Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 22

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills education in the community college

Jeremy Riel, Georgetown University Primary Investigator jjr88@georgetown.edu - (541) 513-1293

Sonya Christian, Lane Community College Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs christians@laneccedu – (541) 463-5302

Brad Hinson, Lane Community College Division Dean, Instructional Technology hinsonb@lanecc.edu - (541) 463-3377

Related website:


A project sponsored by Lane Community College Eugene, Oregon www.lanecc.edu

Presented at Innovations 2012 (March 2012) Philadelphia, PA. hosted by the League for Innovation in the Community College


The understanding of information technologies and past efforts to assess, improve, and correlate technology skills with student success have sometimes been limited by a lack of an interdisciplinary approach or consideration of the unique needs of community college student and staff populations. This study identifies core literacy areas of digital technologies by synthesizing a comprehensive review of the digital and technology literacies literature within the education, policy, technology studies, media studies, and communications disciplines. To guide further research of technology education within the community college, a framework to assess digital literacy skills within the community college environment is proposed and discussed.


Digital literacy, community college, technology education, information technology, ITC, STEM

1. Introduction

Dialogue within the education industry is filled with calls emphasizing a renewed effort toward technology and STEM training within K-12 and higher education institutions, urged by not only school or college administrators, but also by political leaders, economics experts, and

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


community members. In today’s knowledge economy, it is often stated that hope for growth, innovation, and the ability to compete will come from a workforce that is highly skilled in technology. The imperative for increased technology education and understanding is apparent more than ever in today’s popular and academic literature. This call is not simply for an increased interest among students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but also a broad understanding across disciplines, including those in the social sciences and the arts, of the information technologies and processes that control the machines and networks with which our society shares information globally on a daily basis. Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff emphasizes that this dependency on technology within career and daily life can even lead to a new class of “haves” and “have-nots.He urges for the education of broad technology skills and understanding with his maxim that people need to “program or be programmed,” or that one must know how the machines operate or risk being programmed to the whim of other programmers (Rushkoff, 2011). As such, new research and methodologies in the areas of comprehensive digital literacy, technology education for all, and foundational technology education has increasingly appeared in the last two decades. Higher education, especially community colleges, have been experiencing record enrollment and applications since the global economic downturn starting in 2007. More students than ever before are returning to college to prepare for new careers and learn new technology skills that will allow them to succeed in this information-based economy. Students attending community colleges nationwide exhibit a wide diversity of digital technology skills due to the college movement’s inclusive mission to serve students openly from a variety of backgrounds, technical experiences, and levels of technology access. Ostensibly, this appears to be related to generational differences within colleges with which this study will not attempt to address. The exploration of this “digital divide” often compares “digital natives,” or young people who grew up during the age of the commercial Internet, Facebook, and Web 2.0, with those of other generations, including Generation X, Gen-Y, the Baby Boomers, and others. To make matters more confusing for students, other factors such as the merging of aspects of real life with life in the virtual and the multi-modal communication platforms available today have complicated digital relations in our society further in what Jenkins calls “convergence culture” (Jenkins, 2008). Life and literacy is not simply paper, pen, and voice any longer: it involves Tweets, status updates, email, texting, mobile, geotagging, prezis, podcasts, wikis, blogs, vlogs, and a host of other multimedia communication options. One of the greatest challenge for educators in today’s digitally mediated school is perhaps simply identifying these new tools themselves and knowing that they exist in the first place so that they can be included as part of the curriculum. Despite the growing volume of digital and “new literacies” research, there is little community-college specific literature. In fact, there is a dearth of studies that focus on the higher education environment as a whole. In addition, much of the digital literacy and technology skills literature was written before 2006, after which an explosion of Web 2.0 and other highly networked derivative technologies have been released. This rapid development has undoubtedly impacted the ways by which people communicate and relate to one another. To summarize the body of work in digital literacy classification and measure, few digital skill assessments and technology education studies have been performed within higher education contexts within the last five years. Much of the recent work focuses on K-12 technology training to prepare future generations for the workforce. Assessment within K-12 is an essential task, indeed, but an effort to study the impact of new literacies and technology education within higher education is equally important, especially with large numbers of adults and returning students attending college today

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


to gain new technology skills and prepare for new careers in the knowledge economy. This study attempts to contribute to this literature need by proposing a list of digital literacies and technology education objectives for use within the community college learning environment. A framework like this can be used to test assumptions of digital skills of students of various demographics, the skills of instructors, and correlation between skills and curricula, teaching methods, institutional factors, and disciplines.

Research Questions

The impetus for this study emerged from the lack of a clear set of guidelines, standards, rubric, or other framework by which to measure digital literacy, technology education efficacy, or technology skills. In addition, to best analyze the effectiveness of digital technology education, it was also important to identify many of the technology skills in existence today that are either demanded within academia or the global knowledge economy, environments for which the community college seeks to empower their students to have the requisite technology skills, regardless of their chosen discipline, background, or career choice. While this study seeks to develop a comprehensive list of technologies and competencies related to digital literacy, it is likely that no standardized list can ever be completely formed. This is largely due to the interpretive nature of technology and its perceived importance by many groups. Instead, this research collects the best information available and synthesizes it in a manner that helps to stimulate the discussion of technology education and provides a starting framework from which to conduct future research.

