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 wph.i.am.rockville202.jpgeek, 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.

Posted on November 10, 2013, in Literacy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m curious about what you’ve found in k-12 with regarding to reading and writing skills. Are students developing the ability to read scholarly texts? I ask because I become more alarmed with each passing year at what seems our students’ inability to read scholalry material in college.

    • I am also curious about what findings there have been about reading and writing skills in kids that young. It seems kids that can’t even talk yet understand how to use tablets and smartphones, so how does that change the K-12 mindset?

      • The school currently employing me is typically not well known for having great reading and writing scores as it is, but I definitely think that reading in general is at a low point compared to the rigor it once had. Teachers are forced to skim the curriculum because of high stakes testing and students’ reading abilities are taking a toll.

  2. I agree that readers of digital texts need more (and different) skills than traditional readers of print texts. As digital publishing is so much easier and cheaper than traditional print publishing, authors do not have to have resources like editors and publishers to make their work available to readers. Thus, I think you’re right that the skill to know what not to read is becoming increasingly important because relevance and accuracy are probably less sure when an author can publish so easily, and our capacity for reading is limited.

  3. My undergrad professional communication majors have to create a portfolio as their final project and the previous instructor recommended I assign both print and digital. The “print” form, however, is a PDF that [if they wanted or an employer requested] they could print out and assemble. See http://technicalwritingworld.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-build-a-killer for some advice I’m sharing with them but ignoring #s 1 & 3.

    The digital will be web-based and, given that these undergrads don’t have an array of writing samples to choose from, I’ll recommend they can use their WordPress.com site and create pages. I’ve also heard good things about wix.com but haven’t explored it yet.

  4. I think the need for digital literacy is already here! When you mentioned “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”, I was nodding yes the whole time. I think this is also why, as Dr. Pignetti pointed out earlier, students are demanding without having really read the instructions. We all have to know how to be skimmers but at some point you miss important pieces of information if you are not good at picking out the right details. Information overload at its best!

  5. Reading skills are something that my wife and I will make sure our child and future children have. Our daughter is only 14 months old, and we read several of her books to hear each day. We’re trying to instill the importance of books in her, and we hope that it sticks.

    We’ve heard of people purchasing their children iPads at the age of 18 months, and we don’t judge that decision. On the other hand, We also choose not to have our child grow up that way. We will give her all the opportunities we can so she can thrive in the digital world, but we also want her to have and enjoy her childhood. I plan to take her camping, even if it is only in the back yard, and we will continue to encourage her imagination and creativity. I applaud the parents who created Dinovember.
    View at Medium.com

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