[Topic 1] Digital Literacy, not digital skills

The first topic of ONL202 was DIGITAL LITERACY, that I have not been thinking of much. While exploring the resources recommended by the organisers, I quickly realised that I have misunderstood the term ‘digital literacy’. Here I share what I misunderstood and learnt.

1. Review of ‘Developing digital literacies (2014) JISC guide’

Accessibility to correct information/resources safely through various online channels/at various online platforms became an important capability to use, because it extends chances to broader information channels. This is how JISC (2014) opened the discussion about digital literacy. Digital literacy is not a concrete concept in how well you can decode the information available online, but it is always in the development because proficient digital literacy is context-based.

For instance, each school at a university may require people different digital skills to be proficient in digital literacy. In business school, students may need to handle numeric information with analysis tools, while students in design school need to be proficient in 3D design digital tools. During the Webinar, I had a chance to learn more about ‘Visitor and Resident’ or ‘Native and Immigrant’ concept in understanding digital literacy. I can see how students feel more natural in utilising digital platforms or technologies in their life. However, it does not mean frequent and proficient using of technology assures an appropriate application of technologies to their learning context. And the context is influential in each person’s digital literacy. Therefore, digital literacy in each community should be differentiated. To do that, it is important for the members of the community can work together to create culture regarding digital literacy. Here are some projects done at few institutions.

Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute project

Developing Faculty Learning Communities at the University of Bath : “These groups came together to develop a rich set of digital literacy statements which describe the attributes of learners, researchers, teachers and professionals within the context of their subject disciplines.”

It makes sense that different types of digital skills and different proficient level of digital literacy required at different disciplines and areas. Learning communities made the statements more relevant to the members of each micro-community, so it became more efficient. In conclusion, when we say ‘digital literacy’ is does not mean how many digital tools you can play with, or how well you can play with those tools. Rather, it means if you understand your digital world well and if you can choose the correct digital tool that support learning most efficiently. 

2. In my context

This semester, I observe my students using technology in learning. I use our university’s internal learning platform, LumiNUS, Zoom and MS Teams as the main communication channels. But each tool serves slightly different purposes. LumiNUS allows me to see all the students’ university related particulars (e.g. matrix number, lecture group, email address) and provide functions such as sending SMS, uploading grades, uploading learning materials. Another advantage of LumiNUS is its familiarity to me and to the students. All of us have been using LumiNUS for some time already (except few year 1 students).

MS Teams is a fantastic platform to create a learning community as well as private communication channel within it. For instance, I receive all the written works via MS Teams, and it allows me to comment and edit within the tool. In the post, students exchange questions and answers freely, which creates a certain culture of learning community. But most of us are using this tool for the first time, so we went through a bit of challenges at the beginning of semester.

Zoom is the tool for live lectures. Thankfully, NUS provided cooperate license to the members of the university and Zoom is connected with LumiNUS, which makes it easy to use. For instance, I can create Zoom meetings within LumiNUS and the students can instantly see their meeting details in LumiNUS.

While I concerned so much in using too many (at least to me!) online tools exclusively this semester, at the beginning of semester I did a small attitude survey towards online platform in learning, particularly Korean language that I am teaching. The question asked was “How does the online mode of course will impact improving Korean (in General, Accuracy, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Writing, Listening, Speaking, Enjoyment)? The outcome was quite surprising to me. The students rated the impact from online mode in learning would be rather neutral (neither positive nor negative) in average. Table 1 demonstrates the rate of each choice by 44 students in an advanced Korean language module at the National University of Singapore.

Table 1. Attitude towards online mode of learning (5 scale rating) by area

Area Extremely positive Somewhat positive Neither positive nor negative Somewhat negative Extremely
General 0% 34% 32% 34% 0% 100%
Accuracy 2% 32% 41% 25% 0% 100%
Vocabulary 11% 34% 52% 2% 0% 100%
Comprehension 5% 41% 32% 23% 0% 100%
Writing 5% 27% 41% 27% 0% 100%
Listening 20% 41% 27% 11% 0% 100%
Speaking 7% 39% 16% 39% 0% 100%
Enjoyment 5% 32% 30% 34% 0% 100%

It was interesting to see the students expected to see a positive impact from online mode on Listening (61%). Although the students expected most negatively (39%) in speaking among all the aspects, still more positive attitude than negative attitude was found (46% vs 39%). From digital literacy perspective, students might perceived their digital literacy quite proficient due to their nativeness in digital world, and are positive in online learning regardless their digital literacy in learning context.

At the end of the semester, the same set of questions will be sent to the students to answer. It would be interesting to see how their attitude might be changed after the completion of the online module. I expect the students would perceive higher proficient digital literacy in learning context, and become more ‘resident‘ in utilising educational tools for learning. But on the other hand, there could be a chance the students realise challenges in learning online due to limited digital literacy in this context.

6 thoughts on “[Topic 1] Digital Literacy, not digital skills

  1. Interesting survey to include here Mihi and I think it reflects that fact that students are often very traditional in their attitudes to online learning until they learn how to take advantage of the opportunities. They are generally comfortable with traditional teaching and are worried by any changes. This does not mean that we should keep teaching as before but that students need more support to learn how to learn online and above all to collaborate.
    There’s a good article on the problems of assuming too much about students’ digital skills – Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017) The myths of the digital native and the multitasker https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0742051X16306692.

  2. Thanks for including the survey you ran. The results are interesting indeed! I am similarly wondering how my students will react to an increasing tilt towards an online learning environment for the modules that I teach, and in particular how I will have to present myself (or become increasingly “resident”) in an online sphere, in order to encourage my students to reap the most from the online aspects of the module.

    • Hi, Sonita. Meaningful question! I would invite the students in the discussion for that gradual change of mode, and build a partnership with the students to co-create such online context of learning.

  3. Very interesting thoughts and as a linguist and experienced language teacher (offline and online) I was not surprised by the results. I immediately thought of a good friend of mine who teaches the Korean language and culture degree programmes at Helsinki University, who has rather reluctantly (only because of COVID-19) begun to teach some of her classes online. If you don’t mind, I’d love to have a direct link to your research and send it onto her; I think she’d be very much interested in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *