Digital Literacy

Understanding what digital literacy is

Something that has been on my mind the past few weeks as the title of this post suggests, is Digital Literacy. Until recently I did not understand the full meaning and scope of digital literacy, thinking it refered only to the ability to read text (words) online. It has been through this course I have developed a greater understanding and appreciation of the scope and complexities of digital literacy. An article which caught my interest earlier in this unit and which has really stuck with me was – How popular culture texts inform and shape students’ discussions of social studies texts, Hall, L (2011) from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. The article discusses how students use films and other forms of popular culture to inform and shape their perceptions of the world, creating fact out of fiction and the need for critical literacy in the classroom. Since reading this article I have found my son doing this very same thing! With young people spending increasing amounts of time using the internet be it for social networking, gaming, blogging or conducting research for assignments, students are expected to be able to navigate, understand and critically analyse the websites and information they are finding and to do it in a safe, responsible and ethical manner. While Hall’s article relates to movies it highlights the trusting nature of young people and their generally unquestioning acceptance of information which is presented to them whether it be in the form of a movie or other types of texts.

So what is digital literacy?

The American Library Association Digital Literacy Taskforce (2011) defines digital literacy as “Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” This definition is further informed upon by Renee Hobbs in a YouTube video Defining Digital Literacy and looks at the history of Literacy and takes the ALA Digital Literacy Taskforce’s 2011 definition of digital literacy and breaks it down arguing that there is a 4 part definition of digital literacy – use and share, create and collaborate, analyze and evaluate and apply ethical judgement.

Hobbs (2012) further breaks down these parts of digital literacy to include, ability to use the technology, access to broadband, understanding hyperlinking, reading comprehension, critical literacy, safety on the internet, ability to use social media, cloud computing and peripheral computing tools; along with working collaboratively, generating ideas, identifying audience, remixing, commenting and giving feedback, identifying economic and political influences, bias and comparing and contrasting sources. And finally, the understanding of risks and potential harms, the concept of private and public information in relation to the digital environment, and to appreciate and respect legal and intellectual rights of the individual for example copyright.

Created in Wordle at

Created in Wordle at

Kervin, Jones and Mantei’s (2012) Online Advertising: examining the content and messages within websites targeted at children discusses how the online environment is more complex than a linear text, that the ability to read on the internet includes skills such as inferential reading, the ability to use and engage with a number of multimedia formats and an understanding of the purpose of the site are all essential to engaging with the online environment successfully.

Another aspect of digital literacy is that of social media and the idea of online safety. Dowdall discusses this in the chapter Masters and Critics: Children as Producers of Online Texts (in Carrington & Robinson, 2012). She cautions that educators should not stifle children’s creativity online through surrounding them with a discourse of concern. Instead social network sites can become the platform with which to discuss the types of texts which can be created in a socail environment, the position children can be put in (in terms of who they are talking too, what is the agenda of that person), and the skills they can use to ensure a positive and sucessful experience online.


Of course, internet safety is VITAL by Engage for Education from under the creative commons licence  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Of course, internet safety is VITAL by Engage for Education from under the creative commons licence (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


With so many aspects of digital literacy to consider, as I have read about and researched digital literacy I decided that I would put together a resource page which pulls together a number of resources into one place covering a number of different aspects of digital literacy. You can find this page in the menu above or you can click here –

Digital Literacy Resources.

The resources linked to on this page are all free and include links to sites on safety, lesson plans with a focus on journalism and critical literacy, and the use of online tools to create. I hope you find these useful, I know I am looking forward to exploring them more and to adding new ones to the list.


Coiro, J. (2013). Online Reading Comprehension: Opportunities, Challenges, and Next Steps. Presentation, Simposio Internacional, Medellin.

Coiro, J. (2012). Understanding dispositions toward reading on the internet. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 55(7), 645-648.

Dowdall, C. (2009). Masters and critics: Children as producers of online digital texts. In V. Carrington & M. Robinson (eds) Digital Literacies: Social learning and classroom practices. (pp. 43-61) Los Angeles: Sage.

Hall, L. (2011). How popular culture texts inform and shape students’ discussions of social studies texts. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 55(4), 296-305.

Hobbs, R. (2012). Defining Digital Literacy. Retrieved from

Kervin, L., Jones, S., Mantei, J. (2012). Online advertising: Examining the content and messages within websites targeted at children. E-Learning and Digital Media. 9(1), 69-82.,. (2013). Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds. Retrieved 19 October 2014, from