Digital Literacy: English in a virtual world

People using technology to learn

It’s easier to learn English with the evolution of technology and access to the internet. Several authors have been discussing concepts and practices of digital literacy. For Barbosa (2005) the concept of literacy for writing and digital reading was well used since it’s not enough to control technically the tool, but participate in literacy practices in the digital world.

Literacy is not unique, but a set of social practices through different ways of reading and writing. Kleiman (2007) uses the term “multiple literacies of social life”, and one of those “multiple literacies” is the digital literacy. In this kind of practice, writing and reading are used in different ways. Instead of books and notebooks, which guides the reader is the computer screen. The digital literacy assumes changes in both reading when writing codes, verbal and nonverbal, such as graphics and images.

With these changes, when we had previously pencil, rubber and paper as support for our production or reading, now these practices happen through the computer screen, cellphone, e-readers and so on. Technology is all around us. Adults are entering this new context, as children are increasingly in contact with virtual environments from the moment of their birth, when parents, uncles or cousins use the phone to take their picture and post it on social networks. Thus, school can not fail to allow this new social practice. This new tool needs to provide support for new learning and opportunities for students.

digital literacy with tablets

School, in general, regardless of the subject that is been taught, needs to have access to communication tools like computers and tablets with internet access to enable the student to have contact with virtual environments as a new source of learning.

Digital interaction through computer and using the abilities of reading and writing gives the individual a new way to read and write. These practices are becoming increasingly frequent. The use of digital texts makes the reader encounters a different way to read. Before the focus was on books and notebooks, now, it is on the screen of a computer.

Woman using the ereader

With all the access students have, communication between English learners and chatting with a native speaker became simpler.

Also, it’s easy to find video lectures, songs, activities and short videos that are going to help students to improve their English. On YouTube, for example, is possible to find specific channels which has the purpose of teaching and practicing the foreing language. Besides that the number of apps for learning English has been increasing, as Duolingo and Babbel.

Therefore digital literacy practices in teaching and learning English are crucial in a globalized and virtual world nowadays.


BARBOSA, J. P. Outras Mídias e Linguagens na Escola. In: Brasil. Materiais didáticos: escolha e uso. Brasília, DF: MEC, 2005. p. 50-62. (Boletim, 14).

BUZATO, M. Letramentos Digitais e formação de professores. São Paulo: Portal Educare. 2006. 

KLEIMAN, A. B. (org). Os significados do letramento. Campinas, S.P: Mercado de Letras, 1995.

PRENSKY, M. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, Lincoln, v.9, n.5, Out. 2001.