College and career readiness in today’s complex, digital, global society requires students to develop digital fluency across a broad range of digital tools, devices, software, web resources and applications, along with a deep understanding of the purpose and functionality of each. The breadth and depth of this digital set of competencies will develop over time, with students slowly building mastery in the use and application of each genre of digital competency, while continuously expanding that set of digital competencies with emerging technologies.
It’s important to think about digital fluency not in terms of mastering specific (available today) programs, applications and tools, but rather in terms of specific purposes that can be accomplished by a growing (and often changing) list of programs, applications and tools that will continue to be made available. The genres mirror the purpose for which the student will use the digital tool, software or application: consume, experience, create/capture/analyze/produce, communicate and organize/manage.
A student’s digital fluency would include knowledge and competency in the following genres of use (i.e., consume; experience; create, capture, analyze and/or produce; reflect and communicate; and organize and manage), while using mobile devices and laptops/desktops.
Background Knowledge: Self-Direction and Digital Fluency
Self-directed learning is a goal that is receiving increased attention due to the changing nature of work and school. According to a recent report on workplace changes published by the U.S. Department of Labor, workers in the 20 to 24 year old age group have already participated in more “out of school” learning to improve job skills than have workers in their 60’s throughout their careers. This need for continuous learning is based both on a raising of the literacy and skill bar as workplaces become more complex and on the rapid pace of change that exists in our information-rich society.
Technology serves as a causal agent in this process as the rate of technological change drives the rate of workplace change. In the 1950’s, the skill set that was developed in a good secretarial school, for example, could carry one through a career as a secretary and administrative assistant. In today’s office environment, not only do the software tools change almost annually, but job responsibilities expand as well. In an environment where executives do most of their own “typing” the role of the assistant expands into document processing, page layout, presentation graphics, etc. The self-directed learner who can anticipate these changes and who is constantly upgrading his or her skill set becomes extremely valuable. Those who lack the ability to learn and adapt are in jeopardy in this dynamic environment.
Technology provides limitless opportunities to engage with others, manage tasks and time, dialogue about feedback, and more. For students in today’s classrooms, it is critical that they learn the skill associated with different genres of technology (rather than just learn specific technologies). The skill enables them to make clear choices about when a specific technology should be used and ways that technology could improve their learning, process, and product.
Despite the general belief that students are savvy users of technology, most are not digitally fluent across these genres. To ensure equitable access and use, students must receive explicit instruction, extensive practice, relevant opportunities for application, and constructive feedback on their uses of technology for learning and for demonstrating their learning.