What Is Digital Literacy?

For a year and a half, I’ve been a blogger, a tweeter, a blog follower, a Goodreads nut. I have professional accounts on WordPress, Youtube, and Pinterest. I willingly post new content on my blog and look for new authors and teachers to follow on Twitter. I absolutely love my digital learning community.

I consider myself, not only a digital citizen, but also digitally literate. I don’t profess to know all there is to know about online tabletlearning but I am by no means a novice.

Last night my class, Literacy in the Digital Age, met for the first time. I have been patiently anticipating this class for months because the digital world is always evolving; there’s always something new to learn online. I want to find all the new web tools, apps, and online programs.

Instead of jumping into the vast ocean of knowledge and tools online, we were asked one question:

“What is digital literacy?”

Hah! What a simple question. I decided to take a stab at an answer,  “Well digital literacy is being a digital citizen. It’s, uh…being literate but in a digital sense. Being digital is…ummm…having online accounts and being active. Well, you see, being a citizen means behaving appropriately so digital literacy means being a literate digital citizen.”

Yep. That’s how I tried to define digital literacy: being a literate digital citizen. I suddenly realized I have no idea how to articulate and explain “digital literacy” although I consider myself digitally literate. diglit

There are many problems with my definition of digital literacy. I consider being appropriate a part of being digitally literate. However, what about sites that are created for digital citizens to be inappropriate (Snapchat, X-Tube, etc.)? If people are inappropriate on these sites created for inappropriateness, are they digitally literate?

I have the ideal literate digital citizen in my mind, but if people are causing drama on Twitter or sending dirty Snapchats, aren’t they being digitally literate, too? These types of people are leaving a digital footprint, participating in digital discourse, and demonstrating tech literacy which are all pieces of being digitally literate.

Even as I write this blog post, it’s hard for me to articulate exactly what I think digital literacy is because there are so many different avenues of being “digital” and being “literate.”

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In a few months, I will have a real classroom with real students. My soon-to-be students are digital creatures; they are digital citizens and digital learners. I not only want to know how I can best teach these digital teenagers, I need to know.

I want my students to be digitally literate but at this moment I honestly don’t know what digital literacy is. Now I have a new focus for the class. Over the next sixteen weeks, instead of focusing on finding new awesome online tools, I’ll be exploring the question: “What exactly is digital literacy?”

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