“Why should, and how can, teachers help K-12 students access and assess quality digital content?”

It has become a major talking point when discussing education in the next few years: what will our classroom connection to digital learning look like post-Covid, when we once again move or classes into physical, brick-and-mortar learning environments. Skipping the question of “how many people will stay completely virtual,” we must recognize the need for quality digital content to be presented in the physical classroom. Here, I would also like to explore a few ways this need might be addressed, specifically in the 6-12 ELA classroom.

I imagine that, a few years after the Guttenburg Printing Press changed communication as we knew it, educators in many different forms realized that helping students to access the information rapidly disseminated via the printed word was far more beneficial than trying to get them to learn it all at once. The same is happening today: in order to access the newest and biggest source of information, students must learn to navigate digital content. In a world where the majority of jobs our students will hold have not yet been created, digital competency is the greatest skill they can build in our classroom. Furthermore, this digital competency can be built at nearly any grade-level with different types of subject-matter. The skills to access this content and assess its value/accuracy are two important facets of this, though surely not the end-all-be-all.

One of the primary ways that educators in the 6-12 ELA classroom encourage greater access to digital content for students is in curating content for them and allowing students to curate their own content. As has been exhibited in our class, content-curation is a critical skill for students to master, especially as the sheer quantity of information available grows exponentially. In the English classroom, teachers can show students how to select certain content and bring in tools like the CRAAP test so that students can assess sources on their own. In Virginia, this is baked into the standards, with Research and Communication Literacy (including digital forms) being two of the four major strands.

While it is often necessary for educators to teach students information, it is becoming ever more important to teach skills that allow students to process that information on their own. Digital content is an important resource to this end, and in many areas teachers working asynchronously for the first time are seeing the advantages of greater use of these digital tools. Hopefully, we will continue to find new ways to implement them as we move back to the face-to-face environment.