This study examines student perception of digital literacy from their engagement with the Fabric of Digital Life, a digital archive of emerging technologies. Through grounded theory analysis we identified the ways students make sense of an unfamiliar technology. Our results show students assign metaphors to understand a new digital platform, apply mental models transferred from previous conceptual domains onto new technologies, and express multiply-layered approaches that facilitated their digital literacy development––an indication for instructors to orient toward an expansive description of digital literacy that caters to student learning needs as well as their professional futures.

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Pre-print Article

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• Current discussions frame metaphoric expressions as the prevalent resort for sensemaking.
• Student responses reveal that mental models are more common as a reference when faced with an unfamiliar technology.
• Multiplying our approaches helps students recognize the digital tools they encounter as vibrant, creative, and expressive.
• Understanding of digital literacy requires a broad approach that considers the prior experiences of learners.

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2021 Elsevier. Article first published online: March 2021.

DOI: 10.1016/j.compcom.2021.102628

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