Technology is all around us and permeates every aspect of our modern existence. Advances and innovations have made many of our daily tasks easier to accomplish and have enriched our professional and personal lives.

And just as we start to get accustomed to the latest new piece of technology, someone has another breakthrough, and they introduce a new tech device. It’s tough to keep pace sometimes!

The rate of our technological advancement has been increasing exponentially over the last century. For example, look at how far the telephone has come from the 1920s to today! Or how the computer processing power that took Apollo 11 to the moon has been exceeded exponentially by the simplest smartphone you carry around.

Technology's dizzying growth rate shows us that technology literacy is essential to our daily lives. So, today we’re diving into the concept of technology literacy, including what it is, a comparison between media and technology literacy, essential elements, skills, and examples.

We start the ball rolling with a definition.       

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What Is Technology Literacy?

Technology literacy is the ability to use, comprehend, manage, and analyze technology safely, effectively, and responsibly. This literacy includes using technology to evaluate, create and integrate information.

But technology literacy isn’t limited to just computers and the Internet; it can be applied to any technological device. The definition of technology is any device, system, or methodology created to solve a problem or help carry out a task.

What Is Technology Digital Literacy?

Technological digital literacy involves proficiency in using digital devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) to access the Internet to discover, create, review, evaluate, and use information via different digital platforms.

Note that many of these definitions are fluid, changing, and evolving. For example, in some instances, technology digital literacy is referred to as just "digital literacy." But in this instance, we should consider technology digital literacy a sub-group, a specific form of technology literacy.

But we’re not entirely done sorting through these literacy definitions yet.

Media Literacy vs. Technology Literacy

Sources define media literacy as the ability to access, evaluate, analyze, or create media in various forms. Media literacy helps people digest the news, ascertain legit news from fake news, and digest the information. It’s not limited to the Internet, however. Media literacy includes television, newspapers, radio, magazines, books, etc.

On the other hand, technology literacy deals with navigating technology and getting the most out of it.

Hang on; we’re not finished comparing literacies! Just one more, we promise!

How Do Media, Information, and Technology Literacy Differ?

We’ve already seen how terms shift and blend into each other, and there seems to be a literacy term to describe virtually any situation. So now it’s time to bring information literacy into the conversation.

Information literacy is the ability to search for, identify, analyze, organize, apply, and communicate information regardless of the format and is used primarily in situations that require decision-making, problem-solving, or knowledge acquisition.

So, bringing together all three literacies, we get the following difference breakdown:

  • Information Literacy: The ability to locate, evaluate and use/apply information.
  • Media Literacy: The ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create information in various forms.
  • Digital Literacy: The ability to use digital technology, networks, and communication tools to find, evaluate, and create information.

You could make a case for saying that media literacy is a sub-category of information literacy, and digital literacy is a sub-category of media literacy!

The Importance of Technology Literacy

As we've already said, technology is everywhere, and it's growing by leaps and bounds. As a result, it permeates every corner of our lives, including our jobs, leisure time, and well-being. Since technology plays an increasing role in our lives, we must make sure that we are navigating technology in a manner that helps rather than hinders us. Technological literacy shows us how to get the most out of our technology while avoiding pitfalls.

And yes, there are pitfalls. The more features something has, the more challenges it poses, and the more things can go wrong. After all, a machine with 1,000 moving parts has a greater chance of developing a glitch than a device with just ten moving parts! But that machine with 1,000 parts can do more, and that’s the one we will want. So here we are, trying to make sure we get the full benefit of that complicated machine without it backfiring on us!

