How Do We Teach Digital Literacy to Digital Natives?

Is it possible for our students to be both digital natives and digitally unaware?

Young people today are instant messengers, gamers, photo sharers and supreme multitaskers. But while they use the technology tools available to them 24/7, they are struggling to sort fact from fiction, think critically, decipher cultural inferences, detect commercial intent and analyze social implications. All of which makes them extremely vulnerable to the overwhelming amount of information they have access to through the digital tools they use—and love!—so much.

In fact, teachers surveyed in a recent Pew Study say they worry about “students’ overdependence on search engines; the difficulty many students have judging the quality of online information; and the general level of literacy of today’s students.” In total, 83% of teachers surveyed agreed that the amount of information available to students online is overwhelming, and 60% agreed that today’s digital technologies make it harder for students to track down and use credible sources.


Use The News

One way to combat this ironic epidemic? The news. News is a powerful, organic way to teach media literacy which, in turn, encourages students to confidently use digital tools as informed, global citizens. Every single day, world events from the disappearance of Flight 370, to the life and death of Nelson Mandela, to a sensitive discussion about the Newtown shootings presents us with an opportunity to spark important conversations and use nonfiction video content to teach media literacy.

The news provides an even stronger teaching opportunity to build knowledge and vocabulary with informational texts through television news broadcast transcripts, now that the Common Core State Standards requirements are heavily weighted to nonfiction fluency. News clips are, innately, a multimedia form of informational text.

Be Authentic

There’s no limit to the ways educators can incorporate authentic learning into their daily lesson plans. For example, news stories about the weather are relevant in science, world events map to ELA, and STEM stories fall within CCSS’ college and career readiness standard. By showing a 3 – 4 minute news video in class, teachers also have the opportunity to apply CCSS-aligned skills and strategies to the activity afterwards, including identifying the lead or main idea; providing supporting detail; comparing and contrasting; determining the POV; and describing cause and effect.

Additionally, news clips can be viewed on virtually all mobile devices, making them the perfect type of multimedia for using in a classroom with access to a variety of technology. News clips are also great for flipped classroom lessons and blended learning, since students can access web videos on any smart device.

Finally, using digital video in the classroom has the added bonus of not only starting in-person discussions, but eliciting a digital response among students. We see that when students are moved by a news story, they are inclined to share their views on the topic through their social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Most importantly, they are inspired to research the topic, furthering their ability to comfortably navigate the abundance of online sources and opinions available to them.

It is our job as educators and content producers to encourage kids to be capable, global citizens in a digital age. Integrating a news story into your classroom everyday not only sparks important conversations, but encourages students to create and analyze their own media responses, provides a basis for asking questions and is a seamless, natural way to incorporate CCSS nonfiction content into your daily lesson plan.

CJ Kettler
CJ Kettler is CEO and Chairwoman of Channel One News, the leading digital content and curriculum provider. Channel One News’ daily show is a Peabody and Telly award-winning program broadcast to nearly 5 million young people across the country.


  1. Rebecca Dalmas

    May 24, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    One cannot analyze news media until the nature of the structure of the system is clear. If the starting form of the system is not understood, the very foundation, then reviewing news becomes an act of value associations instead of form and function. Form and function then builds strong characters because self trust is built in simply realizing consequences based on structural flow.
    The same goes for words, if they are taken at their face value, their unit of measure value, in relation to practical reality, then one can realize an argument that is talking endless detail within a small degree of measure, which ends up limiting a natural ability to see the parts and the whole – which is developing a depth perception that is the building of a real balance.
    The media never tells the whole story, if it did, then the news would be about discovery of more efficient ways, which is to be stories of creation instead of destruction.

  2. Reuben Loewy, Living Online Lab

    July 24, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I agree that digital natives can be digital naives, too. We expect the Born Digital generation to somehow come with built-in knowledge about the digital world. The truth is that even most adults only have a basic grasp of how the very complex digital world works, and that includes teachers. The focus of much of our computer classes and digital literacy is on safety, and that is understandable. To redress the balance, I have set up an organization called Living Online Lab, offering an inter-disciplinary curriculum aimed at preparing students for the digital world. Topics covered include privacy, identity, digital commerce, digital literature, algorithms, and other issues that we constantly encounter online, but know little about.

    I invite you to visit my website ( and leave feedback with your thoughts.

    Thank you.