As such, the following questions guided this study:

1) What technologies and functionalities exist today within the global information economy and how are they used?

2) What is digital literacy and what should students know? How has this changed from traditional literacy and core skills?

3) How do digital literacy and technology skills differ among educational levels (K-12, community college, four-year university) and student groups (transfer, career/technical, remedial, returning)?

2. Literature Review

Digital Literacy Explored

Paul Gilster first mentioned the notion of “digital literacy” in his mid-90s volume of the same name (Gilster, 1997). Defined for this research, digital literacy is the ability to efficiently and accurately use digital information technologies and the information retrieved from them in a variety of contexts, such as academic, career, or daily life. In other words, digital literacy is both knowing how to use technologies in today’s world as well as how to retrieve, use, and analyze information that digital media provides. In his text, Gilster suggests that digital literacy would be an increasingly important skill in the new millennium with the growing reliance on information

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


technologies, global communications and information networks, and the then-nascent World Wide Web. Within his essential skills for digital savvy, he stressed the importance in critical thinking as well as the ability to identify the strengths of different types of information, retrieve information from a variety of sources, and assemble it in a way that is useful and efficient. The idea for new technology literacies was not unique to Gilster, however. According to a historical review of digital literacy by Bawden, the idea of digital skills and information literacies dated before Gilster in the form of a variety of names, such as information literacy, information and communication technology (ICT) literacies, electracy (Ulmer, 2003), media literacy and education, computer literacy and computational thinking (Bawden, 2008). Another related field of study that expands these “new literacies” by exploring the technological, social, and communicative effects of digital technology skills and their inextricable connection today to information retrieval and use, critical thinking, and decision- making. In effect, a variety of new literacies have emerged as a consequence of the convergence of digital information technology and traditional notions of literacy and communication. Many authors have contributed to this field that expands past the sole exploration of technology skill acquisition and use (Gee, 2009; Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, 2009; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Petrina, 2000; Warschauer, 2007). James Gee discusses this need to also look at the social, cultural, identity, and situated aspects of technology use, new media platforms, and new digital literacy, stating that “reading and writing should be viewed not only as mental achievements going on inside people's heads, but also as social and cultural practices with economic, historical, and political implications” (Gee, 2007). Since digital literacy is an extension of the traditional notion of literacy, i.e., the ability to communicate and process information through speech, reading, and writing, new literacies are an extension of traditional literacy. Because of this, it is likely that those who struggle with traditional literacies in their native spoken language will find digital literacy elements difficult to comprehend and master as they use the same codified language and integrate a complex set of digital rules and tools that are required to retrieve and process information (Jenkins, 2006). The digitization of our information and the merging of real and digital lives have created a complex array of skills that are now required to participate in this computer-mediated environment and to understand the consequences and interpret the contexts of how information is displayed, stored, and captured (Armstrong, 2008; Jones-Kavalier & Flannigan, 2006; Moore, 2010; Street, 1995; Volk, 2011). In light of the fact that almost even the most basic of communication and information retrieval tasks today are mediated by a computer or electronic device in some way, it is important to include in any analysis of digital literacy skills related to information retrieval and analysis. The two concepts of digital tool use and data are inextricably tied now that almost any form of information can be captured and stored in a database for retrieval and processing later. It is also important to consider factors of social interaction and communication, fundamental knowledge of technology and engineering processes and structure, and the sometimes more ethereal, but unavoidable concepts such as critical thinking skills and value judgment.

Charting Learning Objectives

Since it has been determined that digital skills are a must-have, efforts to document and identify these skills have appeared in the literature over the last twenty years. Documenting learning objectives and skill benchmarks dates back to Bloom’s famous taxonomy of learning objectives, and later the revised taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000).The Bloom’s

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Taxonomy identified and detailed specific thinking skills and actions with which a student would gain as they gained mastery in a subject area. These objectives were provided as a framework with which to construct course curricula and pedagogical tools. Within the Bloom framework, a student’s first objective was basic knowledge acquisition that would transition into analysis and decision making skill. After learning how to synthesize information within a domain, the student’s highest-order learning objective would be to create and contribute further through projects that synthesize and manipulate information, concepts, and theories within the domain. While the Bloom Taxonomy or its subsequent revised edition by Anderson & Krathwohl did not necessarily include information technology or digital tools, it provided a starting model for future frameworks to be discussed and developed. With the increase in education research and the inclusion of interdisciplinary practices in studies of learning over the last 20 years, it became evident that the Bloom Taxonomy was not uni-directional. Students within a domain could learn and master the high-order thinking and objectives before they acquired even what was considered basic knowledge, or employ multiple learning objectives at the same time for a more robust learning experience (Trilling & Fadel, 2009). As more research regarding the need and effects of technology education and digital skills began to emerge in the literature, multiple attempts at defining digital literacy and various frameworks that defined degrees of technical competency and understanding were commissioned by educational panels and organizations, school districts, and individual authors, (Dede, 2010; Educational Testing Service, 2007; Eshet-Alkalai, 2002; International Technology Education Association, 2002; Jenkins, 2006; North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & The Metiri Group, 2003; Pearson & Young, 2002; Trilling & Fadel, 2009). While these studies and framework proposals all focus on certain practice areas and industries, the information contained within is certainly valuable to identifying digital literacies for community college students and, by extension, higher education broadly. Additional studies on the theory of digital and information literacy also fill the literature with valuable insight (Aviram & Eshet-Alkalai, 2006; Catts & Lau, 2008; Eshet-Alkalai, 2004; Eshet-Alkalai & Chajut, 2009; Jones-Kavalier & Flannigan, 2006; Livingstone, 2008). To track changes in digital literacy and technology skills, a variety of studies have proposed measure methods (Eshet-Alkalai & Chajut, 2009; Hargittai, 2005, 2009). Of particular interest to the higher education community, the benefits and outcomes of integration of digital literacy training and the employment of information technology skills in traditional course material, core subject studies, and civic education have also been documented (I. R. Berson & Berson, 2003; Carrington & Robinson, 2009; Fisher & Frey, 2010; Gee, 2007; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009; Hobbs, 2005; Knobel & Lankshear, 2010; Warschauer, 2007; Webb, 2009).

