Digital literacy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Digital literacy refers to an individual's ability to find, evaluate, and compose clear information through writing and other mediums on various digital platforms. Digital literacy is evaluated by an individual's grammar, composition, typing skills and ability to produce writings, images, audio and designs using technology. While digital literacy initially focused on digital skills and stand-alone computers, the advent of the Internet and use of social media, has caused some of its focus to shift to mobile devices. Digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy, instead building upon the skills that form the foundation of traditional forms of literacy.[1]

Digital literacy built on the expanding role of social science research in the field of literacy[2] as well on concepts of visual literacy,[3] computer literacy,[4] and information literacy,[5]

Overall digital literacy shares many defining principles with other fields that use modifiers in front of literacy to define ways of being and domain specific knowledge. The term has grown in popularity in education and higher education settings and can be found used in International and national standards.[6] Similar to other expanding definitions of literacy that recognize cultural and historical ways of making meaning [7] digital literacy does not replace traditional forms of literacy, instead building upon the skills that form the foundation of traditional forms of literacy.[1]


The rise of digital literacy[edit]

Digital literacy is often discussed in the context of its precursor media literacy. Media literacy education began in the United Kingdom and the United States as a result of war propaganda in the 1930s and the rise of advertising in the 1960s, respectively.[8] Manipulative messaging and the increase in various forms of media further concerned educators. Educators began to promote media literacy education in order to teach individuals how to judge and access the media messages they were receiving. The ability to critique digital and media content allows individuals to identify biases and evaluate messages independently.[8]

danah boyd stresses the importance of critical media literacy, especially for teens. She advocates that critical media literacy skills are the first step in identifying biases in media content, such as online or print advertising. Technical skills and knowledge of navigating computer systems further helps individuals in evaluating information on their own. Barriers in acquiring technical skills and computer knowledge set forth a limit for individuals in fully participating in the digital world.[8]

In order for individuals to evaluate digital and media messages independently, they must demonstrate digital and media literacy competence. Renee Hobbs developed a list of skills that demonstrate digital and media literacy competence.[9] Digital and media literacy includes the ability to examine and comprehend the meaning of messages, judging credibility, and assess the quality of a digital work. A digitally literate individual becomes a socially responsible member of their community by spreading awareness and helping others find digital solutions at home, work, or on a national platform.[9]

Digital divide[edit]

Digital divide refers to the disparities among people - such as those living in developed and developing world - concerning access to and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT),[10] particularly computer hardware, software, and the Internet.[11] Individuals within societies that lack economic resources to build ICT infrastructure do not have adequate digital literacy, which means that their digital skills are limited.[12] The divide can be explained by Max Weber's social stratification theory, which focuses on access to production rather ownership of the capital.[13] The former becomes access to ICT so that an individual can accomplish interaction and produce information or create a product and that, without it, he or she cannot participate in the learning, collaboration, and production processes.[13] Digital literacy and digital access have become increasingly important competitive differentiators for individuals using the internet meaningfully.[14] Increasing digital literacy and access to technology for peoples who have been left out of the information revolution is of common concern[for whom?].

Research published in 2012 found that the digital divide, as defined by access to information technology, does not exist amongst youth in the United States.[15] Young people report being connected to the internet at rates of 94-98%.[15] There remains, however, a civic opportunity gap, where youth from poorer families and those attending lower socioeconomic status schools are less likely to have opportunities to apply their digital literacy.[16][failed verification] Also, existing research on digital divide reveal the existence of personal categorical inequalities between young and old people.[17] An interpretation also identify digital divide between technology accessed by the youth outside the school and inside the classroom.[18]

Digital natives and digital immigrants[edit]

Marc Prensky invented and popularized the terms digital natives and digital immigrants to describe respectively an individual born into the digital age and one adopting the appropriate skills later in life.[19] A digital immigrant refers to an individual who adopts technology later in life.

