2020 started out as any normal year, little did we know at that point, that we would be thrown into a pandemic which has turned the education system (particularly in South Africa) on its head!

The norm of getting up and going to work in the morning to conduct a full day of classes, seeing students and interacting with colleagues and students alike seems to be a distant memory.

From a personal experience, and thinking I was not a complete stranger to the digital spaces, it was nerve-wrecking and a constant panic of now moving into the online space.

The topic of digital literacies played heavy on my mind – not only for the impact on the students, but on the impact of me personally.

I am definitely not a ‘newbie’ to the technological world, and being naturally inquisitive about how the technology works made the transition a relatively simple process.

The TEDTalk presented by Doug Belshaw on the essential elements of digital literacies  explores the specific elements needed for digital literacy to be effective, these elements being: 

  • Cognitive
  • Constructive
  • Communicative
  • Civic
  • Critical
  • Creative
  • Confident
  • Cultural

Each part of digital literacy changes and adapts to what is specifically needed by those individuals.

The idea that he mentions regarding developing digital literacies by focusing on individual interests particularly resonated with me.  Instead of forcing new information at everyone for the same reasons, we need to allow each individual to realise what their specific interests are and how any type of additional digital skills will assist them in what interests them.

As an educator who teaches mostly in the business and marketing space, the concept of the digital space has been around for a few years already, however, completely contextualised in a different way when referring it to the education sector.

So now, my task was to create an environment where the students felt safe to communicate freely, and extensively, without having them feel like they are being ‘marketed to’ for online education (after all, this is not initially what they had signed up for).

When it comes to the concept of literacy, UNESCO made the statement that it is impossible to consider ‘literate’ and ‘illiterate’ persons as being part of two separate groups:

Visitor VS Resident Map

“Literacy is a characteristic acquired by individuals in varying degrees from just above none to an indeterminate upper level. Some individuals are more or less literate than others but it is really not possible to speak of illiterate and literate persons as two distinct categories.”

(UNESCO, 1957)

Being thrown into this course of online education at a rather fast pace, I would have to agree with the above statement, we all have different literacy skills, and the use of the word ‘illiterate’ is something that we should not be using.

The link between personal and professional life in a digital sense has a very clear divide.  In my personal life, I am very much a visitor when it comes to the online/digital space, but in the professional environment, I perceive to see myself very much as a resident.  There is no real link between the two areas. 

The below is an image that was drawn up in roughly one minute during the webinar presented by David White while introducing topic 1.  It shows the relationship between being a visitor and resident in my personal and professional life:

(it does not contain every aspect, however, shows the relationship between visitor and resident)

Will this change over time?  Potentially, but I do not see it happening anytime soon!

Topic 1 has provided me with more knowledge relating to digital literacies specifically, and I am very excited to take what I have learnt and apply it in the practical teaching environment.

The above may seem a little all over the place but considering how the process of online learning and digital literacies were brought in this year, it seems quite fitting!


Belshaw D (2012) The essential elements of digital literacies. Available at:

Belshaw, Doug, 2014. The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. [pdf] Self-published. Available from:  [Accessed: 29 October 2020].

White D (2014) Visitors and residents (part 1). Available at:

Topic 1: Online Participation and Digital Literacies – Reflection