When in Dublin last year, Leo Casey, Abi Reynolds, and I led a little exercise on the question, “Digital literacy, what is it?” This simple activity led to surprisingly fruitful discussions, often extending more than an hour, although it never produced a consensus answer to the question.
We had found six definitions of digital literacy from leading organizations and then modified each of them a little so their source wasn’t easily identifiable. We then printed the modified definitions on A3 paper and hung them around the room. We asked participants to read them all, stand next to the one they agreed with the most, then discuss.
Every time we tried this, every definition had several strong advocates. One interesting phenomenon was that the Microsoft definition often drew the most supporters, which dismayed those who’d selected it. I don’t want to say more here, because I’d like people to experience the activity as our participants did. If you try it on your own, please cast your vote and justification through the comments (link above).
Here are the modified definitions we used:
- the term multiliteracies highlights two related aspects of the increasing complexity of texts: (a) the proliferation of multimodal ways of making meaning where the written word is increasingly part and parcel of visual, audio, and spatial patterns; (b) the increasing salience of cultural and linguistic diversity characterized by local diversity and global connectedness
- basic computer concepts and skills so that people can use computer technology in everyday life to develop new social and economic opportunities for themselves, their families, and their communities
- development of critical, socially engaged intelligence, which enables individuals to understand and participate effectively in the affairs of their community in a collaborative effort to achieve a common good
- the knowledge and ability to use computers and technology efficiently
- the ability to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information
- a new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact
With coaxing, I’m willing to reveal the original definitions and sources.