Digital literacies are vital in supporting our educational, working, personal, social and civic lives. In an age of web 2.0 and mobile apps, we need to teach students far more than print literacy skills; we need to help them develop a whole suite of digital literacies to enable them to operate effectively in contemporary culture. These digital literacies are often viewed as part of, or at least linked to, what many educators are calling 21st century skills, sometimes also known as soft skills or graduate attributes.
The need for digital literacies
Nowadays, students need a range of digital literacy skills to enable them to interpret messages which combine language with multiple media, and are shared on social media platforms and distributed across digital networks. Similarly, students need the digital literacy skills to express themselves in this new environment and ensure they communicate their messages effectively to their intended audiences and interlocutors. This can be explained as follows:
“Reading is an unnatural act; we are no more evolved to read books than we are to use computers”, Clay Shirky (2010b) reminds us. As he goes on to point out, we spend a great deal of time and effort developing reading (and, of course, writing) skills – in short, what we might call print literacy – in children, and it’s now time to do the same with digital literacies. Language and literacy are tightly bound up with each other: partly because the very notion of literacy is grounded in language, and partly because all literacies are connected with the communication of meaning, whether through language or other, frequently complementary channels. Neither language nor literacy is disappearing. As James Gee and Elisabeth Hayes (2011) observe, language is actually ‘powered up’ or ‘levelled up’ by digital media. Digital literacy, then, is even more powerful and empowering than analogue literacy. We need to level up our teaching and our students’ learning accordingly. For our language teaching to remain relevant, our lessons must encompass a wide variety of literacies which go well beyond traditional print literacy. To teach language solely through print literacy is, in the current era, to shortchange our students on their present and future needs.
Source: Dudeney, G., Hockly, N., & Pegrum, M. (2013). Digital literacies. Routledge.
These digital literacies provide important support for students’ learning inside and outside the classroom, and will be essential to most professions of the future, not to mention playing an integral part in our everyday social and personal lives.
A framework of digital literacies
The framework below was developed by Gavin Dudeney, Nicky Hockly and Mark Pegrum as a guide for educators. It is not meant as a checklist where skills can be ticked off, since many of these literacies blend and blur into each other. Rather, it is meant to serve as an overview of the key points of emphasis which teachers and students need to consider within the overall field of digital literacies.
First published in 2013, this framework was used to underpin a number of Scandinavian and other European language learning initiatives, including the national Irish Enhancing Digital Literacies for Language Teaching and Learning project funded by the Irish Government.
In late 2016, the framework was republished in a Portuguese translation for the Brazilian market as Dudeney, G., Hockly, N., & Pegrum, M. (2016). Letramentos digitais. Trans. M. Marcionilo. São Paulo: Parábola.
In 2018, the original 2013 framework was revised and extended in light of the intervening half-decade of technological changes (the continued rise of mobile technologies, augmented reality and virtual reality interfaces, coding and robotics, big data, learning analytics and artificial intelligence) and sociopolitical changes (the growing superdiversity of our urban and online spaces, coupled with a backlash against diversity involving putting up barriers to the free flow of people and communications; and the growing issue of fake news, accompanied by a global realisation of the urgent need for a more critical perspective on our technologies and the information and communication channels they offer). The updated version is shown below.
In 2022, the 2018 framework was further refined and updated to reach its current form, with a number of minor modifications included in the Framework of Digital Literacies 3.0, where the column titles, reflecting the four major areas of the framework, have been rewritten as gerunds. In particular, attentional literacy was added as a way of drawing on ancient mindfulness traditions to help manage contemporary attention overload, and information literacy was moved to a higher level of complexity given the challenges of dealing with our increasingly disorderly informational environment. The current version of the framework is shown below.
In perusing the following quick definitions of the major specific literacies included in the Framework of Digital Literacies 3.0, it is important to remember that these are not discrete skills but overlap with each other. The definitions derive from Pegrum, Hockly & Dudeney (2022) – which in turn draws on Dudeney, Hockly & Pegrum (2013), and Pegrum, Dudeney & Hockly (2018) – and related presentations and publications by these authors.
- print literacy: the ability to effectively interpret, create, and interact through a variety of written texts, encompassing a knowledge of grammar, vocabulary and discourse features alongside reading and writing skills
- texting literacy: the ability to communicate effectively in textspeak characterised by abbreviations (including initialisms and acronyms) and contextual markers (including emoticons, emoji, emotional punctuation and hashtags)
- hypertext literacy: the ability to effectively process and deploy hyperlinks, with an understanding of their navigational, rhetorical and cognitive effects
- multimodal (multimedia) literacy: the ability to effectively interpret, create, and interact through multimodal texts and/or multisensory communications
- immersive literacy: the ability to effectively navigate, interact with, and communicate and create within multimodal (and increasingly multisensory) immersive environments
- spatial literacy: the ability to effectively navigate between 2D, 3D and even 4D representations of meaning (where the fourth dimension is time), whether real, digital, or blended
- mobile literacy: the ability to effectively interpret, create, and exchange representations of meaning using mobile devices, including the ability to communicate across space, time, and the real/digital divide
- code literacy: the ability to read, write, critique and modify computer code for informational, communicational and design purposes
- tagging literacy: the ability to use metadata in the form of tags to find, make findable, and curate digital materials, including through folksonomies or social bookmarking
- search literacy: the ability to make effective use of a wide array of search engines and services, including a familiarity with their full functionality as well as their limitations and biases
- filtering literacy: the ability to reduce information overload via manual strategies such as setting up RSS feeds, and automated strategies such as employing online social and professional networks as screening mechanisms
- information literacy: the ability to effectively navigate information, misinformation and disinformation, incorporating the ability to evaluate information by assessing its credibility against a baseline of knowledge, asking critical questions, comparing data sources, and tracking its origins and development across time and space
- personal literacy: the ability to use digital tools to shape, establish and project a desired online identity as a platform for interacting with others
- network literacy: the ability to connect with others in personal and/or professional networks, and through these networks to filter, obtain and share information, to communicate and collaborate with others, to develop a reputation and influence, and to act within online and offline contexts
- participatory literacy: the ability to contribute to the collective intelligence of digital networks and to leverage the collective intelligence of those networks in the service of goals which may be online and/or offline and which may be personal and/or collective
- intercultural literacy: the ability to communicate effectively and constructively across varying, increasingly superdiverse, cultural contexts, which are often internally heterogeneous, externally intertwined with other cultural contexts, and continuously evolving
- ethical literacy: the ability to exert a positive influence by adopting a stance of intellectual humility and ethical pluralism, recognising diverse perspectives, worldviews and modes of self-expression, communicating respectfully and constructively across differences, and contributing proactively and inclusively to shared global projects in response to common needs and challenges
- attentional literacy: the ability to intentionally direct one’s attention, in the present moment, toward information originating from the self, others, and the environment (whether analogue, digital, or blended), and to sustain that attention by choice, while becoming aware of and remaining non-judgmental towards new perspectives, multiple viewpoints, and shifting contexts (definition adopted from Pegrum & Palalas, 2021, ‘Attentional literacy as a new literacy’, CJLT, 47.2)
- critical literacy: the ability to apply a critical lens to all aspects of digital technologies, including digital information, and through research, reflection and discussion to arrive at a considered position on their design and/or redesign
- remix literacy: the ability to exercise agency through redesign, specifically by reworking – that is, sampling, modifying and/or (re)combining – cultural artefacts in order to challenge old meanings and suggest alternative meanings, as well as responding to and building on others’ remixes within digital networks
More references on this topic are available on the Publications on Digital Learning page.
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