Topic 1: Online participation & digital literacies

Elisa.garcia.1994, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The American Library Association (ALA) defines digital literacy as “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

While the above definition could be a good starting point for me to start to think about what digital literacies mean (to an educator like myself) I thought perhaps I would like to ask myself what it means to be literate, whether it is achieved through digital means (implying access to the Internet) or conventional means of ink on paper (implying access to the brick and mortar library). The more I think about it in this way, it seems that one the clear differences is the ease and speed of access to information

I cannot remember when was the last time, I step into a library (even before the COVID pandemic) although I frequently go to international book shops such as Kinokuniya. I go to Kinokuniya because I can browse through titles, pick one up, run by thumb through and quickly get a feel if I like the book or not. Another reason is that I like the smell of new books. Whether I eventually succumb to the temptation of purchasing the book or not depends on no small extent the attractiveness of how the information is presented in the book, the ease of of viewing and acquiring information from the of the book and if it makes financial sense.

Thinking about it, another key difference between acquiring information on the Internet and from the pages of a book is the cost of acquiring that information (or investment if you like it better). I am not comparing the e-version (true or pirated copy) and hardcopy of the same title but thinking about how much of the same information is available on the Internet for free (of charge) and which are freely available (ease of accessing). A lot of good information is free and freely available on the Internet if we want to be become digital literates. 

Furthermore, it is also clear that in order for me to get to the library or bookshop, I have to take the time to get there, which is not as easy and fast compared to acquiring that information from the Internet, if accessible. 

But does the way this term “digital literacies” is commonly understood in the literature simply mean becoming a literate person by acquisition of information (or knowledge) through the Internet? Using the Internet for acquisition of information does not preclude someone from acquiring additional information from conventional printed sources such as the library or bookshop? *

Certainly the end goal of both digital literacies or “non-digital literacies” is, using the partial definition by ALA, “the ability … to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” The difference would then be the “use of information and communication technologies” 

Perhaps it is not about the means through which we can be educated (or become literate) at all, whether digitally or non-digitally. 

Let’s shift our view a little and look at this from a different angle. Perhaps what “digital literacies” means is WHEN using the Internet for acquire information, we exercise certain abilities, or behaviours, or practices as we go about the process of handling information, such as finding that information, evaluating its veracity, making judgement of its value on the go as we consume the information as well as the process of producing information and how we go about telling the world that information. The first part sounds like what an editor does in terms of filtering truths from lies (and half truths) from a first haul of information. The second part sounds like what an author does in terms of how an author offer the world a part of his intellectual life and ideas through words, images, sounds – content creator.

Just as what numerical literacy and financial literacy would mean in that it is the ability to understand and handle basic math skills for the former and managing your finances for the latter, digital literacy would mean the ability to use the digital tools and handle what the Internet can offer in terms of ease, speed and cost effectiveness as we consume and create content thoughtfully, carefully and responsibly. When accessing and publishing information on the Internet and use of various digital tools connected directly or indirectly to the Internet will require mastery at least at some basic level to effectively consume and create contents through this digital universe of zeros and ones.

Learning to teach in this digital space would imply ability to handle the Internet as a tool where ever your starting point is as a user of this technology. As development in the EduTech continues at an ever increasing pace, we are novices and experts at the same time depending on our depth of encounter of the digital tool or environment we are in. Whether we are the teacher or the student, digital literacy needs to be updated as much as software and apps get updated to be able to handle this tool effectively and create value for all involved in the educational process.


*of course, these days, our brick and mortar libraries have mostly all upgraded themselves by offering digital contents in addition to the standard offerings of printed medium. Having information in a digital form allows much easier access by anyone who wants to access them as well as the ease of distributing that information with the press of just a button.
Topic 1: Online participation & digital literacies