Skip to main content

What definition of digital literacy do you use ?

Hello Integrating Technology Colleagues,

You probably have heard the term "digital literacy," and you may use it with colleagues or with your students. There are now many definitions of digital literacy, and I have included four of them below. At the end of this post, I'll tell you mine, and ask for yours.  Consider which of these definitions you prefer, and why; if you have a different definition, what is it?

1. The American Library Association's digital literacy task force definition: "Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." Note that in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), the term “digital literacy skills” is defined consistent with the definition in the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, and based on the ALA task force definition. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/wioa-faqs.pdf (See bottom of FAQ page.)

2. From the Wikipedia: "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 overlaps with computer literacy, as most digital media technologies require some level of computer competency. Commenters on digital literacy distinguish it from computer literacy as being a competency using computer assisted tools for medium which predate the ubiquity of personal computers.

3.  A professor of literacy and technology at North Carolina State University, Hiller Spires, offers this definition: "a simplified way to think about digital literacy by ordering the cognitive and social processes into three categories: (a) locating and consuming digital content, (b) creating digital content, and (c) communicating digital content"

4. Some people use the term digital literacy to refer to basic computer or other digital device technical and navigation skills, meaning basic digital literacy skills.

Here's my definition:

I start with the the American Library Association's, "Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." and add "problem solving"  acknowledging the important OECD PIAAC international adult literacy assessment called "Problem Solving in Technology Rich Environments."  So my definition of digital literacy  becomes: An ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, and to solve problems, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

This might better be called Digital Fluency, and our goal as adult educators interested in integrating technology might be:

Digital fluency: to enable adult learners to successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, and solve problems, in daily living, education and work. The problems, of course, also include those we face in using technology. Adult learners who are fluent in using technology, I might add, have competence, confidence and courage in using it.

What's your definition?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

 

 

Comments

Edward Latham's picture
One hundred

I am not sure if it is important that "it" is called Digital Fluency or Digital Literacy, but it is an important goal that adults learners be able to:

successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, and solve problems, in daily living, education and work

I would add the "his/her" pronoun in there though because all of those skills listed in there are less relevant if they are just canned, artificial constructions that are simply digital hoops to jump through. I would contend that the more relevant the educational experience, the more likely positive end goals are met. So, my revision would be...

 

Successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, and solve relevant problems, in a person's daily living, education and work. 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Ed, and others,

I like your additions to the proposed definition, Ed!

Everyone, using the revised definition of digital literacy (or digital fluency), the "Ability to successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, and solve relevant problems, in a person's daily living, education and work," can you give us some real-life examples from your own life, and the lives of students you teach? I am interested in all examples, but am particularly interested in those involving relevant problems in a person's daily living, education and work. This includes relevant problems that one experiences in using technology!

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

 

 

Donna Maher's picture
First

I really dig the new definition: "Ability to successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, and solve relevant problems, in a person's daily living, education and work."  However, I would also recommend having an ethical component.  Perhaps: "Ability to successfully and ethically use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, and solve relevant problems, in a person's daily living, education and work."

Thoughts?

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hi Donna,

Tell us more about the issues that you are concerned about that might be addressed by adding "ethically" to the digital literacy definition. Are you seeing practices among your adult basic skills (including ESOL/ESL) students that you regard as unethical? If so, can you give us some examples?

Thanks,

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

 

 

Donna Maher's picture
First

I am sorry it has taken so long for me to reply. Busy, busy, busy...

I wouldn't say that I've seen any specific unethical practices. However, I think it is important that people know that just because it is on the internet, it is not their's for the taking. Many are not aware of this - even recent high school graduates. I believe discussing  should be part of the literacy process.

J.Harris's picture
First

David,

I am so very pleased to see a focus on the digital literacy definition. My definition of digital literacy aligns with the American Library Association's digital literacy task force's definition. Cornell University similarly has defined digital literacy this way: "Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet." I will add, however, that the fourth definition you provided should be included in the overall definition.

I can also appreciate the concept, communicated in the Wikipedia definition, that there has been a shift in defining digital literacy from the basic to more complex.

Regarding ethics, it is important to explicitly guide our adult education students, as we do with written tasks, to understand the value of giving credit to whom it is due (i.e. plagiarism is unethical), and other topics that fit within the ethics realm.  

Thank you for this discussion.

Jamie Harris

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Donna and others,

in addition to what Jamie Harris has mentioned, plagiarism -- Thanks Jamie --  what other ethical issues do you think are important to include in digital literacy?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,

Earlier in this discussion I introduced the concept of digital fluency, and defined it as what enables adult learners to successfully use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, and solve problems, in daily living, education and work.

Do you teach digital fluency? If so, what's your approach? Do you have a digital fluency curriculum that you like? Do you have particular learning projects that you have found or created that help adult learners grow in digital literacy or become digitally fluent? If so, tell us about them.

I describe "integrating technology" as a process for adult basic skills teachers and programs in which the use of digital technology (computers, portable electronic devices such as electronic tablets and smartphones, electronic whiteboards, multimedia projectors and other digital devices) can add value to face-to-face and online teaching and learning.  Do you like that definition? How would you add to or change it? What do you see as the relationship of digital literacy, digital fluency and integrating technology?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group

 

 

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Hello Integrating Technology colleagues,

Below are my notes on another view of digital literacy, from a recently reviewed LINCS Resource, a 26-minute podcast (audio file) entitled "Digital Equity: Exploring this Modern Civil Right," in an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) podcast series called Upskill with Edtech. ISTE's Chike Aguh, a former CEO of EveryoneOn, describes digital literacy as a three-tiered pyramid, or a three-legged stool (where all three legs are essential.)

First tier of the pyramid/one leg of the stool: Very Basic Digital Literacy, the basics of being a digital citizen

  • Turn on/off a computer or portable digital device

  • Use digital tools such as word processing, spreadsheets, etc.

  • Use a browser

  • Use email

Second tier of the pyramid/second leg of the stool: Using the Internet to increase the quality of one's life, acquiring the digital skills of daily living

  • Apply for a job

  • Apply for public benefits

  • Do automatic bill paying

Top of the pyramid/the third leg of the stool: Learning; using the Internet to increase one's skills, "Increase one's own capacity to change one's life" which requires well-developed digital literacy skills

  • Get an online  certificate or credential that helps one to get a (better) job

  • Get the next level digital skills that can be transformative, particularly for low-income or under-served individuals

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology group