Defining digital literacy
The scholarly research on educationally contextualized literacies develops constantly (Oliveira et al. 2019), as literacies’ functions and forms are determined by the constant change of society and its technology (Leu et al. 2017). The old meaning of literacy, i.e., the ability to read and write to meet society’s needed standards and expectations (McArthur et al. 2018), has become obsolete. The state-of-the-art literature understands the general concept of literacy as the knowledge and the skills needed for contemporary socio-cultural interactions, which comprehend digital (e.g., touch screen tablets) non-digital tools (e.g., paper books) (Leu et al. 2017). In other words, being digitally literate still presupposes the old literate skills associated with reading, e.g.: understanding a printed text (McArthur et al. 2018). The different information and communication technologies (ICT) have added another layer to the twenty-first century literacy requirements, as these are not only comprehended as a set of needed skills, but also as a set of technologically mediated practices within society (McArthur et al. 2018).
Thus, digital literacy, a term which emerged in the 90’s and was popularized by Paul Gilster (1997) (McArthur et al. 2018), refers on the one hand, to a set of skills, attitudes and knowledge needed to access digital information effectively, efficiently, and ethically (Julien 2018). On the other hand, it stresses the digital tools available to communicate with others, to create meaning, and to evaluate digital content (Neumann et al. 2017). Nonetheless, researchers tend to disagree as to the most important digital skills needed to be in command of today’s digitally needed proficiency. Some educational researchers identify digital literacy by categorizing its skills into information access, online participation, computer ability, search engine’s skills, and skills required to evaluate found information (McArthur et al. 2018). Others divide the digital skills into Operational, Mobile, Navigation, Social, and Creative domains (Peromingo and Pieterson 2018). The definition of Digital Literacy employed for the purposes of this study is: ‘the confident, critical and creative use of ICT to achieve goals related to work, employability, learning, leisure, inclusion and/or participation in society’ (Ala-Mutka 2011).
Defining digital readiness
ICT readiness describes the preparedness of people for using the digital environment, basically concerning its learning and studying purposes (Becker 2018). It involves the self-perception of technologically related skills, attitudes, competencies and knowledge intended to meet the expectations related to specific contexts (Hong and Kim 2018). In other words, it comprehends active participation, the application of digital media, and the overcoming of old studying and learning patterns.
Teachers’ professional development in the digital age
Teachers’ key role regarding student’s achievements in the use of technology and technology competence constitute an essential requisite for an effective teacher profession (Drossel and Eickelmann 2017; Instefjord and Munthe 2016). Urged by educational reforms, educators are under constant pressure to improve, innovate, and display higher skills before their students (Priestley 2011), including the use of technology in the teaching context (Gudmundsdottir and Hatlevik 2018). Educators around the world and in Israel are trying to adapt their educational systems to the changes that characterize current societies (Tsybulsky and Levin 2017; Sjöberg 2018). Accordingly, the constant search for effective means of achieving teachers’ ongoing professional development has become a global concern (Bautista and Oretga-Ruiz 2017). Scholars and policymakers increasingly focus on identifying and cultivating teachers, who possess the ability to act as leaders concerning their own self-learning, as well as concerning their ability to educate others with the aim of leveraging their abilities to guide the learning processes of their colleagues (Katzenmeyer and Moller 2009).
Teachers’ professional development in Israel
Israel is a country of immigrants. Following the second world war, the Jewish population has increased from 716,000 to 7 million (Israel Central Bureau of Statistics 2017), of which there are approximately 2 million Arabic speakers. The influx of immigrants continues till today. The mother tongue of 50 % of the Israeli population is not Hebrew (Hebrew is the official language). This has implications for those who attend tertiary education, as studies are usually conducted in Hebrew. Part of the online research is conducted in English and in other languages, thus suiting the student preferences. The seven domains of digital literacy (SDDL), the measuring tool of this study, has been tested in Israel and in several other countries such as the USA (Shannon 2017), Japan, the Philippines, Korea, South Africa, Croatia, Indonesia, Kenya and Qatar (Peled, Un-published work) with similar results. Hence, it can be concluded that language does not play an influential role here.
Israel’s Ministry of Education has launched a national computerization program for adapting the education system to the twenty-first century (Ministry of Education 2014). The program promotes ICT integration in schools. Its purpose is to turn these into computerized organizations. The program stresses the implementation of innovative pedagogies as well as the development of DL. Israeli colleges of education train its student-teachers to teach their students twenty-first century skills (Naifeld and Simon 2017). Thus, media and digital literacy education is fundamentally implicated in the practice of the Israeli K-12 education (Alt and Raichel 2018). Moreover, as the research literature makes it clear, instructing teachers’ trainees to teach digital skills is a challenge. For example, Davidson and Glassner (2016) inquire how can teachers be trained to advance life competencies and skills. Shamir-Inbal and Blau (2016) report that course tasks which are intended to develop digital literacy skills do not help students develop them. In this context, the results reported here, point to a consensus among the learners concerning the added value of collaboration in learning processes and outcomes. According to our research findings, digital platforms support a successful collaboration, which demands a further development of socio-emotional thinking skills. The ICT contexts provide a platform for sharing information, thoughts and comments concerning learning outcomes created by peers. They also constitute a forum for writing texts, which serve as extensions of pre-existing course materials. This suggests that there is a need to acquire new social norms concerning online interactions.
