts assists them in navigating ICT resources, such as video media, important for workplace life. Subsequently, the expansion of technology consequently means digital literacies are now essential proficiencies for communication and navigating social practices in a contemporary world.

Digital literacies continue to develop with technological advancements, consequently, these rapid changes in digital communication mean various reading and writing facilities are combined with complex music and graphics. The increased accessibility of digital technologies has altered the way society communicates, intensifying the importance of students gaining awareness of various digital literacies and technologies. Therefore, it is fundamental educators alter pedagogical practices to account for the informal learning environment and become specific in the way they describe various processes of reading and writing that are occurring with digital communications technology. Subsequently, both primary and secondary schooling teachers need to develop relevant procedures for assessment that account for new technological advancements and hence, reformed means of communication.

Conclusively, new technological advancements alter both how contemporary society communicates and societal practices. Therefore, teachers need to accommodate for the advancement of digital literacies within the classroom to amalgamate students into society, teaching them to be active members of their community.

Understanding and becoming aware of digital literacies are important for contemporary learners as the current world socio-technological context promotes media technologies changing societal means of communication. Additionally, it is fundamental for learners to understand how to critically evaluate an array of digital texts and the navigation of multi-modal literacies.

Although there is an array of benefits to the incorporation of digital literacies within modern classrooms educators must consider the potential issues relevant to the advancement in technologies. Contemporary concerns when incorporating digital literacy into the classroom include student safety when browsing the Internet, various equity implications and the effect of digital literacies on adolescences’ mental health.

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Online safety includes awareness of self-protection from computer crime and an acknowledgment of security risks on personal information as well as various risks of Internet use. Inappropriate material such as pornography, inflammatory and racist writings can be accessed by both accident and with deliberate intent to view. In conjunction with this, technological advancements have increased issues of privacy violations, unwanted solicitation and cyberbullying with “20% of young people aged eleven to seventeen experiencing cyberbullying in Australia”. Recent evidence concedes that an array of educators is not explicitly teaching information literacy skills, resulting in students not developing the ability to become critical, efficient and safe users of online browsers. Subsequently, it is contended that academic performance will be hindered if students do not obtain critical information literacy skills imperative to Internet navigation as learners are susceptible to unintentionally accessing inappropriate content and intentionally searching for information unrelated to course work.

Educational fairness is “a product of social and economic systems”, “shapes the educational experiences and outcomes of students”. An array of research between higher schooling systems revealed that there was a significant relationship between socioeconomic status and a student’s ability to access a computer and the Internet at home. It was conceded that adolescents from socioeconomic families utilized digital technologies, such as online browsers more than adolescents from lower socio-economic families. Therefore, the means to access various digital literacies outside of educational environments is directly proportional to higher assessment scores on standardized examinations. In addition to this, students with low socioeconomic status indicated that they spent more time during schooling accessing digital literacies then students with higher socioeconomic status. Consequently, learners living in lower-income families utilizing technologies at school to complete assessment tasks with digital literacy components lost key learning time. Hence, larger educational gains are achieved by students of higher socio-economic families compares to families of lower socioeconomic status. Therefore, ICT is conceded as a necessary resource in the modern socio-technological society which contributes to the educational inequity of secondary students.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”. One study found that adolescents who engaged in social media over long periods of time experienced accelerated of depression and anxiety, lower self-esteem and poorer quality of sleep. These concerns are related to emotional investment in digital literacies, including social practice, as face-face contact with peers is minimalized constituting loneliness in secondary students. A myriad of psychological researchers has consummated a modern phenomenon labelled as ‘Facebook depression’, which characteristics include teenagers who are invested in various digital communications technology displaying symptoms of depression. “As with offline depression, preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for ‘help’ that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors”. Therefore, the mental health of students in educator’s duty of care is an important factor to consider when incorporating digital literacies into the classroom.

Although there is a multitude of education benefits of modern digital literacies, there are important concerns to address when utilizing digital technologies including, Internet safety, educational equity, and mental health issues.

Digital literacies are incorporate into dramatic arts education in a myriad of forms, including video and media products, promoting collaboration with peers and the exploration of performance art mediums. Digital education within Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) insinuates opportunities for social collaboration and promotes achievement in both play built and group performances. The New South Wales Education Standards Authorities (NESA) requires students in years seven to ten, “to work collaboratively with others to achieve individual and collective goals” (NSW Education Standards Authorities, 2003). Additionally, further making and assessment strategies suggested by NESA include, “performing group-devised play building which demonstrates an understanding of the elements of drama and which achieves an intended meaning for an audience” (NSW Education Standards Authorities, 2003). Pedagogical practices to assist students in achieving these outcomes including using a myriad of digital literacies such as, google documents and social media, to communicate, devise and refine an array of ideas asserted in play building processes. Subsequently, the incorporation of digital literacies such as online application, ‘Book Creator’, and Microsoft word-processing forms to assist students in critically reflecting on and analyzing both individual and group ideas devised within the drama classroom.

Although there is an array of benefits of incorporating digital technologies into the drama classroom, there is an array of digital literacy practices required to promote student engagement with these sources. Students are required to employ their resources of the reader, text participant to make meaning of multi-modal texts and eLearning tools associated with drama practices.

The critical analyzing a variety of film, video or media products is a fundamental process in composing a myriad of performance pieces. Students utilize their understanding of digital media to navigate these digital literacies, gaining an awareness of what high-level theatre is determined to be, alongside, an understanding of the theatrical practices of technology. Furthermore, students employ their text participant resources of the reader to navigate a multitude of online resources, determining the quality and validity of the information. This practice is imperative in the dramatic arts, as a critical component of devising performance-based plays is researching both theatre practitioners to inspire the piece and historically accurate resources to inform the devised work.

In addition to this digital literacy is required in drama as it provides an extensive range of opportunities for students to demonstrate content learned within the classroom. Modernized reform theatre incorporates various ICT resources to construct performance. Therefore, students can employ digital literacies to devised technological theatre works utilizing ICT as a medium for creation. Subsequently, Microsoft and Google technologies, such as google drive and one-note, are a means for students to both summarize and reflect on practices observed in class. Furthermore, this utilization of digital literacies to annotate ideas meets syllabus criteria developed by NESA, “Students will learn about recording their ideas in a drama workbook or other forms, such as written or word-processed forms”.

Technological resources and digital literacy practices are advantageous pedagogy to increase students’ engagement and collaboration within the drama classroom. In a modernized socio-technological environment, students are regularly exposed to developing ICT such as digital games and virtual worlds. Practices of developing students’ understanding of theatrical styles can be achieved through learners’ exploration of online games and worlds. Online game, ‘Fortnite’, demonstrates science-fiction theatre enhanced by a realism setting and character conventions, hence, asserting to students a performance conveying a combination of theatrical styles. Process drama methodology, therefore, enables educators to develop these digital literacies through experiential learning.

Conclusively, acknowledging the importance of digital literacies in the twenty-first century is imperative for learners’ achievements both inside and outside of educational institutions. However, educators need to understand the various repercussions and potential concerns associated with modern technologies, including, Internet safety, educational equity, and adolescents’ mental health, and take the appropriate steps to minimize these risks. Furthermore, technological and multi-modal resources both enhance drama education and engage students in all aspects of the curriculum.

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The Importance of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-digital-literacy-in-the-21st-century/
“The Importance of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-digital-literacy-in-the-21st-century/
The Importance of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-digital-literacy-in-the-21st-century/> [Accessed 29 Jan. 2023].
The Importance of Digital Literacy in the 21st Century [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Jan 29]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-importance-of-digital-literacy-in-the-21st-century/
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