in Education

My TEDx talk on ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ [video]

A couple of weeks ago I presented at TEDx Warwick. The video is now available:

I’d love your feedback on this. :-)

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  • Zsolt Almási

    This is a most fascinating and thought-provoking meditation about digital literacies. Thanks for this! I absolutely agree that remixing stuff is a way, and a very important one for that matter, of influencing cultural appropriation and signification. Once again, thanks for this talk!

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Zsolt! :-)

  • Sannie2801

    Very relevant in our society! About to write an essay on Literacy in the 21st century! Digital literacy cannot be ignored!!

  • Keith


    great talk. what i’ve been struggling with recently is the way a lot of educational theory in my field (EFL) doesn’t really look at context which is why i’ve become interested in models like activity theory.

    however your eight essential elements combines the personal and the social in a way that’s different to things like bloom or activity theory, and offers a different insight into how learning online might be approached.

    i’m about to start a class using as a canvas for students to organise media to communicate about their lives and lifestyles with efl students in another country – it will be interesting to view their work through these eight points.


  • Mike Jones

    Very interesting!  Lots of stuff to “remix” in my brain.  Not quite sure I understand the difference between civic and cultural elements, though.  Your examples of Success Kid and your Grandma remind me of the video I saw of a baby trying to “read” a magazine by swiping the cover like an iPad.

    I’m also curious if your Grandma can use an iPad.  That would make her at least somewhat digitally literate, wouldn’t it?  :)

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Mike. Use of digital devices on a procedural way is kind of the on-ramp to digital literacies.
      In terms of the difference between the cultural and civic elements, the former is about understanding conventions and nuance whereas the latter is about making the world a better place. (I explain it better in Chapter 9 of my thesis at

  • Kevin McLaughlin

    Great presentation Doug, it’s the first talk on digital literacies that I have been able to follow! The 8 elements capture it so well along with the remix of these. The effect these could have in teaching and learning is just begging to be explored.
    I has teh digital literacies.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Kevin! I’d love it if you or others in the classroom used this and gave me some feedback. :-)

  • Doug Belshaw

    Thanks! :-)

  • Doug Belshaw

    Thanks Keith – if you do decide to use the eight elements, please do let me know. I’m looking for case studies for my e-book! :-)

    • Oliver Quinlan

      We will be using it on our Primary BEd with digital literacy specialism next September onwards :).

      I thought this was a really good presentation, and a good starting point for the ideas in your thesis for those unfamiliar, as well as having something for those of us who have read it.

      As you asked for feedback, to be really nitpicking about style, I thought the reading of some quotes from the slides interrupted the flow slightly, and maybe paraphrasing them whilst the audience read would have been smoother.

      Very good presentation though, I think the range of examples was very engaging, and I’d love to know the story behind how you found that very early black and white lolcat.

      • Doug Belshaw

        Thanks Oliver, that’s useful feedback. :-)

        Really glad you’re considering using it at Plymouth!

  • Christian Petersen

    Hey Doug. Thanks for sharing this presentation – I very much enjoyed watching it. 
    Something you said at the end made my mind boggle. You said LoLcats had developed their own language, grammar and syntax. Somehow I draw the connection to Esparanto, where the goal was to develop a universal language for the whole world (though it is still work in process). Would you say digital literacy is taking over this attempt? 
    I sometimes play the infamous game League of Legends (LoL) and it seems to me as having its own context in which it operates ad, ap, tank, sup, etc. But it also utilizes some common online words like nerf, Rofl, nvm, np, kewl, gj, gg. I would very much like your thouhgts on that and how would LoL fit in the remix? 

    • Doug Belshaw

      Hi Christian, thanks for the comment. I’m not aware of League of Legends, but it sounds interesting – where’s best to start to learn more?
      In terms of Stephen Downes’ work around memes as languages, check out this presentation:

      • Christian Petersen

        Hi Doug, 
        Thanks for the link. Let me repay you with a link for the LoL terms mentioned:

  • Mark Allen

    Excellent presentation on many fronts: the delivery, graphics and content all first-class.  A couple of points I would like to debate with you around good interface design (how it’s usually a balance between choice and real-estate) and the iPad (which I think is intuitive but anachronistic), but those were kicked into insignificance by the many, many new and interesting ideas you introduced.  I love the very human ideas around the development of new syntax and grammar, for instance, and the feeling of real joy it gives me to speak that new language fluently, whatever it might be.  I’d like to know more on your periodic table – the eight essential elements – so might even buy the book!
      I do wonder, though, if remixing is enough: just because the tools are democratized, that doesn’t necessarily lead to creations of value or original ideas, and surely those have more merit than tweaks and in-jokes?  Part of the meme culture also seems to me to be to do with a desperate need to belong, to be in the know, to not being excluded.  I’m not sure those are enough to move civilization on…Curse you: I had loads to do this morning and now you’ve got me thinking!Mark

  • Doug Belshaw

    Hi Mark, interesting comment. Thank you. :-)

    In terms of what you say about ‘meme culture’ I would say that, actually, *each* meme comes from, and is an expression of, a particular culture. So just as we wouldn’t say ‘education culture’ but instead talk of Primary, Secondary, etc. so we need to be more specific.
    Using memes in this particular presentation was a convenient hypocrisy and merely illustrative. I’d love to have gone into the ambiguous nature of literacies and skeuomorphism but there’s only so much you can cram into 18 minutes!

    • Mark Allen

      If by ‘skeuomorphism’ you mean things referring to legacy contexts that are no longer necessary, then digital life is full of those, from lifelike desktop wallpapers with coffee stains to the way educational products are often shoe-horned into compartments reflecting the traditional layout of schools.  I suspect you’re right, that internet memes are merely a vastly-amplified version of a need we’ve always had to mock, to parody, to tweak in clever or less clever ways.  The democratization of the tools of production inevitably leads to a drop in average quality, but can occasinally throw up some real gems too.  I am concerned, though, that none of this encourages innovation, but is more a service activity which chimes with the culture of consumption we have created…

      • Doug Belshaw

        Well, that’s a whole other conversation about the three different kinds of innovation!
        Thanks for the comments. :-)

  • damoward

    Well done, Doug for a thought-provoking, amusing and well (de)constructed introduction to your essential elements. The 8 elements you identify are not so equal in status; consider the process of Remixing – surely dependent on the Creative element above all? There are more barriers to access for younger learners in UK school system than in previous 10 years; having returned to Secondary ed. from a City Learning Centre I have found blocks on mobile access, restricted web and lack of creative software. Of course, digital literacies will be developed at home and amongst peers but what role for the educator? As I say, very thought-provoking…

    • Doug Belshaw

      Hi Damo, thanks for the comment. :-)

      You’re absolutely right about the elements not being equal, but that’s where the context comes in! The elements need that context in order to be ‘ranked’ (or at least attention to be paid in a slightly unequal way). Change the context, however, and the relative importance also differs.

  • Jcraighartley

    Thanks for delineating digital literacy!

    • Doug Belshaw

      No worries! :-)

  • Garyvspec

    Thanks, enjoyed this presentation enormously, it rates as one of my all time favourite TED talks.

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