Saturday, May 17, 2014

Understanding the concepts behind Digital Literacy

I have always liked wordsmeaning and roots. To understand what Digital Literacy means, I started searching for definitions on different dictionaries. Knowing basic terms has always helped me to understand more elaborated concepts. So, what does -digital and -literacy mean? According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
  • Digital (adj.) from the Latin digitalis, means pertaining or related to fingers. Related to the Latin word digit, meaning the use of numerical digital below 10. After 1945, this definition was associated to the use of numerical digital, especially on computers.
Digital and digit are related by the Latin word digitus, which means “finger or toe (also with secondary meaning dealing in counting and numeral)". The numerical sense is because numerals under 10 were counted using fingers.
Digital is related to finger and numbers, because one primary way of counting was –and still is- by using our fingers. Is associated to the first computers, primarily used as calculators.
  • Literacy (n.), “formed in English from literate+cy, related to Literate.
  • Literate (adj.), from the Latin literatus/litteratus, it means “educated, learned”, one who knows the letters. In the early 15c., the term expressed “educated, instructed”.
How do these terminologies relate to the Digital Literacy concept that we use nowadays

The first logical option is to search on dictionaries that explains the regular use of the words, e.g. Cambridge Dictionaries Online, which defines:
  • Digital, “showing information in the form of an electronic image”.
  • Literacy, “the ability to read and write: knowledge of a particular subject, or a particular type of knowledge”.
Now that I know the basic terminology, these are my ideas about what Digital Literacy might be:  
  1. The ability to read and write information available in electronic tools?
  2. One that is educated about computers?
  3. A person who has been trained or educated on computer language?
One could say that Digital Literacy is the ability to effectively research, choose, read, comprehend, analyze and interpreting digital information. It also involves analytical and creative skills. For example, just posting an article on Facebook, requires the following competences:
  • Knowledge: about how to use a computer, the web, have an email and a Facebook account.
  • Research: you look for different articles on the Internet, e.g. Google.
  • Evaluate information: you deference the articles that you liked from the ones that you don’t, and choose you favourites. 
  • Analyze: you analyze the possible respond or effect caused by your post. This means that you will post certain articles or image according to your digital environment, e.g. you won't post your gramma's photo if your using Facebook as an working tool.
  • Creativity: posting, editing and add comments about the article. 
Once that you use a computer and the Web your way through digital literacy starts! As in all educational or discovering process, the knowledge can go deeper according to the person's interest. Digital Literacy means much more than just using a computer:  you can experience a continuous learning process.

The final question is how can I improve and become more digital literate? 
One important step is practicing, practicing and practicing… You will improve as you use it, understand it and practice it! As in any skill we want to develop!


- Izquierdo, E. (2009). Digital Literacy.

- New York City Department of Education

- Online Etymology Dictionary

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