Before exploring the vastness of the web and how it is best applied in the classroom, we must first understand what it means to be web literate and what intrinsic personal characteristics are needed for success. After completing this module, students will be able to:

  • Explore, expand and develop their definitions of web literacy -- and continue to refine them
  • Reflect on the habits and attitudes required for learning in the digital age

New Standards for Reading, Writing, and Information Management

Prior to the 21st century, literacy defined a person’s ability to read and write, separating the educated from the uneducated. Being literate involves more than our ability to interact with static text. Today we inhabit a world where information is coming at us in ways that impact all of our senses -- requiring us to read, write, listen, view, speak, and question our way to understanding the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week constant information stream.

Web literacy, as we have come to call this collection of skills, might be considered the point where computer literacy merges with information literacy and attitude. Attitude in this context is about being willing and able to become an active and participating member of a larger community of learners within an ever-changing flow of information. Yes, web literacy comprises the technical skills needed to use a computer, the information processing ability to access and use print or electronic resources, and the critical competencies required for reading and evaluating material for reliability and validity. But being literate in the 21st Century demands the ability to follow though on any desire to share your voice, the ability to create an online identity, a willingness to forgo some aspects of privacy and ownership, and an open-minded perspective to embrace new relationships.

Web literate learners understand how to become involved in the exchange of information and ideas from a technical, critical, and human standpoint. Your literacy level is no longer determined by grades, age, or the number of questions you answer after a passage. It is not about a person's age or background, and it doesn't refer to their ability to use technology. Instead, success on the web is determined by what kind of learner you are willing to be.

With more than 1.6 billion people connected to the Internet today (Internet World Stats) , it has become the largest knowledge and learning community in the world -- and it is growing daily. It’s exciting to be a part of something this new and fascinating. To succeed in this new world, web learners must:
  • Be self-motivated, with an independent spirit
  • Be self-disciplined
  • Be intelligent and possess an ability to study and learn new skills
  • Be patient and willing to invest time and effort in order to master a new skill, tool, or idea
  • Have perseverance and gain the ability to overcome obstacles and challenges
  • Possess “coach-ability”, "learn-ability" — i.e. the willingness to follow instructions and learn from others
  • Be able to monitor and adjust to changing conditions
  • Have the “mindset” and self confidence necessary to achieve success
  • Possess "network-ability"-- the willingness and motivation to seek, engage, and create new networks and communities

Are these qualities of the learners you know? Of yourself?

Accordingly, web literacy can be defined as the technical, critical, analytical, personal and social skills users need to effectively locate, evaluate, and use online information. Here are four ways to think about a learner's capabilities.
  1. Their knowledge of, and skill with, digital tools and applications
  2. Their ability to think critically, and evaluate and analyze information sources
  3. Their social awareness and ability to represent themselves digitally
  4. Their habits and attitudes determined by their level of curiosity, imagination, adaptability, and perseverance

1.0 Conversation Starter (Anchor Lesson)

Share with students what being literate means to you. Before the web, reading to me was sitting quietly in the corner of my house curled up with my favorite book and a great cup of coffee. My definition of reading today has dramatically shifted. Reading is still about those solitary and extraordinary moments, but reading is also a social act that continues to change how I think, behave, and process information. The dynamic, visual, interactive and mobile web enable an entirely new reading experience -- social reading.

For example, during the 2008 Presidential election, web readers could watch the Inauguration live for the first time. They invited their friends from all over the world and had discussions with them while viewing and enjoying the "social experience" of information on the web -- all from different physical locations and time zones and while still enjoying that curl-up and great cup of coffee.

I have not given up "old reading" for "new reading" -- I have simply enriched and expanded my experiences as a reader. We still use pencils, right?

The following activities encourage learners to openly and actively talk about web literacy. They will also reflect on their habits, preferences, and ultimately the changes we make as readers and writers. As the tools and technologies shift, the notion of "literacy" evolves.

1.1 Literacy Redefined (Lesson One)

  • Collect definitions of literacy from a variety of resources—reference books, news articles, government reports. Online resources such as the Wikipedia definition of literacy can also be used. Arrange students in small groups, and ask each group to compare details on literacy from one (or more) of the resources to the class definition. Have groups present their findings to the whole class. At the end of the session, make any additions or changes to the class definition of literacy.

1.2 Compare and Contrast (Lesson Two)

  • Using the information that students have already gathered in this lesson, ask students to compose narratives of their most significant interactions with reading and writing. Have them compare those experiences with technology. During the discussion, ask students to revisit the class definition of literacy, adapting the definition as necessary.

1.3 Group vs Individual Definitions (Lesson Three)

  • Have students apply the class definition of literacy to their own literacy. In their journals, ask students to reflect on the class definition and their own inventories of texts. Encourage students to discuss realizations they had about their literacy abilities as the class worked on a shared definition. If desired, return students’ original definitions of literacy and ask them to reflect on how their ideas have changed since they first recorded them.

1.4 Personal Habitude Reflections (Lesson Four)

  • Ask students to reflect on their web habitudes. For each habitude listed above, ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5. If they rank themselves low in a particular habitude, ask them to write ideas for overcoming that weakness or research ideas on