What does “digital” mean?

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | technology

The word digit is derived from the Latin word digitus meaning a finger.  We use our fingers for many things.  As a teacher, you have seen how children use their fingers as a calculating aid.  It should therefore not be too difficult to see the connection between fingers – digits – and numbers and understand why we use the word digit to refer to numbers; for example, we talk about the digits on the dialling pad of a telephone.

In electronic technology, only two digits are used: a zero (0) and a one (1).  All data is coded in strings of these two digits.  So the word digital takes on an even more specific meaning in this information age:  it describes all electronic media that stores and processes data coded as zeros and ones.

A digital tool is an electronic device that manipulates digital data.  It has the ability to code information into digital format, stores is, works with it, and then decodes the result in understandable format.

Digital systems are highly effective, in spite of the fact that data is represented in the most elementary form (zeros and ones).  This simplified representation allows for two things:

  • data can be processed at great speed
  • great volumes of data can be stored in a small space.

Examples of digital tools are:

  • computers
  • DVD players
  • digital cameras.

The term digital tool is also applied to software products such as a word processor, spreadsheet, and educational programs.

Digitization forms the basis of most of the technologies available to a teacher in the classroom.  Don’t be intimidated by the seeming complex nature of these tools.  Remember, at the very heart of them they can only read zeros and ones.

You don’t have to understand the underlying technology and how these machines manage to manipulates data – all you need to do is learn about the miracles that digital tools can do in your classroom.

Doctors use digits to do digital anal examinations; learners use their’s to count; computers use digits to manipulate data.


4 Comments to What does “digital” mean?

Sipho Didiza
Friday, 6 August, 2010

This is a very interesting topic. One can also add that because we are using 10 digits (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9)it is one of the reasons why it is called decimal system. Digital tools use two digits (0 and 1) as mentioned in the article, and they use binary system.

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ford girl
Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Great information, I just bookmarked you.

Tuesday, 5 April, 2011

This information provided a clearer understanding of digital tools and how they can be a useful part of integration in the classroom.

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