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Digital literacy

What is the OU doing about digital literacy? Visit the Digital literacy stand at this year's Learnabout Fair, 29th Feb 2012

Cloud created by:

Katharine Reedy
12 March 2010

Digital literacy is a term often used but so far not unanimously defined, either in society as a whole or within the OU. It has strong affinity with information literacy and IT literacy, but goes beyond either of these.  It can be seen as individual capability or as community practice, and involves a mixture of technical and interpersonal competences.

JISC (2011) defines digital literacy as: 'those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society'

Gillen and Barton (2010) refer to digital literacy as 'the constantly changing practices through which people make traceable meanings using digital technologies’.

The BECTA definition (2010) states that: 'Digital literacy is the skills, knowledge and understanding that enables critical, creative, discerning and safe practices when engaging with digital technologies in all areas of life’ .

There is widespread acknowledgement that these skills and practices are important in the 21st century workplace. The Digital Britain report of 2009 referred to the skills and infrastructure needed for a digital economy, including 'digital media literacy':

The Learn about digital literacy guide provides more detail about the issues and where the OU is heading.

Two learning paths have been created in SocialLearn, and a framework for digital literacy is being developed. The Digital literacy in the OU workspace (linked below) and Wiki bring together all current initiatives.

This cloud is a space to discuss digital literacy related questions with the aim of moving the digital literacies agenda forward at the OU.  Comments and suggestions welcome!

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added by Karen Cropper


Katharine Reedy
11:50am 12 March 2010 (Edited 11:52am 12 March 2010)

Do you have a definition of digital literacy you would like to put forward? Is it the same as IT/ICT/computer literacy or is it something different?

Samantha Appleyard
7:58am 24 March 2010 (Edited 7:58am 24 March 2010)

The terms IT literacy and digital literacy are quite often used interchangeably. I personally think that the difference between 'digital literacy' and 'information literacy' lies somewhere in the competencies for creating information. To me, information literacy is largely about being able to effectively utilize information that already exists, whereas digital literacy includes competencies for both utilizing and creating/communicating information in digital contexts.

Katharine Reedy
9:41am 24 March 2010

Thanks Sam, that is a useful insight and the links you've added are helpful.  What does anyone else think?


Rebecca Galley
10:08am 24 March 2010 (Edited 10:13am 24 March 2010)

I was interested to see the Microsoft Digital Literacy Curriculum that Sam added. Microsoft have defined Digital Literacy as:

"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"

Topics in their curriculum include CV writing, internet search, social networking, emailing etc.

I agree with Sam that Digital Literacy also means creation of knowledge and artifacts whereas Information Literacy seems to be more about using info that already exists and  also applying informed judgements about the reliability, validity, and importance of the information.

For example, I'm reminded of a Michael Wesch keynote (ALT-C 09??) where I remember him suggesting that the skills young people are developing are skills which help them sift through vast amounts of information at a superficial level, rather than skills which enable them to identify smaller amounts of information which they can then explore more deeply. It seems here that these kids have very good digital literacy but poor information literacy.

Giota Alevizou
10:16am 24 March 2010

Interesting discussion. Just to direct you to a parallel strand/discussion on open content/sharing information literacies  at the OER10 conference here

Rebecca Galley
9:53am 25 March 2010

Sorry, *completely* misquoted above. It was Terry Anderson's keynote at ALT-C 09 I was thinking of not Michael Wesch's. 

Terry Anderson said of new HE students that they 'arrive at college with well-established methods of sorting, doubting and ignoring'. You can link to the keynote here.

Keren Mills
3:54pm 24 June 2010

I quite like this diagram illustrating the relationships between information, media and digital literacy.

Katharine Reedy
4:33pm 24 June 2010

Thanks Keren - I like it too, and have just been looking at it on The Information Literacy Website definitions page:


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