Critical digital literacies at school level: A systematic review

Liisa Ilomäki, Minna Lakkala, Veera Kallunki, Darren Mundy, Marc Romero, Teresa Romeu, Anastasia Gouseti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview Articlepeer-review


The rapid and ongoing technological developments and the changes in societal practices require us to update our understanding and skills relating to digital technology use continuously. Various frameworks have been created in recent years to explore the different aspects of digital literacies or digital competencies and a range of newer concepts and dimensions have emerged in the literature aiming to capture the complexity of digital engagement. The main aim of this systematic literature review (SLR) was to map out which elements or issues of critical digital literacies (CDL) relevant for school education currently feature in the academic literature and international policy documents. The secondary aim was to use the findings of the SLR to inform the creation of a research-based framework for school education. The review process followed a systematic protocol for answering specific research questions. Research articles were sought in two electronic databases-EBSCO (Academic Search Complete) and Web of Science-and policy documents were sought on the Internet using Google search. A total of 139 research articles and policy-related documents were used for the analysis. The main dimensions based on the analysis were the following (in the order of most hits): E-safety, Participation and presence, Digital literacy, Media literacy, Digital citizenship, Technology literacy, Information literacy, Data literacy, Digital game literacy, Online learning, Digital creativity and innovation, and Digital well-being. The emphasis in the research articles was on negative issues, although publications also outlined several positive issues about digitality. The emphases of the research articles and policy-related documents differed somewhat. The findings of this SLR have implications for researchers, policy makers and educators interested in the changing nature of critical digital literacies and the dimensions and subdimensions relevant for school education.Context and implicationsRationale for the study: This systematic literature review (SLR) identifies the key elements and issues of critical digital literacies (CDL) relevant to school education, as documented in academic literature and international policy documents. In addition, it utilises the findings of the SLR to develop a research-based framework for CLD in school education.Why the new findings matter: Our findings contribute to capturing the different aspects of CDL in the context of compulsory education and offer original insights with regard to supporting the development of teachers and students' critical digital literacies in the future.Implications for researchers, practitioners and policy makers: This SLR has implications for research as it has highlighted the need to continuously update theoretical models and frameworks relating to CDL. Although certain accepted core dimensions can provide a stable foundation for representing emerging phenomena, it is essential to maintain flexibility to address the technological advancements. An implication for policy making is the recognition of the need for continuous professional development and pedagogical support for teachers and students. The value for educational practitioners is that it elucidates the emerging notions of CDL, and it enables educational institutions to enhance their practices and initiatives related to CDL.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3425
JournalReview of education
Issue number3
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences
  • Critical digital literacies
  • Digital technology
  • Primary and secondary school
  • Systematic literature review

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