Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Moving Digital Literacy to Digital Competence

We have literacy - our word competence - and numeracy - our numerical competence - as measures of our ability to function in today's society. In the last twenty five years, we have started to focus on digital literacy.

However, I have come to the conclusion that digital literacy is too narrow a focus, because use of computing power is now so much broader than simple 'literacy'. To quote The Castle, "But it's what you do with it, darl" (Sitch & Choate, 1997).

I was persuaded that what we currently call digital literacy we should come to call digital competence - mostly - by two pieces of work by Ala-Mutka (2011, 2008).

I particularly like Ala-Mutka's (2011, p. 47) diagram mapping how the various skills and knowledge combine to create digital competence (Figure 6 : Knowledge, skills and attitude items contributing to Digital Competence), which is shown above.

As you can see from the diagram, Ala-Mutka has clustered our abilities into three key sets: our instrumental (technical) skills and knowledge, our advanced skills, and our attitudes. The advanced skills contain a huge set of application skills, strategies and personal objectives, including learning, making connections between different skill sets, filtering and evaluating information and integration of technology.

But perhaps most importantly is our attitude towards technology use. Being able to accurately critique material ("alternative facts", anyone?!), openness to new technology, utility of technology and keeping both safe and ethical in use.

I find this approach both fascinating and useful.  The diagram is necessarily complex because our relationship with technology is becoming hugely more complex and pervasive as time goes on.

So let's focus on digital competence.


  • Ala-Mutka, K. (2011). Mapping digital competence: towards a conceptual understanding. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, Document number JRC67075 - 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016 from
  • Ala-Mutka, K., Punie, Y. & Redecker, C. (2008). Digital Competence for Lifelong Learning: Policy brief. JRC European Commission document JRC48708. Retrieved 6 July 2016 from
  • Sitch, R. (Producer), & Choate, D. (Director). (1997). The Castle [Motion Picture]. Australia: Working Dog & Village Roadshow Films

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thanks for your feedback. The elves will post it shortly.