What exactly is digital literacy? Is it an essential skill?

Many experts agree that the modern worker should have learned the following skills in order to thrive in the workplace:  creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, information, media, and technology. But what about digital literacy?

Are we not living in a digital era; therefore, shouldn’t digital literacy also be considered as an essential skill? But what exactly does this term mean?

Digital literacy is ‘the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills’. It includes knowledge, skills, and behaviors involving the effective use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs for purposes of communication, expression, collaboration, and advocacy.

This is a relatively new concept, one that has been further explored by Professor Yoram Eshet, from The Open University of Israel, who is one of the leading researchers in digital literacy. Eshet believes that this concept of digital literacy will give more insight to the capabilities of a 21st Century worker who works in a digital environment.

Digital literacy involves more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments. The tasks required in this context include, for example, “reading” instructions from graphical displays in user interfaces; using digital reproduction to create new, meaningful materials from existing ones; constructing knowledge from a non-linear, hypertextual navigation; evaluating the quality and validity of information; and have a mature and realistic understanding of the “rules” that prevail in the cyberspace.

In Eshet recent published paper, Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era, he goes further into details about what are the top digital literacy skills needed to survive in the digital era.

  1. Photo-visual literacy: The Art of Reading Visual Representations

What this suggests is that the one can see an image and understand what it represents – that you can ‘decode’ it. We tend to be more visual, especially when it comes to social media and blog posts – the ones that include a photo grabs our attention then the ones without.

  1. Information Literacy: The Art of Skepticism

This is the ability to weed through everything you see and read on the internet and in social media. With all the ‘fake news’ these days, it can be hard to know what is true! Information literacy is about evaluating what is out there and making sure that it is properly sourced.

  1. Socio-Emotional Literacy

This is a bit of a tricky concept as it is about “knowing how to avoid “traps” as well as derive benefits from the advantages of digital communication”.

With the growth of the social media, we now have the ability to connect with anyone and everyone around the world at any time of day.  This has created lots of new opportunities and networking for the purpose of information sharing, such as learning communities and discussion groups. However, the internet can also be dangerous, i.e. chat rooms, as you never really know who is on the other end. This is what Eshet is describing as Socio-Emotional Literacy – that you have developed the ability to understand the dangerous of what the internet and social media offers and you know to look out of them and avoid them.

  1. Reproduction Literacy: The Art of Creative Recycling of Existing Materials

The internet allows us to research and learn about what ever it is we want to know about. But can we simply copy and paste everything that we find? Of course not, that would be considered plagiarism. Reproductive literacy is about knowing you cannot simple take someone else’s work and use it as your own. You can, however, take their idea and further discuss it – you just have to make sure proper sources have been used. Eshet says that it is about creating “meaningful new combinations from exiting information”.

  1. Branching Literacy: Hypermedia and Non-Linear Thinking

In short, this is moving away from libraries and their databases to the use of the internet.

So, now that you have all of this information and more of an idea about what digital literacy is all about, what do you think? Do you think it should be considered an essential skill for the 21st Century Worker?

Source: Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era YORAM ESHET-ALKALAI Tel Hai Academic College, The Open University of Israel
Source: Essential Digital Literacy Skills for the 21st Century Worker Infographic

Twitter: What exactly is digital literacy? Should it be considered an essential skill in the 21st Century? http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gOM

Facebook: There are certain skills that the modern worker should have in order to thrive in the workplace such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, information, media, and technology. But what about digital literacy? We are living in a digital era, are we not? Find out what exactly is digital literacy and what are the top digital literacy skills. http://wp.me/p3QRy0-gOM

3 thoughts on “What exactly is digital literacy? Is it an essential skill?

  1. Excellent blog, outlining essential digital literacy skills and its importance. I agree that digital literacy is a crucial skill today. There needs to be more of a focus on digital literacy for everyone. Not only in the workplace, but also young people need to be educated.

  2. I understand what you are saying and I agree with most of it. However, I would much prefer that people knew how to balance a cheque book or get along with people! Sometime the social in social media is lacking. I once heard that the Internet is only good for two things: getting into arguments with people you don’t know, and looking at pictures of cats!

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