information literacy

Digital Literacy: A Virtue for the 21st Century

William Chan
William Chan
Executive Director, Agent of Change Foundation |

Digital literacy is the integration of knowledge, skills and attitude - an inevitable quality for humankind in the 21st century.

When we talk about "Information Literacy", I recalled the required course "Information Literacy" at university, that taught us how to handle information correctly. However, what I learnt for life is the moral education taught by my Vice-Chancellor, which included table manners and social etiquette. For example, while waiting for the elevator, we stand away from the door and always let people exit before you attempt to board. It is a different concept from "ability"; this means a respect for others and an attitude to life.

In fact, in a highly connected information society, what people required is "Digital Literacy" education. Not only the information processing abilities, we should learn how to deal with ourselves in the real and online world (e.g. protecting privacy and safety), and the right attitudes of getting along well with others (e.g. respect and empathy), as to live a safer and happier life.

What is “Literacy”? The interpretation of “Literacy” in Cihai is the “cultivation of the day”. It is not something that we can achieve in a short period time but have to be obtained through challenges and practices in everyday life.

Nevertheless, why should we develop our literacy? Due to technological advancement, the world transforms more rapidly in this digital era and people must adapt quickly to changes. Other than "knowledge", that changed exponentially over time, students must acquire "literacy”- an integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes, in future education. Take frying an egg as an example. Knowledge is the cooking theory behind "heat changing protein structure". Skills is the ability to control the heat for different types of eggs, such as scrambled eggs or sunny-side up eggs. If we understand the cooking theory, acquire the cooking skills and indicate our preference on eggs, we become one knowing how to appreciate an egg. This is the attitude. Literacy is the integration of knowledge, skills and attitude.

How important is "Digital Literacy"? Finnish Education, considered as the best of the world, has recently emphasized the importance of "Digital Literacy as one of its seven key competences in their new National Curriculum Framework. Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) literacy has become an inevitable quality for humankind in the 21st century. To students, it is now more significant than ever to understand how to utilize digital tools in daily life and to be aware of the significance of safety and responsibility in the digital world.

Unfortunately, according to the latest assessment by Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), in comparison with other countries and regions, the level of Hong Kong students’ digital literacy is relatively weak. A recent study by the University of Hong Kong showed that students from disadvantaged families had lower gains in digital skills during the pandemic. Due to digital divide, they were less able to benefit from online learning, resulting a wide difference in academic achievement. Our society shall pay more attention to the cumulative negative effects due to socioeconomic and digital divides on disadvantaged students.

"Agent of Change" walks with the poor and endeavours to empower every disadvantaged to be the change by building a platform for support and inspiration. Promoting "Digital Literacy" education is one of our key missions. What we advocate is not merely taking more "Digital Literacy" courses. To be digital literate, the key is literacy practices in everyday life. Over the past years, thanks to Facebook’s full support, Agent of Change has initiated "2 Hours For A Life" Life Theatre to strengthen students' ability on safety and cyberbullying; “Oculus” Virtual Reality Education programme to inspire students' imagination and actions on global issues (e.g. climate change) via the latest VR technology; and "Feed Your Heart" (心之食堂) Students’ Wellbeing Support Programme to promote wellbeing online and offline. With our newly established digital creative marketing firm "Me2We Social+" (also known as +-x./. studio), that employs and trains the disadvantaged to be digital and creative professionals, we very much look forward to our coming partnership with Facebook on their "We Think Digital Hong Kong" programme. Through our team’s great creativity, innovative and engaging design and highly effective execution, we will do our best to inspire Hong Kong citizens, especially the disadvantaged students, the significance of "Digital Literacy" in everyday life and build a more ideal digital world together.

To be digital literate, the key is literacy practice in everyday life.

- William Chan, 2021