The Digital Haves and Have-nots

A growing concern of policymakers, college instructors, and even students has been the notion of the “digital divide,” or that various demographics of students exhibit different technological and digital skill sets and competencies. Frequently, indicators of digital divide include age, urban or rural place of living, income, and other socioeconomic factors. Much work on the notion of the digital divide has been performed over the last two decades (DiMaggio, Hargittai, Ceste, & Shafer, 2004; Katsinas & Moeck, 2002; Norris, 2001; Servon, 2002; Warschauer, 2002; Wilson, Wallin, & Reiser, 2003), but little work on the presence or severity

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


of a digital divide within higher education and specifically community colleges has been widely documented in relation to specific digital literacies or technology skills. Community college students come from a variety of experiences and work histories, and as such, exhibit an array of technical skills. This is especially true for adult students over the age of forty returning to college after many years, which have seen drastic changes in the technologies used within the workforce. If changing careers, the community college is often the first place at which students are challenged to engage with new digital technologies and skills. This diversity in skill possession poses a challenge for colleges as well, as the proper digital skills and literacies need to be imparted effectively and efficiently. However, knowing which skills to teach to whom can be difficult. Further study on the effects of the presence of digital literacy and illiteracy within various demographic groups would be invaluable to community colleges instructors and educators. Digital divide research would impact the delivery of technology training and skill education within the community college, guiding the development of efficient and properly timed technology training opportunities. It is imperative, however, that before further work that explores these skill-based differences can continue, a framework of digital literacy and benchmark skills be developed that accounts for the benchmarks and standards that community college students need to be successful.

Needs within the Digital Literacy Literature

Past efforts to assess, improve, and correlate technology skills with academic and economic success have sometimes been limited by a lack of an interdisciplinary approach or consideration of the unique needs of community college student and staff populations. In addition, many studies or methods that exist stress the analysis or training within specific platforms or tools, such as Facebook, Flickr, Moodle, Blackboard, and other social networks or software or hardware tools. This study was born from this principle in recognizing that relatively few platform- or device-neutral studies actually existed within the popular or academic literature in Identifying and analyzing the specific functionalities and affordances of digital tools instead of specific platforms will likely allow for longevity within the technology education research and prevent work from being outdated before it is even published. In addition, a component- functionality or component-skill typology can empower comparative studies and future research across platforms, hardware, tools, or participant demographics that can be quantitatively analyzed. The idea for this study was born at Lane Community College, when in mid-2011 it was realized that in the midst of an attempt to build a digital literacy assessment and research agenda to improve the technology offerings to all students, a comprehensive list of digital literacies, technology skills, and Web competencies simply did not exist, at least in a succinct and comprehensive manner. Resources were available across disciplines and educational focus areas, but a synthesis of this information was necessary. It is the hope of the author and Lane Community College that this research be used to help stimulate further research in the area of technology education and digital training among community colleges and educational institutions nationwide. It is in the spirit of interdisiciplinarity that this paper was developed that it was written for wide applicability to school districts, agencies, and institutions of all types, and not just the community college environment for which it was primarily written.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


3. Methodology

This paper performs a meta-analysis on existing digital literacy research and integrates disparate or emergent technological trends that vary between the literature. The analysis then presents a set of specific benchmark or categorical skills to measure the presence and competency of digital literacy and technology skills or understanding. The goal of this framework is to 1) guide future research in technology education within both the community college and the education industry as a whole; 2) increase understanding in the prerequisite skills necessary for information technology and digital tool mastery; 3) improve understanding of the factors and assumptions that underlie the education of technology to students within the community college and higher education; and 4) to guide the creation of new curricula, pedagogical tools, and experimental models that encourage the development of technology skills within community college students. Since the community college environment differs in many ways from other institutions of higher education, K-12 institutions, or educational organizations that operate purely online, careful consideration was taken during the development of this framework to include community college-specific needs.

