Monday, June 01, 2015

Literacies for the digital age: Health literacy

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in June 2015 and is re-posted here with permission.

This is the tenth, and final, in a series of blog posts highlighting the digital literacies our students will need to succeed. The first posts covered financial literacyvisual literacymedia literacyhistorical literacynumeracydata literacyinformation and digital literacytool literacy, and civic and global literacy. This post will provide you with some ideas on how to infuse health literacy skills into the curriculum.
The literacies I feel need to be explored, practiced and mastered by students can be found in the graphic below.


The World Health Organization’s motto is “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And, according to UNESCO, infusing “health learning in subjects across the curriculum should not be a substitute for a comprehensive, sequential course of health education, but doing so can significantly support the learning that takes place in a health class.”
The UNESCO toolkit publication contains mappings to curriculum activities that can help students learn and think about health-related issues. Below are some curriculum tie-ins for social studies, science and mathematics.
There are many online tools and apps for mobile devices that can support any one of these activities as well as activities in health education classes.
Keeping a private wellness journal can both help students deal with stressful events as well as help track their progress towards a goal– whether it be physical or intellectual. Penzu is an online private journaling program, with a mobile app for iOS and Android, too, that makes it easy for students to jot down their thoughts and action plans for personal wellness.
Once a student has set some wellness goals, they will need a place to record their quantitative information– whether it be calories consumed, steps taken, or minutes exercised. Zoho Creator is an online database that is easy to set up and easy to both enter and analyze the data.
Glencoe has a health textbook support page that includes some technology project lesson in the areas of health and fitness for students.
As far as providing students with sites to start with to gather data on global health issues, the US Department of Health and Human Services has a site which deals with the medical, political, and social aspects of health issues worldwide.
Looking at the content-based health activities suggested by UNESCO, in addition to the research skills students will be utilizing, there are many ways students can create a product as a formative or summative assessment using technology.
  • Digital story
  • Infographic
  • Video
  • Poster, handout, flyer
  • Timeline
  • Podcast
  • Animation
  • Screencast
  • Word cloud
  • Concept or mind map
  • Blog
  • Collage
  • Sketchnote
My online tools page includes Web 2.0 applications that can be used for these products. In addition, I have specific pages with ideas, tips, and tutorials for products such as these.


Discovery Education has any number of resources to support health and wellness.
There is an entire Health Connection that includes full lessons and teacher guides, at all grade levels, and provides multiple health education curriculums, 500 videos, and interactive activities.
In the classroom, it is a great resource as students are doing research on a health or wellness topic or a discussion on a health/wellness topic comes up. This site gives educators the ability to access nationally recognized programs, lesson plans, and video clips all correlated to national and state standards. Health Connection gives educators all of the resources and tools necessary to address the critical health issues facing young people. The categorized topics include: Alcohol and other Drugs, The Body, Mental Health, Nutrition, Physical Activity, Safety, Sexuality, Tobacco, and Violence
When searching Discovery Education Streaming by the term “wellness”, I found some useful videos and video series.
  • Wellness Review: Host Joan O’Keefe reviews how exercise, good nutrition, and rest are essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind. (Spanish version) (Grades 3-5)
  • Good Things First! The Way to Wellness : Registered dietician Joan O’Keefe talks with students about what it takes to be well. Emphasizing the importance of choosing a healthy lifestyle during all stages of life, she provides advice on nutrition, physical activity, dealing with stress, and getting plenty of sleep. (Spanish version) (Grades 3-5)
  • Exercise Series: Why Exercise: Shows how to adopt healthful routines to avoid the onset of disease. The program discusses the history of exercise before explaining its benefits for the heart and muscles. (Grades 3-5)
  • SOS: 20 Questions on Health and Wellness: An activity board to help middle and high school students learn more about childhood obesity. (Grades 6-12)
Of course, searching by any of the main topics in the UNESCO listing of activities within Discovery Education Streaming brings up tons of additional resources in the Science Techbook and the Social Studies Techbook, both part of the Discovery Education Resources.
The UNESCO toolkit included a sample cross-curricular unit with activities that target health and wellness for grade 4.
Searching through the Discovery Education site, I mapped some resources to support this unit.
Science Elementary Streaming: Grades 3-5
Science Techbook: Upper elementary
Social Studies Techbook
Discovery Education Streaming