Why Is Digital Literacy Important?


The LinkIt! Team

Read time:

8 minutes

In this rapidly advancing age of information, it is true: the more we adapt to the digital world the better equipped we are to embrace the new norms that govern not only social interactions but almost all aspects of workplace communication. While digital literacy, as a discrete topic, is typically not a significant part of the K–12 curriculum, its importance in terms of college and career readiness can hardly be overstated. This article explores the topic in more detail and discusses opportunities to develop and promote digital literacy in the classroom setting for both students and teachers.

What is the Meaning of Digital Literacy?

The term “digital literacy” may have a variety of meanings and connotations depending on the specific context. However, for purposes of this discussion, we can simplify matters by agreeing that digital literacy essentially means having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information are increasingly through digital technologies such as internet platforms, social media, mobile devices, and of course, computers. While we may not be explicitly teaching students how to write an email or construct a social media post, the fact that the teaching of cursive handwriting has been largely abandoned in public schools is just one indication of the primacy of digital modes of communication.

We use technology to communicate, learn, and grow all the time. Whether we’re at home, in school, or at work, being able to confidently navigate the digital landscape is more than just valuable; it’s increasingly fundamental. From a practical standpoint, we need to be able to find information online, evaluate sources and create compelling content. With these skills, just about anyone can succeed in school and be prepared for the expectations of the modern workplace.

Digital Literacy in Our Personal Lives

Navigating and communicating through different digital environments is the way of the world in the 21st century and is an integral part of our social interactions. You are very much using your digital literacy skills when you are doing things like entering a destination address into a GPS application, downloading a messenger app, and adding your friends or setting up your social media accounts.
With all these new opportunities come new requirements and responsibilities. We need to understand how to evaluate the authenticity and validity of the wealth of information available to us. There are aspects of being safe online; understanding our digital identity and being aware of the very real threats of potentially harmful viruses and identity theft is crucial to safeguarding ourselves.
Digital literacy will continue to become more necessary as technology develops. We all need to hang on tight and embrace this new brave world if we are going to adapt to the new norms.

Digital Literacy in School Environment

Whether we want it to be or not, society as a whole is being conditioned to spend more time online. To do just about anything now requires honing sharp digital literacy skills, and school-based learning is no exception.

Cognitive ability is nurtured and enhanced by being given quality data-driven feedback through online assessment platforms. Separate from the content of assessments themselves, successfully navigating an online platform such as LinkIt! and processing the resulting analytical feedback in the context of performance reports are two mechanisms that schools have at their disposal to develop digital literacy skills for both students and educators. In other words, adopting and implementing next-generation technology platforms to support day to day instructional, communication, and analytical processes is a powerful way to build capacity around digital literacy for all key stakeholders without the need to teach the topic in a vacuum of relevant context.

In another sign of the times, over the past decade, many states have transitioned from paper-based summative assessments to computer-based digital assessments. In fact, paper-based testing is really only done in states where the end-of-year state summative assessment is delivered in paper and doesn't require online administration. In states where the state test is online, approximately 98% of all assessments are online. This transition from print to digital administration was accelerated by the PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium established under Race to the Top. With improved technology infrastructure and connectivity, computer-based assessments have proven to be a scalable and practical alternative to paper for many schools. This trend has also been mirrored in the context of benchmark and formative assessments. That is, a proliferation of technology-driven tools are now available to support online assessments. Just 8 years ago, nearly 70% of assessment results captured by LinkIt! were derived from paper and pencil-based administration, often with the aid of plain-paper bubble sheets. Today, this percentage has dropped to less than 10% as schools continue to migrate their assessment programs online using LinkIt! and other best-in-class technology providers.

We now have our kindergarteners on tablets for study. Platforms like Google Classroom and i-Ready® are helping acclimate students to online learning. This digital migration affects all realms of education. Teachers have been challenged now more than ever to help students cultivate these essential skills. This process is often more a matter of providing meaningful opportunities for self-guided contextual learning than it is about explicit instruction. Where everything is just a Google search away, students must be able to efficiently mine the Internet for critical information as well as objectively evaluate the credibility of their source material. Developing a critical and nuanced perspective with respect to understanding an author’s purpose when reading and analyzing persuasive (or even ostensibly informational text) has clear utility outside of the context of digital literacy. The massive proliferation of unqualified and biased sources of information accessible via the Internet has elevated the importance of cultivating this skill set to absolute imperative over the past decade.

With data platforms like LinkIt! being used daily in schools alongside a wide array of online instructional programs, learning management systems, student information systems, and other digital resources, it is more important than ever for students to nurture their digital literacy skills early and often. Fortunately, the usage of such tools is both a means to an end (i.e. better learning outcomes) as well as an end in itself when it comes to improved digital literacy. In recent years, school boards and educators have prioritized integrating  digital literacy into classrooms and curriculum and we believe this trend will only accelerate over time. With the courage and confidence that digital literacy confers, both students and teachers will be prepared for whatever direction our rapidly changing world takes us.


How LinkIt! Keeps Everyone’s Digital Literacy Skills Sharp

LinkIt! promotes digital literacy for all key stakeholders in a variety of ways. Unlike platforms that are used only by a single stakeholder group, LinkIt! provides a robust, but readily accessible online ecosystem for students, teachers, instructional coaches, school and district administrators, and even parents. As a platform capable of delivering all manner of assessments in any content area, the assessments themselves can help develop and measure proficiency on concepts related to digital literacy.

Perhaps most importantly though, students who engage with LinkIt! or other online platforms get meaningful practice in the domain of digital literacy every day. They’re logging in to their accounts, completing assessments, communicating with their teachers, locating resources, viewing and interpreting detailed reports documenting their own progress, toggling between passages, using online tools like text-to-speech, protractors, rulers, and advanced item types like drag-and-drop, fill-in-the blank, and online drawing.

Moreover, the other key stakeholders in improved student achievement are likely doing the same as they access the platform to review student progress, group students for differentiated instruction, plan lessons, organize interventions, and allocate resources more generally. So, it’s not just students that benefit from the implementation of online platforms. We have made it so easy for parents to log on and track their child’s academic progress that even those with a self-professed fear of all things technical are able to find success and quickly access multiple years of a child’s most important academic records, all in a single convenient online location.

The same goes for teachers and administrators. Educators that use LinkIt! are empowered to develop and administer assessments, collect survey data, track behavior and attendance records, provide active feedback to the students, access and analyze customized reports, and even use our integrated intervention/MTSS planning tool to set student goals and monitor progress.

In the future, we will see more digital student portfolios where data and student work are consolidated in a single place, with students reflecting and interacting more with their data and collaborating more on project-based work with peers. Who would have thought taking a simple test could expand the possibilities of collaboration, data analysis, and digital-media integration?


Digital literacy is becoming increasingly important as more and more academic and career choices require high levels of digital fluency to even begin to access the relevant opportunities, let alone succeed in maximizing them. From a demographic standpoint, this generation of students are more “digital-native” than many of their teachers, but it would be a mistake for institutions of learning to assume that high levels of digital literacy just happen naturally. Instead, schools and educators should proactively seek out meaningful opportunities to cultivate this critical skill set, not just for their students, but for their entire community of connected stakeholders. Investments in this area can take many forms, but implementing technology platforms that support the instructional process and touch a wide range of user roles is a great way to begin the journey or accelerate progress already underway.


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