Are these examples of digital literacies? Discuss…

This blog post invites you to consider 3 examples and identify: are they examples of digital literacies? If so, in what way? If not, why not? This task is the one Oxford Brookes’ Rhona Sharpe, a pioneer in digital literacies research (LLiDA, SLiDA),  asked us, the participants of the HEA-organised day, entitled “Changing Learning Landscape —The role of digital literacies in supporting continuing professional development in HE contexts“, to consider, which I attended on the 29th May in Birmingham.

The task worked well on the day to get us into thinking what digital literacies are. Rhona Sharpe’s presentation on the day can be found on slideshare.

Example 1: Baby talks with cat on iPad

Example 2: a student’s writing who uses a blog to make them public

Legoscratch site 

Example 3: iPad Cafe : students from York St John meeting up and discussing useful iPad apps

iPad Cafe , York St John UniiPad Cafe , York St John Uni

iPad Cafe , York St John Uni

Can I ask you to do the same? Please consider:

  • the baby (Example 1),
  • the young pupil (Example 2) or
  • the York students iPad Cafe (Example 3)

Do the examples demonstrate digital literacy? Yes/No? Why?

Please post and share your responses and respond to that of others.

Thank you!


Tünde Varga-Atkins, eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool


2 thoughts on “Are these examples of digital literacies? Discuss…

  1. I found this task difficult. The baby is interacting with the cat, s/he seems confident with the iPad, but didn’t do more than know to press its nose for a purr. Is that digitally literate? I don’t think we have enough evidence. Story could perhaps only be described as demonstrating digital literacy if we knew that the student had done more that type into an open screen. Perhaps digitally literate here would be demonstrated by the student knowing how to edit and change the story, store it, and perhaps share it with others and get comments. All we can see here is that the author typed it. Then again, if they put the images in etc, then that might require an ability to manipulate software etc. The blog post demonstrates a knowledge of apps, an understanding about how they are used etc… so you can see a bit more evidence here. Am I digitally literate because I could access the blog and play the videos?

  2. The baby and the cat on iPad
    This is very interesting. Does it matter whether we call it ‘digital literacy’ or not? The baby is treating a simulacrum as having the communication skills of an animate being. Toys have always been treated in this way, and they don’t even have to have any physical presence (think of your child’s imaginary friends). If they do have physical presence, it can be immediate (that Buzz Lightyear toy you bought your kid) or mediated (the moving or still image of Buzz Lightyear when watching the movie or looking at a poster), and it in neither case does it have to possess much verisimilitude in terms of human or animal properties (this mop/cheese grater, cardboard box is ‘Buzz Lightyear’ today). On the baby side of things absolutely no technology of any kind is required, just normal mental capabilities (with ‘normal’ understood very inclusively). Not only is this not digital, it isn’t literacy either – not literally (reading and writing) and not metaphorically (domain skills and knowledge).
    So the cat is a ‘toy’, with mediated physical presence, verisimilitude of low modality (it is a cartoon image not a real cat) and ‘anthropomorphised’ to the extent that it is treated (?) as having human-like interactive/communicative skills. Baby is not distinguishing yet between human and animal and fantasy-characters in respect of their communicative abilities. Neither baby nor ‘cat’ can talk in the sense of using human language, but child language acquisition researchers know (as do parents) that the pre-linguistic communicative repertoire of infants can be considerable.
    On the other side of the encounter we have the ‘cat’. A lot of (digital) technology is required to produce that, as image, movement and sound, plus a feedback loop. The baby does not have to appreciate this for it to be true. What makes this ‘cat’ different from the imaginary friends and non-imaginary simulacra, and what in our world only digital technologies can handle, is its independent responsiveness to communicative moves made by the child. Baby ‘talks’ to it (why wouldn’t she?) and it ‘talks’ back. (When imaginary friends and simulacra talk back, that’s not usually independent: the child performs both roles). There are digital precursors of that going back to ‘Eliza’ the talking therapist.

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