Conceptual model and how the framework was assembled

To create the model, a comprehensive review of both popular and academic literature to identify existing models and frameworks of digital literacy and the digital tools and functionality with which digital literacy operates (see specifically Dede, 2010; Educational Testing Service, 2007; Eshet-Alkalai, 2002; International Technology Education Association, 2002; Jenkins, 2006; North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & The Metiri Group, 2003; Pearson & Young, 2002; Trilling & Fadel, 2009). Works within the education, communications, media studies, technology studies, computer science, and information technology disciplines was consulted as case material for this study. A large majority of the current literature on digital literacy focuses with a lens of general higher education or K-12, and community college centric studies are lacking. This is likely due to the unique mission of the community college to serve a local community’s specific needs and people, leaving less ability for researchers to make large- scale assessments about the needs of individual community colleges. Material written for general higher education, K-12, informal education, and policy studies were consulted as part of this study to gain a holistic view of the current state of the literature and findings of digital literacy and technology competency. During this literature review, discrete technology or digital literacy skills were identified and coded to a category based on its traits, as well as coded for the study and domain from which it came. As some concepts and skills are difficult to semantically define within the education domain, a loose content analysis was employed that categorized the identified skills into four core literacy areas that were common among the literature: 1) Tools & Interface; 2) Information & Data; 3) Sharing & Creation; and 4) Historical & Cultural Context. Skills identified in the current literature were added to the appropriate core literacy area and were analyzed for constituent or prerequisite skills. This research then is both an exercise in synthesizing and comparing the current research in digital literacy and identifying missing elements within today’s digital literacies that account for time since publication or lack of inclusion. The critical component addressed by this study is that any single framework in existence cannot be inclusive of all digital literacies for everyone. This is primarily due to each study being written within its

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


own domain and with its own imperative. This study seeks to find necessary digital literacies from the perspective of a college student’s needs, particularly those of a community college student, and synthesized the previous literature accordingly. As much of the technology education and digital literacy literature is spread across the disciplines, a comprehensive model that combines the literacies was desirable. The framework within this study illustrates the individual studies and projects from which they were identified, whenever possible, to allow for greater ease for readers who are interested in revisiting the previous literature. With the rapid change in information technologies and their functionalities, as well as the expectations of students and employers alike, this model seeks to represent the best aspects of the current literature, include new literacies not considered by the current literature, identify emerging technologies, consider challenges unique to the community college, bridge various disciplines and practice areas, and contribute to the ongoing global dialogue of technology education. Perhaps most importantly, few studies exist that merge the ideas from the various disciplines and domains represented within the global digital literacy discussion, and this study seeks to bring the work of various groups and authors together to stimulate interdisciplinary and cross-domain dialogue on the matter.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


4. Classification of Digital Literacies

Twenty-six literacies in four core areas were identified as common within both the current literature and a current analysis of technological trends:

(note: numeric citations appear in the explanations for each literacy area and a legend appears at the end of the tables)


Tools &

Information &

Sharing &

Historical & Cultural Context




Computational Basics

Computer Hardware

Computer Software & Applications





Analysis & Judgment






Inventive Thinking

Documents (text)



Online Persona


Sharing &


Figure 1 Classification of digital literacies

Digital Citizenship

Intellectual Property

Privacy and Identity

Programmed Agendas

Technology Impact


The first core literacy area is Tools & Interface. The skills within this category are concerned specifically with the knowledge and use of computer systems, hardware, applications, and elements of the designed world. The whole digitally literate person should have at least a basic familiarity of how systems and networks work and how to interact within them (Pearson & Young, 2002). These skills are related to the actual how-to of interacting with the basic tenets of hardware and software common to information technology, as well as a fundamental understanding of the concepts of computing design and its limitations.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Tools & Interface

Computational Basics

Understand that computers make decisions that are programmed and display only what is programmed.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Understand core computer functionality when dealing with

information (power on/off, write, read, move, save, delete, goto,

compare, display/print) and how that extends to applications and hardware.

Understand that everything within a computer is represented by

some designed code or instructions entered by a programmer at some point. Understand that computers exist in many devices and are programmed to perform specific tasks (i.e., mobile phones, laptops,

remote controls, televisions, printers, automobiles).

Understand the concept of the bit and how it is related to

information representation in computing.

Advanced learners will understand how to troubleshoot problems

and ask correct questions of experts when devices fail using the basics of digital computing to guide them.

Computer Hardware

Understand the necessity of input/output devices for human

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

interaction with computers (i.e., mouse, keyboard, touchscreen, vibrating or ringing mobile phone, printer).

Understand how to connect, set up, and test computer hardware

including desktop/laptops, input/output devices, and smartphones.

Understand the basic internal components of a computer and how they work together, including memory, storage, processor, input/output, and network.

Advanced learners will know how hardware can be interchanged and understand how to effectively compare hardware options.

Computer Software and Applications

Understand the basic differences between software and hardware.

Understand the relationship of applications to an operating system or operating environment.

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Understand why some programs and program files do not work with other programs and how programming languages work.

Understand basic software commands common to most software

and where to find them (i.e., open, save, delete, print, move, cut,

copy, paste, find, undo, redo, preferences, find, help).

Understand and have basic fluency with common application

types currently used in the workforce (i.e., web browsers, word

processing, spreadsheets and databases, social networking and personal websites, email, multimedia).

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.



Understand how networks allow computers share information between them.

(1, 2, 3, 4)

Undertand that a network “speaks the same language” allowing for computers of all types to communicate.

Understand that the Internet sends and receives information from unique addresses.

Understand where to find and use URLs and other unique

addresses, such as internet protocol.

Understand that computers must be in communication with the

Internet in order to connect and receive information, and how to

connect to the Internet.

Advanced learners will understand how to troubleshoot network

problems, Internet connectivity, internet protocol fundamentals, and firewall basics.


