Today I was asked to describe what it means to be digitally literate.
I decided to take a risk and to do this without reaching for a book or a previously written report or article. I also tried to describe a component of digital literacy that I haven’t mentioned in previous talks or reports – something I’ve here called “transformational skills”. This is an evolving concept and might be totally rubbish – so bear with me!
Anyway, this is what I came up with. What do you think? What have I missed? Do you agree/disagree? Please feel free to add your descriptions below.
A description of a digitally literate person
A digitally literate person is someone who can integrate and communicate in the digital – particularly online – world. They have the following four qualities: basic ICT skills, the facility to critically evaluate information, a good level of social awareness, and transformational skills.
Let’s look at each in turn:
1. ICT skills:
A digitally literate person should have a sound knowledge of the most commonly used technologies, ICT software and hardware resources, and a knowledge of how to use such resources to e.g. access the internet and find/publish information online.
2. Facility to critically evaluate:
A digitally literate person should ask themselves about the origin of digital information they find: to question the author, the medium of publication, and the possible reasons for publication. They should consider the time, place and cultural context that the information was published in, and the likely effect it had/will have when people are exposed to it. They should consider checking key facts and/or searching around the information for other sources and points of view. They should be aware that people and knowledge – even with good intention – can be fallible.
3. Social awareness
They should know how to interact appropriately with other people via digital technologies. They should consider the impact and longevity of digital information that they are considering publishing, and protect others from being mis-interpreted (whether it’s posting embarrassing photos of colleagues to Facebook, or blogging pictures of your child with a visible name and school uniform logo).
4. Transformational skills
A digitally literate person should be aware that the pace of technological change and quantity of information in today’s society is so great that they are unlikely to ever be master of any single skill or subject. They stop thinking about success only in terms of mastery, and instead also include facilitation and communication.
They are self-motivated to seek and share information, to learn new skills, and – at least initially – experience new information with an open mind. They are not only aware of things that they do not yet know about, they are also aware that there are even more things that they ‘don’t know they don’t know’. They are prepared to evolve and transform themselves through their lifespan.