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Digital literacies

Role of technology



Creating a digital profile

Creating a web page

Collaborating on a Google doc

Making a YouTube video

Making a meme

Modifying software

Sharing on Facebook

Developing networks

Text messaging

Sharing images on Instagram

This definition of digital literacies challenges a traditional approach to technology use in EAL contexts. It shifts the focus from 'use of technology for language learning' to 'learning language to be able to use technology for different purposes'.


It suggests that language education needs to move beyond using technology for learning grammar or vocabulary and development of main language skills. In addition to these traditional learning objectives, it is also important to provide students with opportunities to learn how language (and non-language) resources are used in different digital environments and across different social contexts.

The concept of 'digital literacies' is defined and understood in many different ways. The perspective which is widely accepted views digital literacies as social practices. 


To be digitally literate means to have a rich repertoire of skills, knowledge, understandings and ways of thinking to interpret, create, manage and share meanings through different digital channels, for different purposes, in various contexts and with different audiences.


This perspective suggests that there is no universal form of digital literacy. Rather, there are different literacies and myriad of digital literacy practices. For example, communication via email is different from communication via text messaging. At the same time, sending an email to a friend is different from sending an email to a manager.

For teachers, who are interested in embedding digital literacies in language curriculum, a useful starting point may be thinking about digital literacy practices as activities that people do in digital spaces. Some examples of digital literacy practices include:

Reading a web page

Using search engines

Searching for information

Navigating a Google map

Reading a computer code

Evaluating information

Managing personal data

Communicating via email

Online discussions

Commenting on an article

One way to organise such learning in EAL classrooms is to engage learners in realistic problem-centred tasks with digital technologies and provide scaffolding activities to support learners in solving the problem. Examples of such tasks can include (but are not limited to) creating a webpage for a school event, finding information to answer the question which emerged in the discussion, creating an online profile at the beginning of the school year to share with peers and teachers.

Scaffolding activities need to cater for a range of different skills and understandings within three dimensions: (1) operational ('mechanics' of language and technology), (2) cultural(appropriateness/inappropriateness of meaning), (3) critical (critical use of platforms, texts, relationship in digital spaces) (Green & Beavis, 2012). A diagram below illustrates these relationships. 


model - final.jpg

Next steps

What works in one school does not necessarily work in another; even within the same school, different classes may require different levels of scaffolding; different learners within the same class may have different needs. This guide offers a range of teaching ideas with examples of realistic problem-centred tasks and sequenced scaffolding activities which allows you to:



  • Connect them to your syllabus

  • Embed them in your learning units to achieve multiple learning objectives


  • Adapt them for contexts by tweaking the tasks


  • Adjust the level of challenge by offering more or less scaffolding


  • Experiment with them by organising learning activities in different ways

Tour, E. (2019). Teaching digital literacies in EAL/ESL classrooms: practical strategies. TESOL Journal.DOI: 10.1002/tesj.458

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