Understand that all computer-based technology has been designed,

and as such, is limited to some degree in what it can do and what

(1, 3, 4, 6, 7)

information it can process.

Understand how to identify the design elements of a digital

technology, the framework and reasons for which a digital technology is built, and how to manipulate those design elements to one’s need.

Recognize that one size does not fit all, and because technology has been programmed and designed for a specific purpose with

specific rules, additional functionality and changes to applications, interface, and hardware can be done to make applications serve the user.

Recognize that computers everywhere are designed by many of

the same fundamental principles and that these principles can be carried over from device to device or platform to platform.

Recognize that computing devices were designed from the process

of science and engineering, and that the design process can be retraced even at a basic level to troubleshoot or to create new options.


Understand that digital computing devices were designed to


improve human function and capability, and, as such, humans should avoid conforming to technology but instead have technology adapt to human needs.

Understand how technology can be seen as an extension of one’s

body, that memory and communication should be enhanced by one’s digital technologies and not the opposite of a person being

subservient to one’s technologies (i.e., always on).

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Since digital technologies are now inextricably tied to information transfer, retrieval, and storage, a diverse set of information and data literacies are now required when interacting efficiently with digital tools. The Information & Data category includes skills and literacies associated with understanding how to retrieve, think about, process, and use information in today’s knowledge economy. Digital technology was designed specifically to capture, represent, and manipulate information, and, as such, knowledge and skills related to interacting with information is just as important as knowing how to control hardware and software themselves.

Information & Data


Understand that data is represented, that is not an accurate or

complete copy of what has occurred in the real world.

(1, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Understand that whenever data is used in digital technology, some

loss will occur between the transfer from the real world to the digital computer and its networks.

Understand the concept of the bit, how the bit is stored in digital

technology, that the computer makes decision based on series of bits

indiscriminately, and how series of bits represent every form of information stored and manipulated by a computer, from basic text to complex videos and programs.


Understand the different types of search options available on the Internet and which search companies exist.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Understand how searches are performed and what kind of

information is retrieved, know what to expect when entering search terms, and know the limitations of search in finding relevant data.

Know how to refine searches, use programmed operators and

search narrowers. Know how to find a search engine’s allowed

operators and commands.

Understand how to access search commands within various

applications, such as web browsers, word processing, and other text- based services.

Understand how to use Internet search engines to find help with technology problems and troubleshooting.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.



Know skills on how to collect information from a variety of

information sources including websites and organize it in a way that

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)

is useful to the user’s needs.

Know the difference between primary and secondary cited

sources, as well as between asserted fact, opinion, and evidence.

Understand that traditional information sources are still equally

valuable, such as printed media, physical library resources, and face- to-face communication.

Know how to access information from different media types, and

recognize the benefit of a more robust communicative power when

multiple media sources are combined (i.e., video, audio, text, interactive, in-person).

Recognize the importance of assembling and organizing data sources in a way that can be translated across media.

Analysis & Judgment

Know how different types of media are created and the limitations of those methods.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7)

Know how to find the source and author of information and how

that applies to value judgments as to the quality of the information.

Know how to contextually analyze information for not only their

immediate content, but also the context for which it was written and within which domain it represents.

Understand the value of experts, credentials, and certification, and

that human knowledge and information can be fallible regardless of the source.

Understand how to effectively use Internet search to verify claims or check facts.

Understand the value and limitations of real-time reporting of

information and its comparison to thought-out, long form writing.

Also, understand the impact and value that new information has, especially if there has been little time to gather or verify evidence or other perspectives.

Understand how to build a constructive argument by finding and

presenting robust evidence within research and personal contribution or digital texts.


Understand how to combine transmedia sources into a single

document, piece of research, or argument.

(1, 2, 4, 5, 6)

Understand how to create transmedia content and employ the

strengths of each media type.

Understand how to explain transmedia sources to other audiences, especially if multiple types of media are used.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.



Understand how to document research and sources found on

electronic resources, including URLs, bookmarking, databasing, and

(cited in other sources)

annotated storage spaces.

Understand the importance of properly citing and storing the intent or context under which an author or designer created content.

Understand the contexts under which digital data is stored and the precautions that should be taken to preserve digital content.


Understand where to find and extract transmedia content from the Internet and other networks such as social media, multimedia websites that store images, graphics, audio, and video.

(1, 2, 4, 6, 7)

Know the paths by which new content can be found and how to explore networked resources to identify previously unknown resources.

Perhaps the greatest innovations of the last decade with networked digital technologies have been the lowering of barriers to writing, multimedia production, and general participation in publication and communication. Web 2.0 technologies have increased the number of ways by which the population can communicate their interests, present arguments, and tell digital stories. The Sharing & Creation category includes all digital skills and literacies that actually fall mostly in line with the traditional notion of literacy: the ability to read, write, and communicate ideas and information. Included within this category are basic 21 st Century communication, multimedia consumption and production, and the ability to share one’s digital creations and persona with the networked global economy.

Sharing & Creation

Inventive Thinking

Understand the value of an experimental attitude in digital

(3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

environments within all disciplines and understand the reduction of risk within digital environments and virtual worlds through simulation. Also understand that experimentation often creates new knowledge and allows for learning regardless of task or domain.

Understand the scientific and engineering processes, how these processes create new knowledge and tools, and knowing how to

apply these processes to various academic disciplines and daily life.

