Ian O’Byrne asked his professional network how they define digital literacy. It makes sense given that the term has evolved continually since 2011 at least. See my post on helping librarians develop a definition of digital literacy. For those in English language arts education, the term is becoming increasingly more central to their practice.

Because I see digital literacy in relation to media literacy, I generally use the phrase “digital and media literacy.” As the chart shows, digital literacy, offers some real value to extend media literacy’s preoccupation with “access, analyze, create, reflect and take action.” I especially value its focus on collaboration and participation, the use of digital tools for inquiry learning, a deeper awareness of how digital texts circulate in culture, and the confidence that comes from trial-and-error exploration of how digital texts, tools and technologies work.

I have previously mapped some of the similarities and differences that I recognize between the two concepts here.  Notice that all these phrases explicitly identify what learners know and do, not just at school, but as part of everyday life.

digital and media literacy image

The four big ideas at the center of the diagram in the figure remind us why we think of digital and media literacy as an expanded conceptualization of literacy. Literacy is the sharing of meaning in symbolic form. We can no longer tie merely literacy to a particular set of cognitive practices like reading comprehension. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote Create to Learn: Introduction to Digital Literacy. As the figure shows, I see digital and media literacy competencies as fundamentally collaborative, critical, and creative, responsive to the ever-changing nature of media and technology in the larger context of culture and society.


2 thoughts on “Defining Digital Literacy

  1. Literacy is sharing of meaning in a symbolic way not only cognitive process like reading and comprehension. In my understanding Digital literacy is collaborative use and participation of digital media in a wise and safe way. There’s an ethical piece to it. Whereas, Media literacy teaches one to become engaged consumer of media. There’s political piece to it.
    Both requires critical thinking. Both analyze messages to evaluate credibility and quality. We create both digital and media literacy for self expression, communication and advocacy.

  2. Pingback: Digital Media Literacy- Whose responsibility is it? – Tutors' Workshop

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