Digital fluency

What digital technology have you used today?  If you really think about it, you may find you used it for small, insignificant purposes.  Does it play a major role in your life?  Where would you be without it?  For many of us, digital technology plays a major role in our lives.  We keep screens in our hands, in our purses and backpacks, next to our beds, and surround ourselves with them at desks or when relaxing.

Wifi in Kindy.gif
(Fitz & Pirillo, n.d.)

Carr (as cited in White, 2013) argues that man-made innovations, like digital technologies and the internet, can affect the structure of the human brain.  We are developing the necessary skill set required for function in a technology-rich, 21st century world.

Digital fluency involves using technology “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” (Government of Saskatchewan, 2012, para. 1).  You may have heard of “digital literacy”, which is the ability to make and create meaning with digital tools (Spencer, 2015). To be digitally fluent, we need to be able to show confidence and wisdom in our application of digital technologies to our tasks and activities.  Fluency allows us to explain why certain tools work in particular ways, and how they can be adapted for particular contexts.  It requires a much higher level of thinking (Spencer, 2015).  As society continues to change and advance, the list of skills that students require to actively engage in a technology rich world is growing and evolving.  Digital fluency is vital to developing as a 21st century learner.

Spencer (2015) writes that digital fluency relates to issues of responsibility, equity, and access.  We all have the right to participate in a technology-based education and an increasingly digitised society as active citizens.  If we operate with fluency and confidence in technological pursuits, we can maintain safe practices and take full advantage of the opportunities in front of us (Spencer, 2015).

An increasing number of services are gradually moving online, for example insurance, banking, retail, voting, health, and human services.  We are encouraged to ring customer service lines and to conduct our business online, limiting face-to-face interaction.  It is crucial that people develop their digital fluency skills to avoid being left behind by technology, preventing access to the vital services they require.

References

Fitz & Pirillo. (n.d.). Comic strip [Image]. Retrieved from http://sarahmaycqu.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/learning-theory.html

Government of Saskatchewan. (2012). Digital fluency. Retrieved from http://www.education.gov.sk.ca/Instruction/digital-fluency

Spencer, K. (2015). What is digital fluency? Retrieved from http://blog.core-ed.org/blog/2015/10/what-is-digital-fluency.html

White, G. K. (2013). Digital fluency: Skills necessary for learning in the digital age. Retrieved from http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=digital_learning

The digital divide

While recent advancements in technology benefit us in many ways, attention has been drawn to social issues of inequality.  The digital divide refers to the ever-increasing gap between those with access to digital technologies, and those without (Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter, 2010).  While the emphasis on technology in Australia is high, there is a broad range of technology spread throughout households and internet access is distributed unevenly (Howell, 2010).  Generally speaking, lower socio-economic households have little or limited access compared to middle or upper-class households (Howell, 2010).

What are you currently reading this blog on?  Your own personal computer?  A tablet or smart phone?  Perhaps you don’t have access to these things, and are using the devices and internet at your local library.  Make a mental list of the digital technology and internet access you possess.  Which side of the divide do you sit on?

Bridging the divide
(Gould, 2015).

I’ve had the experience of working in two very different schools.  The contrast shocked me.  In one school, every student had their personal computer with them every minute of the class.  They had both intranet and internet access, and activities were designed with a technological focus.  If students didn’t have their own laptop, there was a collection kept in each department that students could book out for use.  On the other hand, a low socio-economic school of several hundred students had only three computer rooms, with full computer usage rare due to the number of systems often out-of-order.  The majority of students in this school have no computer or internet access at home, and work is hand-written and designed with a lack of technology in mind.

In Australia, the digital divide is simultaneously narrowing and deepening.  Among the many contributing factors, geography and economic status highlight stark differences in internet access rates.  88% of major households in Australian cities have internet access, while this drops to 82% for inner regional households and 79% for those in outer regional and remote areas.  While 98% of the highest earning households have internet access, this falls to only two thirds for lower income earning households (Ewing, 2016).

(Tedx Talks, 2015).