Understand the value of mental model building and design

thinking to identify factors that impact problems, conceptualize how these factors affect problems, and hypothesize solutions. Also, know how to use digital technologies to test models and experiment.

Advanced learners will be able to attempt to alter their digital tools and media in emergent ways to communicate information in a manner not originally intended by the application’s or hardware’s designers.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Documents (text)

Know how to create basic text documents that communicate

information and employ and exercise basic literacy skills, such as

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

word processing and textual display.

Understand how text is displayed within computers and

documents, how it is processed, and how it is searched.

Know how filetypes work, which filetypes are compatible with

common document publication applications, and how to send and receive documents via email and download them from websites.

Understand common standards of document layout and style,

including document types and appropriate writing styles and language

use for certain occasions.

Advanced learners will be able to integrate into their work

multimedia content within documents, implement effective human- friendly design concepts, include artistic and expressive concepts or design, and appreciate various standards and protocols for various audiences or domains within which documents are written.


Know how the main human senses of sound (audio), sight

(images, video), and touch (haptic, touch interface) are created and

(1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

represented by computers and how these media helps communicate more information that just text.

Know the strengths of multiple digital media types as well as the strengths in ways they are displayed.

Know basic design elements that are conducive to human learning

and human-computer interaction, such as website and application



Understand the concept of standards in programming and

multimedia production or design, why standards exist, how standards change, and how these standards improve everyone’s ability to use content on a network such as the Internet.

Advanced learners will understand the basic concepts of audio,

video, and image capture and learn how to manipulate these media for use. In addition, advanced learners should be able to produce multimedia content with basic tools and have enough foundation to pursue more professional production tools if so desired.

Advanced learners will be able to design, create, and share

transmedia content that can be accessed over networks, as well as publish their work on websites, servers, filesharing services, or other accessible medium.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.



Know the basics of digital communication today, including

sending text via email, SMS text message, instant message, and social

(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

networks. Also, know the differences and strengths of each text communication style.

Know appropriate writing styles and language for various platforms.

Understand the limitations of digital communication and how to troubleshoot basic errors when they occur.

Know how to attach or include multimedia content to text

communications and the limitations of certain devices, networks, and

computers in receiving multimedia content.

Understand the limitations to different types of digital

communication, especially with those that offer limited information such as text message and social network status updates.

Understand that communication in the digital world suffers from a

reduction in information, missing additional cues such as nonverbal

gestures and sometimes sound, visual, and contextual information.

Online Persona

Understand that a networked online presence and multimedia


content can create a more robust telling of one’s abilities instead of more traditional means, such as a resume.

Understand that employers, family, friends, and even law

enforcement are increasingly viewing individuals’ online personas

and making important decisions based on what is found. It is important to know what types of information impacts people’s perceptions and how to mitigate negative effects.

Know how to manage one’s online persona, provide useful

information to those who need to know, and how to organize one’s online profiles, websites, and other information into a cohesive online presence.

Know how to operate social networks and personal websites, what

their strengths are, and how they can be used to further one’s goals.

Know what is appropriate to share within one’s online persona and

know strategies on how to target certain information to reach certain audiences.

Understand how to display and provide for download or viewing

digital content on the Internet within a variety of channels such as

social networks and websites.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.



Understand the nature of the networked web and the demands

placed on a person who is “always on.”

(4, 5, 6, 7)

Understand the concept of multitasking and

Identify personal strategies for focus and productivity.

Understand the serious implications of constantly monitoring

social networks or social discussion and the commitment that is attached to such a monitoring schedule.

Understand when it is appropriate or necessary to disconnect from the wired world and the benefits and consequences of doing so.

Sharing & Collaboration

Understand the strengths and challenges of sharing information on an open network and know when closed access to content is appropriate or necessary.

(4, 5, 6, 7)

Know how to use comment, contribute, and discussion

functionalities on various networked and other electronic documents,

applications, or other sources.

Know appropriate etiquette for sharing and promoting one’s work or content.

Know online channels in which content and communications can

be shared, such as website hosting, multimedia hosting, filesharing services, and other services both on and offline from the Internet.

Understand how to consult other people and groups on networks

and on the Internet to find information, and know how to interpret

and judge the quality of the information received from the “collective intelligence” of others

Understand how to submit information and content for feedback

and understand modern tools that allow for group collaboration and

editing on both textual and multimedia content.

Advanced learners will be able to design basic website interfaces,

learn to program small applications and functionalities using common or popular programming languages, and learn to troubleshoot and debug publications and media they have shared.

It is important to remember that technologies are designed within cultural, economic, and political systems, and as such, technologies are subject to the values under which these systems within their design. The Historical and Cultural Context category describes cultural and political considerations of technologies, the context under which technologies were design, and the values inherently programmed within technologies by their designers or the social systems or domains under which they were created.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Historical & Cultural Context

Digital Citizenship

Understand that the world is now intricately connected via the

(3, 4, 5, 6)

Internet and other communication devices such as smartphone networks and satellite communication.

Understand that for a more robust democracy, citizens need to be better informed and should seek information, consider multiple opinions on issues, and participate with their governments and government officials. The connectivity of the Internet and other

networks allow for collecting diverse information and increased civic participation.

