Digital literacy underlies Internet participation. Our understanding of information, our ability to access it, and our capacity to participate determine awareness of services and choices related to health, privacy, government, and security. This lecture will provide an overview of the different stances related to digital literacy, with particular focus on their implications for policy and education. It will discuss whether digital literacy is a matter of access, of technical skills, of critical thinking, or a combination. It will explore the rhetoric surrounding digital literacy within the context of three particular stances: socio-cultural, cognitive, and technical.
This lecture will also examine when the debate related to digital literacy emerged and how it has evolved. Drawing upon empirical research and using specific case studies as illustrations, digital literacy will be presented as a spectrum that includes basic as well as advanced practices. Three vignettes will be used to illustrate tensions between defining digital literacy in terms of access versus technical proficiency versus critical approach. For example, does using a smart phone make a person digitally literate? Is sending a text message a demonstration of digital literacy, or is it more involved, for example, deciding not to send pictures or a message because they could be circulated? Is digital literacy evidenced by production and activity, or is it simply a matter of knowing where to find information, or both? We will conclude by discussing how different ways of understanding literacy impact education policy.
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