Digital Literacy – Some Random Thoughts
With Thanks To …
My thanks go to Shelly S Terrell for prompting this post. You can see her blog at http://teacherbootcamp.edublogs.org/.
(And just in case you were wondering Shelly, yes I did write this whole post in HTML and inline CSS.)
What IS Digital Literacy
The phrase “digital literacy” seems to be being used these days in a sense that “either you have it, or you don’t”, in much the same way that you either do or do not hold a driver’s licence. However, for me digital literacy (by the way, I hate that phrase, but until a better phrase comes along, I’ll have to stick with) is just as much a skill as “ordinary” literacy (now perhaps you see why I have an issue with the “digital literacy” phrase) and numeracy.
It is a skill which can be measured on a continuous scale from zero (a new-born baby would have this level) to any world-renown technical expert in the area. By way of an analogy, successful journalists and statisticians are well above the mid-point for language and numeracy.
When Is Digital Literacy Important?
The answer to the question “When is digital literacy important?” must be “almost always”, but this rather ignores the question of “To what level?”. To that end, I am going to ditch the term “digital literacy” in favour of the term “digital competence” for the rest of this post.
This change of terminology then allows us to start asking all sorts of relevant questions, such as:
- What level of digital competence is required to perform in this job?
- What competences in the area of digital technology must this potential employee have?
- What are the gaps in this employees competences? (I.e. Training Needs Analysis)
Some Potential Issues in Achieving Digital Competence
I make no claim to being an expert in describing the issues that surround achieving digital competence. All I can do here is to share some thoughts gleaned from observing people and listening to their words.
I DON’T NEED DIGITAL COMPETENCE is an assertion which may be slightly wide of the mark, in that the speaker may be using such things as automated teller machines (ATM) to perform financial transactions and not realising that such an act is a digital competence, or it could be true; I have heard people complain that they have difficulty in using ATMs.
I HATE THIS TECHNOLOGY is another way of saying that they find it difficult to use, as in the case of ATMs above. The fact that they have demonstrated competence in that technology means that they are digitally competent for that task. (Sorry if that sounds tautological, but I am trying to make the point of competence for any specific task.) Practice, as we all know (do we?) makes things easier for the person practicing. One of the issues with people who have difficulty with ATMs (for example) is insufficient practice. Would you REALLY want to go withdrawing cash eight times a day?
I HAVEN’T GOT THE TIME TO LEARN could mean that the speaker has other priorities (well, it’s their life!) or they are engaging in avoidance behaviour, preferring to perform other tasks which lie more within their comfort zone. I have seen people who are perfectly competent in a wide variety of digital skills exhibit this sort of response. I think that the answer here lies in the steepness of the learning curve: the effort of learning is perceived as being greater than the benefit that will flow from achieving the relevant digital competence. The only way that I have found of overcoming this hurdle is when, by whatever means, the speaker realizes that the benefit outweighs the effort. One could imagine a tyrannical boss saying “Learn to do it, or your fired!”