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Defining Digital Literacy - EdTechist
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Digital literacy and how we define it is an important but often overlooked topic in educational technology. The process of defining terms is an academic procedure and so draws some criticism of being dry, boring or irrelevant (or from personal experience a good way to increase the word count in a univeristy asignment) but it can be useful in drawing distinct pararemters for what we mean, what we don’t mean and what the outcome/consequences of those definitions mean for us in the classroom. One such example is concerned with retrieval practice. There is a discussion among teachers about what is and what isn’t retrieval practice. One discussion focuses around testing – because testing is a ‘form’ of retrieval, but not exactly what is meant here. Of course, there is evidence that shows retrieval practice does improve test results bcause of the low-stakes testing nature of retrieval practice, but we’ll save that for a day when there is nothing else to write about in educational technology (and the purpose of this site!)   A better understanding of the concept of retrieval practice among all teachers would mean that this type of discussion is not necessary, but it serves to highlight the necessity of defining terminology.

Digital literacy refers to the ability to use, understand, and critically evaluate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) effectively and responsibly. It encompasses a range of skills, knowledge, and attitudes required to engage with digital technologies and navigate the digital world proficiently. Digital literacy involves not only technical skills but also the ability to critically analyse, interpret, and create digital content in various formats.

Digital Literacy: Basic Digital Skills

Basic digital literacy skills are the foundational skills required to effectively use digital tools and technologies. These skills are essential for navigating the digital world and engaging in various online activities. Here are some examples of basic digital literacy skills:

Computer Basics: Understanding how to operate a computer, including turning it on and off, using a mouse and keyboard, navigating the desktop and being able to locate and use basic software.

Internet Navigation: Knowing how to open a web browser, search for information using search engines, and navigate websites.

Email Communication: Creating and managing an email account, composing and sending emails, attaching files, and organising email folders.

Word Processing: Using word processing software to create and edit documents, formatting text, inserting images, and saving and printing documents.

File Management: Organising files and folders on a computer, creating and renaming folders, moving and copying files, and deleting unwanted files.

Online Safety and Security: Understanding how to protect personal information online, recognising and avoiding phishing scams, using strong passwords, and learning about internet safety practices.

Online Collaboration: Using online collaboration tools such as cloud storage, document sharing platforms, and project management software to collaborate with others remotely.

Social Media Usage: Understanding how to create and manage accounts on social media platforms, interacting with others, sharing content, and understanding privacy settings.

Digital Communication: Using digital communication tools such as instant messaging, video conferencing, and online forums to communicate with others.

Digital Citizenship: Being aware of ethical and responsible behavior online, understanding the importance of online etiquette, respecting copyright laws, and understanding digital rights and responsibilities.

These basic digital literacy skills provide a foundation for individuals to engage in various activities online, such as conducting research, communicating with others, creating and sharing digital content, and participating in digital communities.

Digital Literacy: Information Literacy

Information literacy refers to the ability to find, evaluate, use, and communicate information effectively and ethically. It involves the skills, knowledge, and attitudes required to navigate the vast amount of information that is available in the modern digital age. Information literacy empowers individuals to critically evaluate and analyse information, make informed decisions, and engage with information sources responsibly.

Here are the key components of information literacy:

Information Seeking: Knowing how to identify and articulate information needs, formulate effective search queries, and use appropriate search strategies to find relevant information.

Evaluation of Information: Assessing the credibility, reliability, and accuracy of information sources. This includes evaluating the authority of authors or publishers, checking for biases or conflicts of interest, and verifying the currency and relevance of the information.

Understanding Information Types and Formats: Being able to identify different types of information sources, such as academic journals, books, websites, or social media posts. Understanding the characteristics, purpose, and format of each source helps in determining their suitability for specific information needs.

Ethical Use of Information: Respecting intellectual property rights and understanding issues related to copyright, plagiarism, and fair use. This involves appropriately citing and referencing sources used, respecting licensing agreements, and understanding the importance of giving credit to others’ ideas.

Information Management: Organising and managing information effectively, including storing and retrieving digital information, using citation management tools, and organising research materials.

Information Synthesis and Communication: Analysing, synthesising, and organising information from various sources to create new knowledge or communicate ideas effectively. This includes summarising information, integrating different perspectives, and effectively communicating research findings.

Information literacy is crucial in an era of information overload, where individuals need to distinguish reliable information from misinformation, make informed decisions, and engage critically with information sources. It is a lifelong skill that is applicable to academic, professional, and personal settings, enabling individuals to become discerning users and producers of information.

digital information literacy

Digital Literacy: Communication and Collaboration

Digital literacy includes the ability to communicate and collaborate using digital tools, such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and social media. It also involves understanding digital etiquette and online safety.

Communication and collaboration are integral aspects of digital literacy. In the digital environment, communication refers to the ability to express oneself, exchange information, and share ideas effectively and responsibly. It involves using various digital tools and platforms such as email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and social media to interact with others and convey messages electronically.

