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According to Dell Technologies’ report, Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future, it is estimated that 85 percent of forecasted jobs for 2030 do not exist yet, largely because technology is expanding so rapidly. As a result of this rapid technology expansion, educators face the daunting task of preparing students for unknown jobs by focusing on the broad skills that will be integral to the technology-driven employment environment that defines 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)

Although technology skills are the foundation for jobs in the future, digital literacy skills, which encompass technology literacy as well as creativity, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking in online environments, will be what differentiates well-prepared employees.

Which Digital Literacy Skills will be Necessary for Next-Generation Careers?

There is no crystal ball that reveals exactly which digital literacy skills will be most beneficial to students in their future careers. Similarly, there’s no way of predicting which parts of today’s technology will still be relevant for the next generation of careers. However, there are several digital literacy skills that will most likely be beneficial for next-generation careers.

Digital Fundamentals

Digital literacy skills begin with foundational technology skills, such as typing, and competencies like computer fundamentals and business applications (e.g. word processing, presentation decks, and spreadsheets). While these functions and programs may adapt or become irrelevant in next-generation careers, the basics they promote can transcend the technology gap. For instance, while voice-to-text may overtake keyboarding at some point, there are still instances where this skill is predicted to be useful, such as in coding.

Beyond the basics, being able to use current technology proficiently enables 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 to act creatively, communicate effectively and express ideas clearly.

Digital Citizenship

Digital literacy also promotes digital citizenship, which educates students on the skills to use technology safely, effectively and responsibly. Students embody digital citizenship by understanding the presence of online threats and acting to mitigate them, 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—as well as to analyze the trustworthiness of different sources and to interpret information accordingly.

Computational Thinking

Finally, digital literacy develops students’ computational thinking skills. With computational thinking skills, students learn to learn to use patterns, modeling, abstraction and decomposition to develop efficient and effective solutions. While these are foundational skills used in computer programming and coding, they are also transferable offline in everyday life. Moreover, computational thinking encompasses problem-solving and critical-thinking skills derived from a deep understanding of high-tech functionality and processes.

With these skills, students can 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 teach digital literacy skills effectively, teachers require 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. Because of 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.                                                      

As we see students 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. Jobs in the future will require digital citizens, digital thinkers and digital creators. Digital literacy equips them for this – and more

This article was originally published in March 2019 and has since been revised for content, resources, and accuracy. Staff Writers Team

Staff Writers

Founded in 1999, provides educators with solutions to prepare their students with critical digital skills. Our web-based curriculum for grades K-12 engages students as they learn keyboarding, online safety, applied productivity tools, computational thinking, coding and more.

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