According to Dell Technologies’ report, Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society and Work in 2030, it is estimated that 85 percent of forecasted jobs for 2030 still do not exist yet largely because technology is expanding so rapidly. As a result of rapid technology expansion, educators face the daunting task of preparing students for intangible jobs by focusing on the broad skills that will be integral to the technology-driven employment environment destined for the 21st century.
“While the creative skills of humans are often touted as superior to what machine intelligence might produce, human passion may be even more challenging to program. As highly valued as soft skills may be for humans to contribute to the new partnerships—such as creativity and empathy—the human drive that compels people to act is equally important.” (Dell Technologies Report, 17)
Though technology skills are the foundation for jobs in the future, digital literacy skills, which promote creativity, empathy, problem-solving, and critical thinking in online environments, will be what differentiates well-prepared employees.
Digital Literacy Skills for 21st Century Jobs
Digital Fundamentals: Digital literacy skills begin with foundational technology skills, such as typing, and competencies like computer fundamentals and business applications (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel).
Beyond the basics, these skills then enable students to think critically and act decisively when evaluating the “right” digital tools for a task. And by boosting student confidence, these skills also empower students act creatively, communicate effectively, and express ideas clearly.
Digital Citizenship: Digital literacy also promotes digital citizenship, which endows students with the skills to manage their online presence and safely and effectively use the internet and its infinite tools. Students embody digital citizenship by protecting technology and processes from online threats, communicating effectively through digital mediums, and using information and data responsibly.
In addition, digital citizenship encourages students to connect to individuals from different backgrounds, locations, and cultures to gain a broader perspective on common topics and issues; recognize the interconnectedness of the global community; and generate empathy and leverage diverse perspectives when creating solutions.
Digital Thinking: Finally, digital literacy develops students computational thinking skills. Students need to learn to use patterns, modeling, abstraction, and decomposition in algorithmic design, implementation, and testing to develop efficient, effective solutions. While these are foundational skills used in computer programming and coding, they are also transferable to everyday life.
Moreover, computational thinking encompasses problem-solving and critical-thinking skills derived from a deep understanding of high-tech functionality and process. With these skills, students’ approach, analyze, and solve technological problems; deduce information and data derived from computer-based systems; and understand the vast web of dependencies within digitally-powered businesses
“Developing digital skills is necessary for children to interact in today’s technology-rich world and to become responsible digital citizens. Digital literacy skills, including e-safety, communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, are all essential for the 21st century workforce. It is our responsibility to provide opportunities to develop these vital competencies in our schools.” Sherry Rizi, Program Specialist for the School Board of Sarasota County
Getting Started with Digital Literacy
To emphasize instruction in the various technology skills comprising digital literacy, teachers need access to curriculum and instructional resources that focus on developing basic technology skills first that then evolve to more complex skills like digital citizenship and computational thinking.
This digital literacy instruction should begin as early as elementary school to provide students with ample opportunity to practice, develop, and master these skills for their future academic and employment pursuits. In fact, research shows that the level of academic achievement a student attains by the eighth grade has the greatest impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate.
As we see student’s living in an ever-changing global and digital community, the modern student needs to be competent and adept at learning, using, and adapting digital tools with creativity, empathy, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Jobs in the future will require digital citizens, digital thinkers, and digital creators, and digital literacy equips them to do so.