What is digital fluency?

8120316401_eb0d36ee0a_b[This was originally posted on the CORE Education blog.]

A recent announcement from Hon. Hekia Parata signalled that digital fluency will be a key focus for Ministry centrally-funded professional learning support in 2016 (PLD Changes will lift student achievement, 23 Sept. 2015).

The value of growing digitally fluent learners was signalled in the Ministry report, Future Focused Learning in Connected Communities (2014) which asked that “digital competencies be recognised as “essential foundation skills for success in 21st century society” and that they be supported by “cross-curriculum resources,  a responsive assessment framework, professional development and a programme of evaluation.”

‘Digital fluency’, as a phrase, does not occur specifically in the curriculum or in other current touchstones for learning with digital technologies. However, the concepts behind it will be familiar to many educators already.

What is digital fluency?

‘Fluency’ derives from the word ‘flow’ and when we think about being ‘fluent’ in any context, it refers to being flexible, accurate, efficient, and appropriate. In other words, the way we use skills, language and speech flows naturally and easily. In a digital context for learning, fluency involves using technologies “readily and strategically to learn, to work, and to play, and the infusion of technology in teaching and learning to improve outcomes for all students”

Broadly speaking, digital fluency is a combination of:

  • digital, or technical, proficiency: able to understand, select and use the technologies and technological systems;
  • digital literacy: cognitive or intellectual competencies, which include being able to read, create, evaluate and make judgements and apply technical skills while doing so;
  • social competence, or dispositional knowledge: the ability to be able to relate to others and communicate with them effectively.

It is helpful to think of fluency as showing wisdom and confidence in the application and use of digital technologies, as reflected in the diagram below (Wenmoth, 2015):

Digital Fluency (1)

Internationally, there is currently no consistently held definition of digital fluency and at times it is used interchangeably by different jurisdictions. Other phrases appear to be used in its place such as ICT fluency; Digital literacies; Digital competence; Digital citizenship. We often see it broken down into lists and competencies. In some contexts, it is even defined as a separate set of competencies or curriculum (White, 2013).

“Fluency” is broader than “literacy.”

Being ‘digitally literate’ means acquiring the skills to make and create meaning, and select technologies to do so. Being fluent requires competencies and capabilities that go beyond the skill level. Someone who is digitally fluent not only selects tools and knows what to do with them, but can explain why they work in the way they do and how they might adapt what they do if the context were to change.  

For example, if you are literate, you might be able to follow instructions to set up a shared document online and use it for a clear purpose. If you are fluent, you can self-select from a range of tools to achieve the same outcome, navigate collaborative spaces effectively and confidently with other people.

Fluency represents the highest order – that of ‘unconscious competence’ – in the ‘hierarchy of competence’ that we see in models such as Burch:

Competence_Hierarchy_adapted_from_Noel_Burch_by_Igor_Kokcharov (1)

Digital fluency can also be considered as part of a broader set of competencies related to ‘21st Century’ learning. Being able to manipulate technologies so we can create and navigate information successfully is supported by our ability to work collaboratively, solve real-world problems creatively, pursue our own learning goals and so on.

Why we all need to be digitally fluent

Crucially, the outcome of being digitally fluent relates to issues of responsibility, equity and access. We all need to be able to fully participate in a digitally-enabled education system and in an increasingly digitised society. If we work with fluency in the way we use technologies, we are able to keep ourselves safe online and take full advantage of life chance opportunities such as being able to apply for work, manage our finances, or be part of our local community).

In the years ahead, digital fluency will become a prerequisite for obtaining jobs, participating meaningfully in society, and learning throughout a lifetime. (Resnick, 2002, p. 33) [via White, 2013]”

As more services – health, civil, safety, even voting – move online, it has never been more important to ensure citizens are not disenfranchised from accessing services that are central to the well-being of all.

