The use of technology has highly change the way people interact and communicate with each other. The development of the Internet in particular has been considered one the most effective change of our time. Reflecting on this, it is essential to underline that the steady increase in the number of “connected people” does not necessarily translate into a creative, effective and productive use of technology, which is instead the main idea of what has been defined as “Digital Fluency” in the 21st century.
Howell (2012) defines digital fluency as “the ability of effectively use this technology. This includes word processing tools, spread sheets and web searching”. Similarly, the National Research Council (1999, p. viii) defines it as “the ability to reformulate knowledge to express oneself creatively and appropriately, and to produce and generate information rather than simply to comprehend it”. In other words, being able to use technologies is not considered enough if this results to have a poor and unproductive impact on the learning process. In the same way, a digital fluent person might not be enough fluent in engaging with technology. The main focus of digital technology is linked to the use of the technology in general and not to the use of a specific technology, such as Facebook or Skype.
According to the findings of a survey conducted by Bartlett and Miller (2011, p.7, cited in Niessen, 2013), 95% of the teachers interviewed report that students constantly bring information from the Internet to the classroom. However, the same teachers point out that 47 percent of them is not able to select reliable sources and end up bringing “misinformation or propaganda to school”. In other words, despite belonging to the category of “digital natives”, students are not always able to select the correct information online when researching. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be able to guide them in their online search and give them the right tools to choose reliable sources of information. Reflecting on this, 95 percent of the same teachers surveyed consider digital fluency as an essential topic to integrate in the national curriculum”.
Two aspects need to be covered when enhancing digital fluency among students. The first one is related to a more practical skill which involves the ability of creating efficient sentences using the correct keywords to start the search in the web, while the second factor is linked to the ability of evaluating the information collected. As Howell (2013) points out an advanced web-searching skill combines these two aspects. Similarly, Niessen (2013) states that being digitally fluent means knowing “when, where, how and why to use a specific digital medium”. Therefore, I believe to be teachers’ responsibility to implement a series of hands on activities in class to promote and increase digital fluency and awareness among students. As Briggs & Makice (2011) point out, learning results to be highly effective when preceded by practical experience of what is being learnt.
An example of digital technology which expands learners’ digital ability and fluency is the creation of blog. A ‘blog’ is “a type of website or part of a website that is supposed to be updated with new content from time to time” (Howell, 2013, p. 156). Blogs can give suggestions about specific topics or show pictures and videos of beautiful landscapes and environments. Anything which is posted in a blog becomes public and, once people find the blog they are interested in, they can start reading, following and commenting on it. In other words, blogs represent an interactive opportunity for people, not only for students, to be digital content creators, share ideas and opinions while practicing and building literacy skills.
To conclude, being “digital native” is not enough when it comes to using digital technology and develop the right skills to select and use technology efficiently is an essential requirement to create a safe and productive digital learning environment.
Briggs, C., & Makice, K. (2011). Digital fluency: Building success in the digital age. Social Lens.
Howell, J. (2014). Living and Learning in the Digital World. Week 6. [ilecture]. Retrieved from https://echo.ilecture.curtin.edu.au:8443/ess/echo/presentation/69320b47-1f26-4f87-ae1c-7ba4e48e0050
Niessen, S. (2013, April 19). What is digital fluency. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.shuananiessen.ca/what-is-digital-fluency/
White, G. K. (2013). Digital fluency : skills necessary for learning in the digital age. Retrieved from: http://research.acer.edu.au/digital_learning/6