What Does It Mean to be Digitally Literate?

On my drive to work this morning,  Roger, Darren and Marilyn radio hosts were discussing how the “older” generation folks they have in their lives were struggling with things like Facebook, Twitter, Smartphones and things of this ilk. I found this discussion rather interesting for a number of reasons, first, I wonder if the likes of Roger, Darren & Marilyn might have been familiar with these tools five years ago; second, I was amazed (as I always am) at the speed of change when it comes to ICT; but third, I was pondering this discussion in light of the discussion led by Audrey Watters yesterday evening for #ETMOOC. I found myself thinking does this mean these folks are digitally literate, or are they merely digitally competent? Despite their implied knowledge about the tools they were discussing, I’m going with competent.

Sony TrinitronI don’t know if I can successfully define what digitally literate means for the rest of the world but for me I’m thinking that one who is digitally literate is comfortable negotiating the various types of media and text we are presented in multiple digital environments. I would hope this person can interpret meaning of various forms of digital media to meet the needs of the situation.  This would mean, understanding how to compose an email correctly for specific purpose; understanding how to use text messaging and what happens to this data once we hit send. I would hope that a digitally literate person would understand that “Digital is Different” and that anything shared electronically can be remixed, reused, re-purposed for multiple and varied audiences. I would expect a digitally literate person to understand appropriate use of digital media, fair dealing guidelines and the need to understand Creative Commons licensing for all forms of media. I would also hope that the digitally literate person would take time to consider where the data they create lives, who owns this data and how we might take more control of our data. I would also hope that the digitally literate learner/citizen would understand how challenging and bewildering the rapid change and development in today’s world might be to folks who might just remember their first colour television! (hence the Sony Trinitron above)

The world is shrinking through our connectedness but it is also becoming amazingly more complex in terms of the amounts of information we must process, curate and evaluate. I think that someone who is truly digitally literate, must  understand this and  share the wonder as things continue to evolve. Just some of my musings…..


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