Questions to consider

  1. What kinds of literacy learning opportunities are offered in school and how do these deliberately teach the skills and competencies to navigate online spaces successfully?
  2. Consider the key competencies in the NZC: what do these look like when developed in digital contexts?
  3. To what extent are learning areas explored in ways that invite higher-order engagement, problem-solving and authentic use of technologies? Are students doing more than searching for information? Are they applying it in ways that are real and connected to the world around us?

 

Acknowledgements: With thanks to Derek Wenmoth who informed the thinking around this post.

 


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3 Comments

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  1. I think digital fluency will make it easier to communicate with new digital generations, help build the virtual, digital teachers that will increasingly assist then replace us the analogue organic teachers, and ensure our future as co-creators of knowledge with all forms of life and intelligence. I think the days of us as designers, deniers, decriers of knowledge are coming to an end – as we try and catch the solar wind – that silicon cyborgs have always known. I think all teaching will go online, virtual and asynchronous, teachers are the swiss watchmaker of the education system, marking time, filing cogs, rolling with the rolex. Expensive, redundant and replaceable by the quartz chip. So long and thanks for all the chips.

    Answers to consider

    1. What kinds of literacy learning opportunities are offered in school and how do these deliberately teach the skills and competencies to navigate online spaces successfully?

    Beyond BYOD. in the squeals of joy at kahoots, (https://youtu.be/pFFv6_6was4) in the slo mo filming of skateboarding, mentos and coke, explosions, in the vidoes of Bones, Heart and Guts – musicals and dance outtakes of learning in a kinesthetci way, Brainboxes and mecaano, leho robots and minecraft to model electronics, minecraft to build hangers of 1960s – 1990s french military planes for the student blessed with special abilities, for teh hackers and the makers of websites, secret servers and encrypted pathways, for teh optios to record iy, speak it, act it, dance it, feel it, know and learn it 24/7 in multiple places, media and mechanisms. To journey into space, to the centre of the earth and beyond our wildest dreams. for the death of worksheets and the rise of the machines, ipad to I dream, Ipod to I learn, iteach to I Robot

    2. Consider the key competencies in the NZC: what do these look like when developed in digital contexts?

    Coding (machines, mechanisms and metaphors)
    Dreaming (awake, asleep, living)
    Explaining (Peers, People, Machines)
    Hacking (metaphorically, figuratively AND literally)
    Timing (Music, dance and Life)
    Relationships (Empathy, Emotion and Enchantment)
    Working (ethically, collaboratively and digitally)

    3. To what extent are learning areas explored in ways that invite higher-order engagement, problem-solving and authentic use of technologies?

    Increasingly through hands on gaming, tours of NZ related battlefields (Physical, virtual and minecrafted) Museum and gallery critiques as to how and why and where we feel emotions (made, manufactured and meant) Days and weeks put aside for student lead, student owned and student presented passion prjects on the BHI (big hairy issues) of this millennium and species. To the degree that teachers are prepared to let go and free the learning students and timetables.

    4. Are students doing more than searching for information?

    Students are synthesising info, creating knowledge, critiquing teachers, sources and paradigms, Students debate, discuss, argue, spar, fight over opinions, ideas and topics – students engage with learning online and off – in person and in social and unsocial media. Teachers are critiquing the drafts that flow through on these tides of knowledge, angle for the big fish and point out the flotsam and jetsam of lost craft. Students dance it, act it, show it, present it, construct it, follow dream, sing, rap it – students use info like water, food and air, students live on ideas, info and dreams

    5. Are they applying it in ways that are real and connected to the world around us?

    Students connect and respect the trans, the cis, the demis. Students debate the politics, potentials and personalities of Aotearoa in 2015. This time that space their hope our future. Students amnesty for Syria, Fight for feminism, demo for dolphins, encourage for eco, cycle, recycle and eCycle, march against roastbusters, speak up for with and to the silenced, students are of and with and through the world – they move like eels through the mud and dairy waste of our streams. Students skype the scientists, hangout with the washed, great unwashed and washing, students live virtual, real tangled lives. Is it us who are not connected, unreal and unrealized in the digital and collaborative world. Teachers like me need to get off the NET now and connect with real people, kanohi to kanohi. gotta mow the lawn, smell the roses and keep passing the open windows

