“Digital literacy is on par with basic reading and writing skills, especially for job seekers…”
Have you ever been in a conversation about technology and realized you don’t understand what everyone is talking about? Do you use a brute force approach to technology (e.g., hitting every button until something works) way too often? If you were born before 1980, chances are you have at one point or another felt like a digital dinosaur. But today, digital literacy is on par with basic reading and writing skills, especially for job seekers—your subject matter knowledge may be unmatched, but if you don’t know how to navigate online, you are at an enormous disadvantage.
[Follow the story of a 50-year-old’s road to digital literacy in Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern.]
What is digital literacy?
At its most fundamental, digital literacy is the ability to use a computer and the Internet. This may sound simple, but even basic digital literacy is changing with the emergence of new technologies, such as the interactive Web and cloud computing.
Digital literacy goes beyond mere use, however. According to the digital education website mediasmarts.ca, digital literacy also requires being able to understand and create digital content. Media Smarts divides these competencies into six categories:
- Technological literacy can be summarized as “proficiency with technology,” including everything from basic computer skills to computer programming.
- Information literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, and apply information found online.
- Visual literacy involves understanding and producing visual messages.
- Media literacy is the ability to use, understand, and create multimedia.
- Communication literacy refers to the ability to communicate online, including over e-mail, instant messaging, and social networks.
- Social literacy includes collaborating, networking, and other ways to foster social relationships online.
Across all fields—business, education, manufacturing, health care, and so on—these six literacies are becoming more and more essential for finding a job.
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How do you become digitally literate?
Enhancing your digital literacy is mainly a matter of deliberate practice. To become more knowledgeable about and confident using technology, you need to actively use technology. Here are several online resources you can use to develop your digital literacy skills:
- The Microsoft Digital Literacy curriculum has three levels, starting with very basic computer skills and progressing to using search engines and social networking.
- The Goodwill Community Foundation offers a variety of free tutorials, including lessons on how to use programs from Google Apps to Twitter, as well as how to evaluate information found online.
- San Diego State University has developed a series of two digital literacy courses that are offered periodically and may be taken for credit.
- Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are free courses that anyone can take online. Some are specifically technology focused, but participating in any course will help you build your digital literacy skills.
For most jobs in most fields, digital literacy is no longer optional. These resources (and the many others available online) can help you gain the skills you need to navigate the new world of technology.
David Blake is the cofounder of Degreed.com, author at MOOCs.com, and a Stanford d.School EdTech Entrepreneur. Fast Company wrote, “Why can’t we take robotics at Carnegie Mellon, linear algebra at MIT, and law at Stanford? And why can’t we put 130 of these together and make it a degree?” Now you can! With Degreed, you can take courses from any university and learn from the best resources across the web.
How do continue to learn new digital skills as technology changes?