How do you receive your bills?  Via email?  Or still through the post?  Are you charged a “paper fee” for this service?  More services and resources are shifting online.  Many teachers assume their students have full internet access and set homework and research tasks accordingly.  Businesses market to their internet able clientele, offering services online.  Government agencies shift their services and resources to online mediums.  While connectivity is becoming the norm for most Australian households, it increases the disadvantage of those left behind (Ewing, 2016).

Abelow (n.d.) suggests that while technology has contributed to the betterment of life, we are still far from a completely “digital world”.  It poses the question: Will this new digital age enable every member of society to prosper and succeed together, as one?  Or will the digital divide become too great, leaving entire groups of people behind?

While the advantages (or disadvantages) of technology incorporation in education is a debate for another time, one thing is for certain:  We will never be able to move into a digital world as a whole if members of society are left behind by technological advances.  It falls to society to bridge the divide between the opposite ends of the access spectrum.  While far from simple, digital equality is an achievable goal, wherein every member of society will have adequate and equal access to technology, computer systems, and the internet (Shelly et al., 2010).

References

Abelow, D. (n.d.). If our future is digital, how will it change the world? Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/insights/2014/04/future-digital-will-change-world/

Ewing, S. (2016). Australia’s digital divide is narrowing, but getting deeper. Retrieved from http://digitalinclusionindex.org.au/australias-digital-divide-is-narrowing-but-getting-deeper/

Gould, E. (2015). The digital divide [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.laneterralever.com/digital-divide-fact-or-fiction/

Howell, J. (2012). Teaching with ICT: Digital pedagogies for collaboration and creativity. South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Shelly, G. B., Gunter, G. A., & Gunter, R. E. (2010). Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology and digital media in the classroom. Boston, MA: Course technology, Cengage Learning.

TEDx Talks. (2015, June 12). The New Digital Divide: The Perception Problem | Navarrow Wright | TEDxSoleburySchool [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDr0Q6gqbSM

Being a digital curator

While the internet grows at a phenomenal rate and search engines become increasingly sophisticated, we need to find ways to make sense of all the information at our fingertips.  Search engines produce so many more resources than we could possibly wade through, so we become digital curators to collect and organise information relevant to us and our internet crusade.

(DigCurV, 2013).

The practice of curation is a valuable skill for learners in today’s developing digital world (Johnson, 2013).  Digital curation tools allow anyone with a focused interest to locate and collect artefacts on the internet, on display to their target audience or for their own personal use (Flintoff, Mellow, & Pickett Clark, 2014).  Digital curators can filter less relevant content to categorise and display quality material.  Collections can be quickly filtered, refined, edited and added to (Flintoff et al., 2014).  Just imagine!  All of your relevant information right there at your fingertips, organised and categorised exactly how it works for you.

You may have already heard of some of these digital curation tools:

  • Pinterest
  • Scoop.it
  • Learnist
  • Storify
  • BagTheWeb
Pinterest login.png
Pinterest login page (Pinterest, 2016b).

My Pinterest login has enabled me to become a digital curator.  I like to draw.  I can’t sit still on the couch and watch a movie.  I need to be doing something extra.  While I’m not very good at it, it relaxes me, and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.  My “pins” to my “Ahhhrt” board are a collection of my inspirations, tutorial links, and online lesson for improvement.  I am able to gather all of my relevant art resources into the one place, making for a seamless research experience.

Pinterest ahhhrt.png
My own Art inspiration board on Pinterest (Pinterest, 2016a).

To efficiently and appropriately conduct research, we all need to be digital curators.  Even if that means collecting a database of web addresses and useful articles in your Bookmarks tab, this collection of “artefacts” will potentially develop into a highly focused collection of topic-centred material.  Utilising an application like those mentioned above will enrich and enhance learning experiences.  As curators, we can lead education and create change with an insightful collection of artefacts (Flintoff et al., 2014).

As curators, we need to:

  • Locate and evaluate content
  • Organise and categorise content for easy access
  • Build relationships with other curators and leaders
  • Design learning experiences
  • Build connections and create context for information (Cobb, 2010).

