Changes over Time in Digital Literacy

Elderly with computer skills

Digital literacy is the ability to employ a wide range of cognitive and emotional skills in using digital technologies. 6 digital skills:

(a) Photovisual literacy is the ability to work effectively with digital environments, such as user interfaces, that employ graphical communication. (b) Reproduction literacy is the ability to create authentic,meaningful written and artwork by reproducing and manipulating preexisting digital text, visuals, and audio pieces. (c) Branching literacy is the ability to construct knowledge by a nonlinear navigation through knowledge domains, such as in the Internet and other hypermedia environments. (d) Information literacy is the ability to consume information critically and sort out false and biased information. (e) Socioemotional literacy is the ability to communicate effectively in online communication platforms such as discussion groups and chatrooms. (f ) Real-time thinking skill is the ability to process and evaluate large volumes of information in real time, such as in computer games and chatrooms

These skills were tested again after 5 years in 18 high school students, 16 college students and 17 adults. A control group of 60 participants of the same age and background were also tested. All age groups showed a significant increase in performance, the adult group improved significantly more than the younger participants. This almost closed the gap between these groups in digital literacy. Only in the creative skills the performance of the younger groups decreased significantly (information task), whereas the adults improved slightly. Because the control group performed similar as the experimental group this can not be attributed to age factor or retest. Five years of experience and training improved users’ performance with digital technologies with only negative consequences for creative skills especially in the young.

The tasks were as follows: (a) Photo-visual task: Create a theater stage, using an unfamiliar interactive multimedia computer program that utilizes a graphic user interface. (b) Reproduction task: Using Microsoft Word, modify the meaning of an existing seven-line paragraph (about 100 words) by rearranging sentences, words, and letters. (c) Branching task: Plan a one-week trip to a country that was not visited by the participants, using an Internet tourist site. (d) Information task: Write a comparative, critical report on a news event that was reported in a biased way in five different Internet news resources

Experience with technology, and not age, accounts for the observed lifelong changes in digital literacy skills. Worrisome is the finding that the younger group showed a decrease in creativity and critical thinking using digital technologies in contrast to the older group who improved on this skill. Important message for educators?
Eshet-Alkalai, Y., & Chajut, E. (2009). Changes Over Time in Digital Literacy CyberPsychology & Behavior DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0264