What is Technological Literacy?

The definition of literacy has changed as new tools have entered the educational environment. According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, contemporary literacy includes “scientific literacy, economic literacy, technological literacy, visual literacy, information literacy, multicultural literacy, and global awareness” in addition to the more traditional reading/writing literacy (Deubel, 2010). This technological literacy, also called digital literacy, refers to a person’s ability to find and assimilate information online, to successfully accomplish tasks using digital tools, including the creation of new digital documents, and to make judgements about the content found online (Jones-Kavalier & Flannigan, 2006).

It is no longer sufficient to teach our students how to decode information they find in a book or how to write a paper using pen/paper or a word processor. Students need to learn how to research and communicate using existing and as-of-yet unimagined digital technology, which means that they need to learn more than “how to use this application” – they need to learn how to learn new applications. A low-tech correlation is the student of music; a piano teacher strives to teach her students how to play piano, not just a given set of songs. A well-trained pianist can teach himself to play any song within his range of ability, and a well-trained 21st-century student can teach herself to use any digital tool or resource.

Technological literacy builds upon the commonly-accepted cognitive hierarchy of Bloom’s Taxonomy, as adapted for the digital age by Andrew Churches. As we see in the diagram below, technological literacy concepts are present at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – from bookmarking and searching, to linking, tagging, blogging, podcasting, and even computer programming (2008).

Bloom's Digital Taxonomy Map, created by Andrew Churches in 2008

Ultimately, in order for our students to be technologically literate, we must go beyond putting them in front of computers. Our students need to learn to create and collaborate online, to be critical and thoughtful researchers and problem-solvers, and to be good “netizens” who exercise courtesy, judgment, and safety in their online activities (ISTE, 2007).


Churches, A. (2008). [Diagram illustrating activities and objectives within Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy]. Bloom’s digital taxonomy map. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670

Deubel, P. (2010). Technology integration: Essential questions. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from Computing Technology for Math Excellence Web site:  http://www.ct4me.net/technology_integr.htm

International Society for Technology in Education (2007). The ISTE national educational technology standards (NETS-S) and performance indicators for students. Retrieved February 6, 2010, from http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/NETS/ForStudents/2007Standards/NETS_for_Students_2007_Standards.pdf

Jones-Kavalier, B.R. and Flannigan, S.L. (2006). Connecting the digital dots: Literacy of the 21st century. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2006, pp. 8-10. Retrieved February 8, 2010, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0621.pdf

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7 Comments on “What is Technological Literacy?”

  1. Brianne Thompson Says:

    My five year loves to play on the internet. She already understands that it is a place to go for information. If something interest her, she comes to me and ask me to write the name of it down so she can type the words in the address bar (in hopes that the website comes up). Clearly, she believes whatever she wants to know, she can find on the internet – 99% of the time she would be right.

    Children have an amazing capacity to learn, particularly while they are still very young and their brains are still developing. To take these precious years for granted is to clearly cheat our children of possiblities.

    I’m honored that the world recognizes technological literacy as a literacy to be considered alongside the fundamental literacies we are all accustomed to.

    Once we get beyond the “digital divide” and get our teachers up to speed with understanding the technology and how it fits into instruction, we will then see technological literacy expand.

  2. Your blog is wonderful and shows how technology should be used in the classroom. My district is struggling with meeting the standards set by the NJDOE. Do you find that teachers are using technology more for their own personal use and lesson display rather than the students using technology as required? I am working with the superintendent currently on this issue and your blog is helpful with my recommendations.

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