Meeting 4: Digital Literacies

Our 4th meeting is focused on the topics of “Digital Resources and Digital Information Literacy.”   How have digital learning resources changed the possibilities for teaching and learning, and what literacies do students need to know to navigate the explosion of digital information?

We’re going to look at three separate attempts to define “digital literacy” – and think about the implications of each for our practice as college teachers.

Discussion Leaders:  Tony Alvarado & Kady Ferris


Definition #1:   Digital Literacies, Libraries, and Public Policies,” the American Library Association, January 2013 report.  In this report, the ALA outlines a fairly concise definition of “digital literacy.”  It appears on page 2 of the report.

  • For the purposes of our meeting, you only need to read this definition on page 2.
  • If you want to read more about how academic libraries (as opposed to K-12 or public libraries, for example), are tackling these questions, read pages 14-16.
Optional additional reading on these more traditional definitions of “information literacy”:
  • The 2012 Pew Research Center report, “How Teens Do Research in the Digital World” will confirm many of your suspicions about the benefits and perils of our students’ research challenges in the digital age.
  • Want even more info on young adult’s research skills?  Check out Project Information Literacy. This project is “a public benefit nonprofit dedicated to conducting ongoing, large-scale research about early adults and their research habits. [ . . . ] Our goal is to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research activities for course work and “everyday life” use and especially how they resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency in the digital age.”


Definition #2: What Should We Teach? Rethinking Literacy” – Henry Jenkins et al. in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (2009).  pp. 19-55.  We began reading this report at our last meeting.  This time, we’re digging into it’s definition of “literacy.”  Jenkins and his colleagues identify 11 “core media literacy skills” (which they list on page 4 of their report).

  • In pages 19-55, they describe each in greater detail, provide examples of them, and then offer suggestions for how this skill might be deliberately taught within an educational setting.  You don’t need to read this lengthy selection in its entirety, because it has been formatted for easy skimming.  To focus your reading, I encourage you to pick 2 or 3 literacies from the list and read the sections about them in their entirety, skimming through the rest as interests you.


Definition #3: Howard Rheingold’s definition of “digital literacies,” as outlined in his 2012 book, Net Smart.  I have linked to Rheingold’s “Introduction,” which his publisher (MIT Press) has made freely available on their site.  The full chapter is 33 pages long.

  • Want the shortest version?  Read his chapter previews, each of which focuses on one of his 5 digital literacies.  These appear in pages 9-12.
  • Want to know a little more?  The remainder of the chapter (pages 12-33) is devoted to sections discussing each literacy in greater depth.  You might pick 2 literacies that interest you and read more about each.

Further Reading

Want to see how a college instructor might teach a few of these literacies?  Take a look at Sean Michael Morris’s “Digital Composition” course at  Marylhurst University.  His syllabus is online.

Want to share some other examples of syllabi or assignments?  Feel free to add them as comments to this post, or Tweet them with the #stedbc hashtag!

I look forward to talking with you all about what literacies our students may need to be active participants in a 21st-century world!


One thought on “Meeting 4: Digital Literacies

  1. Are these digital literacies really that different from previous literacies? I think literacy must be related to being able to use them or the potential to use them in the way they were intended or in a newly discovered way. .

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