What does being literate in an online world mean?

Working in an environment where we put all our learning content online in a variety of formats to cater for student learning preferences might cause one to assume that we know our learners well. But what if we don’t?

When I was watching David White’s videos on what it means to be a visitor/resident in the online space, I reflected on the assumptions we make about students based on their age, demographic and location. Being in a country where the divide between haves and have-nots is vast and has everything to do with your background, generalisations are common and easy – but they aren’t necessarily true. Especially when it comes to digital literacy. Most of our students are very comfortable on their phones but struggle when learning online. This concept of visitor and resident has helped me to shape how we could potentially move forward leveraging where the students are resident (for most it’s Insta, Facebook, What’s App) and where they are visitors (the learning platform, email, Teams). By creating a similar experience in the learning environment to what they are resident with could help us bridge a gap in engagement.

My Visitor/Resident map

This also bought me to reflect on Doug Belshaw’s work on digital literacies and how we can improve them. There are so many aspects to being literate in today’s world from print literacy through to media, academic and digital literacy that it’s difficult to define but what I have found is that we are literate on a spectrum. I might be more literate in learning platforms and academic practices than someone else who’s more literate in media and ICT. This spectrum is what makes learning exciting for me – there is always an opportunity for us to expand and grow – to learn from others, to copy, replicate, extrapolate and unpack what’s right in front of us from all over the world through the digital world.

Belshaw uses one of my favourite quotes in his work; “Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn” this was a quotation from psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy that Alvin Toffler used in Future Shock (1970). For me this highlights the need for agility – the ability to keep learning and changing. It encompasses digital literacy as in the digital world, you cannot say you know how to use everything or do everything – it changes too quickly. There are not a finite number of words, apps, games, tools to use. It is your ability to be agile to adapt and use what is available that makes to literate in this environment.

In closing digital literacy for me is about being confident. Confident in your ability to learn, to adapt to try, even if you have not experienced that tool before. It is your belief that your skills are portable and can be applied in new and different contexts. It’s about seeing the patterns.

Photo by Pixabay on
Topic 1: Digital Literacies