Throughout history, academics have always been curators.  They have waded through countless pieces of information to develop a selection to work with.  They focus on a particular area of study, and then research, write about and teach it.

Digital curation can be very beneficial in education.  It allows students to develop their critical analysis skills, to appraise the validity and relevance of information and sort it accordingly.  Collections of information can become a learning resource in their own right, and useful as a study tool.  Students can engage with a topic deeply, as they cut out irrelevant content and encounter leading edge research and developments (Flintoff et al., 2014).

References

Cobb, J. (2010). Who are your content curators? Retrieved from http://www.missiontolearn.com/content-curator/

DigCurV. (May 23, 2013). What is digital curation? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6cuOdgvYRGM

Flintoff, K., Mellow, P. & Pickett Clark, K. (2014). Digital curation: Opportunities for learning, teaching, research, and professional development. Retrieved from http://ctl.curtin.edu.au/events/conferences/tlf/tlf2014/refereed/flintoff.pdf

Johnson, L. (2013). Why Scoopit is becoming an indispensable learning tool. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/trends-shifts/why-scoopit-is-becoming-an-indispensable-learning-tool/

Pinterest. (2016). Ahhhrt board [Image]. Retrieved from https://au.pinterest.com/

Pinterest. (2016). Login [Image]. Retrieved from https://au.pinterest.com/

Digital identities and digital security

When was the last time you used the internet to “do” something?  Did you pay a bill?  Transfer some money between your bank accounts?  Check your social media? “Google” a fact or figure?  Watch a video or stream music?  No matter how seemingly insignificant your action, it all contributes to your digital identity.

Techopedia (2016) defines a digital identity as “an online or networked identity adopted or claimed in cyberspace by an individual, organisation or electronic device”.  While this trail of information is scattered across different databases, devices, platforms and social networks, they all work together to form a picture of who you are.  These characteristics include:

  • Usernames and passwords
  • Online search activities and transactions
  • Date of birth
  • Medical histories
  • Purchasing history (Techopedia, 2016)

Most Australians juggle between five and fifty logins to manage their daily activities and services (Australian Government Australian Communications and Media Authority [ACMA], 2013).  Half of the participants in this research said they found it difficult to manage all of their different online identities (ACMA, 2013).

Capture.PNG
Hallatt, 2013.

As more of our banking, shopping and socialising is conducted on the internet, users are frequently required to provide their details.  Research shows that Australians are often careful with the information they choose to disclose, revealing and concealing specific data based on the interaction (ACMA, 2013).  Our online identities can generally be classified into three distinct groups.

  • A transactional identity – the minimum amount of information required to complete a task with an organisation or service (eg. Financial transactions, insurance policies, online retailers, government agencies).
  • A social identity – uses personal data on social media sites to allow connections with other people.
  • A professional identity – portrays a positive image of professional skills, experiences, and business offerings (AMCA, 2013).

Have you ever visited a website for a specific purpose and been faced with advertising that appears in the margins or breaks up the article?  Been surprised or slightly concerned that it matches your interests?  Perhaps you love to cook, and voila!  Links to recipe websites, advertisements for the latest blender, tips and tricks to achieve the special crunch on the top of your pastry!  This is no coincidence.  There, you see your digital identity at work.   The internet tracks every small action you complete online, to determine your patterns, interests, and habits.  Advertising is tailored to you and your online identity, to your activities.  This can be confronting, and it is important that security and privacy issues are addressed to manage the safety of our digital identities.

Below is a short list of tips to protect your online identity from those who would exploit your information or use it without your permission:

  • Only provide financial information on secure websites. Look for a “https://” web address and a locked padlock symbol.  If in any doubt, don’t disclose!
  • Invest in online security software to help protect your information.
  • If in any doubt about a website and the service it provides, pick up a phone and call them directly.
  • Do not provide personal information in emails from “banks”. Legitimate banks will never ask for your information through an email.
  • Select carefully and use multiple passwords. Make passwords lengthy, complicated, unrelated to your personal information, and remember to change them regularly (Australian Government Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, n.d.).