Carr claims that 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.[20] Marc Prensky believes this is a problem because today's students have a vocabulary and skill set educators (who at the time of his writing would be digital immigrants) may not fully understand.[19]

Statistics and popular representations of the elderly portray them as digital immigrants. For example, Canada in 2010 found that 29% of its citizens 75 years of age and older, and 60% of its citizens between the ages of 65-74 had browsed the internet in the past month.[21] Conversely, internet activity reached almost 100% among its 15 through 24-year-old citizens.[21]

Digital visitors and digital residents[edit]

In contrast to Prensky, David S. White has been proposes a concept of digital visitors and residents. Visitors leave no online social trace whereas residents live a portion of their lives online. This paradigm describes of a continuum of behaviors as opposed to being disjoint groups. It is probable that many individuals demonstrate both visitor and residential behaviors in different contexts.[22]

Participation gap[edit]

Media theorist Henry Jenkins coined the term participation gap[when?] and distinguished the participation gap from the digital divide.[8] According to Jenkins, the participation gap is the disparity in skills that emerge when individuals have different levels of access to technology.[23] Jenkins states that students learn different sets of technology skills if they only have access to the internet in a library or school.[23] In particular Jenkins observes that students who have access to the internet at home have more opportunities to develop their skills and have fewer limitations, such as computer time limits and website filters commonly used in libraries.[23]

Digital Equivalents[edit]

Digital workflows for classic media have largely superseded, but not supplanted their analog equivalents. The ability of computers to perfectly replicate, backup and revert changes in digital documents significantly lowers the cost of mass production and economic penalty for making an error while making a work. In many instances digital methods are inadequate to completely process a work as in the case of removing flashing from CNC models, necessitating the persistence of some analog skills. In other instances an amount of imperfection in execution is desirable to achieve a particular aesthetic as in wabisabi, which a machine may have difficulty automatically producing.

Analog Skill Digital Equivalent Notes
Painting Bitmap Editing
Illustration Vector Graphics
Drafting CADD
Composition Word Processing
Compositing Digital Compositing
Film Editing Digital video editing
Typesetting Digital typesetting, LaTeX
Formatting Markup Languages
Printing Printer
Wood and Metalworking CNC
Silkscreening and Block Printing Offset printing, Photolithography
Weaving Automated Loom
Animation Computer Assisted Animation, 3D Modeling
Audio Mixing Digital Audio Mastering

Academic and pedagogical concepts[edit]

In academia digital literacy is a part of the computing subject area alongside computer science and information technology.[24]

Given the many varied implications that digital literacy has on students and educators, pedagogy has responded by emphasizing four specific models of engaging with digital mediums. Those four models are text participating, code breaking, text analyzing, and text using.[contradictory] These methods present students (and other learners) with the ability to fully engage with the media, but also enhance the way the individual is able to relate the digital text to their lived experiences.[25]

21st-century skills[edit]

Digital literacy requires certain skill sets that are interdisciplinary in nature. Warschauer and Matuchniak (2010) list three skill sets, or 21st century skills,[26] that individuals need to master in order to be digitally literate: information, media, and technology; learning and innovation skills; and life and career skills.[vague]. Aviram et al. assert that 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.[27]

Aviram & Eshet-Alkalai contend that there are five types of literacies that are encompassed in the umbrella term that is digital literacy.

  1. Photo-visual literacy: the ability to read and deduce information from visuals.
  2. Reproduction literacy: 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: the ability to successfully navigate in the non-linear medium of digital space.
  4. Information literacy: the ability to search, locate, assess and critically evaluate information found on the web and on-shelf in libraries.
  5. Socio-emotional literacy: the social and emotional aspects of being present online, whether it may be through socializing, and collaborating, or simply consuming content.[27]

Applications of digital literacy[edit]

In education[edit]

Schools are continuously updating their curricula to keep up with accelerating technological developments.[dubious ] This often includes computers in the classroom, the use of educational software to teach curricula, and course materials being made available to students online. Students are often taught literacy skills such as how to verify credible sources online, cite web sites, and prevent plagiarism. Google and Wikipedia are frequently used by students "for everyday life research,"[28] and are just two common tools that facilitate modern education. Digital technology has impacted the way material is taught in the classroom. With the use of technology rising over the past decade, educators are altering traditional forms of teaching to include course material on concepts related to digital literacy.[29] Several websites are assisting in these efforts such as Google Docs, Prezi, and, Easybib. Each service has assisted students by teaching collaboration, allowing students to use pre-made, creative presentation templates, and helping generate citations in any given format. Additionally, educators have also turned to social media platforms to communicate and share ideas with one another.[29] New standards have been put into place as digital technology has augmented classrooms, with many classrooms being designed to use smartboards and audience response systems in replacement of traditional chalkboards or whiteboards.[citation needed]

Digital writing[edit]

University of Southern Mississippi professor, Dr. Suzanne Mckee-Waddell[30] conceptualized the idea of digital composition as the ability to integrate multiple forms of communication technologies and research to create a better understanding of a topic.[vague] Digital writing is a pedagogy being taught increasingly in universities. It is focused on the impact technology has had on various writing environments; it is not simply the process of using a computer to write. Educators in favor of digital writing argue that it is necessary because "technology fundamentally changes how writing is produced, delivered, and received."[31] 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.[32]

