Digital Literacy 101 for Teachers


How can teachers equip their students to successfully and ethically navigate the digital world?

MediaSmarts offers the world’s largest free library of digital literacy lessons and resources, including a comprehensive K to 12 digital literacy framework USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE. Now teachers are able to get the tools to develop their own digital literacy lessons and activities thanks to MediaSmarts’ professional development suite of resources, Digital Literacy 101, which includes free workshops, guides, posters and videos to help teachers across the curriculum integrate digital literacy into their teaching practice.

The workshop, which is offered in three versions for K to 6, 7 to 12, or all of K to 12, makes digital literacy accessible by explaining five key concepts that can be communicated to students at all grade levels:

Digital media are networked: In traditional media like TV or magazines, content only flows one way. But online, you’re part of an infinite network—you can connect to others as easily as they can connect to you. You can be part of a community and find or share things with anyone around the world. But everyone else can do that too—and it is just as easy to share fake information as real.

Digital media are persistent and shareable: When you’re online, you leave “digital footprints.” Everything you share is stored somewhere—even things that you think are temporary. Other people can also copy, share and spread things you have shared.

Digital media have unexpected audiences: It’s hard to control who sees the things you share online. Once something is online, it’s almost impossible to erase it.

Interactions through digital media can have a real impact: What we do online can help people or hurt them, and through our actions online, we can choose to help make the world better or we can contribute to making things worse. But because we can’t see people’s faces or hear their voices, we can’t always tell if something we’ve done has made them happy or angry or has been hurtful.

Digital media experiences are shaped by the tools we use: How digital tools like social networks and search engines are designed affect how we use them. Sometimes it’s because of questions the designers didn’t think to ask (like whether a tool might be used to harass people or whether news stories should be treated differently than ads), and sometimes it’s so they can make more money (for instance, social networks are designed to make you use them more often).

This workshop, which can either be used as a self-directed tutorial or downloaded to present to a group, includes sample activities for exploring these concepts at different grade levels, but that’s just the start! The Classroom Guide gives you all the information you need to build your own digital literacy program, from tips on dealing with technology limitations to suggested resources for making media in the classroom. There are also short videos you can use to explain these concepts to your students— or colleagues—in a fun, engaging way.

To access these resources, visit

Digital Literacy 101 was made possible with financial support from CIRA’s Community Investment Program and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s CanCode Program.


Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson is Director of Education at MediaSmarts.

This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Winter 2019 issue.

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