Key concepts - LLIDA
Introduction to the study describing terminology choices and the reasons behind the study.
digital literacy, learning literacy, learning, education, digital capabilities, skills
page-template-default,page,page-id-14859,page-child,parent-pageid-14862,bridge-core-3.1.1,qode-page-transition-enabled,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode_grid_1200,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-30.6,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-7.7.2,vc_responsive

Key concepts

Download this section as a pdf file

Theoretical field, high level term

Key concept(s)

Key theorist(s)

Literacies as social/situated practices

Academic writing/literacy

Literacy is to be understood: as social practice, involving power relations; as rhetorical activity embedded in different situations and cultures (e.g. disciplinary cultures but also peer and family cultures); as contested and constitutive of personal identity

Lea, Street, Ivanic

New literacies

Literacies = ‘social practices of using codes for making and exchanging meanings’. New literacies come about in response to changes in the technical, epistemological and cultural order.

Street, Lankshear & Nobel

Meaning making

Literacy is about how meaning is produced and communicated: is bound up with knowledge in society/culture (including disciplinary cultures); changes continuously rather than discontinuously as technologies change.

Hannon, Kellner

Situated knowledge

All meaning-making takes place in specific social situations: literacies are best understood as situated knowledge practices. (Also) capability in practice is the product of an interaction between personal capability or disposition and the environment supporting action.

Brown, Collins, Duguid, Spiro

Literacy as embedded and contextural

Practitioner conceptions of ‘graduate attributes’ show wide disparity of understandings. Two clear tiers emerged: high-level ‘stances’ or ‘attitudes’ (scholarship, citizenship and lifelong learning); along with ‘personal skills and aptitudes’ which are highly context-dependent i.e. realised differently in different subject areas.


Non-transferability of skills and knowledge

There is evidence that transferring skills from one context to another is more problematic than has been acknowledged. Learners also struggle to transfer formally learned (‘analytic’) knowledge to complex realworld situations where it must be applied. Tacit situational knowledge plays a vital role in competent performance.

Eraut, Dreyfus and Dreyfus
See also Mannion et al discussed below

Technology and technical literacies

Critical ‘technoliteracies’

Pits the US ‘no child left behind’ Act of 2001 against the UN ‘2000+’ project, arguing that the latter offers a democratic vision of multiple and critical literacies of technology, rather than a single standard of competence. Sees technical literacy as politically and culturally contested.

Kahn and Kellner, Feenburg (and many writers against ‘technological determinism’)

Next generation (user) skills

Changes to technology, e.g. organisational to personal and social, tethered to ubiquitous, applications to services, individual to shared, all entail new skills: agile adoption, personalisation, re-combination, exploration, a ‘constant beta’ mentality

JISC emerge community

Media and media literacies

(Multi)media literacy

Technical changes to the nature of media, including computer gaming, entail shifts in education towards a multi-media knowledge practice and a ‘postmodern’ curriculum.

Buckingham, Sefton Green


Representations now more commonly accessed via screen than page: this has a fundamental impact on how we ‘read’, on situated literacy practices, on knowledge and on learning.

Kress, Jewitt, Hannon

Hypertext, hypermedia, metamedia

A completely new capacity for meaning-making is called for when representations become multiply linked and layered.

Landow, Lemke

Information literacy ‘[the ability] to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information’
Information literacy is the most widely recognised and supported of the digital literacies. To date the focus has largely been on individual use in the context of a specific task or problem. The idea of information literacy may need to be extended to include sharing and collaboration, and to accommodate ethical dimensions.

Spitzer, see also LearnHigher (2006) for review and references

Learning to learn and meta-literacies

Learning to learn

There is a cross-curricular, general competence that can be defined as ‘the ability to pursue and persist in learning’; also to ‘develop learning strategies’ suitable for different situations. This competence can be specifically trained and strengthened.


Conceptions of learning

How learners interpret their experience is highly influenced by prior experiences of learning, and the interpretations that have arising from those. Digital literacies cannot be bolted onto existing practices and prior conceptions: these must be recognised, incorporated and (if necessary) reconceptualised.

Goodyear and Ellis, Biggs, Entwistle, Ramsden, Säljö, Prosser and Trigwell

Multiple intelligences

“literacies, skills, and disciplines ought to be pursued as tools that allow us to enhance our understanding of important questions, topics, and themes.”

Howard Gardner

MultiModality (again)

All learning involves multimodality: not understood as separate literacies but (Kress) a generic capacity to make sense across modes and media.

Kress, Jewitt, Hannon

Self-efficacy, self-regulation

Self-regulation is both a goal of learning and a process that supports learning: it is increasingly demanded in workplaces especially where knowledge work and innovation are involved. Forethought, performance and self-reflection are three stages of self-regulated learning.

Littlejohn, Zimmerman

New pedagogies

Learning 2.0 counter-evidence

Evidence that pro-active, creative web 2.0 practitioners are still in the minority of users (1:9:90 rule): many learners are introduced to such practices by teachers. Ubiquity, accessibility and ease of use are, however, features of technology that are changing informal learning practices.

