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Digital literacy is the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. It requires one "to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms".[1] Digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy. It builds upon the foundation of traditional forms of literacy.[1] Digital literacy is the marrying of the two terms digital and literacy; however, it is much more than a combination of the two terms. Digital information is a symbolic representation of data, and literacy refers to the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word.

Digital literacy researchers explore a wide variety of topics, including how people find, use, summarize, evaluate, create, and communicate information while using digital technologies. Research also encompasses a variety of hardware platforms, such as computer hardware, cell phones and other mobile devices and software or applications, including web search or Internet applications more broadly. As a result, the area is concerned with much more than how people learn to use computers.

A digitally literate person may be described as a digital citizen.

Related terms[edit | edit source]

Computer literacy focuses on the ability to use the computer as a tool, regardless of whether it is being used for processing information or for other purposes.

Digital Literacy and 21st Century Skills[edit | edit source]

Digital literacy requires certain skill sets with that are interdisciplinary in nature. Warshauer and Matuchniak list Information, Media, and Technology; Learning and Innovation Skills; and Life and Career Skills as the three skill sets that individuals need to master in order to be digitally literate, or the 21st Century Skills. In order to achieve Information, Media, and Technology Skills, one needs to achieve competency in Information Literacy, Media Literacy and ICT (information communicative technologies). Encompassed within Learning and Innovation Skills, one must also be able to be exercise their creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration skills. In order to be competent in Life and Career Skills, it is also necessary to be able to exercise flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility.[2] Eshet-Alkalai contends that there are five types of literacies that are encompassed in the umbrella term that is digital literacy. (1) Photo-visual literacy is the ability to read and deduce information from visuals. (2) Reproduction literacy is the ability to use digital technology to create a new piece of work or combine existing pieces of work together to make it your own. (3) Branching literacy is the ability to successfully navigate in the non-linear medium of digital space. (4) Information literacy is the ability to search, locate, assess and critically evaluate information found on the web. (5) Lastly, socio-emotional literacy refers to the social and emotional aspects of being present online, whether it may be through socializing, and collaborating, or simply consuming content.

Use in education[edit | edit source]

Schools are continuously updating their curriculum for digital literacy to keep up with accelerating technological developments. This often includes computers in the classroom, the use of educational software to teach curriculum, and course materials being made available to students online. Some classrooms are designed to use smartboards and audience response systems. These techniques are most effective when the teacher is digitally literate as well.

Teachers often teach digital literacy skills to students who use computers for research. Such skills include verifying credible sources online and how-to cite web sites. Google and Wikipedia are used by students "for everyday life research."[3]

Educators are often required to be certified in digital literacy to teach certain software and, more prevalently, to prevent plagiarism amongst students.

Digital natives and immigrants[edit | edit source]

Marc Prensky invented and popularized the terms "digital native" and "digital immigrant." A digital native, according to Prensky, is one who was born into the digital age. A digital immigrant refers to one who adopts technology later in life.[4] These terms aid in understanding the issues of teaching digital literacy, however, simply being a digital native does not make one digitally literate.

Digital immigrants, although they adapt to the same technology as natives, possess a sort of "accent" which restricts them from communicating the way natives do. In fact, research shows that, due to the brain's malleable nature, technology has changed the way today's students read, perceive, and process information.[5] This means that today's educators may struggle to find effective teaching methods for digital natives. Digital immigrants might resist teaching digital literacy because they themselves weren't taught that way. Prensky believes this is a problem because today's students are "a population that speaks an entirely new language"[4] than the people who educate them.

