Developing students’ digital literacy

Digital skills are key to the future employability of most graduates. Jo Coldwell-Neilson advises on how to embed digital literacy training into all aspects of online higher education

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Jo Coldwell-Neilson

Deakin University
4 February 2021
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Key Details

This video will cover: 

00:21 What is does it mean to be digitally literate?  

01:40 Using online teaching as a vehicle to improve students’ digital literacy   

02:59 Tips for developing digital literacy 

Transcript

Having sound digital literacy skills and having the confidence to grow them is becoming an essential professional skill for all graduates.    

We need to help students recognise the importance of digital literacy in their lives, their learning and their employability and to encourage them to build the confidence to transfer their skills to multiple contexts.  

Being digitally literate goes beyond being able to use technology, it is the ability to function critically and effectively in a digitally enhanced environment. Skills such as flexibility, adaptability and being a lifelong learner are essential, essential to maintaining relevant digital literacy skills over time.  

Digital capability needs to grow and be nurtured, it needs to be scaffolded through learning and, ultimately, it needs to be fit for purpose.   

Digital literacy is a mindset and attitude, not just a skill set. Many students think their digital capability is sufficient, but often, this is not so.  

We need to encourage students to improve their digital capabilities through ongoing contextualised digital literacy development activities, not as a separate topic or course but integrated into discipline learning.  

Being digitally literate implies having skills and capabilities across a number of domains, including the ability to use technology, find, use and critically evaluate information. Curate data and media sources, communicate, collaborate and participate in online environments. Manage online identities, as well as personal security and privacy. And create online content, not just consume it.    

The move to online learning triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has provided context for digital literacy improvement in an education setting. To help students, we need to recognise that there are generic digital skills, for example, students using word processing to prepare an assignment or learning management system to access learning resources.  

And discipline-specific digital skills such as architecture students using AutoCAD to draw a building design or marketing majors learning to use social media analytics. In both cases, there must be an imperative to learn to use the application that is driven through need.  

Emergency remote teaching has forced both faculty and students to learn to use a myriad of different applications, which the majority have accepted and handled well.

At Deakin we adopted Zoom for meetings and lectures, for example, the architecture discipline adopted Padlet to enable design studio online. Microsoft Teams is being used extensively to support collaborative learning and group work.  

Students benefitted from knowing not only how to use an application, but why. For example, receiving directions to use the institutional virtual private network is enhanced by explaining why they need to use it.   

Here’s some tips for developing digital literacy:  

Encourage students and others to share their knowledge and skills, with each other and with you. We use different devices and applications, so there is much to be learned by comparing notes.  

Digital literacy development is best achieved in context. If students are practising interview techniques, for example, this is a good time to introduce the various tools that may be used to facilitate online interviews, for example Skype or Zoom.

Provide opportunities for students to review their digital skills and capabilities, identifying strengths and gaps, particularly in the context of their career aspirations.   

Digital skills become digital capabilities through practice, provide those opportunities by creating digital options for student presentations, communication, learning and evidence-building.   

There are extensive resources online to assist with gaining digital skills: use them, share them.   

Don’t approach digital literacy as a one time learning opportunity. Technology is changing at a rapid rate, our digital skills and capabilities need to grow with our changing environment and circumstances.  

And finally, don’t assume that others have covered digital literacy in their teaching. If an opportunity exists to address digital literacy, use it. 

This video was produced by Jo Coldwell-Neilson, associate dean, teaching and learning at Deakin University and Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow. 

Jo Coldwell-Neilson’s fellowship website Decoding Digital Literacy provides information about digital literacy and resources produced through the fellowship work. 

All Aboard: digital skills in higher education is an Irish project aimed at empowering “anyone who uses technology to support their work, their study, or other aspects of living in a digital age”. 

Developing Students Digital Literacy Skills is a guide for educators developed by Jisc with resources to help support students’ digital literacy development. 

Applied Digital Skills is a curriculum for practical problem-solving with digital tools, created by Google. 

The European Computer Driving Licence is a formal certification programme for digital skills. 

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