Digital Literacy and Digital Natives

In our current information age, the sheer amount of data presented to viewers in digital space is simply overwhelming. Although digital natives successfully integrate themselves with new technologies, digital immigrants must continue to adapt to a new environment of literacy. Our continual transition from orality to literacy, and subsequently, secondary orality, as supported by Ong, illustrates different ways in how we code and encode language to communicate. Bolter (2010) questions the future of text-based modes of communication, in how that changes the way we think about technology and how we learn. This is especially true as digital natives become acquainted with technology at a much faster speed, and educators need rethink how to teach in order to be effective. By understanding digital literacy and multiliteracies, such as the impact of digital overload, online education and social media, teachers can better use technological tools effectively to rethink educational pedagogy.

Processing Information
The vast waves of data in today’s world have redefined how individuals interact with literature. As readers are inundated with digital overload, we must find ways to cope with the large amounts of fragmented sources of information. Frye (1963) notes that people no longer read vertically, gaining a deeper understanding of the text, but rather read horizontally, gaining a broad range of understanding from literature. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, before the popularity of the printing press, books were limited to only upper classes. Members that did possess the very few books would have repeated readings of the text and gain multiple perspective from it. With the development of technology that allowed for mass communication, such as the printing press and the internet, information was readily available to different classes in society. The abundance of information led individuals to develop ways to handle and organize for it to be effectively used. This change coincides with Postman’s (1992) perspective, where new technologies alter the way we think about text. Our definition of being “well” read depended on the quantity of books read, rather than the quality of understanding the text, and teachers must understand that processing information in a different way benefits how digital natives think.

En Mass Education
With the low cost and accessibility of the internet, there has been a popular shift in how we think of education. No longer is learning limited to the four walls, but education now expands into the massive borderless digital world. Wright (2011) explains that the development of Khan Academy, a non-profit educational organization that provides free online instructional videos, help students revise specific bits of learning to gain a better understanding. With an internet connection, learning opens up to anyone that wants to gain an insightful knowledge on any topic. Similarly, the introduction of Coursera, an online higher education company, allows students from all over the world to participate at the same time, listening to lectures and doing homework assignments in mass numbers. From teaching a course of 400 students on campus, professors can reach over 100,000 students in an online course (Friedman, 2012). This participatory community is parallel to McLuhan’s ‘global village’, where our electronic technology has become an extension of our senses, increasingly linking the people around the world even though we are thousands of miles away. Thus, through the use of new technological tools, the rise in popularity of these online courses, adaptive to digital natives, changes how we critically think about educational pedagogy.

Social Media
The shift to use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress, as a form of communication is a relatively new idea. A growing number of teachers are implementing the use of social media to stay connected and build relationships with students and parents inside and outside of school (Clark, 2011). Scholastic Instructor (2012) indicates that there is an average of 552 million users that use Facebook on a daily basis. As there are many parents that have accounts, teachers can create a Facebook page, and upload information and instant updates on how students are doing in the class. Furthermore, students can blog about their learning on websites like WordPress and have instant feedback from parents and peers. Students can create, edit and share their projects through an online platform, synthesizing knowledge and creating work that has a purpose and an audience in mind. Bolter’s (2011) construct of living in a visual culture is a reality, where hypertext and hypermedia is integrated in how we represent text and visual technologies, transforming how we think of traditional ways of teaching and learning to match the today’s learning needs.

The rise of digital space has forced us to redefine our understanding of literacy. With the immense amount of information presented on the internet, our ability to decipher and organize information needs to be honed in to determine what is useful or not. Online organizations reach a larger audience by teaching online, unifying the world into a global village. Social media connect with parents and allow student work to be filled with authenticity and meaningfulness. Writing can now take place in many different shapes and forms, combining different text, images and media, represented as hypermedia. The understanding of digital literacy and multiliteracies allows us to rethink and redefine literacy through the ages, and the meaning of literacy will continue to evolve for the years to come.


Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Clark, H. [hollyclarksd]. (2011, October 8). Social Media in Education – Teaching Digital Natives in 2011. Retrieved from

Friedman, T. (2012, May 15). Come the Revolution. The New York Times. Retrieved from‑come‑the‑revolution.html

Frye, N. (1962). The Educated Imagination. The 1962 CBC Massey Lectures. Retrieved from

Ong, Walter. (1982.) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage books.

Scholastic Instructor (2012, November). Social Media for Teachers. Retrieved from

Wright, N. (2005). e-learning: What does it mean to learn and teach with technological tools? Retrieved from

This entry was posted in Commentary 3 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Digital Literacy and Digital Natives

  1. learle says:

    Hi, I found your commentary to be similar is subject to mine with the idea of digital literacy and what it means to read these days and into the future! Do you think that education will one day be “en mass” or will we still have traditional schools in the future?

Leave a Reply