What is Digital Literacy?

A recent twitter conversation on the #primedchat was discussing Digital Literacy alongside reading and writing skills. During this chat it occurred to me that some were confusing the notion of ‘Digital Literacy’ with that of using edtech for ‘ordinary’ literacy. I thought a discussion around what Digital Literacy actually is might be useful.

Schools in the new curriculum are asked to:

evaluate and apply information technology, including new or unfamiliar
technologies, analytically to solve problems
 are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and
communication technology.

These aims, split across Key Stage 1 and 2 succinctly capture what Digital Literacy is all about; our pupils develop skills which allow them to navigate digital media – to make use of technology available to them creatively, carefully and confidently. Indeed there is an argument that these skills are rapidly becoming the currency of a new education. (see this article in the Daily Telegraph) However it is in schools’ interest to navigate these skills as they will support learning later in their school life (if not straight away!)

Digital Literacy involves some key areas – many of which will be familiar to schools already:

  • keeping safe online

Which would include keeping details private online – looking at your internet footprint – thinking about your image and identity. I have written some ideas for this here.  

  • communication

Including etiquette online, adding comments to blogs (creating blogs with an audience in mind). Encouraging children to collaborate is really useful here and I wrote this about that subject: Collaboration in the Classroom

  • Information

Also linked to how networks work (which is listed as a curriculum aim) – but also examines the use of search engines and how to get information from the internet in general. 

  • Flexibility

Being confident with working alongside different operating systems and on different devices is key to digital literacy.


Interestingly these skills were being discussed long before the New Curriculum was finally introduced. The old ICT curriculum demanded that many programmes were used specifically for skill development – e.g. Powerpoint for presentations. The limitations of this can be seen, and as technologies changed the curriculum became obviously out-of-date. The skills became about adaptability and problem solving. Attempting to teach to technologies that we do not yet know. Equipping children to ‘try out’ ideas, to use what they know and to know where to find more information safely is what being digitally literate is about. FutureLab produced this document in 2010 which is jam packed with ideas!

To find out ways in which digital literacy can be encouarged in the classroom – see this post.

Digital Literacy in the Classroom.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this!

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