I attended a conference with Salford ONECPD yesterday on Driving Technology in Higher Education. One of the topics that was discussed by Lawrence Lilley was the difference between Digital Skills and Digital Literacy. And this made sense. The idea was that you could teach someone to use Word, but would they be able to use Pages as they only have a skill related to Word? Or even a different Operating System? Where as if you gave a new application or a new platform to someone who was digitally literate, they would explore the application and make it work for them.
I related this to literacy in a literal sense. You aren’t born able to read and write. You learn the skills of letters, sentence structure, pronunciation, meaning, letter writing etc. Then you tie all these together to read (or write if so inclined) a novel. This process of taking these skills and moving them to full literacy takes years. And not everyone can master this, or even has the interest to. Now, relate this back to digital technologies and this makes sense. In the way that not everyone will be interested in becoming literate to the same level. They may see that they only need to use the internet for social media, so why build upon this skill to be able to search for primary literature sources? It is this transition we need to look at and nurture moving into Higher Education. Translating these skills into a literacy.
I consider myself to be digitally literate. I can pick up a programme fairly easily without ever seeing it before, knowing how to get into it, make mistakes, fix those mistakes, and then use YouTube or LinkedIn Learning to find a tutorial I probably should have watched in the first place. I know how to access a programme, I know where to find the help I need, I can even code a little and have a number of Raspberry Pi projects around my house and in the process of completing a LinkedIn Learning course on HTML 5.0 (because, why not). It is these collection of skills that helps me to make the transition between using applications seamless (or at least know where to start). We need to get the students (and other academics) to also make this leap from skill-set to literate if they are not quite there.
This is not a new term, with Paul Gilster first using this phrase in 1997. But, I think this something that still needs to be worked on. Not only for employability, but the movement into a digital age. There is a fairly good resource list and description at the Higher Education Academy pages but there are plenty about with a quick google search.