One aspect of digital writing is the use of hypertext or LaTeX. 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."[33]

In society[edit]

Digital literacy is necessary for the correct use various digital platforms. Literacy in social network services and Web 2.0 sites helps people stay in contact with others, pass timely information, and even buy and sell goods and services. Digital literacy can also prevent people from being taken advantage of online, as photo manipulation, E-mail frauds and phishing often can fool the digitally illiterate, costing victims money and making them vulnerable to identity theft.[34] However, those using technology and the internet to commit these manipulations and fraudulent acts possess the digital literacy abilities to fool victims by understanding the technical trends and consistencies; it becomes important to be digitally literate to always think one step ahead when utilizing the digital world.

With the emergence of social media, individuals who are digitally literate now have a major voice online.[dubious ][35] 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."[36] These online communities foster group interactivity among the digitally literate. Social media also help users establish a digital identity or a "symbolic digital representation of identity attributes."[37] Without digital literacy or the assistance of someone who is digitally literate, one cannot possess a personal digital identity (this is closely allied to web literacy).

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.[38][39][40] Among young people, digital literacy is high in its operational dimension. Young people rapidly move through hypertext and have a familiarity with different kinds of online resources. However, the skills to critically evaluate content[for whom?] found online show a deficit.[41]

In the workforce[edit]

The 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) defines digital literacy skills as a workforce preparation activity.[42] Those who are digitally literate are more likely to be economically secure,[43] as many jobs require a working knowledge of computers and the Internet to perform basic tasks.

White collar jobs are today 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.[43]

Global impact[edit]

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.[44]

