Digital Literacy

What is digital literacy?

  • Digital literacy involves knowing how to use computers, smart phones, other devices, and the internet.
  • It requires being able to use these skills to find, evaluate, and use needed information in many contexts.

Why is it important?

The ability to access, understand, and utilize information in a digital context is essential to modern life in many areas:

  • Using online learning platforms
  • Searching for and applying for work
  • Everyday banking, communicating with government agencies, and shopping
  • Assisting children with distance learning
  • Meeting health care needs

Lack of basic computer/digital literacy skills is a barrier to employment, re-employment, and higher education, and contributes to poverty and limited employment options. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Survey of Adult Skills (PIACC), reported that "Digital literacy...remains a hurdle for many low-literacy adults. The OCED Survey found that of adults with below Level 1 literacy, 44 percent report having no computer experience and 16 percent failed a simple digital literacy screening assessment." (Making Skills Everyone's Business, U.S. Dept. of Education). The National Skills Coalition report, Applying a racial equity lens to digital literacy, illustrates the challenges facing communities of color. This World Education Tech Tips Blog entry discusses how how lack of digital literacy skills is an equity issue.

What are the Northstar Digital Literacy standards?

Northstar Digital Literacy defines basic skills needed to perform tasks on computers and online. The ability of adults to perform these tasks can be assessed through online, self-guided modules. Included are basic computer digital literacy standards and modules in three main areas: Essential Computer Skills - Basic Computer Use, Internet Basics, Using Email, Windows 10, Mac OSX; Essential Software Skills - Word, Excel, PowerPoint; and Using Technology in Daily Life - Social Media, Information Literacy. Northstar includes classroom curriculum for many of the assessments, and individual online instruction and practice for some of them.

When individuals pass the assessments at approved sites, they can obtain the Northstar Digital Literacy Certificate.  There is no cost to complete the online assessments, whether on the public or approved sites.

The Northstar Standards have been adopted by the MN Department of Education ABE office as official content standards for the Minnesota Standard Adult Diploma, as well as for ABE overall. Each Minnesota ABE Consortium receives a Northstar sponsor site as part of their services contract.

Teaching digital literacy in ABE

Digital literacy is best integrated into a variety of academic classes, as opposed to strand-alone computer classes. Learning digital literacy skills in context allows students to most easily learn and retain those skills. An example would be learning how to use Word in order to write a resume for a career development class.

What professional development on teaching digital literacy is available to Minnesota ABE staff?

Check out our online course, Northstar Basics.