Toward a Working Definition of Digital Literacy

Toward a Working Definition of Digital Literacy

Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch202
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Literacy is generally understood to be the combined abilities to read and write, speak and listen; however, the advancement of technology has broadened what it means to be literate to encompass the notion of digital literacy. This chapter is divided into four major sections. First a comprehensive definition of digital literacy will be presented. Then, digital literacy within a socio-cultural framework will be briefly highlighted. Next, three prominent issues that have surfaced around digital literacy will be examined: the dissonance between digital natives and digital immigrants, how and why some forms of digital literacy enjoy acceptance and legitimacy, and attaining and not gaining access to digital literacy formats – the digital divide. The final section of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of implications of digital literacy in K-12 education, college, and career.
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Digital literacy (Alkali & Amichai-Hamburger, 2004; Bawden, 2008; Buckingham, 2006; Gilster, 1997) is a broad, umbrella term that pertains to the use of literacy skills defined as reading, writing, listening, speaking, composing, communicating, and interacting within digital environments. For example, accessing information and sending information via the internet such as viewing and posting YouTube videos or creating, sending, and receiving e-mails is digital literacy. As well, anime, manga, blogging, fandom blogging, texting, tweeting, designing memes, sharing headcannons, and other forms of creating ideas and communicating perspectives through social media platforms such as Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, and myriad others ways to share thoughts and opinions over the internet or in cyberspace, all qualify as digital literacy (Beach, 2012; Black, 2005; Booth, 2012; Martin & Madigan, 2006; Kist, Tollafield, & Dagistan, 2014; Rodesiler, 2015).

Also referred to as new literacies (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2007; 2008; Hagood (2009), Knobel & Lankshear, 2014; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006; Street, 1998), digital literacy implies both the technical ability and emotional skill level needed to generate thought and communicate in multiple formats within digital environments (Elshet-Alkalai, 2004; Landham, 1995). In particular, both the consumption and generation of text and the practices used to create and consume them, formally and informally, both outside and within school, broadly define new literacies. According to Hagood,

New literacies consist of several characteristics: (1) multimodalities, which include linguistic as well as visual, gestural, and auditory texts, (2) situated social practices, which are culturally, linguistically, and textually based, and (3) identities, which connect text users to text uses. (2009, p. 1)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Meme: Typically an imitated image such as a photograph that is used to transmit an idea by adding text via the web.

Blog: Typically an interactive forum or site for discussion or information-sharing created by an individual or group, centered on differing genres such as politics, music, education, health, travel etc., published on the web where entries, referred to as posts allow visitors and members to leave comments about a topic of interest and create a networking community of users.

Cyberspace: Virtual environment where digital communication over computer networks occurs; typical used to represent the many ways ideas, information, and communication are shared via the Internet and networking sites.

Internet: The networked system of private, public, business and governmental mainframe, personal, and wireless computer networks utilizing the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to connect devices globally.

Digital Environments: A virtual or cyber-generated environment accessed or created through the use of one or more digital devices such as a computer, tablet, or a cellular phone.

Headcanons: From the term “canon,” which refers to events and development that happen in the actual published/aired/official text of a book, television show, movie, etc.; it is something that someone wants to believe is true or enjoys speculating on in a particular fandom based on evidence from the canon or other factors, but is generated and actually exists within their own mind.

Manga: Japanese graphic novels created in japan and written in Japanese.

Anime: Hand drawn Japanese computer animation categorized by colorful graphics, vibrant characters, and fanciful themes.

New Literacies: The technical ability and emotional skill level needed to generate thought and to communicate in multiple formats in digital environments.

Digital Literacy: A broad term that refers to the use of literacy skills – reading, writing, listening, to communicate and interact within digital environments and/or using devices and cyberspace to compose and comprehend thoughts.

Fan Fiction: Individuals/fans who write new stories using the characters and setting of published, popular media and share via the web.

World Wide Web: A global publicly available hyperlinked information system, accessed through the Internet, also called simply The Web or WWW credited to Berners-Lee (1989) .

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