What is a Digital Literacy?

Mindbinders 08

In What Are Digital Literacies? Let’s Ask the Students Cathy Davidson talks about asking her students in “This Is Your Brain on the Internet” and “Twenty-First Century Literacies” (two classes I would love to take btw!) about digital literacies. Here is the list they came up with:

  • Using online sources to network, knowledge-outreach, publicize content, collaborate and innovate
  • Collecting, managing, and interpreting multimedia and online data and/or content
  • Appreciating the complex ethics surrounding online practices
  • Engaging successfully in an “Innovation Challenge,” an exercise in simultaneous multi-user, real-time distance collaboration, on deadline
  • Developing a diversity of writing styles and modes of communication to best reach, address, and accommodate multiple audiences across multiple online platforms
  • Demonstrating technical and media skills: Web video, WordPress, blogging, Google Docs, Livechat, Twitter, Facebook Groups, Wikipedia editing
  • Participating successfully in peer leadership (without an authority figure as the leader to police, guide, or protect the collaborators), peer assessment, peer self-evaluation; making contributions to a group on a coherent and innovative project
  • Cultivating strategies for managing the line between personal and professional life in visible, online communities
  • Understanding how to transform complicated ideas and gut reactions about technology into flexible technology policy
  • Learning how to champion the importance of the open Web and ‘Net Neutrality
  • Collaborating across disciplines, working with people from different backgrounds and fields, including across liberal arts and engineering
  • Understanding the complexity of copyright and intellectual property and the relationship between “open source” and “profitability” or “sustainability”
  • Excelling in collaborative online publishing skills and expertise, from conception to execution to implementation to dissemination
  • Incorporating technology efficiently and wisely into a specific classroom or work environment
  • Leading peers in discussing the implications and ethics of intellectual collaborative discourse and engagement online and beyond
  • Using the superior expertise of a peer to extend my own knowledge

So I thought I’d ask you, our readers, what do consider to be a digital literacy?

12 Responses to “What is a Digital Literacy?”

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  12. Lane Wilkinson Says:

    I think these are all worthwhile skills, though I think the students are conflating functional digital literacy with the figurative sense of literacy (critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and other skills). Some have nothing to do with literacy at all. Championing net neutrality? Creating technology policy? Learning from peers? I’ll admit that these are incredibly important things to learn (and things that I stress in my interactions with students), but calling them “literacies” just muddies the waters.

    FWIW, I think digital literacy has two meanings. Very roughly, the first is the functional sense: digital literacy is the ability to use digital technology to communicate. The second is the figurative sense: digital literacy refers to the evaluative skills that are required for effectively using and producing information in the digital environment.


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