10 Ways For Librarians to Promote Digital Literacy

Defining Digital Literacy

Digital literacy has a lot in common with information and media literacy. However, digital literacy is solely focused on digital content in its various forms. According to the American Library Association, digital literacy is “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

As the world continues to become more reliant on digital content, students must learn to create and communicate digitally. Additionally, knowing how to evaluate the tools they use is paramount to students being able to participate in digital environments in healthy and ethical ways.

Included in digital literacy are students’ understanding of the following:

  • Digital production
  • Social media
  • Word processing
  • Search engines
  • Various types of hardware
  • Digital information sources
  • Emerging technologies

The term “digital native” is frequently used to describe current students. However, growing up with technology, or being a digital native, does not mean students are literate in the technology tools they encounter. Students learn to use what interests them, but many productivity and academic digital skills are not explicitly taught. Therefore, students do not learn the necessary skills to become digitally literate. Furthermore, students are often unfamiliar with information organization and do not carefully consider the way digital tools impact their lives.

School librarians are important leaders in digital literacy because of their education and understanding of how information has changed over time. To promote digital literacy, school librarians can work with classroom teachers to develop lessons and activities that incorporate the following ideas. Additionally, librarians can integrate these ideas into their own instruction.

10 Ways to Promote Digital Literacy

  1. Digital portfolios: Digital portfolios are collections of student work. By creating digital portfolios, students learn how to design and organize content. For digital portfolios you can use tools such as Seesaw, LiveBinders, Evernote, or Google Sites.
  2. Digital presentations: Have students create presentations in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or another visual presentation software. Help students understand how to organize information to clearly convey their thoughts. Encourage students to choose colors and designs that enhance the presentation and do not distract from it.
  3. Host a live event: Have students participate in a Skype call, synchronous chat, or other live event to gain skills in engaging online.
  4. Online pen pals: Online pen pals help students develop digital communication skills. Letters can be written via e-mail, social media, or through video (online communication should be paired with lessons on leaving a positive digital footprint).
  5. Teach productivity skills: Students need to know shortcut features such as Control/Command F, Control/Command X, Control/Command C, Control/Command V. This will help them become more efficient using digital tools.
  6. Library databases: Having students use databases helps them to understand how content is organized. The digital information landscape is important for students to understand in order for them to locate material.
  7. Search engines: Teaching students to use search engines also helps them to understand how content online is organized. Specifically, teach students how to locate information using different search engine tricks (e.g., Google Power Searching). Then explain how content appears on the results page. This helps students gain important knowledge and skills.
  8. Use digital calendars: Have students keep track of assignments on a digital calendar. Also, use a digital calendar to remind students of days off and school events.
  9. Introduce students to tablets, laptops, and different hardware: Students need exposure to different types of hardware. This hardware can be kept in the library and checked out to classes.
  10. Evaluate emerging technologies: Students are familiar with many new technologies, but may not understand the impact of these tools. Therefore, engage in class discussions about new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. Discuss the potential of these technologies while also discussing concerns such as privacy and mental health issues.

School librarians are uniquely situated to support digital literacy. Often librarians have access to a wide range of technology and serve as a resource for both teachers and students. But for digital literacy to be taught to all students at their level of need, individual teachers must feel confident teaching digital literacy as well. Therefore, librarians can educate educators about new technology trends, how to curate content, and how to use new digital devices.

Additional Resources

How to Promote Digital Citizenship in the School Library
Library Lessons in Digital Citizenship
Be a Good Digital Citizen Activity Guide
Choose an A+ Source Activity Guide


Dr. Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is the Instructional and Research Librarian at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS, where she teaches, leads information literacy initiatives and sits on the Faculty Development Committee. Currently, Dr. Hays is co-editing a book on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for academic librarians. Her professional interests include teaching, SoTL, information literacy, educational technology, Library and Information Science education, teacher identity and faculty development. On a personal note, she is passionate about dogs, traveling and home.