Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 655–679 | Cite as

Digital competence – an emergent boundary concept for policy and educational research

  • Liisa IlomäkiEmail author
  • Sami Paavola
  • Minna Lakkala
  • Anna Kantosalo


Digital competence is an evolving concept related to the development of digital technology and the political aims and expectations of citizenship in a knowledge society. It is regarded as a core competence in policy papers; in educational research it is not yet a standardized concept. We suggest that it is a useful boundary concept, which can be used in various contexts. For this study, we analysed 76 educational research articles in which digital competence, described by different terms, was investigated. As a result, we found that digital competence consists of a variety of skills and competences, and its scope is wide, as is its background: from media studies and computer science to library and literacy studies. In the article review, we found a total of 34 terms that had used to describe the digital technology related skills and competences; the most often used terms were digital literacy, new literacies, multiliteracy and media literacy, each with somewhat different focus. We suggest that digital competence is defined as consisting of (1) technical competence, (2) the ability to use digital technologies in a meaningful way for working, studying and in everyday life, (3) the ability to evaluate digital technologies critically, and (4) motivation to participate and commit in the digital culture.


Digital competence Digital skill School Pupil Student 



The first version of this article wais based on work in the LINKED project (Leveraging Innovation for a Network of Knowledge on Education), co-ordinated by the European Schoolnet and funded by the European Commission. The first author had a scholarship from the Finnish Cultural Foundation for finalizing the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Liisa Ilomäki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sami Paavola
    • 1
  • Minna Lakkala
    • 1
  • Anna Kantosalo
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioural SciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIITUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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