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.
The need for digital literacies
“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 was first published in Dudeney, G., Hockly, N., & Pegrum, M. (2013). Digital literacies. Harlow: Pearson/Routledge. It 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 Paolo: 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.
- print literacy: the ability to comprehend and create 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
- hypertext literacy: the ability to process hyperlinks appropriately and to use hyperlinks effectively to enhance digital materials
- multimedia/multimodal literacy: the ability to effectively interpret and create texts in multiple media, notably using images, sounds, and video
- gaming literacy: the ability to effectively navigate, interact with, and achieve goals in, a gaming or other 3-dimensional simulated environment
- spatial literacy: the ability to shift between 2D, 3D and even 4D representations of reality in contexts ranging from 3D printing to augmented reality interfaces
- mobile literacy: the ability to navigate, interpret information from, contribute information to, and communicate through the mobile web, including an ability to orient oneself in augmented reality and other spaces where the real and the digital are increasingly intertwined
- code literacy: the ability to read, write, critique and modify computer code in order to create or tailor software and digital channels
- tagging literacy: the ability to use metadata to find, make findable, and catalogue digital materials, such as through folksonomies
- search literacy: the ability to make effective and critical use of search engines and services
- information literacy: the ability to evaluate digital materials, including datasets and data visualisations, by asking critical questions, assessing credibility, comparing sources, tracking the origins of information, and searching outside filter bubbles
- filtering literacy: an inflection of network literacy, this is the ability to reduce information overload by using online social and professional networks as screening mechanisms
- personal literacy: the ability to use digital tools to shape and project a desired online identity, and to protect that identity as needed
- network literacy: the ability to deploy online social and professional networks to obtain information, communicate widely, build collaboration and support, develop a reputation and spread influence
- participatory literacy: the ability to contribute to the collective intelligence of digital networks, and to leverage the collective intelligence of those networks in order to achieve personal and/or collective goals, whether online or offline or both
- intercultural literacy: the ability to communicate effectively across varying cultural contexts
- ethical literacy: the ability to contribute positively and proactively to our online (and, by extension, offline) environment
- critical literacy: the ability to evaluate information and data (as in information literacy), to appreciate the limitations and dangers of mobile communication, to critique the material underpinnings of our online environment, to take positions in debates about the coming tide of technological innovations and their implications for humanity, and to engage with thoughtful academic research into new technologies, including in education
- remix literacy: the ability to create new meanings by sampling, modifying and/or combining pre-existing texts and multimedia artefacts, as well as circulating, interpreting, responding to and building on others’ remixes within digital networks
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