The Complexity of Digital Literacy

This blog post is in response to the Ontario Extend Activity “What is your definition of digital literacies for teaching?” in the Technologist module. 

Before doing a little research, I would have said that I know what digital literacy is. It is the ability to locate, use, share, assess, and produce content using technologies and/or the internet. I didn’t realize that digital literacy is so incredibly complex! I don’t think there really is a correct definition of digital literacy but this is my reflection on digital literacies.

Many of the resources I found referenced the Jisc Digital Literacies Framework, which looks like this:

7 elements of digital literacies
Seven element of digital literacies ©Jisc CC BY-NC-ND

One thing that I should have included in my own definition of digital literacies is the collaboration and communication piece. I watched an incredible TedTalk by author John Green to talked about how online learning has made learning more accessible and that people are more intrinsically motivated to learn things they are interested in because we can communicate and collaborate with like-minded individuals. This is so true! I’ve completed a number of MOOCs or free online courses courses just because the topic was something I wanted to learn about and I could talk with people that have the same interests.

One thing I think we take for granted when teaching students is that we assume because they are growing up in the age of technology that they know how to use technology and software; they aren’t necessarily the digital natives we believe they are (or should be). It shocked me when I started teaching English that my students had no idea that the red line under a word in Microsoft Word meant that the word was misspelled. I assumed that they knew this and were ignoring to change it, or that they were just too lazy to go back to proofread their work. The reality was that they had no idea what it meant and had no idea to right click to find word suggestions. My students had no idea how to run spell check or a word count. I assumed that because these students had a firm grasp on ‘technology’ that they knew how to use these basic features in Word!

Often we tell students to be careful what they post online or send digitally because it will live forever on the web, however, we often forget to reinforce that to the older generation. My parent’s generation doesn’t know anything about digital literacy and they also need to be taught. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an older family member go off on a tangent in a Facebook post about something they read in a clickbait article, or an something being circulated online that is completed fabricated and not backed by evidence-based research. Many don’t even read the article, they just read the title and believe to be truth! This drives me absolutely bonkers. How do we teach the older generations using technology about digital literacy?

I really liked this image that describes digital literacy because it includes digital safety, security, well-being and identity:

Person-Centred Digital Literacy
Person-Centred Digital Literacy

The image above shows a more general overview of what digital literacy is – I like its simplicity.

The bottom line is that I don’t know what the correct definition of digital literacy is. I just know that it encompasses a lot of complex elements related to technology and our digital world, and that is only going to continue to grow as technology advances! Will we ever have a rock-solid definition of digital literacy?

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