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Digital literacy: what is all the fuss about?

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"Digital literacy" is one of the fashionable terms that we tend to hear or read about quite a lot nowadays. And, to be fair, it is, undeniably, a topical issue, as it relates to the way we interact with technology in our everyday lives: at work, at home, while studying and during our free time.

Being involved in teaching with technology, I cannot help wondering about ways to foster digital literacy in the education context for teachers and learners alike. In order for e-learning (and even blended learning) to function the way it is meant to, the level of digital literacy of both educators and students needs to be relatively high. While teachers use their digital skills to understand how various technologies would work in (and beyond) the classroom and make the best use of them in their learning designs, for students it is more a change of perspective, from using technology in their private life to using it for learning purposes. And, when I come to think of it, this can be equally an issue in relation to the teachers: is the use of technology like a continuum, going through their private and professional life, or is there some sort of perception change when it comes to using the digital tools for teaching purposes? That is indeed something worth exploring.

Coming back to digital literacy, today I attended an interesting seminar at the Institute of Education, organised by the Bloomsbury Learning Environment, tackling digital literacy in the context of teaching, learning and research. A few very interesting topics were addressed, such as:

  • training students and staff on how to create their digital persona and curate their digital footprint;
  • the link between digital skills and employability;
  • creating repositories of guides on how to use various tools for research management and communication with the wider community (check out the IoE Library guides, very useful resources).

Open Educational Resources (OER) with all their affordances and constraints were discussed, but more interestingly, Open Educational Practices (OEP), a less fashionable topic but with far more practical potential, was also on the agenda. The idea of sharing, reviewing and re-using learning designs, very well captured by the Learning Designer and also the topic of one of my previous blog posts, is a great example of how the teaching community can collaborate not only in sharing best practice, but also in fostering digital literacy.

All in all, this was a very useful exchange of experience; I can really see the point for various institutions to work together and pool resources to support their staff and students in what digital literacy is concerned. Even though students nowadays tend to consider themselves, in a large majority, digital literate, the gap between limiting yourself to Google and Wikipedia and using online sources indiscriminately, on the one hand, and purposefully selecting certain technologies and tools and using them in an effective manner, on the other hand, is still huge. And as long as this gap exists, any effort to bridge it, coming from academics, learning technologists or librarians is more than welcome.

A European perspective on education and technology
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