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Perspectives of Digital Literacies

By W. Ian O'Byrne
 | Feb 03, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-155787040_300pxThe World Wide Web is this generation’s defining technology for literacy. It facilitates access to an unlimited amount of information in a participatory learning space. Yet, our understanding of what it means to be digitally literate changes around the globe. It comprises multiple skills and practices that are influenced by the surrounding people, places, cultures, and practices.

To make digital literacies easier to understand, let’s examine Doug Belshaw’s doctoral thesis. He identifies eight essential elements of digital literacy that lead to positive action:

  1. Cultural: Requires technology use in different contexts and awareness of the values and practices specific to varying contexts
  2. Cognitive: Enables mastery of the use of technological tools, software, and platforms
  3. Constructive: Requires reusing and remixing existing resources depending on need, or possibly adapting them into new resources
  4. Communicative: Requires awareness of different communication devices that are both digital and mobile
  5. Confidence: Places emphasis on gaining competence with digital technologies and the ability to create an environment for practicing skills and self-learning
  6. Creative: Creates new data in digital environments while taking risks, developing skills, and producing new things
  7. Critical: Requires the digital learner to develop various perspectives while actively taking different circumstances into account
  8. Civic: Develops and helps acquire the concepts of democracy and global citizenship as individuals become participants in society

We must also recognize that these practices are always changing. Thus, we should allow for some ambiguity in terms and definitions, as new technologies afford new digital spaces for literacy learning, which will continuously be new, multiple, and rapidly disseminated.

Through instruction of these digital literacies, we have an opportunity to not just understand but also to reframe what counts as literacy. There sometimes is a need to work with students to examine and redefine what is meant by reading, writing, and text.

Teachers and students must act as collaborators as they learn among the complexities, advantages, and limitations inherent in the digital space.

W. Ian O’Byrne, an ILA member since 2007, is an assistant professor of literacy education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. His research examines the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online spaces.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

 

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