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What is Digital Literacy in the 21st Century?

Started by Tessa Gray 28 Jun 2013 11:54am () Replies (14)

In the Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy, there is call for investigating the impact of increased digital literacy on learning and defines this as,

 A person needs to achieve competency in three areas: Information, Media, and Technology Skills. Students will be able to have “…an ability to navigate new technologies, and have the skills that are required of them in the modern world.”

In Media literacy and the Communications Act, What has been achieved and what should be done? A 2013 update by Sonia Livingstone and Yinhan Wang it reads,

Progress in digital skills has stalled. Despite growing broadband adoption and a range of media literacy initiatives, the evidence shows little improvement in adult or children’s levels of knowledge over the past few years. This is especially the case for the crucial dimensions of critical and participatory literacy.

Digital literacy is recognised as an important component of Digital Citizenship, so what critical dimensions of literacy are we suppose to be developing?

  Netsafe's digital citizenship diagram

Taken from Digital Citizenship in New Zealand schools. PDF (NetSafe)

Is it knowing how to...

  • use key words and search the Internet?
  • research appropriate content?
  • source, sort, sift and cull material?
  • recognise valid information sources?
  • use and acknowledge material while avoiding plagiarism?
  • respect intellectual property?
  • create content and build knowledge?
  • think critically, reason and problem solve? 
  • more?

In this EdTalks (2010) Derek Wenmoth talks about Digital Literacy and leaves us with some questions to ask ourselves…such as what is a school's vision for developing 21st century literacy? How is this catered for?


What exactly are the technical and social skills needed to be digitally literate?  How are you tackling this in your school?  Do you teach 'key word' search strategies? Do you have note-making, note-taking templates? I’d love to see/hear more.

Maybe we could build a set of resources to help each other teach digital literacy? These could be later added to the collaborative Digital Citizenship project – Module 5 Digital literacy – online research.



Related links


Rules For Thinking In A Digital World Annie Murphy Paul blog post

Literacy in the Digital age NCREL This paper defines many literacies for 21st Century learners

What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century? VLN thread started by Jill Hammonds

Respecting intellectual property ICT PD digital citizenship at home wiki

Digital citizenship and copyright ICT PD wiki


  • Esther Casey (View all users posts) 19 Jul 2013 11:35am ()

    I agree, research skills are more important than ever!  I think the key to digital literacy is making sure that students understand the wider digital environment.  So they (we) know about the kinds of digital spaces and how they work, the process of getting content into these various spaces and the motivations of the creators of different types of content.  As this understanding develops, in context of course, all these skills make much more sense and the students can become confident, independent creators and contributors.

    In a school, it can often be the librarian who is well placed to provide a specific focus and consistency across the different levels of the school, and can work closely with the other teachers to bring in their expertise in a planned and contextualised way.  

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 29 Jul 2013 2:06pm ()

    imageHi there Esther, thank you for these comments. Smile I think your idea about students understanding how content is created and why - is an important part of developing digital literacy.

    Did you have any examples of how this might look in a lesson, to share? It would be great to unpack some 'deliberate acts of teaching' to support a variety of digital literacies.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 06 Aug 2013 10:08pm ()

    What does driving at home and abroad have to do with digital literacies? In this video, Steve Wheeler talks about digital literacies, “…go beyond and deeper than skills and competencies, enabling users to assimilate into unfamiliar and challenging new cultures and environments."

    In his blog post, he introduces us to a new term, 'trans-literacies'. What do you think? How can these 3 ideas about digital literacy translate into a teachable moment?

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 03 Dec 2013 3:07pm ()

    Here's a thought...

    As more and more students access and publish material online, educators need to be able to support learners to be able to locate, use, critically evaluate and apply this knowledge by creating digital content in a range of different formats - in an appropriate and effective way.

