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What Is Digital Literacy?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Digital literacy is a set of skills that includes the ability to use digital technology to find information and to critically evaluate that information's authority and relevance. Effective communication with others through digital mediums is also an important component of digital literacy. This concept does not simply imply computer literacy but instead focuses on a wider range of knowledge. To be digitally literate is generally to be able to use the Internet as well as other types of electronic media in ways that will increase personal success, prosperity, and meaningful dialogue with others.

Technology tends to rapidly develop and allow increasing percentages of the world's population to gain digital access to a broad scope of information. This trend thus leads to an increase in the importance of critical thinking and decision-making skills when it comes to using digital technology. Visual literacy is closely related to this set of skills because it involves the ability to interpret the meanings of digital images, text, videos, and other types of presentations. Individuals with this core competency are also able to use quality information to design and publish their own well-researched findings online so that others are able to easily find and utilize that information.

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Multimedia literacy is a component of digital literacy that is mainly concerned with the ability to access, process, and interact with various materials in digital rather than printed formats. The popularity of websites and blogs for news and other types of reading material leads to the need for multimedia literacy. Competent users are able to contribute meaningful additions to online written material that is no longer static or one-sided. This technology makes communication possible between people who are separated by geographic distances; it can have rewarding results when used with the critical thinking skills that digital literacy requires.

Both the classroom and the workplace have definite needs for students, teachers, and workers to be digitally literate. Technology makes both learning and communication quite different than in the past, and thoroughly understanding these implications is an important step toward digital literacy. Information is often not delivered in a linear fashion over the Internet as it is with printed materials; it is more often a set of linked ideas. The validity of each of these ideas generally should not be taken at face value but instead examined with a critical eye. Since anyone, anywhere can publish online content, the expertise and background of each author directly affects the accuracy of gathered information.

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Discuss this Article

Fa5t3r
Post 3

@MrsPramm - I think there's a problem in trying to figure out what kinds of digital literacy skills are actually needed, not to mention finding the funding for schools to provide that kind of tech and expertise.

I wonder if this is something that people in Silicon Valley should be championing.

MrsPramm
Post 2

@clintflint - Honestly, to me that's not the biggest problem, although of course, it is a problem that should be addressed.

I think the greater problem is that, at the moment, digital literacy is one more great divide between the children who grow up in poverty and the ones who don't.

The ones who aren't poor know how to use all the latest gadgets and, more importantly, they know how to innovate with them. If you gave them a digital literacy test they would think it a breeze, because information is what they swim in every day.

The poor kids simply don't have those gadgets. Many of them don't have internet. When they grow up, they are always going to be

less able to adapt to the technology that their richer peers take for granted.

The digital divide is something they talk about in terms of the different between the third world and the first world, but it is definitely a problem even within first world countries, and one of the only ways to address it is to make sure those kids have access to the technology at school.

clintflint
Post 1

Digital literacy is sorely lacking in the classroom at the moment and it really needs to be addressed. There are a lot of problems that could be solved if children were exposed to a decent program teaching digital literacy.

For example, kids are often targeted online, not only for extremely disturbing reasons, like pedophilia, but also for more mundane reasons, like the fact that they can get hold of their parent's credit cards.

Often the parents aren't all that literate themselves and don't understand what they need to be teaching their children.

A decent digital literacy curriculum could get to the heart of the problem by teaching kids how to be properly critical and wary online. In the modern world, it's a skill that you can't be without.

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