Skip to main content

Digital Literacy or Digital Fluency?

"In the years ahead, digital fluency will become a prerequisite for obtaining jobs, participating meaningfully in society, and learning throughout a lifetime." - (Resnick, M. 2002)

The Craftsman tool chest is a source of pride out in my garage. Screwdrivers, wrenches, and other helpful hand tools organized by type and function. A box wrench and a tubing wrench serve very similar purposes. Having hand tool literacy means I know how to use either tool to tighten or loosen nuts and bolts. Hand tool fluency means I know these similar tools have specific functions, but to use a box wrench to loosen brake line fittings has potentially costly consequences.

Moving from the garage to the home office, "digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to locate, evaluate, create, and communicate". In simple terms, digital literacy is knowing HOW to use digital tools.

Conversely, digital fluency is formally defined as "an aptitude that empowers individuals to effectively interpret information, discover meaning, design content, construct knowledge, and communicate ideas". Once again, in simplified terms, digital fluency moves beyond knowing how to use digital tools, to knowing WHEN and WHY to use specific tools and strategies.

For example, a digitally literate student with experience using PowerPoint will have a working knowledge of how to use Google Slides. A digitally fluent student publishing a blog will make a conscious choice to use Slides because the deck can be published to the web. The reason for this choice is publishing the slides to the web makes HTML code available. This code can be copied and embedded into the blog post. As a result, the blog post will show the most recent version of the Slides. More importantly, the reader doesn't have to leave the page to view the supplemental material.

"Being digitally fluent involves not only knowing how to use technological tools but also knowing how to construct things of significance with those tools." - (Papert & Resnick,1995)

There have been recent discussions about providing opportunities for students to improve their digital literacies. I don't see literacy and fluency as competing concepts, but as more of our day-to-day services move to the web, I think it only natural to question if digital literacy sets the bar high enough for modern learners living in a digitally connected world.

Resources and Related Reading

What is Digital Fluency? - Karen Melhuish Spencer, Core Education

photo credit: Nordwolle Turbine Hall via photopin (license)


Popular posts from this blog

Grammarly Writing Hacks for Better Blogging

Writing is learning. It's taken me about thirty years to realize the metacognitive power of written expression, the same amount of time it took for me to recognize that my writing skills suck. Apparently, time in composition class was spent daydreaming and making silly faces at girls. Today, each post is an exercise of will power, unlearning and relearning prepositional phrases, comma usage, and when to use the ever-popular semicolon. Two hundred posts into my blogging adventure I've picked up a few tricks that add efficiency to my writing, things that make me appear smarter than I really am.

Freelance writer, Jennie Cromie, writing for, identifies five ways blogging can make you a better writer. Discover your voiceBuild social connectionsAcquire valuable feedbackBecome self-disciplinedWrite faster and more efficiently
Writing with intent to learn is the mindset to lead with. Using the right tools permits scatterbrains like me to focus on the message rather than un…

To Email, or Not

Should current students learn how to use email?

As someone who celebrates a clean email inbox about once every five years, I found it interesting that the topic of student email usage was on the agenda of our recent high school leadership meeting. The focus of this brief conversation concentrated on these questions.

How can we get students to utilize their school email account better? Should we be teaching students how to communicate with email?When and where should email usage skills be taught? Who's responsibility is this?Why do we want kids to check their email? Those around the conference room table agreed with the importance of students checking their email to stay informed about upcoming events and opportunities. Others mentioned it as being an important part of "digital executive functioning." Time was running short when someone said, "Kids don't use email."

This brief statement sent my mind scurrying in several simultaneous directions. 

First, thinking …

Finding the Fulcrum

In 2016, twice as many Americans obtained their news online instead of print. Approximately 3/4 of adult Americans interact with others through social media. Nine out of ten Americans are online, and a majority of these users are using time online to support personal or professional learning. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who finds it challenging to find a balance between personal and professional learning while online.

As time passes, an increasing percentage of the information and interaction that I seek in the name of learning is gathered online. The line between personal and professional learning is becoming blurred. I'm not sure if this is the result of time limitations, or professional ambitions putting the squeeze on personal interests. For example, I would like to start a podcast about pond fishing, but here I am writing about learning and education.

Reading Aaron Davis's recent post, "Templated Self", my perceived challenge of online time took …