The Australian Government Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner (n.d.) website provides more information on protecting your personal details.

Protecting personal information.

eSafety.PNG
(Australian Government Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, n.d.).

Being aware of the risks of internet use and the ways to stay safe can make for an easier online experience for all.

References

Australian Government Communications and Media Authority (2013). Managing your digital identity: Digital footprints and identities research – Short report 1. Retrieved from http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/Library/researchacma/Research-reports/digital-footprints-short-report-landing

Australian Government Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner. (n.d.). Protecting personal information. Retrieved from https://www.esafety.gov.au/esafety-information/esafety-issues/protecting-personal-information

Hallatt, A. (2013). Arctic circle [Image]. Retrieved from http://www.thecomicstrips.com/subject/The-Online+Safety-Comic-Strips.php

Techopedia. (2016). Digital identity. Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/23915/digital-identity

What is a digital world?

Our world is changing.  Rapidly and unimaginably, it’s quickly paving our way into the future.  Advances in technology over recent decades have altered the fabric of society, as our values, cultures, and ideals are all influenced by the emergence of digital technologies (Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter, 2010).  While this new digital world facilitates many positive advancements, what has been lost in the process?

The digital age has bought developments in education, communication, business, commerce, and style (Shelly et al., 2010).  While these are positive advancements in many ways, I also see the sadness in what we leave behind.

Do you remember the days of “Snail Mail”? You would send a letter to talk to a loved one or acquaintance that you couldn’t easily see with a short walk or train trip.  You would write your letter with a pen on paper, and it would be a full recount of your activities, your feelings, your ideas, and your questions for the other person.
You would hop on your bike or take a stroll to push it through the slit in the nearest red metal post box.  It would be days before your letter reached its destination, and perhaps more than week before you received a reply in return.  Your letters had to be thorough, to address everything you had to say to that person that week, or even month.  When my mum and dad lived in different cities early in their relationship, he’d write “S.W.A.L.K.”. “Sealed with a loving kiss”.  Mum would send her love via mail by pressing her own brightly coloured lips to the envelopes.

Those days are almost gone.  Technology has revolutionised communication.  We simply tap out a message with our fingertips, hit the send button, and grow impatient if we don’t receive a reply within ten seconds.  Who needs to think about what to write, when thoughts can be sent in a flash?

SWALK
A recent letter from my mum, “Sealed with a loving kiss”.

While connecting with other members of the human race has never been easier, this traditional art of communication has been replaced, made redundant by the fast paced nature of our developing world.  Any hard-copy mail I receive from my mother to this day still has her lip marks pushed into the back, no longer the bright neon shades of the 1980’s, but instead the shades of brown she now favours.  More often than not, they’re smudged until barely recognisable, but this small gesture means so much.  I keep these small pieces of stationary tucked away, these pieces that mum took the time to send with love kept dear to my heart.  To me, this form of communication holds so much more love than a hastily type text message sent while waiting in the check-out line.

(TED, 2008).

We now live in a world where we spend time and effort selecting the perfect emoticon to summarise our feelings, and our self-worth can depend on the number of likes we received for our latest selfie.  We are more focused on what fits within our hand-held, glowing screens than our surrounding world.  If it can’t be captured by an emoji, what’s the point, right?

Texting tina
(Piccolo, 2009).

Is this the sort of world you want to live in? One contained solely within our handheld devices?  Look around next time you’re in a public place.  How many people do you see scrolling through a small screen, or mumbling into the hand pressed to their ear?  While technology has played a huge role in shaping society, I personally fear for the future of a society living solely in the digital world.

 

References

Piccolo, R. (2009). Tina’s groove [Image]. Retrieved from  http://www.thecomicstrips.com/subject/The-Digital+Native-Comic-Strips.php

Shelly, G. B., Gunter, G. A., & Gunter, R. E. (2010). Teachers discovering computers: Integrating technology and digital media in the classroom. Boston, MA: Course technology, Cengage Learning.

TED. (2008, January 9). Lakshmi Pratury: The lost art of letter-writing [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG6xlKzFFrI