Digital literacy in Irish primary schools (DLIPS), 2007-09

Digital literacy is an important and often misunderstood concept; it has implications for all aspects of primary schooling. The purpose of this research was to establish a useful definition and conceptual framework through which the nature of digital literacy can be examined in terms of classroom practice and thereby related to the underpinning policy and support structures.

Conceptual framework

We saw two contrasting conceptual approaches to literacy and specifically, digital literacy. The first regards digital literacy as a set of specific technical skills such as the ability to use software and to operate devices – this is often referred to as a skills model of literacy. In contrast, more recent approaches conceive digital literacy in terms of context and social practice, a situated approach to literacy.

The difference between the two theoretical orientations is important and has had significant implications for formulating our approach to this research and conceptual framework. Digital literacy, if defined solely in terms of skills, will be associated with individuals and will relate to capabilities and scores against pre-defined, generic competencies. On the other hand, a conceptual framework that adopts a situated approach involves an expanded view of literacy and emphasises the social contexts in which digital media are used.

Research approach

One of the early decisions of the research team was to adopt the situated approach and therefore to locate the site of investigation within the primary school classroom. Put simply, in our view the best way to investigate digital literacy was to
describe the practices and activities that take place in the classroom.

The starting point of the framework for digital literacy was to reference the practices and activities that take place in the classroom. Obviously, the goal of classroom activity is to bring about learning and as such, we grounded our digital literacy framework in a conception of learning centered on the Inquiry Cycle.


Casey, L. (2009). Pathways to Competence and Participation in the Digital World [Doctoral]. National University of Ireland.

Casey, Leo, Bertram C. Bruce, Allan Martin, & Abigail Reynolds. (2009). Digital Literacy in Irish Primary Schoolsv5.doc (pp. 1–90). National College of Ireland.

Bruce, Bertram C.; & Reynolds, Abigail (2009, December). Technology in Docklands education: Using scenarios as guides for teaching and researchEducational Studies, 35(5), 561-574.