Original Research - Special Collection: Digital Literacy

Are we teaching critical digital literacy? Grade 9 learners’ practices of digital communication

Lutho Mnyanda, Madeyandile Mbelani
Reading & Writing | Vol 9, No 1 | a188 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v9i1.188 | © 2018 Madeyandile M.Mbelani@ru.ac.za | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 December 2017 | Published: 13 September 2018

About the author(s)

Lutho Mnyanda, Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University, South Africa
Madeyandile Mbelani, Institute for the Study of English in Africa, Rhodes University, South Africa


South Africa’s communication landscape has changed and is still changing because many previously disadvantaged areas have benefitted from the construction of roads, provision of electricity and installation of satellites. As a result, many previously disadvantaged learners have access to digital media in their homes. In this article, we argue that the immersion of many learners in digital media at home advances literacy achievement. Drawing on insights from cultural historical activity theory and multimodal social semiotics, we discuss the nature of learners’ digital resources at home and how these resources could be meaningfully and critically used to advance literacy. Data were collected from Grade 9 learners in two King Williams Town schools in the form of questionnaires, focus group discussions, informal Facebook-Messenger conversations, one-on-one interviews with teachers and lesson observations. The analysis of data shows that many learners in this study are becoming digitally literate, irrespective of their socio-economic status or rural–urban location. However, digital literacy does not seem to be used as a base to advance literacy as advocated in the new curriculum and assessment policy statements.


digital literacy; social media; cultural historical activity theory; multimodal social semiotics


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Crossref Citations

1. Understanding Digital Inequality: A Theoretical Kaleidoscope
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