What does it take to be “digitally literate?”
Thus far in the course, we have read about individuals using the Web to find work, love, and entertainment. Now, at last, we have read about the audience and the implications for a digital world. I feel like what we learned in this week’s readings are somewhat no-brainers because we are becoming so incredibly familiar with technology and digital literacy, but nonetheless, the authors presented many excellent points. However, when my eyes scanned the sentence that mentions, “audiences of digital documents may different from those of print documents,” I almost chuckled to myself (Blakeslee, 2010, p. 201). Blakeslee also mentions that now, nearly all texts that technical communicators design is created for digital use, which means that even if a text is in print, likely, a digital version also exists.
When technical communicators create texts explicitly for use on the Web, they need to keep several factors in mind. They need to know how readers will engage in the texts, the frequency readers will use the documents, the scenario in which readers will use the text, and the expectations readers have. As a result, designing texts for the Web is a complicated process. In digital texts, users have a greater opportunity to engage their readers. For example, readers of an online text have the ability to leave comments on a text and provide a technical communicator with immediate feedback.
As a K-12 educator, I envision the increase for digital literacy within the next decade. In the future, it will be nearly impossible to survive in the world without digital literacy skills. The need to read and write digital texts will continue to grow as desktop computers, mobile phones, tablets, and laptops become obligatory in school and workplace settings. So, what specific skills will readers need to be deemed “digitally literate?”
First, basic reading and writing skills are necessary to begin becoming digitally literate. A reader must have the ability to read scholarly information of higher reading levels and to construct highly effective pieces of writing in a digital setting. Next, familiarity with various technologies is also an important digital literacy skill. A reader must be able to use the Web, word processors, and other programs to design and publish information. Additionally, the ability to search and locate through various technological tools is vital to becoming digitally literate. Readers need must be able to use computers, mobile phones, etc. to their advantage. Readers must also be able to evaluate digital sources and determine their credibility. As I mentioned last week, with so many “voices” on the Web, it is critical for a digitally literate reader to be able to decipher which texts he/she can trust. Furthermore, digitally literate must be able to determine what not to read. With information so readily available, readers usually do not have the time to read everything, so they must have the skill to determine relevance.
In my opinion, readers of digital texts need even more skills than do traditional readers. For most of us now, the transition from traditional to digital is complicated. However, since the children of today are born with a mobile phone in one hand and a laptop in the other, digital literacy skills will continue to develop and change, as new technologies develop in the future.