Boosting Student Engagement Through Digital Literacy

by Alex Gay

posted on 04-05-2019

In their Gen Z creativity study, Adobe found that 76 percent of students and 75 percent of teachers wish there were more of a focus on creativity in the classroom. It’s little wonder why.

As a New Media Consortium study found, “[Digital literacy] initiatives [including creativity] have the potential to generate more excitement around learning for students, especially as their growing fluency enables deeper connections with others and equips them with a new lens to critically evaluate the world around them.”

Digital literacy increases excitement and engagement in the classroom by increasing active learning, collaboration, and how well students remember. Here’s how:

Active learning

As students develop digital literacy, they gain the power to use digital tools to solve problems, create innovative projects, and enhance communications, all preparing them for the challenges of an evolving workplace. In other words, becoming digitally literate takes action. Students can’t become digitally literate passively. They must figure out how to use new digital tools, gather resources to solve creative problems, and proactively communicate as they collaborate on big projects.

“Students traditionally study things that someone else has produced and deliver analytic responses to that work,” said Daniel Anderson, director of the Digital Innovation Lab and director of Composition, Rhetoric, and Digital Literacy at UNC- at Chapel Hill. “Working with Creative Cloud allows us to disrupt that traditional classroom experience by recasting students in the role of creators. It increases students’ engagement with material and allows them to approach subjects from different angles, enhancing their understanding.”

For example, Amir Dabirian, vice president for IT and CIO at California State University, Fullerton, talks about how embedding digital literacy into CSU coursework has cast students in the role of active creators.

“Our high-impact practice courses promote experiential learning to actively engage students in their coursework,” he said. “By embedding Adobe Creative Cloud in three of these courses — English 101, First Year Experience, and Business Administration 300 — we’re increasing digital literacy and making progress toward our goals of improving retention, closing the achievement gap, enhancing learning, and raising the graduation rate.”

Increasing engagement in this way takes effort, but it’s worth it as it increases the hard and soft skills students need to be successful in the workplace. And one study even found that “active learning is linked with ‘long-term persistence and degree completion.’”

Collaborative learning

As students become digitally literate, they must learn to collaborate effectively.

For example, April O’Brien, a graduate teacher and research assistant at Clemson University, had her students collaborate on a film project.

“I think it’s important that our students know how to communicate visually and digitally,” she said. “I have my first-year writing students think about a problem in their discipline and write a research essay about it, and then I have them work in groups and re-mediate one of those essays into a 15-minute film with Adobe Premiere Pro. The videos were just spectacular, and the students engaged with each other’s work in ways they wouldn’t normally.”

The collaboration was a crucial factor in students’ learning how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, and, as the students collaborated, their engagement increased.

Multiple levels of processing

What’s the best way to help students remember what you teach them? It depends on the student, of course. Students need the chance both to consume information and to repackage it creatively. They need multiple opportunities to make associations between new information and information they already know. They need to engage with the information on a few different levels, rather than simply listening and remembering. This type of engagement makes the knowledge stick.

“When it comes to the science of learning, one key practice is to make learning cognitively demanding,” said Ulrich Boser, founder of the Learning Agency. “Students should aim to make studying a matter of mental struggle. This approach makes learning more active and more effective.”

How do you help students meet their appropriate edge? Digital creative projects fit the bill.

“When your students create digital media as part of their coursework in any major, they engage more deeply with the subject matter,” according to Todd Taylor, professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Digital creative projects are cognitively demanding. They require students to encode information on multiple levels and really engage in both the content and the project. Here are a few skills to focus on to create the right challenging, engaging learning environment:

As students create digital media, they gain the skills that increase engagement and the likelihood that they will remember what they’re learning in years to come.

Using Adobe Creative Cloud helps students “better understand information and communicate their knowledge in visually and digitally compelling ways. At the same time, faculty with digital skills can also make their course materials more interesting, which helps with student engagement as well.” Digital literacy increases engagement in the classroom by increasing active learning, collaboration, and how well students remember.

Discover how your institution can harness digital literacy to make learning more engaging.

Topics: Industry, Education, digital literacy,

Products: Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud