Making Sense of the Organized Chaos – Digital Literacy vs Digital Fluency


Closeup of the Mandelbrot Se

Last night I participated in my first synchronous session for ETMOOC 2013. What fun! About 200 people from around the world met using Blackboard Collaborate. This online meeting space allowed us to use audio, video, streaming messaging and a shared whiteboard space to launch ETMOOC 2013.  

The intent of ETMOOC is to be more net-work based, or connectivist, which Lisa M. Lane describes as:

The goal is not so much content and skills acquisition, but conversation, socially constructed knowledge, and exposure to the milieu of learning on the open web using distributed means. The pedagogy of network-based MOOCs is based in connectivist or connectivist-style methods. Resources are provided, but exploration is more important than any particular content.

Certainly, last night’s meeting demonstrated many aspects of this approach.  There was an abundance of resources shared and suggested, and further exploration will be necessary to make sense of the almost-overwhelming amount of information put forth in an hour-long session.   It was interesting to me to watch the messages on the side, where I saw many people saying “hi” with each other (I wondered, how many of these were “virtual” friendships rather than face to face?).  As well as synchronous postings of links, comments, and feedback about what was being discussed in the the audio and written on the whiteboard. 

At the end a participant (sorry, didn’t get your name!) asked about what participants can do to ensure that they take away learning from all of this.  Which is an important question, and requires thought and a plan.  So, here are some of the things I am going to do for the next synchronous meeting:

1. Take more notes in my notebook (I know, shouldn’t I be using tech for this? But I still like having a Visual Journal for my PD, and there is already so much stuff happening on the screen) In particular I will look for terms, names, links, tools and resources to follow up on.  I will also record more questions that arise as the discussion progresses.  I did write down a few questions last night, but I missed some as well.

2. Actually follow up on the terms, names, links, tools and resources I identified! 

2. Do an initial first impression write up on my blog asap.  I am writing this the next day, but it already seems like too much time has gone by.

3. Make at least one tweet in response to something from the meeting.



Visual Literacy vs Visual Fluency

In this Atlantic Article Amy Sutherland offers this definition from the book Building Success in the Digital Age by Christian Briggs and Kevin Makice:

Literacy means you know what tools to use and how to use them, while fluency means you also know when and why to use them…. To be  fluent in a foreign language, you must be able to articulated a complex ideas or tell an engaging story; in other words, you must be able to ‘make things’ with language.  Analogously, being digitally fluent involves not only knowing how to use technology, but also knowing how to construct things of significance with those tools. 

In the Alberta Education document Literacy First: A Plan for Action 2010 they define literacy as: acquiring, creating, connecting and communicating meaning in a wide variety of contexts.  The document begins to touch on notions of digital literacy when it states:

Today’s students are accessing and communicating information in ways unimaginable to their parents as students, or even to students of five to 10 years ago. Today, literacy has become even more complex as “new literacies” have emerged. The proliferation of new digital technologies and the growing accessibility of information on the Internet are transforming how students acquire, create, connect and communicate meaning in a variety of contexts…The literacies of today are no longer linear but multimodal and multilayered (p.3 and 4).

Alberta Education also offers this video and Conversation Guide for Literacy in a Digital World, which I promise I will peruse in the near future. 

It is also interesting to me that for now I am unable to find any Alberta Education Documents that use the term digital fluency in anything more than a passing term.  I wonder what that means? 

This notion of the differences between digital literacy and digital fluency has me wondering about what I would call myself?  Hmmm.  I believe I am passably digitally literate (definitely more able and interested in using digital tools than most of my staff for example, less than I would be on other staffs).  Am I able to construct things of meaning using these tools? Well… I would say Yes, I can construct meaning using a blogging as a tool, and on Facebook for example.  Am I able to construct something meaningful using Twitter? Not so much.  I am finding the language of Twitter difficult to navigate both in terms of reading and in terms of speaking.  The abbreviations all seem the same to me, and I can’t seem to think in terms of “knowledge nuggets” I may want to share in 160 characters or less (you may notice – I like to write!). But the great thing is, I can learn to become more digitally literate and fluent at the same time, and there is no rule that says I need to be literate/fluent to the same extent in all contexts! 

Cheers for now!


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