Although some claim that Israeli teachers have a low level of digital literacy (Aram and Sverdlov 2017), there are reports of a continuous change. This can be attested in Israeli schools in the increment of teachers’ understanding of their role in implementing additional skills to pure knowledge. The foregoing is a slow and tedious process (Blau et al. 2016; Redmond and Peled 2018).
Considering the above, we present a conceptual framework which assesses pre-service educators’ digital readiness and digital literacy, as this is crucial to increase educators’ awareness and digital competences for facilitating accurate digital literacy to future generations. Our study is based on the Seven Domains of Digital Literacy model (SDDL), which was developed and validated by Kurtz and Peled (2016a), which enables the identification of levels of digital readiness and competence.
The seven domains of digital literacy
The seven domains of digital literacy (SDDL), which were assembled and tested by Kurtz and Peled (2016b) are: Information collection, information evaluation, information management, information processing, teamwork, integrity awareness, and social responsibility. These domains represent the basis for one’s ability and preparedness to manage complex digital environments (Horrigan 2016). Here is a short description of the seven DLD’s:
Information collection is the digital skill of gathering and locating information effectively and efficiently in an electronic context. It is the ability to recognize information needs, access, understand and use information by employing the Internet, professional organization databases and search engines. (Catts and Lau 2008; Nelson et al. 2011; Mioduser et al. 2008; Gilster 1997; Lau and Yuen 2014; Ala-Mutka 2011); Information evaluation stands for the attitude towards the retrieved information, which determines the worthiness of the collected information. It is the ability to evaluate the quality, reliability, relevance, timeliness, completeness, credibility, usefulness, and efficiency of digital resources. (Eshet-Alkali and Amichai-Hamburger 2004; Brouwer 1996; Jenkins 2009; Lau and Yuen 2014; Nelson et al. 2011); Information management denotes data organization and storage for posterior fruitful usage. It is the ability to save, retrieve and to tag digital information while including knowledge about copyright and plagiarism issues (Dudeney et al. 2014; Nelson et al. 2011; Mioduser et al. 2008). More specifically, it represents the ability to protect personal data and information from threats such as unauthorized access, destruction, identity theft, impersonation, unauthorized alteration of data, or fictitious creation (Lau and Yuen 2014; Nelson et al. 2011); Information processing relates to the posterior preparation and arrangement of the information usage in its format: text, sound, image, etc. It is the ability to use ICT to design or create new information from information already acquired (Lau and Yuen 2014); Teamwork refers to the work done by several peers in the process of learning, while sharing information, communicating and participating in given tests, with each party learning, collaborating, and creating a single joint common item. Differently stated, it is the ability to work with others (instructor and peers) toward a common intended learning goal through, discourse, collaboration, cooperation, RBL and PBL. (Jung and Latchem 2011; Harasim 2012; Panitz 1999; Jenkins 2009; Nelson et al. 2011); Integrity awareness relates to the ethical use of gathered information, it involves integrity, honesty and fairness in searching and collecting information, as well as to how new knowledge based on it is created;
Social responsibility: refers to the quality of being a moral and reliable person, involving proper behaviour in the digital context. In other words, it represents understanding the social and ethical implications/consequences of the use of digital resources.
As these SDDL’s have been shown to represent the various domains of digital literacy, their level points to one’s digital readiness.
Purpose of the study
The research was designed to address the gap in the research literature by implementing an empirical measurement of student teachers’ perceptions of their level of Digital Literacy and Digital Readiness. The contribution of this study is the presentation of the findings of a survey that examines the Digital literacy and Digital Readiness of a representative sample of students from five colleges in Israel. The choice of pre-service teachers, i.e., undergraduate students who are in their basic training stage, is important in light of systemic reforms in Israel and worldwide, which promote the adaptation of educational systems to the digital age (Tsybulsky and Levin 2017). In Israel, studies have been conducted to assess the digital skills of various population groups (Eshet-Alkalai and Chajut 2010). Most of them examine specific issues related to the ethnic digital division in the country (Lissitsa and On 2014), the use of the Internet by different ethnic groups (Lissitsa and Chachashvili-Bolotin 2014), or the development of a DL measuring tool (Kurtz and Peled 2016a). Nonetheless, none has examined the broad aspect of DL as the current research does.
The purpose of this research study is to gauge the DL and DR of education students, who are graduate students and pre-service teachers in Israeli colleges. More specifically, this research employs a valid and reliable measure of digital literacy. The Self-Report Digital Literacies (SRDL) is based on a previous research by Kurtz and Peled (2016a), who as we saw earlier identify seven digital literacy domains (SDDLs).
Objective and research questions
This study has several objectives. It investigates pre-service teachers’ self-perception of ICT, (it measures students’ self-perception of the SDDLs) and its subsequent integration in their professional practices. It investigates pre-service ICT readiness and compares it to their actual ICT knowledge. It presents a structural model, which predicts pre-service teacher preparedness to teach embracing digital literacy practices.
What is the perceived level of digital literacy of students?
Are there differences in digital literacy types and in student’s digital readiness?
Do background characteristics predict the level of digital readiness?