The American Library Association's digital-literacy task force offers this definition of digital literacy: “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information requiring both cognitive and technical skills”. Hiller Spires, a professor of literacy and technology at North Carolina State University, views digital literacy as having “three buckets: 1) finding and consuming digital content; 2) creating digital content; and 3) communicating or sharing it”.
I was first introduced to the world of using ‘digital literacy’ at a very young age. It all started with a PlayStation 2. Playing games and learning the controls for every game I played was a part of learning ‘digital literacy’. Later in my life, digital literacy was even as minuscule as learning the buttons on a TV remote or learning how to plug in the AV cables. My parents, especially my dad, did not care for technology at all. He mainly focused on reading books and writing with a pen and paper. My mom, on the other hand, learned the whole sending emails back and forth whilst running the family travel agency. Overall, my life shortly became revolved around learning how to use technology.
While the word ‘literacy’ alone generally refers to reading and writing skills, when you tack on the word 'digital' before it, the term encompasses much, much more. Sure, reading and writing are still very much at the heart of digital literacy. But given the new and ever-changing ways we use technology to receive and communicate information, digital literacy also encompasses a broader range of skills, everything from reading on a Kindle to gauging the validity of a website. The term is so broad that some experts even stay away from it, preferring to speak more specifically about particular skills at the intersection of technology and literacy.
While learning how much I used technology regularly was scary in a way. However, for me, learning how to use the tech was a necessity to live in the world because at school using a computer for learning programs was common. Then, my entertainment revolved around a lot of TV usage, so if I wanted to pick what I wanted to do, I had to learn how to use the television. It takes great skill to learn how to do so many technical things within such a short time. But it seems easy due to our adept skill of digital literacy. For instance, sending a text, then playing a round of Mario Kart, then sending a Snapchat can take two minutes of someone's time. This was a lot of what consisted of this past week for me every day. Furthermore, whilst doing a school project or something on the web for school can take some skill to find valid information. However, the skill of digital literacy can help someone determine if a website is just a scammer site that gives you a nasty virus.
‘Consuming’ digital content looks pretty much the same as reading print. Reading a novel on a basic e-reader requires knowing how to turn the device on and flip pages back and forth, but other than that, it isn't so different from reading a book. A PDF of a New York Times article looks a lot like the page of a print newspaper, except that it appears on a screen. Donald Leu, an education professor at the University of Connecticut and a recognized authority on literacy and technology, describes this sort of digital reading as ‘offline reading’. 'It's not interactive, there's one screen, and you just have to read it,' he explained: “It's the same as reading a paper page”. The added skills needed for this kind of reading take just a few minutes to teach. In comparison, what Leu calls ‘online reading’, in which a digital text is read through the internet, requires a host of additional skills. For instance, a New York Times piece viewed on the web may contain hyperlinks, videos, audio clips, images, interactive graphics, share buttons, or a comments section; features that force the reader to stop and make decisions rather than simply reading from top to bottom. “The text is designed so that no two readers experience it in the same way”, - said Troy Hicks, a professor of literacy and technology at Central Michigan University. The reader determines, among other things, when to click on videos or hyperlinks, how long to stray from the initial text, and whether and how to pass the information along to others.
Some things within digital literacy are not as skill-needy as others. Determining if a website is a virus packed site is a skill that some seemingly tech-savvy people might not know how to do. However, reading a newspaper through online sources like the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post is as easy as reading a regular newspaper. For instance, when I was reading articles for my religion project during the week on my Chromebook; it was easy as reading an article in a newspaper on the same subject. Furthermore, the project did have some difficulties because we needed to find a specific article and if you did not type in the exact URL, then you could not access the article. This would be considered harder to do than just picking up a paper and skimming for the title of the article.
On another note, the amount I used social media did not surprise me at all. The usage of Snapchat was expected because I always am in contact with my friends. This is very evident today with many people as well. According to the Independent, “Text messaging is now the most popular form of daily communication between British adults, new figures show. After years of increased use, the amount of time British adults spend speaking on a mobile phone has dropped for the first time. But the average Briton now sends 200 texts a month, Ofcom's Communications Market Report found, more than double the figure of four years ago. Text messaging has overtaken speaking on a mobile phone and face-to-face contact as the most-used method of daily communication between friends and family”.
For me to have half of my tech usage be social networking is not surprising. People all around the world are realizing that with a little work they too can learn the digital literacy of a phone to keep in touch with each other with such ease that they can do it with only lifting a few fingers in their living room.