Teaching Digital Literacy in Kindergarten Classrooms by daniela caravella


Digital literacy "is not a technical category that describes a minimum functional level of technological skills, but rather it is the broader capacity to participate in a society that uses digital communication technology in workplaces, government, education, cultural domains, civic spaces, homes and leisure spheres" (Hoechsmann & DeWaard, 2015).

Digital literacy is the skill and ability to critically understand and use digital tools and content. It involves the knowledge and expertise to create and communicate with digital technology.


Traditional literacies are commonly understood as a set of tangible skills – particularly the cognitive skills of reading and writing. They allow for the representation of words by signs and gives a linear shape to thought, providing a critical framework to think analytically.

How can educators teach digital literacy to students who may not be able to read?


Decoding: "code breaking resources or coding practice involves the ability both to decipher and produce (encode) texts at a practical level...Typically cited examples of code breaking relate to the alphabet, phonics, syntax, spelling, punctuation and vocabulary" (Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014).
Meaning making involves the ability to read. "Fluent and confident assimilation of digital content; purposeful and efficent movement around software and platforms. Being able to follow and create narratives across diverse semantic, visual, and structural elements" (Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014)

Using during digital literacy involves the ability to find information. "The ability to gather appropriate information, resources and tools for a given purpose and to recognize and exploit the potential in communities, information, resources and tools encountered. This involves processes of asking, searching, filtering, curation and sharing" (Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014). If an individual can not read the information on each source, how can they decipher if the information is relevant.

Analyzing is the ability to deconstruct digital information and is a key component in becoming digitally literate. An individual must be "capable of discerning the elements that contribute to the meanings, uses and messages in digital products and communications"(Hinrichsen & Coombs, 2014). How can an individual analyze information when they are lacking the ability to read.

How can an individual decode, make meanings, use and analyze digital information if they can not read the words written on the source?

Teaching Strategies




The most popular devices used today, in our current society, incorporate a large variety of symbols. Take the iPad for example, its entire home screen is filled with symbols which represent each application downloaded on to the device. The names of the applications are listed beneath the visual however they are written in small font to ensure most of the emphasis is placed upon the icon.

"In a learning perspective iPad apps can be seen as a scaffold for language learning, and as such the apps can be described as multimodal texts which support the children’s understanding and invite them to act and produce meaning themselves" (Sandvik 2009).
The main focus of the home screen is to capture the audiences attention using visually attractive photos to describe the application it represents. By creating a device that places most of its emphasis on the symbols, it makes it easier for students to navigate through it. This means students who are unable to read or write can now learn how to use different technological devices simply based on their understanding of each icon.

A way in which educators can assist student adjustment to the symbol friendly digital world is by implementing symbols in the classroom. This will work to showcase how different images can be used to portray different meanings but it can also illustrate how easy working with symbols can be.

A visual schedule is one of the most effective ways to illustrate the meaning that arises from images/symbols. With a quick glance, students are able to understand what activities their day will consist of.

If students are able to comprehend the meaning behind each symbol displayed in their classroom they will thus be able to navigate through a digital device such as an iPad. Today, this way of learning is becoming more and more popular and is reaching and influencing younger children. More and more visually based applications are surfacing for students who may be at an age where they may not be able to read and write.

Some existing examples are...

Math Moose and Thinking Time Pro

Although word recognition may not be the focus in many of these applications, they are still aiding the student in creating a bond between words and symbols. Therefore some researcher state that the use of visually appealing applications, in actuality, enhances student vocabulary.

"A study involving iPod touch devices and PBS-created content (Public Broadcasting Service) for children ages 3 to 7 found that the children made gains in vocabulary and phonological awareness, with children ages 3 to 5 making the most gains" (Chiong and Shuler 2010)

To conclude, it is important to understand the benefits that arise from the use of technology at such a young age. Don't let a students age or your beliefs of what he or she can do influence if they should be able to use technology. Young students surprise educators everyday. They are smarter then you may think.

"When teachers support children and media-rich content is integrated with the curriculum, technology experiences are associated with better language and literacy outcomes, such as letter recognition, sequencing and sounds, listening and comprehension, vocabulary and understanding concepts about stories and print" (Primavera,Wiederlight and DiGiacomo 2001, Nir-Gal and Klein 2004, Penuel et al. 2009).
Created By
Daniela Caravella

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