Digital writing[edit | edit source]

Digital writing is a new type of composition being taught increasingly within universities. Digital writing is a pedagogy focused on technology's impact on writing environments; it is not simply using a computer to write. Rather than the traditional print perspective, digital writing enables students to explore modern technologies and learn how different writing spaces affect the meaning, audience, and readability of text. Educators in favor of digital writing argue that it is necessary because "technology fundamentally changes how writing is produced, delivered, and received."[6] The goal of teaching digital writing is that students will increase their ability to produce a relevant, high-quality product, instead of just a standard academic paper.[7]

One aspect of digital writing is the use of hypertext. As opposed to printed text, hypertext invites readers to explore information in a non-linear fashion. Hypertext consists of traditional text and hyperlinks that send readers to other texts. These links may refer to related terms or concepts (such is the case on Wikipedia), or they may enable readers to choose the order in which they read. The process of digital writing requires the composer to make unique "decisions regarding linking and omission." These decisions "give rise to questions about the author's responsibilities to the [text] and to objectivity."[8]

Use in society[edit | edit source]

Digital literacy helps people communicate and keep up with societal trends. Literacy in social network services and Web 2.0 sites helps people stay in contact with others, pass timely information and even sell goods and services. This is mostly popular among younger generations, though sites like LinkedIn have made it valuable to older professionals.

Digital literacy can also prevent people from believing hoaxes that are spread online or are the result of photo manipulation. E-mail frauds and phishing often take advantage of the digitally illiterate, costing victims money and making them vulnerable to identity theft.[citation needed]

Research has demonstrated that the differences in the level of digital literacy depend mainly on age and education level, while the influence of gender is decreasing(Hargittai, 2002; van Dijk, 2005; van Dijk and van Deursen, 2009). Among young people, in particular, digital literacy is high in its operational dimension (e.g. rapidly move through hypertext, familiarity with different kinds of online resources) while the skills to critically evaluate content found online show a deficit (Gui and Argentin, 2011).

Social networking[edit | edit source]

With the emergence of social networking, one who is digitally literate now has a major voice online.[9] The level of digital literacy needed to voice an opinion online today compared to the Internet before social networks is minute. Websites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as personal websites and blogs have enabled a new type of journalism that is subjective, personal, and "represents a global conversation that is connected through its community of readers." [10] These online communities foster group interactivity among the digitally literate. Social networks also help users establish a digital identity, or a "symbolic digital representation of identity attributes."[11] Without digital literacy or the assistance of someone who is digitally literate, one cannot possess a personal digital identity.

The digital divide[edit | edit source]

Digital literacy and digital access have become increasingly important competitive differentiators.[12] Bridging the economic and developmental divides is in large measure a matter of increasing digital literacy and access for peoples who have been left out of the information and communications technology (ICT) revolutions.

The United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID)[13] seeks to address this set of issues at an international and global level. Many organizations (e.g. Per Scholas for underserved communities in the United States and InterConnection for underserved communities around the world as well as the U.S.) focus on addressing this concern at national, local and community levels.

Scholar Howard Besser contends that the digital divide is more than just a gap between those who have access to technology and those who don’t. This issue encompasses aspects such as information literacy, appropriateness of content, and access to content.[14] Beyond access, a digital divide exists between those who apply critical thinking to technology or not, those who speak English or not, and those who create digital content or merely consume it. UCLA and many other universities are trying to address these issues and ultimately narrow the gap by emphasizing the importance of digital literacy.

Community Informatics overlaps to a considerable degree with digital literacy by being concerned with ensuring the opportunity not only for ICT access at the community level but also, according to Michael Gurstein, that the means for the "effective use" of ICTs for community betterment and empowerment are available.[15] Digital literacy is of course, one of the significant elements in this process.

Digital Citizenship[edit | edit source]

Digital Citizenship has nine components:[16]

  • Digital Access: full electronic participation in society.
  • Digital Commerce: electronic buying and selling of goods.
  • Digital Communication: electronic exchange of information.
  • Digital Literacy: process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology.
  • Digital Etiquette: electronic standards of conduct or procedure.
  • Digital Law: electronic responsibility for actions and deeds.
  • Digital Rights & Responsibilities: those freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world.
  • Digital Health & Wellness: physical and psychological well-being in a digital technology world.
  • Digital Security (self-protection): electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

Global impact[edit | edit source]

Government officials around the world have emphasized the importance of digital literacy for their economy. According to HotChalk, an Online resource for educators: "Nations with centralized education systems, such as China, are leading the charge and implementing digital literacy training programs faster than anyone else. For those countries, the news is good."

