Digital literacy is a relatively new concept that emerged in the late 1990s as the Internet was first emerging in the workforce and educational institutions. 

In 1997, Paul Gilster, a historian and educator, first coined the term “digital literacy,” arguing that digital literacy was more than merely having technology skills. Instead, he said it is about “mastering ideas, not keystrokes.”

What is Digital Literacy? 

First, let’s define “literacy.” Dictionaries define literacy or literate as the ability to read and write. Within education, literacy is understood as the ability to read, write, and perform basic mathematics; the emphasis is on proficiency with grammar, spelling, and numeracy.

Throughout history, there has always been a level of status that goes along with the ability to read and write. For example, countries are ranked based on their population’s literacy levels from an economic standpoint. Educational institutes are also scored based on students’ abilities within these areas; even our schooling system in Ontario, Canada, uses reading, writing, and arithmetic for standardized testing to understand the literacy and quality of education.

Literacy is commonly associated with language; the word “literacy” has increasingly become a synonym for skill, competence, and proficiency.

So, what is digital? We often associate digital with tools and technology available to us—for example, our computers, smartphones, or the ability to send quick messages and emails. 

Why is Digital Literacy Important?

The term “digital native” or “net generation” has become synonymous with someone born or brought up during the digital age of technology and assumes that they are naturally familiar with technology and the Internet. However, this is a large assumption that is all too often incorrect. Just because you were born after the year 2000 does not automatically mean you know how to use technology or are digitally literate.

It’s not nearly enough for us to be connected worldwide with technology. We also need to develop and build skills around being socially responsible with our digital practices in our personal and work worlds. The first step is being aware of technology and having access to it, yet simply because you have a piece of hardware or software does not mean you know how to use it effectively. As you spend more time using technology and learning how to effectively use various programs, you will gain confidence in your digital communication, information, and technical skills.

You can then begin to apply those skills to make informed decisions and choices about using different technologies. Secondarily, your experiences and practices contribute to the growth of your digital literacy and use of technology.

Improving Your Digital Literacy

Improving your digital literacy can be an evolutionary process that could take years to acquire on your own. This course is aimed at helping you develop your digital literacy in a range of areas to become a better digital citizen. By the end of the course, you will have the concepts you’ll need to increase your marketability and succeed in this new environment. The course covers:  

  • Artificial Intelligence: The Next Frontier
  • Biometrics: An Introduction to Physiological and Behavioural Biometrics
  • Bitcoin and Blockchain
  • Cybercrime
  • Future Direction in Digital Technology
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)

Full Program Details

Gilster, P. (1997). Digital Literacy. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.