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More than skills: What can approaches to Digital Literacies learn from Academic Literacies?

Stephen Walker, Alexandra J. F. Patel


Defining digital literacies is challenging because ‘literacies’ has been used in different ways, shifting from its association with the critical engagement with texts to encompass broader definitions relating to skills-based agendas (Lea, 2011). Support for the development of digital literacies in citizens, students and lecturers has over the last decade become a popular debate, with hundreds of digital literacy frameworks developing (for review see All Aboard!, 2015; and Hoechsmann, 2015). Yet, treatment of digital literacies as transferable, discrete sets of skills may not do justice to anyone. The academic literacies approach has developed from similar challenges around teaching text based skills (Lea and Street, 1998; Lea and Street, 2006; Lillis, 2006). Their consideration of the nuanced and complex practices around texts offers a sociological insight into the development of digital literacies. In this article, we contrast an academic literacies approach with JISC’s current thinking around digital capabilities, followed by a discussion of the parallels between Lea and Street’s (1998, 2006) academic literacies model and Bennett’s Digital Practitioner Framework (Bennett, 2014; Sharpe, 2010).


Higher Education; Academic literacies; Digital literacies; Digital technology; Digital learning; Learning technology; Teaching practice


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