A cultural and cognitive shift is well underway in terms of how we access and process information via digital media. And a recent study confirms our suspicions: though we are becoming more tech savvy, it may be at the expense of creative and critical thinking. Researchers from the University of Israel (2009), tested digital literacy with a group in 2002. In 2007, they tested this same group again and found statistically significant changes on the test scores. Is this further proof of the widening double digital divide?
Digital literacy is defined in this study as the "ability to employ a wide range of cognitive and emotional skills in using digital technology" (713). This range covers six skills:
- Photovisual literacy: ability to work with digital environments that employ graphical communication, such as user interfaces.
- Reproduction literacy: ability to create authentic, meaningful written and artwork by reproducing and manipulating digital media.
- Branding literacy: ability to construct knowledge by nonlinear navigation through knowledge domains (i.e., hyperlinks).
- Information literacy: ability to consume information critically and sort out false and biased views.
- Socioemotional literacy: ability to communicate in online communication platforms (e.g., chat, bulletin boards).
- Real Time Thinking: ability to process and evaluate large amounts of information in real time, such as in computer games and chatrooms.
Participants were given tasks in four of these areas (photovisual, reproduction, branching, and information). When tested five years later, and compared to a control group, there was a significant change in digital skills.
|From Changes Over Time in Digital Literacy, 2009. |
© CyberPsychology and Behavior.
The results demonstrate that all age groups in the study responded similarly: all were able to demonstrate an increased grasp of technology. However, on tasks that creativity and critical thinking (reproduction and information), the scores for younger participants dipped slightly in comparison to adults, whose scores increased.
With the ever increasing amount of information readily available via hyperlinks, and a growing willingness to use digital media to access that information, how can we encourage digital literacy and maintain critical thinking skills? How can we change students' relationships with information? And how can we ensure that everyone has access to the tools necessary to build a solid foundation of digital media?
Does the diminished critical thinking skill will add another level to the digital divide: those without access, those with access but with poor understanding of the tools, and those with access and understanding. What kinds of issues do you foresee these groups facing?
Eshet-Alkalai, Y., & Chajut, E. (2009). Changes Over Time in Digital Literacy CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12 (6), 713-715 DOI: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0264