The UNESCO definition of literacy is “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”
Traditional literacy involved reading, writing and arithmetic. With the sweeping surge in innovation in technology, new literacies have become as crucial as reading and writing. New literacies do not replace traditional forms of literacy but build on them. These are digital, media and global literacies.
Digital literacy is not only the use of digital tools but also their effective use in the practice of civil life such as social, career and personal life. Digital literacy is when people are able to read and interpret text, sounds and images, manipulate and evaluate data in ways that are appropriate to their needs and to communicate messages.
Most digital natives today have knowledge about technology but do not know how and when to use technology appropriately. The gap between access to digital tools and the necessary skills to use them appropriately is challenging and causing major issues.
Digital Literacy means:
- Knowing how to use search engines with all its branching and browsing skills, email, text, wiki, blogs, Photoshop, PowerPoint, video creation/editing, etc.
- Information literacy, as in research, being able to find, understand, evaluate, use, and summarize online resources.
- Choosing appropriate platform to communicate a message.
- Knowing and reflecting on the ethical rules of interacting with others on different platforms.
- Making ethical decisions on accessing information by locating, sharing and citing materials without plagiarizing.
- Creating and reproducing online content in a variety of forms, text, pictures, video, audio, etc…
- Socio-emotional literacy: Taking social action individually or collectively to share knowledge, to solve problems in the family, workplace and community, and to participate as a member of the community.
As a result of digital literacy, the emphasis on skills like creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration skills, flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility becomes heavier.
Media literacy is the process through which individuals become able to critically understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messages and productions.
Here are good examples of media literacy:
- People know how to question, evaluate, understand and appreciate the multimedia culture. It makes them active consumers and users.
- Media literacy relates popular culture to traditional education.
- Music, comics, television, movies, video games, fashion, and ads create a shared environment for learning.
- Media literacy encourages the use of sophisticated forms of communication.
- Media literacy engages people in “real-world” issues as active citizens.
- Media literacy develops people’s critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Given emerging technological and communication trends, it is essential for everyone to be globally literate. Global literacy is an understanding of how the world is interconnected and the possibilities and challenges people face as a result.
Globally literate people think critically about their roles in the world and want to leave a positive footprint on the global environment, economy, and human development. To this end, they need to appreciate the interaction among cultures and understand the institutional systems around the world.
The means to achieve global literacy depends on:
- Developing communication skills such as learning other languages and knowing different tools of communication.
- Participating effectively in solving global issues and developing global production systems.
- Understanding geopolitics of countries around the world.
- Exercising responsible citizenship locally and globally.
- Encouraging respect for cultural differences and diversity.
- Committing to adapt new skills that become essential to life in the 21st century.
- Enhancing one’s ability to advocate for one’s self and their community within The Charter of Human Rights.
- Understanding the global competitive and cooperative environments at work and profession.
- Understanding how opening to other cultures impact personal and social values.