A model for digital literacy

I have previously written about digital literacy, and will surely continue to do so, as the importance of this new literacy is hard to overestimate.

At the moment I am writing a paper for 4th European Conference on Games Based Learning on developing a special subdomain of digital literacy, namely that of games literacy or ludoliteracy, as it is dubbed by American researcher José P. Zagal.

Even without moving into this more specific area, talking about digital literacy might easily become muddled and lack a clear sense of direction. What do I, for instance, mean, when stating that digital literacy is important?

Bloom's taxonomy - revised edition

First of all, I – and most people in the field – maintain, that digital literacy must be about much more than basic functional skills. Being able to use digital media is important, of course, but these skills must be supplemented by higher “cognitive levels of complexity”, refering to Bloom’s widely known work on a taxonomy of learning. Without entering a discussion on the validity of the taxonomy, it probably makes sense to see the progression described herein as parallel to the progression required in developing a more holistic digital literacy. As in the taxonomy, being digitally literate requires more than “applying” digital media.

Digital literacy across the curriculum

This is the basic premise of a new handbook from Futurelab called “Digital literacy across the curriculum“, wherein the authors make a very qualified effort to turn the pompous discussions into something a bit more concrete and down-to-earth.

They do this by focusing more on practice than theory, by relating to concrete examples, and by asking questions like the following:

What does digital literacy look like in the classroom? And how can teachers go about developing it within school subjects?

Another part of their approach is to list (some of) the discrete components of any overall digital literacy, as they state that ” it can be helpful to think of digital literacy as made up of a number of inter-related components or dimensions”.

I absolutely agree, and deconstructing the concept might help demystify it by showing “what’s inside”. Such a take may also consequently force us to acknowledge the multimodality of a comprehensive digital literacy consisting of skills, knowledge and competencies on different levels.

Even so, one might argue that the process of breaking a digital literacy into smaller bits and pieces can never result in a fully comprehensive understanding, as any relevant literacy must be inherently dynamic. In addition, a critic could object that isolating components indicates an internal independence between said components. Both points are overly academic, however, and not really relevant in this case. Models work to simplify complex phenomenons, thus making it possible to actually work with them in practice, and this is what’s relevant.

Enough talk, here’s the model in all it’s simple glory:

A model for digital literacy - from Futurelab

The model illustrates the necessity of broadening our scope, and approaching digital media from a number of different perspectives and with different goals in mind. Hopefully this model along with the handbook in general (and all the other tools and publications available) can support the ongoing tendencies towards a more diverse inclusion of digital media in education.

By Mathias Poulsen

PhD student at Designskolen Kolding. Studying how we might design for playful, embodied and speculative democratic participation. Founded CounterPlay and the Danish Play Think Tank.


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