Redecker, see JISC Learners’ Experiences of e-Learning programme

Learning 2.0

Learners’ familiarity with web 2.0 technologies opens up a completely new space for and style of learning, focusing on: collaborative knowledge building; shared assets; breakdown of distinction between knowledge and communication

Downes, Anderson, Alexander, Walton

Learning 2.0 counter-evidence

Evidence that pro-active, creative web 2.0 practitioners are still in the minority of users (1:9:90 rule): many learners are introduced to such practices by teachers. Ubiquity, accessibility and ease of use are, however, features of technology that are changing informal learning practices.

Redecker, see JISC Learners’ Experiences of e-Learning programme


Individual processing of information gives way to development of networks of trusted people, content and tools: the task of knowing is “offloaded onto the network itself”


Communities of enquiry

Building on Wenger’s notion of communities of practice, (higher) learning conceived in terms of participation, with learners experiencing social, cognitive and pedagogic aspects of community.

Wenger, Garrison and Anderson

Theory/practice, practical inquiry

Action (practice) and discussion (theory) in shared worlds is internalised, leading to personal capability (practice) and conceptualisation. Specifically facilitated thru social technologies and CSCW

Vygotsky, Garrison

Academic apprenticeship

Literacy as situated social practice is best acquired through apprenticeship model, situated in disciplinary ways of knowing


E-learning, e-pedagogy

New forms of learning and teaching are enabled – and required – by digital technologies. Typically more constructivist and learner-led.

Mayes and Fowler, Cronje

New learners

Lifelong learners

Changing patterns of employment require workers to constantly update their skills; demographic changes are also skewing participation towards older learners in full or part-time employment. Technology is seen as key to delivering flexible opportunities to lifelong learners.

Boud, Field, Coffield

Virtual learners

Saturation in virtual worlds and online networks alters perceptions of self and relationships with others, including learning relationships. For some this can be liberating: others struggle with a loss of ‘presence’ and changed social cues.

Smith and Curtin, MacLuhan
See also ‘online learning’ literature

Digital natives, immigrants and refuseniks

The post-internet generation inhabit a digitally-mediated world: the older generation, including most teachers, struggle to be at home in this culture. In fact the evidence is against a strongly age-related effect (see below) and even Prensky has moved against this distinction.

Prensky, Tapscott, see also OfCom (2008)

Google Generation

Those born since 1985 exhibit particular tendencies towards information and learning: ubiquitous information, constant communication, multi-tasking, juggling multiple identities, valuing knowledge for how it can be used and re-used in the moment, ‘cool’, interconnected

Oblinger and Oblinger

Digital natives/ Google Generation – counter evidence

Situation, available technology and prior experience are all more powerful predictors of ‘googling’ behaviours than age (i.e. it is not primarily a generation effect)
Factors such as social class, level of education and prior experience of technology may be more significant than generation.
Technology is ubiquitous in young peoples’ lives but most lack information skills and strategies for learning with technology.
Empirical studies suggest use of web 2.0 and innovative technologies quite limited: far more young people read blogs and wikis than contribute to them, for example.

Bennet, Margaryan and Littlejohn, see also JISC Learners’ experiences of e-Learning and Digital Natives reports

Learners’ informal techno-social practices

Collaborative production (prosumerism/produsage)

New ways of sharing content online are blurring the boundaries between creative production and consumption, thru practices such as commenting, reviewing, re-purposing, re-tweeting, media meshing. Education needs to respond by focusing on creative collaboration.

Bruns & Humphreys, Landow

Informal and nonformal learning

Online social networks and open content create vast new opportunities for individuals to learn, outside of or alongside formal learning.

Downes, Katz Seely Brown & Adler, Luckin

Visual learning

There is conflicting evidence over whether younger and non-traditional learners in particular prefer image-based over textual content for learning.

Coffield, see also JISC/British Library study

Knowledge practices (clash of)

Learners with experience of free content, open sharing sites, the ‘eternal now’ of the network, distributed attention, and the opinion-led blogosphere (amateurisation, collective intelligence), may struggle with academic knowledge practices around originality, authority, depth of attention, historical paradigms, and attention to method. Also highly textual vs ‘media-mesh’.

Gurak, Jewitt

New institutions, and challenges to the institution

The University in the digital age

Digital networks and open content present specific challenges to the integrity of the university: e.g. permeable boundaries; how to give students a coherent educational experience; how to balance students’ free use of technology with risk of copyright violations or security threats; destabilization of the traditional lines of authority in the classroom; clash of values and practices around knowledge.

Benkler, Barnet

21st century skills/literacies

Govt-led agenda in both UK and US to maintain and extend competitive advantage by upskilling workforce with skills for a largely ICT-based, high-value service economy – entails major refocusing of post-compulsory learning around perceived needs of national economy, partnerships with employers and employment sectors.

UK Govt (e.g. Leitch report, e-skills) US govt (e.g. No Child Left Behind, 21st century skills partnership)

Informal and nonformal learning

Online social networks and open content create vast new opportunities for individuals to learn what they need to know without engaging in formal learning.

Luckin & Garnet,


A European Commission communiqué in 2001, suggested current models of schooling could not generate sufficient digital capacity, that European states must distribute teaching capacity much more widely through society, and consider whether more effective learning could take place via ICT delivered to homes, workplaces and local communities.