This is the first installment of a series of posts about the topic of Digital Literacy.
There's a group of people called "Digital Natives." They're the people who have been exposed to computers and the Internet since childhood and seem to have an affinity for using every new tech gadget that hits the market. The opposite of the "Digital Native" is the "Digital Immigrant." The "Digital Immigrant" was born before technology came to be what it is today. A "Digital Immigrant" may also be someone who has had little exposure to current technology despite their birth-year.
Digital Natives have knack for using new technologies, but knowing how to Google won't do much good if you don't know how to use the information it gives you. It may, in fact, do you harm. As consumers of digital information, we need to develop skills that our parents and grandparents never had. We must develop Digital Literacy.
You'll find a variety of definitions for the term Digital Literacy. ALA Connect (a site affiliated with the American Library Association), gives this definition for Digital Literacy: "... the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." Let's work with that definition and think about evaluation, creation, and communication.
You've heard people jokingly say, "It's on the Internet, it must be true." I hope they're joking because information on the Internet can be absolutely true, sort of true, based on truth, but simplified or embellished, or patently false. Sometimes it's obvious when an information source is designed to fool you, sometimes it isn't. As a digitally literate person, you have to know how to evaluate what you read, watch, and hear.
Human beings have a drive to create. We do things like make objects, write stories, draw and paint pictures, give presentations, and much much more. Everything we create can be viewed as information. Today there are tons of technology tools we can use to make stuff. Some tools are easy to use, some require training. Being digitally literate means you can use these tools to say the things you want to say.
There's little point in creating information if you're not going to share it with others. Digitally literate people know how to communicate with others using today's technology tools. Whether it's emailing a report to your boss, posting a photo on Facebook, or writing a blog, it's crucial to know how to use technology to communicate.
In upcoming posts, I'll elaborate on these three components of Digital Literacy. I'll also provide some resources for growing your literacy skills. Until then, you might take a look at what you can learn about technology from IT Training. We have workshops for Natives, Immigrants, and everyone in-between.