Personal literacy… What is it?


On completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  • define key concepts pertaining to personal literacy
  • understand and explain how their own online identities are key elements of your students’ online life
  • select resources for the classroom and design personal literacy tasks for your students



Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum (2014: 27) define personal literacy as “the ability to use digital tools to shape and project a desired identity”.


So what is Personal Literacy?

‘In the digital world, just as in the physical one, you are partly who others say you are.
This is why you need to be at least one – and preferably the most prominent – of the voices talking about you. You can’t allow others to define who you are, or control the way you are perceived.’
Dan Gilmore, 2011, Mediactive, First Edition

HTML and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) (code literacy) have been added to print literacy in our educational and professional lives, but, as Mary Madden and Aaron Smith (Reputation Management and Social Media, Washington: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2010) claim: ‘managing an online identity has become a multimedia affair’ (see multimedia literacy). Nowadays, we are part of a digital eco-system, which is interacting through digital tools (from e-mail to augmented reality), available to a third of the world’s population.

Indeed, the image, lives, and experiences of many of us feature online and are open to public access. If potential employers google their candidates, it is because what the Internet says about you matters. Who you are online can be narrowed down to how you see yourself and how others see you both off- and online. Thus, our students need to be aware of what their personal digital identity is and of the consequences that an inappropriate, negative or, even, non existent digital identity can have on their lives and on their future careers.

Our digital identity can be fluid, as we can create it, shape it, modify it in whichever way we like, showing what we like to our readers, for as long as they have no access to our physical identity. It is thus important that students learn techniques that will allow them to form a digital identity that is suitable to the physical and digital environment they want to interact in (be it the academic environment, or a professional environment). They will have to be shown how to build a network (see network literacy), how to represent themselves within that network and how to interact with it. This is what is called personal literacy.

Also, personal literacy entails learning how “to protect your digital self (and, by extension, your physical self) from attack by cyber bullies, online predators and identity thieves.” (Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum, 2014: 27)

The following is a TED Talk on Digital freedom by psychologist Professor Jim Blascovich


Useful links




Source/attribution:      Digilanguages.                                                    Author:       Alexandre Jacquot

Einige Ansätze

…auf der Seite des Goethe-Instituts

…auf Spiegel-Online 

und eine Unterrichtsidee zum Thema digitale Identitäten auf Sicherheit macht Schule.



Materiali aggiuntivi in italiano

Da vedere:
  • Un video su diritto e identità digitale, dell’Università di Pisa

  • Due brevi video di Dionea group sulla reputazione online e sulla privacy


Da leggere: