Digital Literacy: Problem Solving

Dec 7th, 2014 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Back to article


This lesson plan developed by Nathan Archambault invites students to share their voices and work collaboratively via Google Docs and to use the popular social networking tool Instagram to approach poetry instruction and creation. Students work together to improve each member’s work, leading ultimately to classwork that excells far beyond each member’s individual capacity.

Use the comments section below to share your reactions to these plans and this theme, or to  let us know that you’re planning to use the resource.

“Networked publics are here to stay. Rather than resisting technology or fearing what might happen if youth embrace social media, adults should help youth develop the skills and perspec­tive to productively navigate the complications brought about by liv­ing in networked publics. Collaboratively, adults and youth can help create a networked world that we all want to live in” (boyd 213).

“Teens are looking to actively participate in public life in order to make the world a better place” (206).

“I see a bigger social issue at work with digital literacy, in addition to personal empowerment: if we combine our individual efforts wisely, enough of the right know-how could add up to a more thoughtful society as well as enhance those individuals who master digital network skills” (Rheingold 2).

“The ability to use communication media to organize collective action might have been the force that drove primates to become humans and gave humans the leverage to create civilizations . . . Mass collaboration is about doing your own business more effectively. It’s also about contributing to humankind’s most serious collective business of self-preservation. Faced with multiple threats from climate change, political conflicts, epidemics, and resource depletion, the most useful asset Homo sapiens has in its possession is the ability to solve problems collaboratively” (148).

“The capacity to network emerges as a core social skill and cultural competency. A resourceful student is no longer one who personally possesses a wide palette of resources and information from which to choose, but rather, one who is able to successfully navigate an already abundant and continually changing world of information. Increasingly, students achieve this by tapping into a myriad of socially based search systems” (238).

“Facebook was widely used by activists who helped lead the revolutionary changes in the Middle east and North Africa” (234).

“People . . . raised $250,000 from Twitter users in two weeks in 2009 to sponsor clean-water projects in impoverished villages.”

“Collective intelligence refers to this ability of virtual communities to leverage the combined expertise of their members. What we cannot know or do on our own, we may now be able to do collectively. And this organization of audiences into . .  . knowledge communities allows them to exert a greater aggregate power” (Jenkins, Convergence Culture 27).

Educators should foster digital literacy in their classrooms because it helps students develop the modern problem solving skills essential to survival in life. The problem solving skill practice it offers invigorates classwork, with students working in networks that increase their academic momentum and help them reach their full potential.

The digital landscape encourages, facilitates, and demands individual and collective problem solving. Individuals use the Internet to find important information. Knowing how to access information efficiently will affect students’ abilities to navigate modern society. Without further development of digital literacy, students like my Dunbar students who struggled to complete effective key word searches, will struggle in life to keep up with peers who are better able to locate information, resources, and support systems.

Structures exist to encourage collective problem solving. Social networks allow users to crowd source information, solutions, and resources. Students mine this mode of problem solving by using Twitter to find a ride to school or what time a movie starts. They use it when they appeal to Yahoo Answers for the meaning behind a poem we discuss in class. Discussion forums, wikispaces, and other collaborative online networks invite users to share and debate ideas as a means of problem solving. Sites like Angie’s List, for example, allow consumers to share information about businesses and help others find quality services. Wikipedia discussion pages where users debate the validity of published information help keep the user-generated site remarkably accurate. The Internet offers many channels—blogs, social media accounts, websites—for groups and individuals to support causes, to spur an uprising, connect the needy with life-sustaining resources, or support a beloved community member. Recently, concerned citizens in Lexington, Kentucky, developed a site and generated over $60,000 in a few days for a local business owner who had experienced a devastating accident.

Digital problem solving literacy is becoming a skill employers desire and expect. In a recent interview, my friend was asked if she had ever developed an online cause or led an online company or group. That question signals shifting skill requirements in the job market.

The individual and collective problem solving that occurs so naturally in the digital realm is useful in meeting class goals. For example, establishing a problem to be solved by classwork designates a larger purpose that potenatially may engage students more deeply. Involving students in online crowd sourcing and network problem solving allows them to interact with real-life people and play a real part in a larger context. Involving students in query not only fosters research and creative and critical thinking skills but also energizes students as members within a collective actively searching out information and making discoveries. Turning the class into a collaborative think tank helps students as a group propel their academic momentum beyond the bounds they might achieve independently and “exert a greater aggregate power” (Jenkins 27). This power may strengthen conceptual knowledge and skill level, and create positive change in the classroom, school, and local communities—and beyond.

Leave a Comment

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.