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on tonycairns and commented:
    I think digital fluency will make it easier to communicate with new digital generations, help build the virtual, digital teachers that will increasingly assist then replace us the analogue organic teachers, and ensure our future as co-creators of knowledge with all forms of life and intelligence. I think the days of us as designers, deniers, decriers of knowledge are coming to an end – as we try and catch the solar wind – that silicon cyborgs have always known. I think all teaching will go online, virtual and asynchronous, teachers are the swiss watchmaker of the education system, marking time, filing cogs, rolling with the rolex. Expensive, redundant and replaceable by the quartz chip. So long and thanks for all the chips.

    Answers to consider

    1. What kinds of literacy learning opportunities are offered in school and how do these deliberately teach the skills and competencies to navigate online spaces successfully?

    Beyond BYOD. in the squeals of joy at kahoots, (https://youtu.be/pFFv6_6was4) in the slo mo filming of skateboarding, mentos and coke, explosions, in the vidoes of Bones, Heart and Guts – musicals and dance outtakes of learning in a kinesthetci way, Brainboxes and mecaano, leho robots and minecraft to model electronics, minecraft to build hangers of 1960s – 1990s french military planes for the student blessed with special abilities, for teh hackers and the makers of websites, secret servers and encrypted pathways, for teh optios to record iy, speak it, act it, dance it, feel it, know and learn it 24/7 in multiple places, media and mechanisms. To journey into space, to the centre of the earth and beyond our wildest dreams. for the death of worksheets and the rise of the machines, ipad to I dream, Ipod to I learn, iteach to I Robot

    2. Consider the key competencies in the NZC: what do these look like when developed in digital contexts?

    Coding (machines, mechanisms and metaphors)
    Dreaming (awake, asleep, living)
    Explaining (Peers, People, Machines)
    Hacking (metaphorically, figuratively AND literally)
    Timing (Music, dance and Life)
    Relationships (Empathy, Emotion and Enchantment)
    Working (ethically, collaboratively and digitally)

    3. To what extent are learning areas explored in ways that invite higher-order engagement, problem-solving and authentic use of technologies?

    Increasingly through hands on gaming, tours of NZ related battlefields (Physical, virtual and minecrafted) Museum and gallery critiques as to how and why and where we feel emotions (made, manufactured and meant) Days and weeks put aside for student lead, student owned and student presented passion prjects on the BHI (big hairy issues) of this millennium and species. To the degree that teachers are prepared to let go and free the learning students and timetables.

    4. Are students doing more than searching for information?

    Students are synthesising info, creating knowledge, critiquing teachers, sources and paradigms, Students debate, discuss, argue, spar, fight over opinions, ideas and topics – students engage with learning online and off – in person and in social and unsocial media. Teachers are critiquing the drafts that flow through on these tides of knowledge, angle for the big fish and point out the flotsam and jetsam of lost craft. Students dance it, act it, show it, present it, construct it, follow dream, sing, rap it – students use info like water, food and air, students live on ideas, info and dreams

    5. Are they applying it in ways that are real and connected to the world around us?

    Students connect and respect the trans, the cis, the demis. Students debate the politics, potentials and personalities of Aotearoa in 2015. This time that space their hope our future. Students amnesty for Syria, Fight for feminism, demo for dolphins, encourage for eco, cycle, recycle and eCycle, march against roastbusters, speak up for with and to the silenced, students are of and with and through the world – they move like eels through the mud and dairy waste of our streams. Students skype the scientists, hangout with the washed, great unwashed and washing, students live virtual, real tangled lives. Is it us who are not connected, unreal and unrealized in the digital and collaborative world. Teachers like me need to get off the NET now and connect with real people, kanohi to kanohi. gotta mow the lawn, smell the roses and keep passing the open windows

    Like

  3. Brilliant thinking, Karen. Thanks for curating your thoughts and sharing them!

    Like

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