Digital Literacy: What is it?

Today’s world is becoming more technologically advanced every minute. New apps are created and new software is developed with each passing day. Every day, according to DMR, over 100 million people are active on Twitter, tweeting anything from what they’re eating to how awesome the latest episode of The Bachelorette is. It’s hard to think back to the days of cassette tapes in the iPhone and iPod-less world. In fact, it’s difficult to even remember a time when these apps and devices didn’t exist. Students in the classroom today are more exposed to technology than ever, but is that necessarily a bad thing? We hear a lot about the term “digital literacy,” but what exactly is that? Should educators be afraid of the growth of resources available, or should we embrace it? All of these are questions that float through society today and should be explored.


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What is Digital Literacy?

I’ll never forget the day that I taught my dad how to use his iPhone. It was a hilarious, trying experience for both of us. Some of the functions on the phone that seemed to be the easiest for me were roadblocks for him, such as the camera. However, after some anger (from him) and tears (from me laughing so hard), we finally accomplished our goal- my dad could successfully and confidently use every app on his iPhone. He was literate in the area of his Apple iPhone.

US Digital Literacy uses the University of Illinois’s definition of digital literacy, stating that it is “the ability to use digital technology communication tools, or networks to locate, evaluate, use, and create information.” Digital literacy also looks into a person’s ability “to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment” and using technology’s tools, such as iPads and SmartBoards or Twitter and blogs. Being digitally literate means that you understand and are able to use different types of technology and programs within it. Digitally literate people are able to use technology as a tool; they can use it to add creativity and effectiveness to a particular situation or presentation. Instead of spending hours on a poster, a student can create a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation in a fraction of the time. Technology allows students to be more creative due to the excess of resources and apps available to them. In order to power these, students must be digitally literate. Digital literacy is important to not only students and educators, but also to people everywhere.

Digitally literate people are those who ‘can use technology strategically to find and evaluate information, connect and collaborate with others, produce and share original content, and use the Internet and technology tools to achieve many academic, professional, and personal goals (New York Department of Education).’

“What Digital Literacy Looks Like in a Classroom”-Brianna Crowley

Digital Literacy in a Classroom

Students today are completely immersed in technology- there’s no question about it. I work at the middle school here in town, and I see more students fiddling around on their electronics than I see playing basketball or tag during recess. These kids are on Facebook, Twitter, and numerous other sites, navigating their way online. Due to this, many people question the effectiveness of schools informing students about digital literacy. As I researched, I found many people asking this question: if the kids already have a phone glued to their hand every hour of the day, should we even take the time to teach them about it or technology like it?

The answer to that question is absolutely. Yes, we should teach them about digital literacy. The article What Digital Literacy Looks Like in a Classroom by Brianna Crowley touched on this topic. Just because students are immersed in a culture full of technology does not mean that they naturally literate in using it. Crowley discusses how students are labeled as “digital natives’ while older generations are ‘digital immigrants,” meaning that students are assumed to have the knowledge to work technology while older generations are thought to need the most instruction. However, Crowley goes on to say that this is not necessarily true. It should not be assumed that students are more literate in the field of technology than other generations. Instead, digital literacy should be taught through “guidance, instruction, and practice.” If students receive this, they will be able to function more efficiently in a world full of fast paced technology long after they leave the halls of their school.

Digital Literacy-What I Want to Learn

To me, digital literacy is incredibly important. As a future educator, I want to be able to keep up with my digitally literate students as well as help those that might need some extra help with technology. In order to make that happen, it’s important that I become comfortable using technology in numerous ways. Through different technological platforms, such as this blog and Twitter, I hope to become comfortable communicating ideas and sharing resources with others. The more comfortable I am, the more able I will be to help others and teach them how to use technology both effectively and ethically. Although I have  social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, I’ve come to realize that these are not the only types of things that advance us. Blogging, podcasts, and programs such as Keynote and Excel on the computer are all beneficial to students today. I hope to gain a better understanding of digital literacy and how it affects the users of technology and the Internet through this course. I want to walk away with new ideas to use in my classroom and new ways to involve my students on many digital platforms. I want to become fluent in technology. After all, technology is everywhere; why not jump aboard?





2 thoughts on “Digital Literacy: What is it?

  1. Regan,
    I know right? I can’t imagine what people did without the advanced technology that we have today. Sometimes you wonder how they ever functioned. You are also right in that technology is ever changing and advancing every day. It seems like just you learn or master the newest version of some technology piece, there is a new out. It is difficult and overwhelming trying to keep up. I work with older people in a retirement home, and I see their old “dinosaur phones”. My grandma just recently learned how to text… Sometimes I wonder if they feel overwhelmed by all the new changing technology, but then again, I am not sure how much of it they actually use so maybe it doesn’t bother them too much. I agree that there are several different types of technology that we as students can benefit from once we learn how to use them. I have never been fluent or really ever liked using Excel, but after taking an introduction class on how to use it and with my fiancé being a master at it, I see that it has several pros to using it which I, and those around me can benefit from. Like teaching my students how to create and manage a simple budget so that they know where their money is coming from and going to help them not overspend.


    1. Absolutely! It’s crazy to try to remember where we were without all of these technology advancements. I feel like every time I get on my phone there is an app that has been updated or an entire software update waiting for me. It’s so hard to keep up with! Although it’s hard to master, I think it’s important to keep up with. Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂


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