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What do we mean by digital literacies?

The term digital literacies is central to the National Framework for Digital Literacies in ITE and requires a shared understanding of what is meant. In general, Scottish Education’s understanding of digital literacies is framed by a definition offered in HGIOS4 (Education Scotland, 2015, p.58). Digital literacy is defined here as something that,  

“encompasses the capabilities required for living, learning and working in a digital society. It includes the skills, knowledge, capabilities and attributes around the use of digital technology which enable individuals to develop to their full potential in relation to learning, life and work. It encompasses the skills to use technology to engage in learning through managing information, communicating and collaborating, problem-solving and being creative, and the appropriate and responsible use of technology.” 

 Importantly, throughout the Framework, the term chosen is the plural-form ‘literacies’, in order to recognise an expanded concept of literacies, one that acknowledges the diversity of social and cultural practices involved (Lankshear & Knobel, 2008). 

In general, definitions of digital literacies tend to be either conceptual definitions, which provide descriptions about the relationship of the user and the technology, or definitions that function as sets of standardised operations or demonstrations of skills (Lankshear & Knobel, 2015). Despite these differences in definitions, a general consensus involves those attributes noted in the HGIOS4 (Education Scotland, 2015), that is; where attributes such as the adaptation of technical skills are balanced with the mastering of meaning-making and the sharing of ideas (Gilster, 1997). Lankshear and Knobel (2015) argue that limiting definitions to lists of technical skill ignores that these skills can “take on very different forms when embedded in different social practices involving different purposes and where different kinds of meaning are at stake”. Indeed, they contend that “we should think of digital literacies not as something unitary, and certainly not as some finite competency or skill – or even as a set of competencies or skills”. When seen as being a way of meaning-making, where students produce, view, and share their creations, our definition of digital literacies goes beyond a focus on skills and information, and instead highlights a broader, contextualised use of digital technologies. 

Education Scotland (2015). How good is our school? 4th edition. Available at: (Accessed on 20th November 2018). 

Gilster, P. (1997). Digital Literacies. New York: Wiley Computer Publications. 

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2015). Digital Literacies and Digital Literacies: – Policy, Pedagogy and Research Considerations for Education. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacies, 10, pp. 8-20.  

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008). Digital literacies: Concepts, policies and practices. New York/Berlin/Oxford Peter Lang.