Reimagining Children’s relation to Digital Literacy – Sarah Copeland & Jean-Pierre Séguin

Reimagining Children’s relation to Digital Literacy


The ongoing pandemic has altered many of our society’s long-lasting systems. From rolling lockdowns, to multiple viral testing when travelling, to the evolution of the virtual workplace; a majority believes civilization will never go back to the way it was (Boynton, S, 2021). A definite area where there were significant persistent changes was in the manner education was delivered to children. In fact, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2021) 77 million children around the world were still out of school by September 2021; a full 18 months into the pandemic. This push to move schooling online has exacerbated the growing issue of children’s relationship to the evolving online environment and highlighted the importance of an overhaul in the digital literacy model.

There is already an assumption about children being “digital natives”, a term coined by Prensky (2001) which compares learning the online environment as one would an innate language and thus being naturally fluid with its concepts. However, research has proven time and time again the fallacy of this myth (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017). Even though children have demonstrated an ease with technology and the online environment due to their omnipresence growing up, they still require guidance from their teachers and parents on safe and healthy digital practices. The Prensky (2001) analogy to learning an innate language is however valid as being a native speaker does not necessarily involve being able to critically analyze a piece of information. Moreover, the online environment includes several additional elements, from social media, to online addiction, to misrepresentation, and basic online security making it more comprehensive and complex than a language.

A modern and reimagined digital literacy model should understand and address not only the benefits and best practices of online citizenship, but the barriers, and the supporting skills as wells. For instance, children need to develop critical thinking skills in order to be able to identify misinformation or potentially dangerous online interactions (Silverman, 2016). They also need to be aware of the dangers and digital addiction, issues with differentiating the real and virtual world, and possible health problems linked overuse of devices (Çelebioğlu et al., 2020). Finally, children should be equipped with physical skills on how to care for their devices in a sustainable manner and how to properly disconnect from the online world and care for their mind and bodies. It is time for a cultural evolution to develop healthy, safe, ethical and meaningful use of educational technology and to foster digital citizenship in the younger generation.

Proposed Model

Figure 1 displays the proposed model for the cultural evolution. Of note, the word “evolution” and not “revolution” was chosen to harness the model. The difference between the two concepts resides in the speed of the process and the transformation of previous norms. Revolutions generate rapid and structural changes while evolutions involve progressive changes with a transition from simple to complex systems (Coccia, 2018). The education domain benefits from generations of lessons learned and evolution; it should not be rejected but deliberately guided to take into account the digital environment in a comprehensive manner. Hence, its position at the base of the model to recognize the successes of the past. To start, we recommend an initial information session and an interactive workshop for learning communities as one of the primary events of the model. The session would provide participants with data and recommendations to stakeholders as to the reasons the digital education must evolve. The workshop would include breakout sessions between the stakeholders where they would discuss how they see their role in the changes to the digital education domain. The collaborative approach would provide voice, choice, and agency (Goriss-Hunter, 2021) to participants leading to a greater ownership and will ensure a cultural transformation takes place.

The four pillars of the design represent the stakeholders to implement the cultural changes. The shift will require the involvement of students, parents, teachers, as well as the institution to effect changes. The students have an active role to play as they are the purpose of the shift and will need to keep the evolution going and they in turn become parents or join the institution. The teachers need to adapt to the changing digital environment not only in teaching techniques but also in mindset. The parents have a very important role as they not only have to grow themselves as parents, but also must maintain the cultural change at home for it to be staying. Finally, the institution as a whole must be ready with appropriate changes in practices and infrastructure to support a meaningful evolution.

At the top of the model, we can find the three goals in the mindset we are trying to instill with the cultural evolution. The Critical Mindset relates to students’ ability to use judgment when accessing information online. A critical mind is paramount in dealing with potential online misinformation (Silverman, 2016). The Safety Mindsetinvolves identifying the dangers and barriers of the digital environment to include such things as online addiction, the digital footprint and responsible social media use, as well as a safe digital conduct. Finally, the Reality Mindset is a reminder that only reality is real and the importance of life-balance, physical activity, real-world connections. The three mindsets create a balanced Trinity for the careful and mindful use of the online environment while still allowing to benefits from its many bounties.


