USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools - Overview

What exactly is digital literacy, and how can we ensure that students are learning the digital skills they need in school? MediaSmarts classifies competencies for digital literacy according to three main principles: use, understand and create. These principles form the basis for our digital literacy framework.

Young Canadians need to be able to make good choices about privacy, ethics, safety and verifying information when they’re using digital media, and they need to be prepared to be active and engaged digital citizens. Based on our research on digital literacy education in Canada, USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE provides a road map for teaching these skills in Canadian schools. The framework draws on seven key aspects of digital literacy (listed in the grid below) and provides teachers with supporting lessons and interactive resources that are linked to curriculum outcomes for every province and territory. The home and school connection is supported by parent tip sheets that are linked to from each resource.

USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools was made possible by financial contributions from CIRA through the .CA Community Investment Program.

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Ethics and Empathy

This category addresses students’ social-emotional skills and empathy towards others as well as their ability to make ethical decisions in digital environments when dealing with issues such as cyberbullying, sharing other people’s content and accessing music and video.


Privacy and Security

This includes essential skills for managing students’ privacy, reputation and security online such as making good decisions about sharing their own content, understanding data collection techniques, protecting themselves from malware and other software threats, and being aware of their digital footprint.


Community Engagement

Resources in this category teach students about their rights as citizens and consumers and empower them to influence positive social norms in online spaces and to speak out as active, engaged citizens.


Digital Health

Digital health skills include managing screen time and balancing students’ online and offline lives; managing online identity issues; dealing with issues relating to digital media, body image and sexuality; and understanding the differences between healthy and unhealthy online relationships.


Consumer Awareness

These skills allow students to navigate highly commercialized online environments. They include recognizing and interpreting advertising, branding and consumerism; reading and understanding the implications of website Terms of Service and privacy policies; and being savvy consumers online.


Finding and Verifying

Students need the skills to effectively search the Internet for information they need for personal and school purposes, and then evaluate and authenticate the sources and information they find.


Making and Remixing

Making and Remixing skills enable students to create digital content and use existing content for their own purposes in ways that respect legal and ethical considerations and to use digital platforms to collaborate with others.