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Digital Literacy

What is Digital Literacy?

The American Library Association (2011) defines Digital Literacy as " the ability to use information and  communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills."  

A digitally literate person should:

  • Possesses the variety of skills – technical and cognitive – required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats
  • Is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information
  • Understands the relationship between technology, life-long learning, personal privacy, and stewardship of information
  • Uses these skills and the appropriate technology to communicate and collaborate with peers, colleagues, family, and on occasion, the general public
  • Uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community

Source: Digital Literacy Taskforce. (2011). What is digital literacy? American Library Association. Retrieved August 8, 2022 from 

Using Digital Literacy Skills

Being digitally literate in your daily life means, simply, having the ability to locate & consume digital content, create digital content and communicate digital content (Spires & Bartlett, 2012). 

Evaluating information is an important part of locating, creating and communicating digital content.  Critical evaluation helps determine what digital content to use for any given need without being overwhelmed by a sea of information.

graphic of digital literacy skill sets as triangle points connected by critical evaluation









Graphic:  Spires, H. A. & Bartlett, M. E. (2012). Digital literacies and learning: Designing a path forward. 

Evaluating Sources

Key questions when evaluating a source:

  • What expertise does the author hold?
  • What evidence does the author provide?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the main purpose?

Evaluation in Four Moves

Education expert and information literacy blogger Mike Caufield came up with these "four moves" for evaluating sources:

  • STOP. Most stories you see on the web have been either covered, verified, or debunked by more reputable sources. Before diving in, find a reputable source that has done your work for you. If you can find that, maybe your work is done.
  • INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE. Trace the claim or story or research to the source. If you don’t recognize it, you will need check the credibility of the source by looking at available information on its reliability, expertise, and agenda.
  • FIND BETTER COVERAGE. Most stories shared with you on the web are re-coverage of some other reporting or research. Follow the links and get to the source. If you recognize the source as credible, your work may be done.
  • TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES & MEDIA BACK TO ORIGINAL CONTEXT. A reminder that even when we follow this process sometimes we find ourselves going down dead ends. If a certain route of inquiry is not panning out, try going back to the beginning with what you know now. Choose different search terms and try again.

Adapted from "Recognition Is Futile: Why Checklist Approaches to Information Literacy Fail and What To Do About It" by Mike Caulfield, February 18, 2018,