Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Digital Literacy: Working Definition

Been away from the ETMOOC and blogging, but I've been thinking about my definition. My mind has been on my very first webinar with the NW eLearn Community.
I got to share some of my graduate work, and I really loved it. My case study from 2010 keeps getting longer and longer, and as much as I want to write a book about backpacking, I might need to get this project out of my head and onto the screen.

Back to ETMOOC. I sat in on the webinar from Dr. Doug Belshaw, and I have to say, I learned so much in the thirty minutes I listened to him. First of all, his website is really snazzy, and I've noticed that Alec Couros has the same style. I'm looking to put something like that together for me as I look for eLearning jobs, so I'll shelve that idea for now. From a design standpoint, you're putting together all the things that people are going to Google about you anyway. Why not put it all in one place? Snazzy with functionality. Note to self.

One of the questions for this section of ETMOOC is to come up with a definition of digital literacy and digital fluency. I've peeked in on other blogs and slideshares, and what I see over and over is an image of a flowing creek. Boulders in rushing water. Flowing currents bending around permanent (or semi-permanent) rocks.
           Belshaw defined digital literacy as:       

So if I create a definition using these words am I plagiarizing? I've got plagiarism on the brain with teaching my research course. Or am I taking the ingredients and making something new? This question is at the heart, I think, of this week's lesson. How about this?

In order to be a confident creative communicator online, you must have a cognitive framework for culturally constructed critical thinking. 

Wordy? Yes. A bit academic. Maybe.

So, what does this mean to me to as a teacher? Here's an example: I am literate with some French. I can read signs. I can understand french films without reading subtitles sometimes. I could order my coffee in a cafe. I could tell you that I love you. I can answer questions on Jeopardy that involve French words.
But I am not fluent.
I don't sound like I know French. I could not have a debate speaking French. I know a little get by, but I can't communicate on the same level as I can in English. Getting by is not fluency.

For people in the digital divide, they know a little to get by but they aren't confident. They haven't had a chance to be creative. They don't have a framework to build on. Critical thinking gets lost when you are still searching for ways to engage with the material. Learning online can be a lonely enterprise. How do we get more students there? That's my civic duty as a teacher.


  1. Alyson:

    1) Your post, for me, provides yet another example of how participation in #etmooc (for those unfamiliar with it: the Educational Technology & Media massive open online course) is tremendously extending our reach as learners. The "websites" that Alec and Doug used and that you admired are actually pages on service I learned about through #etmooc; very easy to set up those pages, which is why I created my own as part of the work I did to complete one of our introductory #etmooc exercises.

    2) The question you posed about "plagiarism" seems to be at the heart of what we're currently studying in #etmooc: the ideas of what it takes to be digitally literate, how content is used/re-used, and how we control our online content (there was a very spirited exchange on that topic in the weekly #etmooc tweet chat yesterday). For me, it comes down to citing sources just as we always have to avoid the appearance or reality of engaging in plagiarism, e.g., if we create a definition of digital literacy/digital literacies drawn from Doug's extensive work in the field and if we acknowledge Doug's work as a source, I think we're on the right side of the equation.

    Will be interesting to see how those thoughts evolve over the next couple of weeks as we move into the #etmooc module on open content.

  2. Thanks for your post, Paul.
    I see what you mean about the difference between the "page" and the "website" and I appreciate the clarification. Recently, I found a job that I was completely qualified for except for my "digital presence." Aside from my results as a bike racer and, I didn't have an online presence. I'm still not on Facebook. Most of my work online has been within a learning management system with my students. Most of my work is not available to the public, so in order to create that presence, I've jumped on board with the #etmooc mission. I could spend hours and hours with the content in this MOOC, and I'm sharing my work in ways that feel productive.

    And yes, I agree with you about my comment about plagiarism, and although I didn't share this, I had something else on my mind when I was writing that definition. A face-to-face student commented in class that I didn't cite my source on an online lecture about plagiarism. Busted! The horror! The students had a fun exchange of grilling the teacher, and I didn't notice that it wasn't clear where I got the content until my student made fun of me. The proper placement of links and sources is crucial in the course design, and the students will have access to an additional resource if they want it. I want to be "on the ride side of the equation" as you put it. Well said.