By CompTIA Spark
In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world, digital fluency has become an essential skill set for people of all ages. But it’s prime time for middle schoolers who are growing up in the digital era. As these students navigate a world that’s continuously being shaped by technology, digital fluency is crucial to their success and future opportunities.
Here, we’ll break down exactly what digital fluency is and why it’s valuable for the middle school students of today.
What Is Digital Fluency?
There are many ways to define digital fluency. At CompTIA Spark, we consider digital fluency as:
- Mastery of common technology hardware and software tools in a business, education and personal environment
- Ability to understand new products and troubleshoot reasonable challenges
- Understanding of the role of technology in our society
- Ability to seamlessly move between technologies
Just like reading, writing and math, digital fluency is a critical skill set that students and adults alike need to succeed today - and tomorrow.
Unfortunately, despite its significance, many students don’t have access to a quality technology education. Even if they do, it may not be sufficient enough for them to develop a strong skill set. Likewise, educators may not be equipped with the proper tools, resources, equipment or knowledge to teach students the fundamentals of digital fluency. It’s an issue that our work at CompTIA Spark is directly addressing.
Why Is Digital Fluency Valuable for Middle School Students?
There are so many benefits of digital fluency for middle school students. We talk about exploring job opportunities and building new skill sets, but the most important benefit is instilling confidence. Our growing digital landscape provides a vast canvas for creativity and innovation, and digital fluency gives students the tools to confidently express their ideas, passions and imagination through various mediums, such as blogs, podcasts, videos and coding.
But that’s not all. Here are some of the other key reasons that digital fluency is valuable for middle school students:
1. It’s a Tech World. We’re Just Living in it
Technology is advancing every day. And now, digital fluency is vital for most jobs. Tech is part of every profession, from agriculture and mechanics to more traditional jobs like healthcare and engineering.
However, technology isn’t just about coding. It includes a wide range of skill sets that can be applied to almost any career – and really life in general. Just think about it:
- More devices are connecting to the internet in our homes, businesses and classrooms
- Smartphones are becoming more prevalent and advanced
- More data is being gathered and requires protection and security
Technology is integrated in our routines, and students and adults alike are interacting with it every day. And we’re finding more skill sets that can support it.
Knowing someone with a tech-related job is now almost the norm. According to the CompTIA Spark Student Perspectives of Technology and Careers, almost half (45%) of students reported knowing someone who works in the tech field.
At this point, it’s almost impossible to navigate life without some experience or basic knowledge of technology. Digital fluency takes students’ understanding of technology to the next level, teaching them how to responsibly and effectively use it in their everyday life—and also how to use it in some new ways.
2. As Technology Grows, So Do Job Opportunities
There’s a myth that if you want to work in technology, Meta and Google are your only choices. But that’s simply not true. Nearly every industry depends on technology, from small, family-owned businesses to large corporate giants.
Sure, there are plenty of tech-focused jobs in technology companies: Technicians, network specialists, cybersecurity professionals and data analysts – just to name a few. But there are also opportunities in other fields, like sales, marketing, education and many more. Essentially, digital fluency skills can expand opportunities in whatever field a student is passionate about.
And digital fluency continues to open even more doors. Technology is a rapidly growing field, a trend that’s not expected to slow down any time soon. In fact, the tech workforce is projected to grow 2x faster than the overall U.S. workforce over the next ten years. Not to mention, the earning potential for tech jobs can be quite lucrative.
However, due to the lack of digital fluency taught in schools, there are not enough people to fill these positions. This means thousands of well-paid jobs will go unfilled until a new wave of trained, diverse talent rises into the workforce—another issue that we are looking to combat at CompTIA Spark.
3. The Earlier Students Learn Digital Fluency, the Better
We believe that middle school is the ideal time to start teaching digital fluency to students. Why? This age is when their minds are the most open and curious. They naturally ask questions, explore different ways of doing things and imagine different possibilities and outcomes. Middle schoolers’ minds are like sponges, absorbing information quickly and applying it where they need to.
But in order to activate the sponge, we understand the importance of keeping them interested. Teaching shouldn’t be limited to a book or article about learning tech.
Instead, we want to give them space to experiment and get hands-on experience actually building and interacting with technology. It’s so important to learn by doing and seeing how their digital fluency skills can be applied to real-world situations.
4. Digital Fluency Makes More Confident Students
As mentioned before, another beneficial side effect of learning digital fluency is confidence.
Becoming digitally fluent means that students are learning more than just technology. They’re learning to listen more effectively, communicate and present new ideas and information. As students gain more experience, knowledge and practice, they’ll become more self-assured, self-reliant and independent.
An interest in tech can nurture confidence in students as they continue to learn and grow, which is especially essential during their critical middle school years. The skills they gain with digital fluency can also translate to other fields that will set them up for success later on in life, like conflict management, having a growth mindset and entrepreneurship.
5. Now’s the Time to Prepare for the Future
Learning digital fluency this early also gets students thinking about their future and potential career paths. It gives them a better understanding of the working world and how they can apply their skills to the areas and subjects that interest them.
Middle school is when students are still developing their interests, which helps them identify what choices they want to make for high school including, what programs to apply for, what courses to take, etc.
One of the best ways to engage students in technology is finding out how they can connect their digital fluency skills to their passions.
Do they love sports? Maybe they can create an app that tracks scores and stats of their favorite teams.
Do they want to pursue a career in music? Maybe they can develop a music editing software.
Do they have a cool collection? Maybe they can create a system that inventories their pieces.
Once you get curious about all the ways technology can be used, it becomes easier to see all the ways students can apply it to their interests and passions. This exploration and curiosity is a great foundation to set them up for future success - and now is the best time to start!
CompTIA Spark Can Help
CompTIA Spark was founded by and operates as the social innovation and impact arm of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the world’s largest IT industry association and a leading provider of certifications and technical professionals.
CompTIA Spark offers fun and engaging learning experiences to help middle schoolers unlock their potential in technology. Essentially, we bring high-quality tech education to students, sparking an interest in tech and building skills for life. Like you, we believe digital fluency is as important to students’ future success as reading, writing and math.
It’s easy to implement something fun and engaging for students. The goal of our innovative programs at this stage of a student’s journey is to inspire and intrigue. We encourage students to explore different paths and possibilities rather than asking them to memorize content that they’ll forget after a semester.
If we can engage students on a level that gives them a desire to learn and explore, then they’ll want to continue their tech education journey long after middle school – and that’s the whole point.