In today’s world, being digitally literate is something I take for granted. Being raised by an enthusiastic IT professional, I consider myself highly proficient with technology; a skill not everyone possesses.
So what does it mean to be digitally literate? Is it a measure of competence with technology – sending an email, downloading an app on your phone? These are components, yes, but it is more complicated than that. Firstly, as with anything, there are different levels of competency, literacy, followed by fluency, and finally, mastery. Secondly, subsequent to Lankshear and Knobel’s idea in Martin’s (2008) book that digital literacy would benefit if referred to in the plural form – digital literacies – and would hold a wider definition. Kotlay (2011) categorises ‘media literacy’ – being an active user of media, while having a critical approach to content (essentially performing a minor C.R.A.P. test whilst consuming); using media creatively; and being conscious of copyright infringement – and ‘information literacy’ – knowing when information is needed; and what information best suits the purpose via critical evaluation and problem-solving – alongside digital literacy, which encompasses this wider definition. Digital literacies contain more than technological know-how, and refers also to our consumption of online content, and media. As Hartley (2009) suggests, we are becoming consumers and well as producers, therefore we must be literate in what we produce.
With the age of social networking upon us, Hartley is right: “’Writing’ is catching up with ‘reading’” (2009). For those of us that know how, we post our thoughts, well wishes and current events online. But how many do we read of others? Or how many articles do we read? We are becoming more concerned with what we can put out and less so with what we can take in. And just the ability to post alone does not mean we are digitally literate. It is the combination of being able to sift through what is relevant, current, and accurate using a tool as dense as the internet. It is finding information when we need it. It is also about the competency level of using technological tools, but most importantly it is the critical approach to consumption as well as production of content.
Hartley, J. 2009, ‘Repurposing Literacy’, The Uses of Digital Literacy, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, QLD, pp. 1-38.
Koltay, T. 2011, ‘The media and the literacies: media literacy, information literacy, digital literacy’, Media, Culture & Society, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 211-21.
Martin, A. 2008, ‘Digital literacy and the ‘digital society’’, Digital literacies: Concepts, policies and practices, vol. 30, pp. 151-76.