Monday, 8 August 2016

Digital fluency - what does that really mean?

There has been a lot of educational chat around "digital fluency" lately as the Ministry of Education has made it one of the areas of national priority in professional learning and development in education.  A lot of principals and teachers are asking me what that really means.  They are keen to understand and once they hear about it, access the professional learning that the ministry will offer.

This pdf is somewhat helpful in understanding the big picture around how digital fluency will be implemented and embedded but many leaders and teachers want to get into the nitty gritty of what it means in their schools and classrooms. A lot of teachers have started their journey to becoming digitally literate - that is knowing how to use digital technologies, but fluency implies a bit more than that.

Think about how we view fluency in a language.  Fluency implies that you speak the language like a native.  Now I am not going to enter into the digital native vs digital immigrant philosophical argument (because I don't give that any weight at all - you are either an inexperienced or experienced user of digital technologies and when you were born really makes little difference) but language fluency helps us understand digital fluency.

If  you are literate in a language, you know what the words mean and can translate them.  If you are fluent in a language, you are able to slip easily into using that language and out of it.  You are able to use words that convey a different nuance or meaning quite naturally.  For example, if fluent in Maori language, you would know in what contexts to use the word "aroha" from the Maori language.  Although I know what the word "aroha" means in a general sense, I know that fluent Maori speakers use this word in a number of different contexts, with a lot of different nuances, and as I am not a fluent Maori speaker, I cannot do this naturally.

So, being digitally fluent means not only knowing what the tools can do (digital literacybut also being able to move in and out of using digital tools as easily as breathing or speaking a second language fluently.  You select the right tool for the job at the right time.  You use digital technologies safely and easily.  You search for and examine different sources of information for their validity.  You create using digital technologies.
Derek Wenmouth from CORE talks about digital fluency being "an infusion of technology" in the classroom, and "unconscious competence" in its use.   Let's imagine what that might look like in the classroom:

  • I would see teachers and learners who know their passwords and use them regularly (not always common, even in these days) and/or they use online password apps to manage this.
  • Online collaboration would be commonplace.  Not just sharing but working together on a common aim with purpose, using tools like google docs, padlets, skype, blogs and video making etc
  • I would see teachers and learners bookmarking and sharing their bookmarks to various working groups (social bookmarking), colleagues and students.
  • Personalised learning (not teacher directed) would be supported through digital structures and processes to scaffold students into becoming the lifelong learners that our curriculum framework desires.
  • I would see app smashing used often and in an uncontrived way,  building knowledge and creating new digital products for online collaborative critiquing and evaluation
  • Multimedia creations would be commonplace as evidence of learning, but also in engagement, expression and representation following principles of UDL (Universal design for learning).
  • Students would have agency (control and choice) over which device they used for learning.
  • I would see teachers and learners regularly following their favourite or most useful websites and blogs using RSS or email feeds.
  • Digital citizenship would be embedded across the whole school community, including appropriate posting and commenting on blogs by learners, whanau and teachers.
  • Teachers and learners would be digital citizens and not be using any online resources without permission and attribution.
  • Editing - adjusting, trimming, adding value to learning and knowledge would be a natural and seamless, ongoing process for learners and teachers.
  • e-portfolios would be totally integrated with everyday learning and personal and group reflections would be commonplace and often open to others - a metacognitive activity to really show deep understanding and learning.
  • Searching, locating, sorting, evaluating, tagging and using online resources would make every researching task easy. 
  • Engaging in online communities, networks and social media like twitter through multimedia would ensure quick and timely feedback around any questions 
  • Linking - learners would be working with other learners nationally and globally, making connections and knowing the right people to answer the questions would be part of the natural workflow.
So these are just some of the ways that digital fluency might manifest itself.  It is not enough to know how digital technologies can be have to use them, blend them into your practice every day.

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