Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Digital Literacy?

In the Oxford "color" English Dictionary the word "digital" (as an adjective) means having to do with information represented as a series of binary digits, as in a computer, and "literacy" means the ability to read and write. However, Digital Literacy is not just a simple combination of two words. It is much more than that. What is the real objective behind this concept? Is it comprehensible and clear cut? Would the lay person grasp its true meaning? What does Digital Literacy really mean?  I would proceed to shed some light and try to clarify some doubts on this vast concept, relating it, of course, to English language Teaching, ELT, showing some of the advantages and problems of why we, as ELT teachers, should be digitally literate.

The term Digital Literacy encompasses a wide variety of concepts. It refers to the ability to effectively use, recognize, understand, and adapt to digital technologies such as the computer, tablets, mobile devices and so on. As far as I am concerned, we ELT teachers should be digitally literate because the use of Information and Communication Technology, ICT, in classrooms is already here, and it is here to stay. In fact, it has been here for some decades, Thus, it is vital that ELT teachers know how to manipulate, evaluate and adapt easily to the advent of this technological era in order to facilitate and guide our students in their language endeavors to make the entire learning and teaching process much easier. If not, we would be left behind, become obsolete, and rust. We would simply vanish.

Digital Literacy  does not replace the traditional way of teaching, and, in my opinion, never would, but it helps and builds upon the foundation of the traditional way. It is a time saver. Take, for example, an ELT teacher who establishes a class blog.This would most probably save a lot of face-to face classtime, which could be use to cover more important activities, because the teacher could assign a great part of the work for home since a blog allows interaction, and both the students and teachers could be in constant communication at all times. Even the curious parents, who would like to know about their children's school performance, could be involved. A blog could also be used to motivate the shy students to participate more and express their opinions freely because that stumbling block called "embarrassment" would simply be eradicated. Another example is the easy accessibility to information. Regarding time saving, this is quite an advantage when comparing it to the traditional way of going to a library.

With the advent of e-learning, distance learning, blended learning, online learning, mobile learning, and so on, Digital Literacy has become a vital part of ELT training for teachers due to the huge demand fo English Learning in today's globalized world. Nowadays, teaching and learning could be done from any part of the world to anywhere in the world because of ICT. This is a great advantage in terms of cost, time an comfort. Nevertheless, there is still a gap, a digital divide in many parts of the world, and implementing high-tech gadgets in the ELT classrooms is not so feasible whatsoever.  Many language schools and institutions, especially in Latin America and in developing countries, lack adequate infraestructure of these tenological devices probably because of shoestring budgets or a low level of importance given to ICT in classrooms. Although a few schools have taken the first steps in this technological direction, a lot is still yet to be done when compared to educational institutions of more advanced countries.

In conclusion, Digital Literacy implies the finding, understanding, integrating, evaluating, creating, and communicating ionformation through the use of digital technologies. Therefore, to reach the top, and stay on top, All ELT teachers should aspire to be apt in digital literacy, whether we have or are provided with the necessary technological facilities or not.

A digitally literate person may be describe as a digital citizen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_literacy)
The word "citizen" infers a great deal of responsibility.

I hope my interpretation of Digital Literacy was interesting and clarifying enough for you. Thank you.


  1. I have to point out that digital literacy is not the only need every mortal has in this globalized world, EFL literacy is another need too. There is still another need: linguistic, academic or writing literacy. This means that we, Venezuelan citizens should become quite familiar not only with digital technology (ICT included), but also with learning English as a foreign language and learning reading and writing in our native language.

  2. Excellent Terry! your post looks very neat and professional! also, it sticks to its aim: Digital literacy, and you do not wander in other aspects that might have distracted the reader from your objective...;) Congrats!

  3. Really neat post Terry, straight to the point and without going off the path!