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You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks: The Factors That Affect Changes over Time in Digital Literacy

, , The Open University of Israel, Israel

JITE-Research Volume 9, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute


The expansion of digital technologies and the rapid changes they undergo through time face users with new cognitive, social, and ergonomic challenges that they need to master in order to perform effectively. In recent years, following empirical reports on performance differences between different age-groups, there is a debate in the research literature concerning the nature of these differences: whether they reflect age-related cognitive abilities of the users, or that they are related to the usability and experience of users with the technologies. This study attempts to establish whether changes in digital literacy, through a period of five years, are age-dependent or the result of experience with technology. The study is based on empirical findings from two independent studies of Eshet-Alkalai & Amichai-Hamburger (2004), which investigated digital literacy skills among different age groups, and of Eshet-Alkalai and Chajut (2009), which investigated changes over time in these digital literacy skills among the same participants five years later. In order to distinguish between the age-related and the experience related factors, the present study reports on findings from control groups of a similar age and demographic background, which were tested with tasks similar to Eshet-Alkalai & Chajut (2009). Results show two major patterns of change over time: (1) closing the gap between younger and older participants in tasks that emphasize experience and technical control (photo-visual and branching tasks); (2) widening the gap between younger and older participants in tasks that emphasize creativity and critical thinking reproduction and information tasks). Based on the results from the control groups, we suggest that experience with technology, and not age-dependent cognitive development, accounts for the observed life-long changes in digital literacy skills. Results, especially the sharp decrease in information skills, suggest that the ability to find information or use digital environments does not guarantee an educated or smart use of digital environments.


Eshet-Alkalai, Y. & Chajut, E. (2010). You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks: The Factors That Affect Changes over Time in Digital Literacy. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 9(1), 173-181. Informing Science Institute. Retrieved March 27, 2019 from .


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