Many developing nations are also focusing on digital literacy education to compete globally.

Economically, socially and regionally marginalised people have benefited from the ECDL Foundation’s ECDL / ICDL programme through funding and support from Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, international development agency funding and non-governmental organisations(NGO’s).

The Philippines' Education Secretary Jesli Lapus has emphasized the importance of digital literacy in Filipino education. He claims a resistance to change is the main obstacle to improving the nation's education in the globalized world. In 2008, Lapus was inducted into Certiport's "Champions of Digital Literacy" Hall of Fame for his work to emphasize digital literacy.[17]

Use in the workforce[edit | edit source]

Those who are digitally literate are more likely to be economically secure.[18] Many jobs require a working knowledge of computers and the Internet to perform basic functions. As wireless technology improves, more jobs require proficiency with cell phones and PDAs (sometimes combined into smart phones).

White collar jobs are increasingly performed primarily on computers and portable devices. Many of these jobs require proof of digital literacy to be hired or promoted. Sometimes companies will administer their own tests to employees, or official certification will be required.

As technology has become cheaper and more readily available, more blue-collar jobs have required digital literacy as well. Manufacturers and retailers, for example, are expected to collect and analyze data about productivity and market trends to stay competitive. Construction workers often use computers to increase employee safety.[18]

Job recruiters often use employment Web sites to find potential employees, thus magnifying the importance of digital literacy in securing a job.

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jenkins, Henry (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  2. Warschauer, Mark, Tina Matuchniak (2010). New Technology and Digital Worlds: Analyzing Evidence of Equity in Access, Use, and Outcomes. Review of Research in Education 34: 179–225.
  3. How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Prensky, Marc Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. MCB University Press. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  5. Carr, Nicholas Is Google Making Us Stupid?. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  6. WIDE Research Center Collective Why Teach Digital Writing?. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  7. Beers, Kylene (2007). Adolescent Literacy, Portsmouth: Heinemann.
  8. McAdams, Mindy JEP: Hypertext. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  9. Kroski, Ellyssa Community 2.0. URL accessed on 30 November 11.
  10. Marlow, Cameron Audience, Structure, and Authority in the Weblog Community. MIT Media Laboratory. URL accessed on 2 June 2006.
  11. Dixon, Mark Identity Map. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  12. [ United Nations GAID Series 2: Our Common Humanity in the Information Age - Principles and Values for Development]. URL accessed on October 2008.
  13. [ The United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID)]. URL accessed on ''October 2008''.
  14. Besser, Howard The Next Digital Divides. URL accessed on 30 November 2011.
  15. Gurstein, Michael Effective use: A community informatics strategy beyond the digital divide. URL accessed on 12 June 2012.
  16. Rible Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. URL accessed on 23 March 2013.
  17. DepEd: Use ICT to improve learning outcomes.
  18. 18.0 18.1 The Campaign for Digital Inclusion. (pdf) URL accessed on 23 March 2013.

References[edit | edit source]

  • Gui, M. & Argentin, G. (2011). Digital skills of internet natives: Different forms of digital literacy in a random sample of northern Italian high school students, New Media & Society. Volume 13 Issue 6
  • Hargittai, E. (2002). Second-level digital divide: Differences in people’s online skills. First Monday 7(4).
  • van Dijk, J (2005). The Deepening Divide. Inequality in The Information Society. London: Sage Publications.
  • van Deursen, A. & van Dijk, J. (2009). Improving digital skills for the use of online public information and services. Government Information Quarterly (26): 333–340.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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