Our Assistant Manager, Judi Millage, takes a look at digital literacy and what it means for you and your learners.
JISC defines digital literacy as:
“those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society….”
These capabilities include being able to find information in a range of formats, understand and manipulate that information and then communicate it effectively.
A more encompassing definition is offered in a Futurelab report: Digital Literacy across the Curriculum which describes digital literacy as:
“the ‘savvyness’ that allows young people to participate meaningfully and safely as digital technology becomes ever more pervasive in society.”
So digital literacy is not just about academic skills; it is also about equipping learners with skills that will enable them to participate fully in an increasingly digital society. These include: e-safety, communication, collaboration, creativity.
Why is it important?
Outside of formal learning, young people are already likely to be involved in creating, manipulating and sharing content via a range of social media, such as Facebook and YouTube, and engaging with technology through, for example, computers, games consoles, mobile phones.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that many are unable to apply these skills in a learning context and that being “tech savvy” doesn’t always equate to being digitally literate.
Learners are often bewildered by the array of different ways in which information is presented and unaware of how to get at it. Studies have shown that they frequently need help with research skills; with selecting, extracting and synthesising relevant information.
Yet, the development of these skills is frequently left to chance because the assumption is, too often, that learners already possess them.
We need to ensure that the education learners are receiving now will equip them to participate confidently and competently in an increasingly digital society and we can do this by providing them with the relevant skills to do so. Digital literacy can support this process.
However, digital literacy skills can’t be achieved overnight; they can’t be achieved by a one-off session delivered at induction, neither should their development be left to chance.
What can we do and how can we do it?
We need to prepare learners for using technology for learning.
We need to create learning environments that are relevant to, and reflect more closely, the experience of young people growing up in a digital society.
We need to enable and encourage learners to use their own devices, and we need to support learners in applying, to formal learning, the technological skills many already use in a social context.
We can do this by:
- Becoming digitally literate: undertaking relevant CPD;
- Embedding digital literacy into learning and teaching strategies;
- Adopting a strategic approach to the use of technology and blended learning through course design;
- Involving other professionals, including librarians, early in the course design process;
- Identifying what digital literacy means in your subject area and building in the relevant skills;
- Embedding opportunities to assess and progress digital capability;
- Supporting learner voice initiatives and engaging students actively in shaping the service you provide.
These are just some suggestions. For more ideas on how to embed digital literacy, have a look at the following documents from the recent series of JISC Digital Literacy workshops:
- Recommendations for managers
- Recommendations for course teams
- Recommendations for support services
- Recommendations for learners
And, finally, if you’d like to find out more about digital literacy, why not come along to the RSC digital literacy event on 9th December.
Do you think your learners are digitally literate?
Have you had any success in improving the digital literacy of your learners?
What support for digital literacy would you like from the RSC?