Understand that participation on the Internet is much like in-real-

life interaction, which requires a proper etiquette and actions, such as

being accountable for what one says, knowing how one’s words and actions can reach others and have an impact, and knowing what is appropriate to share and contribute to the global conversation


Recognize that various perspectives, opinions, and experiences are

(3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

represented on the Internet and that these opinions will not disappear when disagreed with.

Understand strategies of learning about other perspectives,

working through disagreement on the web, and how to integrate other

decisions on the Internet.

Understand that information on the Internet and computing

devices represent a variety of programming languages and that those programming languages do not always work together.

Understand that network users and their computing devices

usually come from a variety of cultures and life experiences, that their

computing and information needs are likely different, and know strategies on how to communicate and collaborate with others.

Recognize that communication and programming standards exist and how standards come to be through collaborative efforts.

Intellectual Property

Understand concepts of copyright, open licensing, and

appropriateness of sharing, use, and appropriation of content.


Understand the risks, strengths, and appropriateness of filesharing,

distribution, and acquiring content on the Internet through unofficial


Understand the rights of creators of digital content.

Understand the common practices for attribution, citation, and

permission for use of content.

Understand that intellectual property laws in the U.S and laws in other countries differ.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Privacy & Identity

Understand the impact of digital identity, how different identities

are appropriate, impact on career, and what is appropriate to share.


Understand what is appropriate to share publicly on the Internet

and how things that could be shared can impact career, education, and

other life factors.

Understand how information that is shared on the Internet and

within applications can be used by the programmers and publishers of applications for market research, customer analysis, and advertising, and the strengths and limitations of these activities.

Understand how to maintain one’s privacy on the Internet and

which pieces of personal information have the greatest impact if shared.

Understand how information could be acquired by third parties

and others over networks or the Internet if information is shared.

Programmed Agendas

Understand that all technologies have been designed under certain

(3, 5)

contexts and under certain values by their designers and that these values inherently restrict or empower certain users.

Know that while technologies themselves specifically do not have

any political or social agenda, the elements under which they were

designed did.

Understand how to identify the context and agendas under which

technologies are designed and how to use this knowledge to make technology serve the user in new ways, and not the necessarily the

way the designer immediately intended.

Understand that technology impacts social groups, communities,

other technologies, and political interests in ways that are not uniform or even anticipated, leaving some groups advantaged or disadvantaged in certain ways.

Technology Impact

Understand that the deployment of any technology has a certain

degree of risk involved and that some consequences, either positive

(3, 5)

or negative toward groups of users will always be present when a technology is used.

Know how to identify the benefits and consequences of using a technology and understand how to anticipate challenges and consequences when a technology is used.

Legend for numeric citations:

1 – Appears in Dede, 2010

2 – Appears in Educational Testing Service, 2007

3 – Appears in International Technology Education Association, 2002

4 – Appears in Jenkins, 2006

5 – Appears in Pearson & Young, 2002

6 – Appears in North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & The Metiri Group, 2003

7 – Appears in Trilling & Fadel, 2009

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


5. Discussion

This framework presents a synthesis of the current literature and identifies 26 distinct, yet inextricably related digital literacies in four categories. This framework can be used as a list of educational objectives for comprehensive broad-spectrum technology and digital literacy education that can be applied across disciplines, especially in the social sciences, arts, and other “less-technical” trades and careers. It is widely cited in both academic and popular literature the need for greater technology understanding and digital literacy for the general public regardless of career or trade. As community colleges enjoy a unique mission of serving and preparing students from all walks of life, experiences, and career interests, this framework and analysis of the literature provides another step in the direction toward a holistic technology training methodology and research agenda. In addition to this mission of training a broad spectrum of students from a variety of experiences, community colleges also enroll students with a wide range of technology skills, exhibiting the classic differences categorized by the digital divide literature. This framework and others that came before it allow for a more systematic approach to understanding the indicators of digital divide and allow for the creation of new and experimental tools to empower students with new digital skills and understanding. An analysis of this framework can also encourage the creation of a rubric for measuring digital literacy within students. A multi-level rubric that outlines benchmark skills can allow course instructors, administrators, and even students to begin a thorough assessment of technology education objectives, offerings, and needs. It can also guide the development of new course materials and greater holistic integration of technology education objectives across the entire curriculum offered at community college. By explicitly outlining the criteria for technology and digital literacy education outcomes, instructors can create virtual environments or problem-based projects that highlight these objectives and train technology skills while emphasizing whatever disciplinary coursework is at hand. Technology could serve as an integrator of disciplinary work instead of a discipline of its own to be studied separately. Much of the lack of technology integration within higher education course materials across disciplines could be more a lack of knowledge of what technology learning objectives exist, and frameworks that synthesize the ideas and discussion within the field (such as this study provides) could be a great step in providing professional training and development opportunities to instructors and school administrators. While it is difficult to establish a universal digital literacy typology across domains, further research in this quest would likely be useful. Additional research to find universal literacies that are common across disciplines that also recognizes and augments the need for flexibility within individual domains or industries would allow for research in this field to remain long lived and avoid obsolescence upon the inevitable creation and adoption of new interactive digital technologies in the near future. Universal technology literacy traits that focus on individual functionalities instead of specific platforms or applications would also allow for quick and effective identification and analysis of emergent technologies as they impact education and economies, something that academia is not properly prepared for at the pace by which research is prepared, shared, and published. With continued research into the validity and strength of digital literacy indicators, future studies can be conducted that attempt to determine correlational connection of specific digital literacy competencies to traditional success measures, as well as other demographic indicators represented by students. Quantitative and qualitative studies alike in this area will open the door