A study done in 2011 by the Southern African Linguistics & Applied Language Studies program observed some South African university students regarding their digital literacy.[45] It was found that while their courses did require some sort of digital literacy, very few students actually had access to a computer. Many had to pay others to type any work, as they their digital literacy was almost nonexistent. Findings show that class, ignorance, and inexperience still affect any access to learning South African university students may need.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jenkins, Henry (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (PDF). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-03.
  2. ^ Au, K,, and Jordan, C (1981)Teaching reading to Hawaiian children: Finding a culturally appropriate solution
  3. ^ Dondis, 1973, A Primer in Visual Literacy
  4. ^ Molnar, A. (1979). The Next Great Crisis in America
  5. ^ Paul G. Zurkowski (Nov 1974). "The Information Service Environment: Relationships and Priorities. Related Paper No.5". National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved December 3, 2015.
  6. ^ Knobel, M & Lanskear, C. (2008). Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies, and Practices.
  7. ^ The New London Group (1997). New Literacy Studies
  8. ^ a b c d Boyd, Danah (2014). It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. pp. 177–194. ISBN 978-0-300-16631-6.
  9. ^ a b Hobbs, Renee; Martens, Hans (2015). "How media literacy supports civic engagement in a digital age". Atlantic Journal of Communication. 23 (2): 120–137. doi:10.1080/15456870.2014.961636 – via Fusion.
  10. ^ Lim, Ee-Peng; Foo, Schubert; Khoo, Chris; Chen, Hsinchun; Fox, Edward; Shalini, Urs; Thanos, Costanino (2002). Digital Libraries: People, Knowledge, and Technology: 5th International Conference on Asian Digital Libraries, ICADL 2002, Singapore, December 11-14, 2002, Proceedings. Berlin: Springer Verlag. p. 379. ISBN 3540002618.
  11. ^ Saileela, Dr R. Babu, Dr S. Kalaivani & Dr K. Empowering India Through Digital Literacy (Vol. 1). Lulu. p. 111. ISBN 9780359527632.
  12. ^ Global, IGI (2017). Information and Technology Literacy: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. p. 587. ISBN 9781522534181.
  13. ^ a b Ragnedda, Massimo; Muschert, Glenn W. (2013). The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. Oxon: Routledge. p. 172. ISBN 9780415525442.
  14. ^ Celik, A. (2007). Our Common Humanity in the Information Age: Principles and Values for Development.
  15. ^ a b Cohen, C. J., & Kahne, J. (2011). Participatory Politics: New Media and Youth Political Action. Chicago, IL: MacArthur Network on Youth and Participatory Politics.
  16. ^ Kahne, Joseph and Middaugh, Ellen (2008). As technology has become cheaper and more readily available, more blue-collar jobs have required digital literacy as well. "Democracy for some: The civic opportunity gap in high school", Circle Working Paper, retrieved 2013-09-25
  17. ^ Ragnedda, Massimo; Muschert, Glenn W. (2013). The Digital Divide: The Internet and Social Inequality in International Perspective. Oxon: Routledge. p. 33. ISBN 9780415525442.
  18. ^ Buckingham, David (2013). Beyond Technology: Children's Learning in the Age of Digital Culture. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 1988–1989. ISBN 9780745655307.
  19. ^ a b Prensky, Marc (2001). "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants". On the Horizon. 9 (5): 1–6. doi:10.1108/10748120110424816.
  20. ^ Carr, Nicholas (2008). "Is Google Making Us Stupid?". The Atlantic. 107 (2). doi:10.1111/j.1744-7984.2008.00172.
  21. ^ a b Allen, Mary (2013). "Cultural consumption on the Internet by older Canadians". Statistics Canada. Perspectives on Canadian Society.
  22. ^ White, David; Le Cornu, Alison (2011-09-05). "Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement". British Journal of Educational Technology. 16 (9): 775–786. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x.
  23. ^ a b c "The Participation Gap: A Conversation with media expert and MIT Professor Henry Jenkins". National Education Association. March 18, 2008. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  24. ^ Furber, S. (2012). Shut down or restart?: The way forward for computing in UK schools.
  25. ^ Hinrichsen, Juliet; Coombs, Antony (2014-01-31). "The five resources of critical digital literacy: a framework for curriculum integration". Research in Learning Technology. 21. doi:10.3402/rlt.v21.21334. ISSN 2156-7077.
  26. ^ Warschauer, Mark; Matuchniak, Tina (2010). "New Technology and Digital Worlds: Analyzing Evidence of Equity in Access, Use, and Outcomes". Review of Research in Education. 34: 179–225. doi:10.3102/0091732X09349791.
  27. ^ a b Aviram, A., & Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2006). Towards a theory of digital literacy: Three scenarios for the next steps. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. Retrieved from
  28. ^ Head, A., & Eisenberg, M. (2009, December). How college students seek information in the digital age. Retrieved from
  29. ^ a b Greenhow, Christine; Sonnevend, Julia; Agur, Colin (6 May 2016). Education and Social Media: Toward a Digital Future. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262334860.
  30. ^ Mckee-Waddell, S. s. (2015). Digital Literacy: Bridging the Gap with Digital Writing Tools. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 82(1), 26-31.
  31. ^ Hart-Davidson, Bill; Cushman, Ellen; Grabill, Jeff; DeVoss, Danielle Nicole; Porter, Jim (2005). "Why teach digital writing?". Kairos. 10 (1).
  32. ^ Beers, Kylene; Probst, Robert; Rief, Linda (2007). Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. UK: Heinemann Publishing. ISBN 9780325011288.
  33. ^ McAdams, Mindy; Berger, Stephanie. "Hypertext". Journal of Electronic Publishing.
  34. ^ Longardner, Tara (2015). "US News". The Growing Need for Technical and Digital Literacy.
  35. ^ nashoa (January 6, 2014). "Social networks using web 2.0". IBM.
  36. ^ Marlow, Cameron. "Audience, Structure, and Authority in the Weblog Community" (PDF). MIT Media Laboratory. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  37. ^ Dixon, Mark (2005). "Identity Map" Archived 2016-11-26 at the Wayback Machine. Oracle.
  38. ^ Hargittai, E. (2002). Second-level digital divide: Differences in people's online skills. First Monday 7(4).
  39. ^ van Dijk, J (2005). The Deepening Divide. Inequality in The Information Society. London: Sage Publications.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ 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
  42. ^ IMLS press release: $2.2 Billion Reasons to Pay Attention to WIOA. 2014.
  43. ^ a b Wynne, M., & Cooper, L. (2007). Digital Inclusion Imperatives Offer Municipalities New Social and Economic Opportunities. Retrieved from POWER UP: The Campaign for Digital Inclusion.
  44. ^ Philippine Information Agency. (2008). DepEd: Use ICT to improve learning outcomes [Press Release].
  45. ^ a b Kajee, L; Balfour, R (2011). "Students' access to digital literacy at a South African university: Privilege and marginalisation". Southern African Linguistics & Applied Language Studies. 29: 187. doi:10.2989/16073614.2011.633365.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • An initiative of the Obama Administration to serve as a valuable resource to practitioners who are delivering digital literacy training and services in their communities.
  • A Clearinghouse of Digital Literacy and Digital Inclusion best practices from around the world.
  • A reference guide for public educators on the topic of digital literacy.