Digital Literacy

The new National Curriculum has changed ICT to ‘Computing’ and  highlights that it will enable children to become digitally literate and they will be able to ‘use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology’ and therefore be successful and active participants of a digital world. (


In our Contemporary Issues in Teaching and Learning session today we looked closely at this concept of ‘digitally literate’ to find out what it really means and how we go about achieving it. It was discussed that there are primarily 2 camps of thought when it comes to being digitally literate.

1)      That we should prepare children to be literate in a world which is

2)      That it is enough to ensure that children are literate in the traditional sense of the word. This can then be extended to cover digital technologies.

We discussed how children may become digitally literate as they brought up with technology all around them and that Prenski  (2001) describes this as the children being ‘digital natives’ and adults who have not grown up with technology are ‘digital immigrants’. This concept can go some way in explaining how digital literacy is achieved for some children. However, caution must be taken when using these terms as although children may have grown up in a digital age, they have all had different experiences and exposure and can still make mistakes or feel nervous around technologies  .We discussed that being digitally literate meant that you could interpret, analyse and use technology. Furthermore it was raised that it should be a two way process which involves being able to communicate your own ideas in a suitable media with the appropriate skills.

Futurelab (2010) defines digital literacy as follows:

“To be digitally literate is to have access to a broad range of practices and cultural resources that you are able to apply to digital tools. It is the ability to make, represent and share meaning in different modes and formats; to create, collaborate and communicate effectively and to understand how and when digital technologies can best be used to support these processes”




 The picture above illustrates the elements Belshaw describes as necessary to create a digitally literate individual. Belshaw emphasises that these elements are contextual, that is, they depend on the personal, social and cultural context within which they develop (Belshaw, 2011).  The issue of context is of particular importance when it comes to a school KS1/KS2 setting.The new curriculum for computing states that children need to become digital literate and learn the skills necessary to cope with new technologies in a modern world. (DfE., 2013.)  As the subject of computing is such a new and maybe daunting subject for teachers, I believe Belshaw’s 8 elements can be a great platform to build computing lessons plans from, they may act almost as a check list  by which teachers can check to see if their lessons are creating digital literacy.


In the session today we worked in small groups with iPad’s on the app ‘Puppet Pals’. Our task was to re tell a fairy tale in a modern day setting, we used our own narrations, characters and scenes. This was an activity that was very enjoyable for all involved and the connections to literacy and the development of the skills of storytelling were evident. The activity could also be applied to other subjects such as history, drama and R.E. However, as teachers we must always be aware of what the children are learning, just because they are engaged/enjoying it doesn’t always correlate to learning. This is illustrated by a study into Interactive Whiteboards which showed little improvement or actually a drop in attainment after their introduction. ttp:// Therefore it is essential that the new technologies are utilised effectively by the class teacher.

 Children are surrounded by technology in all aspects of their lives and this should be reflected in the classroom. The use of iPads is a clear example of how we can incorporate the digital world into the classroom and allows children to become comfortable and literate in a wide range of technology in all settings and environments.


Belshaw, D. (2011-Present: last updated 6 February 2013). What is ‘digital literacy’? A Pragmatic investigation. . Available: Last accessed 19/11/2013.

Prensky, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants , 2001 (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)

DfE., 2013. Computing programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2. [online] DfE. Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2013].

Futurelab., 2010. Digital Literacy Across the Curriculum. [online] Futurelab. Available at: [Accessed 19 November 2013].< [Accessed 19 November 2013].





3 thoughts on “Digital Literacy

  1. This provides an insightful overview of the potential of digital technology to develop children’s IT literacy. The activity using the app, ‘puppet pals’ was a good illustration of how ICT can enhance children’s learning across a range of subject areas. Not only was the activity extremely engaging, drawing on IT, literacy and drama skills, it also required us to develop our skills of using this app. We had to complete some research beforehand and plan the digital production via ‘puppet pals’. This stage of the activity seems vital in extending and assessing the learning related to the wider subject areas it touches on. It also made us work together as a team and we delegated certain tasks to members of the group based on our strengths. I can imagine that using digital technology for this kind of activity may increase some children’s self confidence and self expression as they are using drama techniques in a different way which is perhaps less exposing than on stage.

  2. I wasn’t in the session on Digital Literacy, but this has helped me gain an understanding of what the lecture was about and how Digital Literacy and its introduction to the curriculum is beneficial to primary aged children. Olivia I thought that you made a really good point when you discussed the idea of not using iPads and apps in the classroom just because we can, and to make sure that there is actual learning involved in the decisions about using technology. Thank you for the blog it helped with my understanding of this topic which I missed in class!

  3. I agree with Olivia that it is essential that the classroom children are educated in reflects the technological world around them. I think it is good that the curriculum is making attempts to incorporate ‘digital literacy’ into each child’s learning, even if it is something that is hard to define, the process is ongoing. It is important that we emphasise to children the value of technology and its many uses but also the dangers.

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