At first, I considered calling this post “Digital Desiderata,” but then opted for the current title – “Digital Considerata” – which seems far more fitting of my intentions for this #LiDA101 post. And, although both titles would make sense and I suspect both words are potentially related, in some way, I have opted for the latter – a more closely engaged reflection.
It is not unusual for me to pause and think, sometimes at length, about word origins. And, although I have been invited to reflect upon what terms like “digital literacy,” “digital skills,” and “digital fluency,” the seemingly natural thing to do is ponder the qualifier – “digital.
It seems to me that the shift from fingers and counting and such to things related to more contemporary technologies like computers, mobile devices, and embedded tech is a messy one, but one that is rooted in a particular cultural framing of number. After all, not all cultures represented number using 10 symbols. The early Babylonians used based-60, for example. This is a seemingly complex number system, but clearly does not represent how many fingers (and toes, perhaps) that human beings have. That said – and, it has been a while since I’ve read about this number system – I suspect that this number system has nothing to do with those kinds of “digits.” All the same, the connection between numbers, counting, and calculating all reveal some rather complex connections to the word “digital.”
No, I shall not count the ways. And, unlike the ways that Barrett Browning may enumerate the ways in which she swoons over her love, I’m not sure that one could count – or, perhaps better, enumerate – the myriad connections that make for a complex history of term “digital.”
So much for my pondering. But, I feel, the shift away from numerals, numbers, counting, and calculating is seemingly evident at this time. And, I suspect that most people would not consider the bits and bytes that fly around upon networks, visible and invisible, physically and wirelessly connected, as having anything to do with anything remotely related to counting in some sort of digital calculus. Most of the world has moved on from the days of using stones to count. And the abacus, although it still can found, here and there, has generally been replaced by the modern day computer.
And, so, for all of this (brief) pondering, I’m not closer to understanding what “digital” means, I think I recognize it when I see it. Or I think I know what I’m thinking or talking about when I use the term. Perhaps the historical/etymological tracings only make the word more (unnecessarily?) complex?
For now, however, I have the terms “digital literacy,” “digital skills,” and “digital fluency” to consider. And, I so I do a quick search and find Clint LaLonde’s blog (https://edtechfactotum.com/) and an entry he made, well over a year-and-a-half ago, on this very matter where he reflects upon fluency versus literacy. And, he suggests that literacy is necessary to becoming fluent.
Pedagogically, I wonder if distinguishing any “real” differences between the two might be helped with some consideration about “kinds of learning.” Let’s say…cognitive vs performative learning outcomes…where the former might align with the notion of literacy and the former might resonate well with fluency. That’s the analogy that I am suggesting.
To be digitally literate, then, is a kind of cognitive learning outcome. And, to be digitally fluent is to be able to demonstrate, performatively, what one may know and be able to do and value.
The move through these stages – from the lack of digital skills to becoming digitally literate to becoming digitally fluent – seems like a manifestation of how we might learn. For me, it resonates with a number of learning taxonomies. And, over time and space, the shift from one stage to the next (or one might even go back, say, when new technologies emerge) announces important quantitative and qualitative changes – at least conceptually.
As I think about myself over the past few months, working from home, I can see that I have learned a number of new skills related to, and knowledge of, online teaching and learning. Those things have grown immeasurably! (I cannot count the ways.) But, I’m not sure how I would recognize that shift into fluency. How would one recognize it? Does it “feel” different, all of a sudden, now that I have learned about a number of new platforms, tools, and ways of thinking about online teaching and learning?
Have I acquired enough of the “know-how” to open that door into the world of online learning so much so that I cannot ever “return” to my past life when teaching for me was – largely – face-to-face? I think my mentors would call these “threshold” concepts.
Is the distinction, should there really be one, between digital fluency and digital literacy, all about the number and kinds of connections that I’ve made about all things digital?