There world may well be experiencing a digital revolution, which was only accelerated with the ongoing pandemic. However, the education domain has steadily improved throughout the past centuries and the digital environment should be integrated to the education tradition and not seek to overthrow it. A comprehensive model; involving all the stakeholders and understanding the necessary balance between reality, safety, and the online world; will allow children to learn and grow with digital literacy in safe, sustainable, and meaningful way.

Figure 1

Cultural Evolution Model – Digital Literacy


Figure 2

Sample of one topic area of the interactive workshop using the MURAL app



Boynton, S. (2021, March 10) Most Canadians think “normal life” won’t return until 2022 or beyond: Ipsos Poll. Global News Canada.

Çelebioğlu, A., Aytekin Özdemir, A., Küçükoğlu, S., & Ayran, G. (2020). The effect of Internet addiction on sleep quality in adolescents. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 33(4), 221–228.

Coccia, M. (2018) What are the characteristics of revolution and evolution. Journal of Economic and Social Thought, 5(4), 288–294.

Goriss-Hunter, A., Sellings, P. & Echter, A. (2021) Information Communication Technology in schools: Students Exercise “Digital Agency” to Engage with Learning. Tech Know Learn.

Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135–142.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1–6.

Silverman, C. (2016, November 16). This analysis shows how viral fake election news stories outperformed real news on Facebook. [Crossref]

United Nations Children’s Fund (2021, September 15). Schools still closed for nearly 77 million students 18 months into pandemic. UNICEF.






Super Sensory Awareness and Understanding Towards Digital Learning Instructional Design

I am coming to learn about instructional design from a circuitous route where my previous expertise and knowledge about education is firmly rooted in the realm of teaching about culinary arts. More recently, I started creating and providing professional development for educators with the goal of embedding food literacy into existing K-12 curriculum. With the onset of Covid19, and the growth of my work contracts to international locations, I have been trying to understand how best to provide food literacy learning in an online environment. Teaching about food usually incorporates the use of many of our senses, sight, smell, hearing taste, and touch to name a few. I suggest that my instructional design super power could be sensory based awareness and understanding.

 It is interesting to me to consider how digital learning environments could benefit from a multisensory approach. It is not a new idea that multisensory approaches are valuable in learning, and they are known to be helpful to create inclusive learning environments (Ponticorvo et al., 2019). From the earliest teaching guides (Montessori, 1912), educators have advocated for a range of multi-sensory techniques in order to make learning richer and more motivating for learners. More recent research suggests the use of multisensory approaches can be effective in improving education design (Joshi, Dahlgren, and Boulware- gooden, 2002, Dev, Doyle, and Valente, 2002). New research is looking to evaluate multisensory approaches to technologies in the classroom (Walling 2014).

Sensory impressions obtained through different sensory channels, such as hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling help to shape the experiences in the material world. The sensory channels interact and contribute their own characteristics to how we perceive and experience our surroundings (Suneveld et al, 2008). The research into our senses is growing with the understanding that there are many more senses than the five that we traditionally consider; sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. Eco-psychologist Michel Cohen suggests there are more than 53 distinct senses and categorizes them in four areas; the radiation senses: sense of colour, sense of moods associated with colour, sense of temperature; the feeling senses: sensitivity to gravity, air and wind pressure, and motion; the chemical senses: hormonal sense, such as pheromones, hunger for food, water or air; and the mental senses: pain, external and internal, mental or spiritual distress, sense of self, including friendship, companionship and power, psychic capacity (Cohen, 1993).

Arguably, my favourite sense is taste, and I have been curious about it for a long time. A few years ago I spent an amazing year studying taste education in France with the aim of becoming a member of the Institute of Taste of France. The work of the Institute of Taste consists of combining scientific research with educational reflection to develop a detailed understanding of the mechanisms at work in the act of eating and to prepare free citizens to be responsible for their consumption (Leer & Wistoft, 2018). I really admire its founder Jacques Puisais as he created a sensorial based education program for children 30 years ago, and is also the most famous oenophile(wine expert) in France. I was lucky to have him as professor during my studies. My initial interest was related to food and wine however, while there I developed an interest in sensory based education. I support the argument that designing and implementing multi-sensory education opens the door to innovative learning environments and educational scenarios (Ponticorvo et al.2019). I hope that my instructional design super power of sensory based awareness and understanding (see upper right corner of Super Power Omnibus Figure 1) could be useful to the instructional design projects I am involved in.

