The 8 Key Elements Of Digital Literacy

Many teachers have added ‘digital literacy’ as number four on the list of literacies their students should have (or be working towards, in most cases). Reading, writing, and math are now followed by digital literacy. Obviously, depending on the grade level  you teach, your students will have different abilities in each of the four areas, so your expectations and your teaching approach may differ quite noticeably from your colleagues. But the nagging question still remains for many teachers – what exactly is digital literacy?

Because it is a relatively new term, many teachers are able to define it as it pertains to their specific classroom. A quick Google search yields me the very vague definition ofthe ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. It requires one “to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms”. Being that vague almost requires you to define it specifically for each class you work with.

That said, Doug Belshaw has made a really excellent attempt at defining digital literacy -in fact, he wrote his dissertation on the topic. You can read a lot about him and his thoughts on digital literacy on his site (linked above), but we’ve summed up some of his ideas on  8 elements he has identified as being central to digital literacy, outlined in the graphic below. Doug also has a TED talk, which you can watch below.

Essential Elements of Digital Literacy

  • Cultural – Look at the context in which the literacy is situated
  • Cognitive – How do we think when we are using a device (vs when we are not)?
  • Constructive – We should aim to use technology in a constructive (vs a passive) way
  • Communicative – We should be using technology to enhance our communications
  • Confident – You need to be confident to jump in feet first and explore/use/master/learn technology
  • Creative – Using technology in the classroom requires some creativity and risk taking – don’t stick to the basics when you can test out a new idea or use for technology
  • Critical – You need the ability to look at the technologies you’re using (and what you’re using them for) with a critical eye
  • Civic- We should be using the technologies available to us for greater good (which can be widely defined)

digital literacies