The role of digital literacy in the lives of adults and young people in society today

With the development of the digital landscape during the last decade, the world is looking a very different place from that of say 20 or 30 years ago. Life today feels so much faster, people seem to be more reliant on an instant fix of information. At the touch of a button we can communicate with anyone, anywhere. The time has gone where a person may have carried at most a pen, or a briefcase with their note pad and paper in.

The average person on the street is more likely, at the very least, to be carrying a mobile phone (and a smart one at that!), they may well be managing their day via an app on their phone or if they are really lucky they may be carrying the latest IPad. From getting up in the morning and checking their emails or texting a loved one, to going about their day organised by their trusty tablet, the average person is never far from a device that will in some way be connecting them with the world at large.

Technology is developing at a staggering rate, every day there seems to be another app or another device that has been designed with instant gratification and the need for 24/7 connection in mind. With the development of technology there is a whole new world of terminology to understand, at our disposal now are tablets, IPads, smart phones, pen drives and smart watches, the list goes on.

So, what does all of this mean for the future? Some commentators believe that the future means that not only should we be merely passive consumers and users of what is available but, they believe that we should in fact be learning how to programme and create our own resources.

Digital literacy, Smith said, also is about “how to make it do what you want.” Or as Geshner put it: “Are you an iPad or are you a laptop? An iPad is designed for consumption.” Literacy, as he described it, means moving beyond a passive relationship with technology. “When you get down to coding, you’re creating your own tools.” (

If, that is what the future may look like, not only being digitally literate and able to use what is at our disposal, but moving beyond that to the realms of programming, then now really is the time for this generation to be getting up skilled. The so called ‘digital divide’ may well become the ‘digital cliff’ for some to fall off if eduction does not play its part in developing the digital literacy skills of citizens of the future.

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