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More than ever, Digital literacy has become extremely vital for navigating your personal and professional life. Once you get to a stage where you feel confident in your computer literacy, it becomes easier to transition into learning about digital literacy. Similar to computer literacy, it has become more compulsory for higher education students and employees to be digitally literate and this is why it is best to capacitate yourself with digital skills early as possible. Fortunately, other institutions may embed digital skills into the first-year courses as part of the first-year experience because they recognize its importance.
What is Digital Literacy?
According to Developing Employability, “Digital literacy is the ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of life, learning and work in a digital society”. In other words, it is having the skills you need to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information occur more and more through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and smartphones.
Why is it important?
It’s important to understand the being digitally literate is more than just knowing how to use technology, it’s knowing how to navigate effectively in a digitally enhanced environment. This may be in your social, cultural life, learning life, and/or working life. It’s about recognizing the ability to transfer digital skills that you’ve learned from one situation and moving across one platform to another application seamlessly. All you need to do is to build a solid foundation and then working on strengthening your digital footprint.
It also becomes really important in the future when you enter the professional world. The requirement for digital skills is higher in professional careers. A 2017 study from the European Commission found that 90% of professionals are required to possess at least basic digital skills. In your workplace, you’ll be required to interact with people in digital environments, use information in appropriate ways, and create new ideas and products collaboratively. Above all, you’ll need to maintain your digital identity and wellbeing as the digital world continues to change at a fast pace.
Without these digital literacy competencies, people struggle to thrive in a technology-driven society. For instance, the working world needs graduates and employees who are able to:
- Utilize digital tools for communicating, collaborating, and solving problems
- Find, evaluate and use online resources
- Produce and effectively share knowledge
- Create online content, not just be consumers of content
- Curate data and media sources
5 Key Digital Literacy skills and how to Apply them
- Photo-visual literacy: This is the ability to recognize a photo or infographic and be able to understand the symbolism behind them. So, you’re able to “read” the photo on the screen intuitively and understand the instruction and the message behind the visual. For example, if you see a photo of a small trash bin, you immediately understand that it means “delete”.
- Socio-emotional Literacy: This is the ability to identify the advantage of working in the digital space but also identifying the “traps” and dangers that may come with working in cyberspace and how to avoid them.
- Information Literacy: The ability to know when there is a need for information and using that information for the problem at hand. It’s also having skepticism when consuming information. For example, knowing how to identify fake news in the age of misinformation.
- Reproduction literacy: Digital reproduction literacy is the ability to create a meaningful, authentic, and creative work or interpretation, by integrating existing independent pieces of information.
- Branching Literacy: Branching literacy is understanding the complexity of cyberspace. For many, it might come quite naturally after years of understanding how the digital world operates. It is the ability to navigate the internet and databases without getting “lost” in cyberspace. In simple terms, it involves making a mental note of how you got to a certain page once you are there, how to leave it, opening other tabs, choosing options based on visuals, etc.
Digital skills that can make you employable in the workplace:
- Social Media skills
- Understanding collaboration and project management tools – Google Drive, Asana, Trello
- Content Marketing – blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, social media status updates
- Strategy and Planning
- Emails, google calendar
- Fluency in choosing the right device and software
- Awareness of digital trends
How do I learn digital skills?
The inevitable part of living in the digital era is that being digitally literate can help you advance your ability to participate in the economy. All organizations in the digital economy, are coming to realise that digital skills are vital for employees in the digital era. Especially in the covid-19 shifted world, it is more important than ever that new employees are cross-disciplined and have both hard and soft skills. Whatever the specific job you are interviewing for, recruiters will be looking out for a wider skill set and broader experience in their recruitment.
- Watch YouTube
Another way to learn about digital is online (i.e. digitally)! And you don’t even have to read. There are YouTube videos for everything and it’s not just a website – it’s the world’s second-largest search engine
- Take a course
If you find it hard to dedicate time to self-learning, then committing to a course – either free online or classroom-based – might be what you need. Another option is presenting it to your manager as being relevant for your career development then it’s worth asking if your workplace will fund it.
- Find a teacher
If you’re a working person, ask someone digitally savvy in your office to help you learn. Or you can ask someone in your family, community, varsity to teach you.