Here are some of the pitfalls of modern tech, things that, ideally, technology literacy will help mitigate:

  • Over-reliance on technology: It’s possible to get too dependent on the latest gadgets. But if you're tech-literate, you are aware of how too much technology can draw you in, and hopefully, that literacy will help you strike a healthy balance.
  • Misinformation: Today’s media comes in many forms, and it’s easily accessed and available 24 hours a day. The choices are mind-boggling. Unfortunately, this glut of media has dramatically increased the chance of stumbling across misinformation, exaggeration, events taken out of context, and outright lies. A savvy, technologically literate person has a lower risk of getting duped.
  • Privacy Concerns: Thanks to recent tech innovations, we have video cameras everywhere, GPS trackers on our smartphones, wearable tech that monitors our health, and phones that can access the vastness of the Internet quickly and easily. The technologically literate consumer is mindful of secure personal passwords and knowing where to draw the line regarding personal privacy.

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The Benefits of Technology Literacy

Let’s see what good stuff technology literacy brings to the table.

  • Improving your skills: The more you understand about technology, the easier it is to build up your old digital skills or learn new ones, also known as “upskilling,” a hot term in today’s workplace. With more of today's workforce going digital, it's wise to increase your proficiency. The more you use technology, specifically in the digital world, the more you will pick up, and that’s good news for your resume!
  • Technological versatility: Technology is everywhere, so if you’re highly technologically literate, you become more comfortable using technology in many situations and get the best from it.
  • It raises student engagement: The more technology we introduce into classrooms, the more engaged students become. Technology provides students with a more immersive, engaging experience that enhances student learning. Furthermore, introducing technology literacy into the classroom teaches students how to make the most of technology and use it responsibly. Thus, the concept perpetuates itself to a new generation and develops a core of technological ethics.

The Essential Elements of Technology Literacy

If you Google the term “elements of technology literacy,” you will find results that say there are four, six, seven, or even eight essential elements. Let's hear it for having multiple viewpoints! Here are the eight critical elements in technological literacy:

  • Cultural: Understanding the online digital culture, how to behave, netiquette, privacy.
  • Cognitive: Using different devices, software, and interfaces, and using standard features like navigation menus, profiles, hashtags, and settings.
  • Constructive: Understanding how to create things in the Internet community, including how digital content can be appropriated, reused, and repurposed. This elements also covers copyright issues and plagiarism.
  • Communicative: Learning how to communicate in the digital environment.
  • Confident: Grasping the idea that we belong and fit into an online community.
  • Creative: The art of creating things that have value online.
  • Critical: Using reasoning skills to evaluate, discern, scrutinize, and question digital content effectively. This element also covers telling reputable sources apart from less credible sources.
  • Civic: Realizing how to be a good digital citizen, including understanding their digital rights and responsibilities and using the digital environment to self-organize and be a part of something bigger than the individual.

What Are Technology Literacy Skills?

So, what skills should you master to achieve technological literacy? Good question! Here’s a breakdown of the critical skills necessary:

  • Adaption: We’ve already established that technology changes fast. Tech-savvy people pick up the new skills to effectively use new technology. As tech evolves, we must adapt.
  • Communication: Technologically literate people don’t just consume data; they create their own information and share it with others.
  • Comprehension: It’s essential to know how to make sense of what we see and read in the context of technology.
  • Evaluation: This skill covers the ability to critically analyze information to determine its accuracy, authority, validity, and reliability.

Examples of Technology Literacy

Here are a few examples of technology literacy in action. You may be surprised by how some everyday Internet activities fall under this definition!

  • Creating content: Posting to social media, making a YouTube video, and writing a blog post fall under content creation.
  • Communication: This example covers simple communication with friends, family, associates, co-workers, and people who share your interests. This skill manifests itself through e-mails and texting.
  • Research: This example deals with looking for information, knowing what questions to ask, and how to conduct research. When you Google something or visit Wikipedia, you’re doing research.
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality: VR and AR are used for games and learning and are a great way to get immersed in new technology.

Making Sense of Technology

It's a vast, sprawling tech world, and it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Simplilearn has the resources to help you make sense of it all. Simplilearn offers a fantastic array of online courses, bootcamps, tutorials, articles, and even free resources, all designed to improve your tech skills.

Whether you want to find a better job or just learn how to get the most out of today’s tech, Simplilearn has what you need. So visit Simplilearn today, and join the ranks of the technologically literate!

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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