Collaboration, on the other hand, focuses on working together with others towards a common goal in an online setting. It includes activities such as sharing and editing documents simultaneously, participating in virtual team meetings, and utilising project management tools for coordination and task management.

In the context of digital literacy, effective communication and collaboration skills are crucial for a range of purposes. They facilitate the sharing of knowledge and ideas, foster teamwork and cooperation, and enable individuals to connect and engage with online communities. Moreover, they contribute to the development of critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the creation of new knowledge in collaborative environments.

Successful communication and collaboration in the digital realm require individuals to be adept at utilising digital tools effectively, understanding online etiquette and netiquette, and mastering techniques for efficient information exchange and active participation. These skills enable individuals to overcome the barriers of distance and time, allowing them to work and interact with others regardless of geographical location or time zone.

Ultimately, strong communication and collaboration skills in the digital age enhance productivity, facilitate inclusive participation, and promote the growth of interconnected and cooperative communities both in professional and personal settings.

Digital Literacy: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Digital literacy involves the capacity to think critically about digital content, evaluate its accuracy and bias, and analyse and synthesise information from multiple sources. It also includes problem-solving skills in digital environments.

Critical thinking and problem solving are key skills in digital literacy that enable individuals to analyse complex issues and generate appropriate and effective solutions in the digital environment. Digital literacy encompasses critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which involve the ability to use digital tools and technologies to gather, evaluate, and analyse information from diverse sources.

Critical thinking entails the ability to analyse and evaluate information from various digital sources to determine its credibility, reliability, and relevance. It involves interpreting complex problems, being flexible in thinking, and generating innovative solutions that approach the problem from different angles. Digital technologies provide a vast amount of data, and critical thinking skills help individuals sort through it, identifying gaps in information and patterns of behaviour.

Problem solving in the digital age calls for individuals to apply critical thinking to generate and implement appropriate solutions using technology. It involves breaking down complex problems, developing solutions that utilise digital resources such as software, and evaluating the effectiveness of those solutions. Effective problem-solving skills in digital literacy also require individuals to use digital tools and technologies for collaboration and teamwork.

Overall, critical thinking and problem-solving skills in digital literacy are essential for individuals and organisations to compete and thrive in the digital age. They not only provide the necessary skills for navigating complex issues in the digital environment but also encourage the development of innovative solutions and policies that approach digital problems from different perspectives.

digital problem solving

Digital Literacy: Digital Citizenship

Here we are referring to the responsible and ethical use of digital technologies. This encompasses understanding online privacy, security, and safety, as well as respecting copyright, intellectual property, and digital rights (yes – Google Image search is included here).

Digital citizenship involves the responsible and ethical use of digital technologies and communication tools in a manner that promotes well-being, safety, and effective participation in the digital world. It involves the awareness, knowledge, and application of fundamental digital skills, as well as the understanding of ethical, social, and legal implications involved in digital interactions. Beginning to teach this and develop understanding of what this means (including the consequences) at any early stage in post-primary school is to be advised, considering the size of the topic and importance for future employment.

Digital citizenship encompasses the ability of individuals to navigate and participate in online activities safely, effectively, and respectfully. Individuals who practice digital citizenship exhibit traits such as digital responsibility, digital etiquette, digital health and wellness, digital privacy and security, and digital literacy. These are skills required in adulthood, as to ensure a thorough understanding of how the consequences of certain actions could result in disciplinary or legal action in employment.

Digital responsibility involves recognising the consequences of actions taken online and taking responsibility for them. This includes the types of content shared, comments posted, and behaviours exhibited by individuals online.

Digital etiquette refers to the social norms and practices associated with online interactions and communication. This includes using proper language, adhering to online etiquette, and respecting the privacy, intellectual property rights, and viewpoints of others.

Digital health and wellness revolve around promoting safe and healthy habits for online interactions, such as limiting screen time and avoiding harmful digital practices.

Digital privacy and security focus on protecting personal information and digital identity from risks such as cyberbullying, hacking, and identity theft.

Digital literacy refers to the ability to use digital technologies and tools effectively to achieve personal and professional goals.

Digital citizenship is about possessing the knowledge and skills to safely, ethically, and effectively use digital technologies and communication tools in a responsible way. It also involves promoting behaviour that is respectful, positive, and productive in online communities.


Final Thoughts

Digital skills go far beyond being able to work an app, or upload a TikTok video. Many people think that because our pupils grow up with technology, or have exposure to a lot of technology, then they must be good at it. This isn’t always the case.

In a nutshell, digital skills contribute to our way of working and existing online. Not just using computers to complete a task, but have them embedded within the very core of how we work online, making the task more fluid and working together in a way that doesn’t depend on geography or time.

When we define what digital skills are, we as teachers can begin to embed them within our curriculum – because we know what they are, how we can include them, and how we can assess for them. Moving beyond low-level digital skills like typing (although this is a skill that our pupils also need), we can begin implementing collaborative work with our students that will help prepare them for future and further study, as well as the world of employment (whatever that may look like).


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