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


for greater understanding as to the effects of technology education within certain demographics or competency levels, needs of students, and impact that a holistic technology education has on educational outcomes. This work would also greatly expand the digital divide literature and current understanding of these issues within this field. Finally, it is the hope of the author that this research be used and adapted to other educational levels and interests such as K-12 and other higher education institutions. Indeed, this work was written for the community college domain and the unique challenges associated with serving their student population, but it could be used in other contexts both in formal education and industry. This work investigates how information technologies are used, how they affect human learning, and how people master the use of digital tools, which is useful and applicable information regardless of discipline or industry, and in the spirit of interdisicplinarity under which this paper was written, readers are encouraged to identify commonalities that can be applied within their domains.

6. References

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2000). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Armstrong, S. (2008). Information literacy: Navigating and evaluating today’s media. Shell Education. Aviram, A., & Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2006). Towards a theory of digital literacy: Three scenarios for the next steps. European Journal of Open Distance E-Learning. Retrieved from


Bawden, D. (2008). Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In C. Lankshear & M. Knobel (Eds.), Digital Literacies. New York: Peter Lang. Berson, I. R., & Berson, M. J. (2003). Digital literacy for effective citizenship. Social Education, 67(3), 164-167. Carrington, V., & Robinson, M. (2009). Digital literacies: social learning and classroom practices. SAGE. Catts, R., & Lau, J. (2008). Toward information literacy indicators. Retrieved from


Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st century skills. In J. Bellanca & R. Brandt (Eds.), 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 51-75). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. DiMaggio, P., Hargittai, E., Ceste, C., & Shafer, S. (2004). Digital inequality: From unequal access to differentiated use. Social Inequality. Educational Testing Service. (2007). Digital transformation: A framework for ICT literacy. Princeton, NJ. Retrieved from www.etsliteracy.org/Media/Tests/Information_and_Communication_Technology_Literacy/ictreport.pdf Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2002). Digital literacy: A new terminology framework and its application to the design of meaningful technology-based learning environments. In P. Barker & S. Rebelsky (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2002 (pp. 493–498). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(1), 93-106. Eshet-Alkalai, Y., & Chajut, E. (2009). Changes over time in digital literacy. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(6),


Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2010). Preparing students for mastery of 21st century skills. In J. Bellanca & R. Brandt (Eds.), 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (pp. 221-240). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (Revised an.). New York: Palgrave Macmillian. Gee, J. P. (2009). New literacies, New learning. Pedagogies, 4(2), 196-204. Gilster, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. E. (2009). Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age. Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246–259.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.


Hargittai, E. (2005). Survey measures of web-oriented digital literacy. Social Science Computer Review, 23(3), 371-


Hargittai, E. (2009). An update on survey measures of web-oriented digital literacy. Social Science Computer Review, 27(1), 130-137. Hobbs, R. (2005). The state of media literacy education. Journal of Communication, 865-871. International Technology Education Association. (2002). Standards for Technological Literacy (p. 248). Reston, VA: International Technology Education Association. Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge: MIT Press. Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture (Updated Ed., p. 353). New York: New York University Press. Jones-Kavalier, B. R., & Flannigan, S. L. (2006). Connecting the digital dots: literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quarterly, (2), 8-10. Katsinas, S. G., & Moeck, P. (2002). The digital divide and rural community colleges: Problems and prospects. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 26(3), 207-224. Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. (2009). Informing communities:

Sustaining democracy in the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.knightcomm.org/wp-


Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (Eds.). (2010). DIY media: Creating, sharing and learning with new technologies. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2003). New literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. Livingstone, S. (2008). Internet literacy: Young people’s negotiation of new online opportunities. In T. McPherson (Ed.), Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected (The John D., pp. 101-122). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Moore, D. R. (2010). Technology literacy: the extension of cognition. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 21, 185-193. Norris, P. (2001). Digital divide: Civic engagement, information poverty, and the Internet worldwide. Cambridge,

UK: Cambridge University Press. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, & The Metiri Group. (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the digital age. Chicago. Pearson, G., & Young, A. T. (2002). Technically speaking: Why all americans need to know more about technology (p. 156). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Petrina, S. (2000). The politics of technological literacy. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 10, 186-206. Rushkoff, D. (2011). Program or be programmed (p. 155). Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press. Servon, L. J. (2002). Bridging the digital divide: technology, community, and public policy. Wiley-Blackwell. Street, B. (1995). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. London: Longman. Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Ulmer, G. L. (2003). Internet invention: From literacy to electracy. New York: Longman. Volk, K. (2011). Technology education is more than just computers. Intersections of the Public and Private in Education in the GCC (pp. 47-53). Warschauer, M. (2002). Reconceptualizing the digital divide. First Monday, 7(7). Retrieved from


Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 41-49. Webb, E. (2009). Engaging students with engaging tools. Educause Quarterly, 32(4). Wilson, K. R., Wallin, J. S., & Reiser, C. (2003). Social stratification and the digital divide. Social Science Computer Review, 21(2), 133-143.

Charting digital literacy: A framework for information technology and digital skills in the community college.