Digital Literacy:

I make a distinction between using a digital technology to investigate information and being digitally literate. For example, most of my students are not aware that Google has an advanced search setting that allows them to do targeted searches that provide them with better information and fewer hits. Nor are they aware of the benefits of putting quotation marks around a search term(s) or by adding a minus sign in front of a search.

While I have created a handout demonstrating how Google can be used to get ideas, the handout does not teach students digital literacy skills. Nor does my "Getting Ideas by Searching Databases" promote digital literacy because the focus is on techne; not doing effective searches using specialized databases.

Recently, I had a student who, after having spent about a half hour of class time working in the library, informed me that she had completed the research for her final project. Other students decide they have "enough" research because they found five or six Internet sites and the additional sites they are locating "just keep saying the same things." More sophisticated students will locate one database article that they can quote — not necessarily in context &mdash and assume that they have done enough academic research. These students are digital natives; digital natives who do not know how to effectively use digital technologies to investigate their topics.

I am not making fun of these students because it is not reasonable to expect students in introductory classes to be experienced researchers. Part of my responsibility as a faculty member is to help them develop research and digital literacy skills. The problem develops when faculty members or the students assume that, as digital natives, they are experts at utilizing digital technologies.

In "Conduct Your Research," I provide the following list of sources that you can use to investigate; all of which can be enhanced-even when they do not require-digital technologies.

Return to Digital Literacy Index

When I was working on my dissertation in the late 1980s, the equivalent of today's on-line or database search was costly. I was required to pay for both computer time and number of hits. One search I completed would have cost me more than $40.00. The high cost required understanding of how databases worked as well as a working knowledge of Boolean logic. At the time, minimum wage was $3.35 per hour.

When casually used "inflation calculator" as the term for a Google search to find the tool I needed to calculate the statistic cited above, I had 6,620,000 hits; a search for which I would have been charged thousands of dollars in the 1980s.

References and Resources