The Importance of developing Digital Literacies

There is no way around it, technology is changing faster than society. In 2009 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Internet and in that year 91% of people checked a fact online, 71% used the Internet to find out what a word means and 90% researched a topic that they were interested in (Miller & Bartlett, 2012). This information is staggering and shows us just how useful the Internet can be to our everyday life but can we assume that this means that everyone who uses the Internet and other forms of technology is digitally literate? Is there a need to develop digital literacies in a society where it seems that almost everyone has access to it and appears to use it?

To be digitally literate means to have not only knowledge but also skills and attitudes. It is about being able to not only find the information available but also evaluate, utilise, share and create the information found and technologies used in the process. This is an important skill to have, particularly as a learner or researcher as the Internet plays such a vital role in education. In order to access what is relevant we need to be able to understand what is being said, make sure it is accurate and reliable and then use it to develop our own learning. As an individual living in the UK I know that the Internet has a big impact on my life as it is the greatest source of information available to people living in this country (Miller & Bartlett, 2012) and as a student I know how difficult but also how easy it can be when using technology as part of your learning.

I know that I need to develop my digital literacies. For me personally I use my iPad and laptop along with my phone. When I first got each of these items I had very little idea of how these worked. My phone was surprisingly particularly difficult however after investigation into it I was able to use it for what I wanted it for however I was aware that I wasn’t using it to its full capacity as I had a gap in my understanding of it and my skills. My attitude was also not particularly good towards it as I knew that I could just use one of my other devices that I knew how to use rather than trying to figure it all out. In that sense I suppose I was digitally illiterate but improving my knowledge skills and attitudes towards learning about my device I have found that I am able to achieve far more than I had originally hoped to.

Those who are digitally literate can communicate and work more effectively particularly with others who have the same knowledge and skills as they do. This is why I would encourage the development of digital literacies, to aid us as individuals. We are living in a world where we have the choice of 250 million websites,150 million blogs and where over 25 billion tweets were sent in 2010 (Miller & Bartlett, 2012). The conclusion I have come to is that it is important to develop digital literacies to aid us in our learning and understanding of an every changing part of our lives.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler.

References
Miller, C., & Bartlett, J. (2012). ‘Digital fluency’ : towards young people’s critical use of the internet. Journal of Information Literacy, 6(2), 35-55.
Toffler, A. (1990). Power shift. Retrieved18th October 2014, from
http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/29/alvin-toffler-powershift

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Being Digitally Savvy.

The idea of Digital Visitors and Digital Residents is a concept, which until recently I was unfamiliar. It places each individual on a scale from a “visitor” to a “resident” (White & Cornu, 2011). A “visitor” is described as someone who is unlikely to have an online profile where they post about their lives and often don’t become involved in social networking as they often believe there needs to be a benefit from using technology. On the opposite end of the spectrum are “residents” who view the Web as a community that they are a part of. They are often happy where “visitors” wouldn’t be to express themselves online and often have some sort of identity that is created online through social media, blog posts and comments. It is possible in this framework of visitor or resident to be somewhere in the middle, perhaps closer to one end of the scale than the other. This framework doesn’t close people into two different groups where theories in the past have.

Until a few years ago I would have been described as a “visitor.” I didn’t have any social media set up, as I didn’t see much point in it. I could phone or talk to my friends and family so why did I need Facebook or Twitter to tell me what’s going on in their lives? After many questions about my views on social media from my friends and family I set up a Facebook profile. This was when I started to see the advantages of digital media. It became easier for me to talk to friends and family in other countries, it was always reliable and up to me on how much I wanted the world to see of my profile. I became a lot more involve in what was going on through group pages and online chats and once starting university I found that people who I met shared mutual friends with me despite not having gone to the same school/university or live in the same area. I also benefitted from news and articles that people had read which they posted online that widened my views on various subjects and meant that I was learning on a space that I had once believed not possible and also on a space where I had not placed learning as an intention.

Having now become more involved in social media as part of my university course work I am already seeing the benefits of the Web for not only looking up certain subjects online but also getting a perspective from others through social media. This form of working together online and collaborating on ideas is very beneficial for learning and demonstrates how technology can enhance education and an individuals learning intentions when they go online.

Being digitally savvy in the 21st century is something which is important because of the lack of escape from technology that many people are now involved in as Erik Qualman stated “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media. The choice is how well we do it.” Part of learning online includes learning how not to be overloaded with information that is available but also to focus your attention on what is important and significant from what is accessible. This is not only important in education but also in business and social life. The Web is an integral part of our society today and whether we like it or not “Future of the culture depends on how well we learn to use the media” (Rheingold, 2012).

References
Qualman, E. (Erik Qualman). (2014, April 16). #Socialnomics 2014 by Erik Qualman (Video file) Retrieved from http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zxpa4dNVd3c
Rheingold, H. (2012). Introduction: Why You Need Digital Know-How—Why We All Need It. In Net smart: how to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
White, D. S., & Cornu, A. L. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

About me

I am a student at the University of Strathclyde studying Education with the aim of becoming a teacher when I leave university. Part of my course as a second year requires me to take 2 electives, one of which is Living, Learning and Working in the Context of the Digital Economy. This is a new and very exciting course which examines the impact of digital technology and how it influences our lives and also how we lean and work.

Having never set up a blog before this is a new experience for me and while I feel it can be quite daunting I am very much looking forward to the challenges of the course and learning more about technology in the 21st century.