    The way in which information is used, created and distributed demonstrates an understanding and acknowledgement of the cultural, ethical, economic, legal and social aspects of information. The digitally literate demonstrate openness, the ability to problem solve, to critically reflect, technical capability and a willingness to collaborate and keep up to date prompted by the changing contexts in which they use information. http://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/mi/community/recommended-resources-ako-aotearoa/resources/pages/digital-information-literacy-what-it-an


    imageThe abundance of digital information at our fingertips means we need to also learn the skills of sorting, sifting, culling and filtering data. Teacher's guide to Digital curation, shares several tools for digital curation, such as Pinterest and Storify.

    What do you and your students use to manage the growing mountain of resources?


    Image sourced from Creative Commons

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 04 Dec 2013 12:05pm ()

    I'm just reading this article today, Future Lab's Digital literacy across the curriculum and I'm thinking of starting a resource that breaks down possible e-learning tools to support digital literacy skills. Are you keen to join me, if I created a shared doc/presentation?

  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 04 Dec 2013 3:01pm ()

    Hi Tessa, Great idea!  I would love to join you in this!

  • Jacinda Panther (View all users posts) 04 Dec 2013 3:14pm ()

    Hi Tessa. There is actually a doc that someone else started similar to this. I will have a look tonight and post a link for you.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 04 Dec 2013 3:25pm ()

    Thanks Jacinda, that would really help. I've just started out with a Google site, but will wait. I was also aware that Claire Amos has started this resource, but not sure if it's been populated yet Digital Citizenship project – Module 5 Digital literacy – online research.

    I was wondering about finding e-tools to support the following sub-categories too? 

    • Technological Literacy: Knowledge about what technology is, how it works, what purposes it can serve, and how it can be used efficiently and effectively to achieve specific goals.
    • Visual Literacy: The ability to interpret, use, appreciate, and create images and video using both conventional and 21st century media in ways that advance thinking, decision making, communication, and learning.
    • Information Literacy: The ability to evaluate information across a range of media; recognize when information is needed; locate, synthesize, and use information effectively; and accomplish these functions using technology, communication networks, and electronic resources.
    • Multicultural Literacy: The ability to understand and appreciate the similarities and differences in the customs, values, and beliefs of one’s own culture and the cultures of others.

    Any more ideas for sub-categories perhaps?

  • Jacinda Panther (View all users posts) 04 Dec 2013 6:05pm ()

    The master where the other resoucres come from.     


    Here is one planning document for digital citizenship


    2 docs for engaging reluctant writers (lots of links for different tools)



    Another one       


    Is this the kind of thing you were thinking of?

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 05 Dec 2013 12:58pm ()

    These are FANTASTIC, I had forgotten about a few of these resources as well, thanks so much Jacinda for sourcing and sharing them here. These digital resources will fit well within the visual and Information literacy categories of Digital Literacy Smile.


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 19 Dec 2013 12:02pm ()

    While we're still getting our heads around what exactly Digital Literacies are (and the terminologies associated with these)...another perspective is, to ask what kind of global citizen we want our students to be.

    Do we want out student to have a localized sense of belonging, cultural and national identity as well as an awareness of ethical global issues?

    According to Oxfam, an active global citizen understands "how the world works… is outraged by social injustice" and "is willing to act to make the world a more sustainable place". 

    Taken from, What kind of global citizens are teachers creating? 


    This in itself is quite a difficult concept to unpack, but if we agree Multicultural Literacy is part of Digital Literacy, then we might be able to unpack this further…

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 13 Apr 2016 11:27am ()

    Here's a post that is a nice concise summary on, 10 Valuable Digital Age Skills to Take Beyond School. These include:

    1. Personal Branding
    2. Portfolio Building
    3. Online Searching
    4. Proper Citation Practices
    5. Image/Video Editing
    6. File Conversion
    7. Coding
    8. Blogging
    9. Presentation Building
    10. Creating a Website

    Several of these I use daily. What other digital age skills do you think are important for us/our students to have? 

  • Sharon Nolan (View all users posts) 13 Apr 2016 11:52am ()

    This is a great list. However, I feel that knowledge of copyright, privacy and appropriate use should be specified as well.

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Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship

A group to support schools help their students, staff and whānau become digital citizens