Digital literacy can be defined as the ability to understand and engage with information and communication technology. Digital literacy is used in a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. Digital literacy consists of the skills (both cognitive and technical) and knowledge and behaviours necessary to evaluate and communicate information in an electronic medium.
Digital literacy is different to computer literacy and digital skills. Computer literacy refers to the ability to use a computer and other related technology. In order to be computer literate, you must have the basic skills and knowledge required to operate the software on a computer. Digital skills focus on what to do and how to do it. Digital literacy focuses on why, when and for whom something should be done. Digital skills require the basic ability to navigate the digital community; however, digital literacy requires more of an understanding. While computer literacy and digital skills are about being able to operate devices, digital literacy is about being able to operate and understand both systems and networks.
Why is digital literacy important?
Digital literacy is important in today’s society as communicating and connecting with the world via social media has become popular, and most of the information is shared on digital platforms.
Digital literacy is also becoming a vital component in education. With the emergence of OERs, users need to be digitally literate in order to understand how to use OERs and how to share them with others. Many teachers are making use of educational websites and online quizzes to test learners and help them gain understanding of their work.
The rise in electronic media and businesses has created many career opportunities. For this reason, it is important for teachers to help learners develop their digital literacy as it will prepare them to join the digital workforce and make a contribution to society.
Not only is digital literacy important for education, but it is also one of the core components of digital citizenship. Digital citizenship is broadly defined as participating in the digital community in a responsible and appropriate way. The fact that most online interactions can be done anonymously calls for digital citizens to conduct themselves responsibly and with integrity.
How can digital literacy be developed?
The simplest way to develop digital literacy is to practise. The regular use of technology can help users develop an understanding of how systems and networks work and how to interact with them.
Technology is constantly advancing. New social media platforms are being created for people, especially learners, to explore and interact with. This makes it even more important for teachers to guide learners to develop responsible digital literacy. Learners need to be made aware of how they should conduct themselves online and what to do if others are behaving unethically.
Integrating ICT in Education. 2017. Cambridge University Press