Digital Literacy – It’s Time For A New Definition

Digital literacy is a term coined by academics for academics about academics. At least that used to be the case. When I first came across the term around three years ago, the only books I could find on the subject were academic treatises that were difficult to digest at best and weighty at worst.

The common theme around the term digital literacy, however, was always centered around literacy in terms of learning and using technology in the classroom. It was often synonymous or closely regarded with terms like information literacy, computer literacy and media literacy. While some of these terms were getting closer, I feel the academic world was doing the rest of us a disservice by co-opting the phrase for themselves. Even the US government website was focused on literacy in the classroom for our young people and not a broader terminology of literacy in the digital world.

I’m happy to report that things are changing. When I Google the phrase, “digital literacy” now, the definitions are getting broader and I believe that’s a very good thing. Because as the phrase suggests, digital literacy should be a far reaching terminology that encompasses the enormous paradigm shift that has occurred in our digital world over the last 20 years.

Children today are growing up with more technology at their fingertips than many baby boomers can even comprehend. It’s not the children in our classrooms that could suffer a disadvantage from lack of digital knowledge.


It’s actually our baby boomers that find themselves illiterate today in terms of digital media, computer technology, information literacy and social networking. While our older generations have their tried and true styles of communication, technology has changed those styles of communication for younger generations. At times, it seems that “never the twain shall meet.”

It’s more important now than ever, that baby boomers get their digital literacy on!

Technology will continue to change, grow, morph and permeate the world as we know it. Boomers find themselves in a strange place where they are the illiterate. That’s scary and causes resistance to embracing change. But it’s up to baby boomers to absorb the changes and continue to grow and educate themselves so they continue to thrive.

It may not be fair and it may not be easy, but it’s absolutely necessary to keep digital literacy education on the minds of¬†education and business professionals.

Digital literacy education should encompass fundamental skills like computer use, email, internet research and basic word processing and spreadsheet programs. It now needs to include smartphone use too like texting, wi-fi and coordinating computer skills with mobile apps which all serve to improve productivity. None of this fundamental knowledge should make your life more difficult. It should make your world simpler and more organized. And it will help you get connected and communicate with a broader range of people, especially in those younger generations.

For business owners, digital literacy needs to include social media and how it works, blogging and website use, iTunes, cloud computing and business productivity tools.

While all of this sounds like way too much digital literacy, it’s not as bad or as a big a task as you may fear.

There are classes available in many communities through adult education programs, local libraries and private organizations including places like the new Microsoft stores and Apple stores. The opportunity to learn is everywhere, but you have to make the time and effort to make digital literacy a priority for your future.