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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)

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