The Illustrious Omnibus of Superpowers

Figure 1) The Illustrious Omnibus of Superpowers by Pop Chart Lab


 Cohen, M. J. (1993). Counselling with nature: Catalyzing sensory moments that let earth nurture, Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 6:1, 39-52, DOI: 10.1080/09515079308254491

Dev, P.C., Doyle, B.A., & Valente, B. (2002). Labels needn’t stick: “At-risk” first graders rescued with appropriate intervention. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 7(3), 327-332.

Institute for Multi-sensory Education. (2000). Retrieved December 4, 2021, from

Joshi, R. M., Dahlgren, M.,& Boulware- Gooden, R. (2002). Teaching reading in an inner city school through a multisensory teaching approach [ Electronic Version]. Annals of Dyslexia, V52, p. 229-42.

Kalivoda, T. B. (1978). Increasing communication with multi-sensory exercises. Hispania, 61(4), p. 923-926. Retrieved November 11, 2003, from JSTOR.

Leer, Jonatan & Wistoft, Karen. (2018). Taste in food education: A critical review essay. Food and Foodways. V26. 1-21. 10.1080/07409710.2018.1534047

Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia Learning. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Montessori, M. (1912). The Montessori Method. Cambridge press , New York.

Ponticorvo, M., & Di Fuccio, R., & Ferrara, F., & Rega, A., & Miglino, O. (2019). Multisensory Educational Materials: Five Senses to Learn. 10.1007/978-3-319-98872-6_6. 

Sonneveld, M., & Ludden, G., & Schifferstein, R. (2008). Multi sensory design in education. Proceedings from the 6th Conference on Design and Emotion 2008.

 Walling D. R. (2014). Designing learning for tablet classrooms: Innovations in instruction–using tablet technology for multisensory learning. (Basel, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing; ).





Backwards Design in International School Settings

I have very little experience using or understanding instructional design models as I have recently entered the realm of education through the path of a chef educating about food literacy in school settings. I collaborate with  professional educators in international private school settings and so my exposure to design models is only by observation of the current instructional design models used in international school settings. It seems to me that the backward design approach is most aligned and dominant in my current environment. I am currently working with a school in Beijing that is using what they call the Global Impact School Model designed by Inspire Citizens ( The Global Impact School Model (below Figure 1) uses a future focused, transformative learning and teaching design called Empathy to Impact ( As in backwards design models, before planning activities, questions are asked about; what cognitive skills, dispositions, fluencies, and literacies a person will  need to shape a better future. Goals are created first following a commitment to creating students with empathy, academic and creative capacity, and the hearts and minds necessary to serve and take action to improve our communities. Goals include; to enable youth to develop more compassionate empathy; think critically about information and global issues; solve problems creatively through the application of interdisciplinary skills and civic literacies; embrace the challenges of uncertainties and complexities; make ethical decisions; and take informed action ( As in Wiggins and McTighe Model (1998), objectives and goals are defined that are long term to support learning that will endure beyond the classroom over time. The end goal is well established; an inspired citizen with the multiple understandings and skills to be developed in students towards contributing to a sustainable future.

A focus on the learner obtaining understanding and skills as a result of the backwards design approach is similar to Wiggins and McTighe (1998) 6 Facets of Understanding Model (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). As with the Wiggins and McTighe Model, where facets of the model are not hierarchical, but instead, are equal and connected with the others, the Global Impact School Model has multiple connected domains of learning. From observing teachers within this school model, I have realized that in using this approach, the teacher is able to focus on defining the learning goals of the course which then provides a much clearer idea of what activities to plan for the students to achieve the desired learning objectives.  

 I have decided to research and write about the Wiggins and McTighe Model (1998) to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits of the backwards design approach as I feel it will help me to collaborate more effectively with the instructional designers in my work projects

Inspire Citizens retrieved on Nov 21

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.




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