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What is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet. As a Cornell student, activities including writing papers, creating multimedia presentations, and posting information about yourself or others online are all a part of your day-to-day life, and all of these activities require varying degrees of digital literacy. Is simply knowing how to do these things enough? No—there’s more to it than that.

Consider how easy it is to cut, paste, share, rip, burn, and post media—at home and in the classroom. These activities seem as though they must be legal and appropriate, because they’re so easy to perform. Unfortunately, the assumption that what can be done, may be done, is often wrong.

Digital literacy is an important topic because technology is changing faster than society is. The same advances that enhance leisure and make our work easier—those that make it possible for us to search online databases, text friends, and stream media—also present urgent challenges to the social norms, market models, and legal frameworks that structure our society. The rules of appropriate behavior in these digital contexts may be unknown or unknowable. Well-established concepts such as copyright, academic integrity, and privacy are now difficult to define, as their meanings are in flux.

This digital literacy site is a resource you can come to again and again during your time at Cornell, to get up-to-date information about issues like these. Look here to learn about Cornell’s recommendations for finding, evaluating, and citing information sources online; to learn about copyright law; to read and hear Cornell faculty viewpoints on plagiarism; and to get our best advice regarding privacy practices on the Internet. Look here, too, for links to many other Cornell resources on these topics.